Le Restaurant du Port
In Tangier, drenched by the unrelenting downpour, we dodged our way through hustlers before taking the winding road to Chefchaouen. We trudged round that blue hilltop village beneath more November rain, then returned, wretched and frozen, to an unheated, boxy little room, where we lay shivering under dirty blankets until it was time for dinner. (I had a decent enough tagine made with tomatoes and balls of lamb, with an egg cracked in its centre.) The sun broke out on day four, though, and after we’ve visited Fès, Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca, it’s blasting down today. A six-hour, rattly bus journey throbs ominously before us, so a nice spot of Sunday lunch is called for.
We can hear the Atlantic crashing against the rocks beyond, but the little port beneath us is as innocent and wobbly as blackcurrant jelly. Orson Welles filmed much of Othello here, among crumbling, storm-beaten ramparts built by the Portuguese five centuries ago. The place is full, and with a stab of homesickness, G and I set familiar eyes on a lively, clattering bar, which even has a couple of women at it. It’s a textbook seaside restaurant, really, with décor that would look kitsch back home; but here, the old rubber rings and ropes strewn across the wood panelling have a rustic homeliness.
Could we see the wine list?
‘We have red, white or rosé.’
G’s kind of wine list! Chilled rosé it is, the ubiquitous Cuvée du President, and when it arrives, glistening with condensation, along with some crusty baguettes, we could almost be on the Côte d’Az. The menu is exclusively fish, except for a solitary and somewhat dull concession to terrestrial carnivorism – steak au poivre. There’s lobster à l’Americain, and tuna steak, and marlin. Why not a classic, then? Sole meunière comes in eight minutes flat, firm flesh pulling gently away from sticky, gelatinous bone, the breadcrumbs bringing crunch and a pleasant scabrousness. With it are carrot slices gently glazed with butter and mint, some lukewarm chunks of potato and a large bunch of parsley. But after the endless bowls of urine-hued couscous with brownish veg chunks, this makes for a magnificently refreshing change. G’s fish are gobbling on their tails like a Celtic pattern, and are equally good, fresh as spring. To think they were slapping around on the deck a few hours earlier! Another bottle materialises; perhaps even a third. The reader knows I’m preaching to the converted, but is there anything in the world, really anything, more delightful than lunch with friends in the sunshine?
Bill please. Count-count-count. Eek. Not enough cash. G draws the short straw, and beetles out into the sunlight to the nearest machine (they don’t take cards here, like much of Morocco). He leaves me with, oh woe, the rest of the third bottle. When he returns, bristling with notes, the bus’s klaxon, far off, seems to rise above the muezzin’s wail.
Restaurant du Port, Port du Jadida, El Jadida
Tel. +212 (0)23 342 579
See on the TFYS Google Map
Lunch for two, excluding drinks and service, costs 190 dirhams (approx. £15).