In the final throes of 2022, the team behind Grand Café de la Poste and Bô Zin opened its third Marrakech restaurant: Sahbi Sahbi.
Sitting in the heart of the city’s chic French district, the restaurant offers a new look at Moroccan cuisine, dutifully maintaining its flavors and techniques but lifting the veil on what is traditionally a secretive cooking process.
The fully female-run restaurant is a jubilant celebration of dining and all the rituals, traditions and connections that come with it.
Usually, when a new restaurant opens, a star chef is at the top of the bill, bringing with them a polished resume of top restaurants. At Sahbi Sahbi, however, it’s not about one big-name chef. Rather, it’s about a collective of chefs working collaboratively to create and serve each meal.
These chefs have each been carefully selected for their individual skillset, with the team coming together to represent a diverse variety of backgrounds and Moroccan regions. As is the tradition in Moroccan home kitchens, although not so common in professional kitchens, women make up the entirety of the kitchen team here.
Where Sahbi Sahbi veers from tradition, however, is in the openness of its kitchen. In a typical Moroccan home, the kitchen is a secretive place that is the domain of dadas – women in charge of the cooking – who verbally pass down recipes from generation to generation.
However, in the restaurant, this tradition is flipped on its head, with the secrets of the cooking laid bare for guests to see. Each dish is made in an open kitchen, with each element of the preparation carefully explained and demonstrated to onlooking guests, demystifying the art of Moroccan cuisine. The idea of sharing recipes remains the same, but here, it’s for all to enjoy.
While most pioneering chefs seek to break new boundaries and amaze diners with Avant Garde techniques, at Sahbi Sahbi, it’s all about looking to the past for culinary inspiration. The restaurant’s menu is rooted in the traditions of Moroccan cuisine, where sweet and savory are subtly mixed to gratifying effect.
There are grilled meats, cooked directly over the flame for rich, smoky flavor; fresh breads, toasted in the giant wood-fired oven; warm, nourishing tagines, alive with pepper and cumin, as well as just a touch of sweetness; or pastilla – a North African pie made with a warm, crispy, filo-style pastry and topped with flaked almonds.
Couscous dishes are the specialty here, though. Friday lunchtime is when you’ll find the most on offer, with three different varieties leaving the open kitchen, each one different according to the grain used. Every dish at Sahbi Sahbi is designed to be shared, creating a dining experience that is not merely about the food in front of you, but also about the people you’re sharing it with.
Responsible for Sahbi Sahbi’s interiors was Studio KO, who had the desire to demystify Moroccan cooking at the heart of the brief. As a result, the busy open kitchen triumphantly takes center stage, with bar-style seats surrounding it, as well as more standard seating in the main dining area.
Studio KO, which has a growing array of completed projects in Marrakech, was also tasked with capturing the principles of traditional Moroccan design and reworking them to fit with a contemporary finish.
The design studio’s signature brand of rustic minimalism lends itself perfectly to the project, with the beauty of the finish all in the subtle yet expertly executed details, and the warm color scheme of soft browns and burnt orange.
Intriguing surfaces were a clear focus, with the walls painstakingly lined with geometric ceramic tiles, intricately carved slabs of wood covering the ceilings and dangling wooden beads shrouding the doorways.
Understated lighting completes the dining room perfectly, with low-hanging paper shades casting a warm glow across diners and chefs alike, and perfectly sets the tone for the evening of inclusive, social and welcoming dining to come.
37 boulevard Mansour Eddahbi, Gueliz, Marrakech, Morocco