Chaabi Chic, Essaouira
1 reviews from the community
Review of "Chaabi Chic, Essaouira"
I've been here a very long time and even though I've been dormant the last year, I will miss Ciao enormously.
Serendipity - the best way to find restaurantsI always like to use Tripadvisor to help me find restaurants when I go somewhere I don’t know well but I was really struggling with the listings for Essaouira. Far too many names seemed to be very similar and I was unable to find good maps to help navigate in search of restaurants. Looking through the listings, a few names stuck in my mind and one of those - probably because it made me laugh - was Chaabi Chic. I probably wouldn’t have gone hunting for it, but when we stumbled across it after going in search of the town’s Jewish quarter, I took it as a sign that we should go in.
It’s one of the strange things about Essaouira that it had a thriving Jewish community for much of its history and even today, despite being in a Muslim country, there are several synagogues in the town. None of this has anything to do with Chaabi Chic - but we would not have found the place if it hadn’t been for this historic anomaly.
First visitOur first visit was for drinks. We rolled up around noon but hadn’t long had breakfast so we were not ready to eat. The ground floor of the place is a sort of junk shop / collectables place - what the French would call ‘brocante’ and then the upper floor is the indoor restaurant and if you keep heading up the stairs, there’s a two story terrace on the top. Of course we went up and sat on the roof at the highest point, climbing some rather rickety metal stairs to get there.
Sadly, there’s not much of a view from the top and you can really only look at the rooftops and wonder how the buildings stay up when they look like they should be falling down. We ordered an orange juice each and sat back to enjoy the sunshine and answer questions about what to see from some day-trippers.We could hear the juice being made in the kitchen beneath us and when it came, it was in generously sized glasses with the bendy straws twisted in a decorative manner. I loved the bright colours and funky furnishings of the rooftop and I had a good look at the menu to see if we should return for dinner. I thought it looked pretty good and put it high on my list of places to try.
Back for seconds
We eventually returned two or three days later after watching the sunset from the city walls. I had told my husband I wanted to go to Chaabi Chic and he had seriously doubted my ability to find it. I had a clear picture in my mind that I would get there if I just kept heading north and keeping as close as possible to the city walls. I confess that I do carry a compass - it’s attached to my camera bag - and I was confident of finding it. However, my husband was convinced we were just walking down random alleys. Eventually I told him “It’s just round this corner”, saying it with a lot more confidence than I felt, and sure enough it was exactly where I had planned it should be.On that evening - just a few days before Easter when you might expect things to be busy - we were the only guests. I felt even happier that I’d made the effort to find it as the whole place would have been empty and all the staff would have had nothing to do. We gave them a purpose that evening. The owner - quite possibly a contender for ‘smiliest man in Essaouira’ seemed disproportionately excited to see us.
He offered us any of the beautiful indoor dining tables or the run of the roof. Logically we should have gone inside but we’re British. We are honour bound to accept any offer to sit outside if it’s not actually raining or snowing. Especially in early April when you don’t know how long you’ll have to wait before you can do it again. We accepted the owner’s encouragement to sit on the roof and went for the best table - a large, white, carved wooden table with a long upholstered bench to sit on. There was a sort of gazebo to offer a little bit of cover and some twinkly lights. It was lovely to have the whole place to ourselves as I’d stupidly struck up a conversation with an elderly couple the night before and not been able to get away from them for the rest of the meal.The restaurant has a printed menu with a wide variety of dishes but we had been drawn back by the set menu. The deal was 100 dirhams for two courses or 140 for three, which was a bit more than we’d paid in most places but was still only a tenner each with the exchange rate at approximately 14 dirhams to the pound.
Since the kitchen wasn’t going to be rushed off its feet with all the customers, we decided to be cheeky and asked if we could have a different soup to start and then take the main and puddings from the daily menu. The owner said that was absolutely fine and he’d be happy to do it.
What we ate
For our starters we ordered the local classic, harira soup. For main course my husband asked for the calamari tagine and I had the grilled ‘dorade’ (sea bass). For pudding I asked for the gooey chocolate cake and my husband for the lemon tart. Interestingly, when looking at Tripadvisor reviews, these seem to be the standard menu items that everyone is exposed to. I guess if you’re going to have a restaurant in a place where few people stay very long, there’s little point in changing the menu too often. The locals seem to very rarely eat out and the tourists have so many places to choose from that you don’t need to keep changing things. Added to which, if you’ve got a few good dishes, then there’s a lot to be said for sticking to them.We ordered two orange juices - yes, it’s another ‘dry’ restaurant - and when the owner brought them, he also brought the standard bowl of mixed olives and basket of bread that you get pretty much everywhere in Essaouira (or for that matter Morocco)
The soup was delicious - thick, hearty and with lots of ‘stuff’ inside including fat juicy grains of rice, small dark brown lentils and lots of chick peas. There’s little that can beat a good harira and most places seem to do it very well. When the mains came, it was soon clear that I’d hit the jackpot with an enormous fish. The owner told me “I had a big one so I gave it to you” and I do suspect I was getting a bit of special treatment. It was served with grilled vegetables and some rice. The accompaniments could have done with being a bit hotter but there was so much fish that I really couldn’t have complained. The fish had a small cherry plum tomato stuck into its eye socket which was pretty but frankly a bit disturbing.My husband’s calamari tagine was less generous in size but very tasty. Or so he told me since it was apparently too good to share. He saved the last of the bread to soak up every last drop of the rich sauce.
Puddings were ultra-generous in size and there was plenty to share. My chocolate cake was moist and squishy and very tasty indeed though a bit too big. The lemon tart had a crisp pastry shell, rather sour lemon filling and lots of flaked almonds on top. Both were good but would have been improved with a ball of vanilla ice-cream.
RecommendationWe had a lovely quiet evening at Chaabi Chic. The owner was kind and smiley and a pleasure to spend time with. The food was excellent - especially my mega-seabass and despite it getting a bit cool towards the end of the evening, I’m still glad we sat on the roof. The bill came to just over 300 dirhams or around £22. Even if the menu didn’t change, I’d still want to go back and eat there again. This place clearly deserves it’s high Tripadvisor rating - 40th out of 210 - and is an excellent place to eat, if you can find it.
Product Information : Chaabi Chic, Essaouira
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 30/03/2015