If you’re anything like us, you’re dreaming of your next holiday abroad in the summer sun – and with restrictions gradually easing, that dream could become a reality sooner than you think. With that in mind, Anwer Bati checked out Morocco’s grandest hotel, La Mamounia, to see what we have to look forward when we can travel abroad.
Hotel Review: La Mamounia, Marrakech
Loved by Winston Churchill and any number of other international statesmen and stars, the legendary Mamounia, going since 1923, remains Morocco’s grandest and most famous hotel despite several new contenders for the title. It’s not just a matter of history, but of regular reinvention. Opening with only fifty rooms it now offers 206 opulent rooms and suites – including three self-contained riads – set within 20 acres of majestic tranquil gardens dotted with citrus and olive trees.
The interiors have been revamped several times, notably by the celebrated Jacques Garcia just over a decade ago, with his trademark plush style and subdued lighting combined with the best of Moroccan craftsmanship. Now several spaces have been refreshed by the fashionable Parisian design firm Jouin Manku. The effect of the changes is to give the hotel a more modern, cosmopolitan feel. But the impeccable service remains reassuringly traditional, expertly overseen by General Manager Pierre Jochem. And the rooms are as impressively comfortable and well thought out as ever, many with large balconies.
The hotel is perfectly situated in walking distance of Marrakech’s old town, or Medina, with its vast famously colourful D’jemaa el Fna square and vibrant shopping and dining scene. The impressive Koutoubia mosque – one of the city’s landmarks – is only a few yards away. It’s a short taxi ride for the Yves Saint Laurent museum and the lovely Majorelle garden, which the designer helped to restore; and if you’re feeling more adventurous the hotel can arrange excursions to the Atlas Mountains, tantalisingly viewed from many rooms, or even the coastal town of Essaouira.
But most guests linger as long as possible at La Mamounia itself. Whether it’s by the enormous pool, shopping in the hotel’s many boutiques, including Saint Laurent and Dior, or simply wandering around the gardens. For pampering, there’s the fabulous spa, the city’s best, with its hammams, hairdresser and beauty salon. If you feel like being more active, there is a well-equipped fitness pavilion, and two clay tennis courts. And the hotel has its own casino if you fancy a flutter.
La Mamounia’s restaurants have long been among the best in Marrakech using the finest ingredients, partly supplied by the hotel’s own extensive kitchen garden (well worth a visit), but they too have now been revitalised under the aegis of internationally acclaimed French born, New York based chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He oversees the new L’Asiatique, with his takes on oriental food; and L’Italien, with Italian cuisine, sometimes reimagined, including pizzas.
For authentic local cooking, there’s Le Morocain, a feature of the hotel in its own traditionally designed pavilion, with the roof top now a late lounge with DJ. Also longstanding, and a highlight of any stay is the poolside buffet, whether for breakfast, lunch, or the hotel’s famous brunch with its mouth-watering selection of dishes.
The master French patissiere Pierre Hermé has been recruited to provide all La Mamounia’s desserts, as well running a pastry shop and tea room. He’s also responsible for the Bar Majorelle, offering French bistro favourites and sharing plates. The Menzah tea pavilion in the gardens is another place to try his delectable offerings, including ice cream.
For a special treat you can order a picnic in the garden – complete with tables and waiter service.
The hotel’s Churchill bar has also had a modern makeover, no longer a traditional saloon, but now the place for champagne, cocktails and caviar. You can also try fine wine and gourmet food pairings in the luxurious private dining room of the tent style L’Oenothèque, another new venture.
THE LAST WORD
Even the most famous hotel can’t live on its reputation, and La Mamounia is an object lesson in how to stay current whilst keeping its essential style and spirit. Add to that location, impressive accommodation, food and facilities and it’s no surprise that it remains the best in Morocco.
Visit mamounia.com or call +212 (0) 524 388 600. Rooms start at £364.