Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The View from The Top

Photo courtesy of the very wonderful Doug Mckinlay who is back at the house with his other half Jane bringing with him some great prints of the house in his inimitable style to be framed to grace the bare walls. He also brought a complete sushi kit with mirin, wasabi and soy so I think the message is clear.....find tuna!!

Rumour has it and I can substantiate it that a new Japanese restaurant is soon to open opposite the Jnan Palace Hotel. When it does, could be days, be sure we will be one of its first clients with a full critical review, hopefully glowing. Sushi in Fes, I never thought I would see those three words in print.

Just when you thought you knew Fes you discover more as I went out and about with Khawla, an agent with Sirocco estates, who are building a great complex just out of Fes on the Taza road, incredible value, about 25000 pounds for apartment with garden and communal pool, interested?? then email me.

She then took me to two very trendy Soho or Marrekech type coffee bars in the Ville Nouvelle where all the bright young things chat over their cafe nous nous and choccie cake whilst cool house music plays in the background. We then went to her familys villa off the airport road and furthur on to a huge equestrian centre with stunning horses in stables, massive swimming pool, riad and terrace and two restaurants all under extensive renovation will be very swish, as we say in the west, when finished. Ive booked two horses for Hopalong Mckinlay and Jane this Friday although have wimped out myself as I can sense that any horse can spot a novice and will gallop off with me stopping somewhere outside Azrou and depositing me in a heap.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hot Spot or Lukewarm

Soooooooo is this the next hotspot of Morocco or is that just wishful thinking. Out and about in the trusty Merc I am always on the lookout for bargain properties or areas ripe for genrification Moroccan style. This area in the photos, which is meant to keep you guessing of course, has several major plus points added to an equal number of minus points which adds up to a VERY LONG PUNT INVESTMENTWISE. However for bravehearts the rewards will be reaped its just when.

On a lighter night my compadre Tony Hall, superstar chef to the stars, specifically Roger Taylor from Queen, is jetting in next month for a flying visit. He is all fired up, full of exotic recipes and looking to guest chef at one or more establishments during his stay. Im not giving too much away when I say in all likelihood he will be chopping up a storm and burning the gas at Riad Laaroussa and hopefully Cafe Clock for starters (scuse the pun) but anyone else wanting to hire his unique talents just leave a message in the comment section below. Of course I am a chef myself but my passion nowadays is in bricks and mortar, but I am sure Tony will have me sauteeing or chiffonading something, with the odd mirepoix and julienne going on and ensuring that he is mise en place. All culinary terms are from our period at Norwich Catering college circa 1973, so as you can see we go waaaaaaaay back.

Back to the house and now the basement (photos soon folks on the blog) is nearly done it was time to turn my attention at long last to furnishing the apartment. Off to see Koko, whose brochure for his shop features many shots of this house which has many of his handmade pieces gracing each room. We went to his fabric man deep in the derb (I love that expression) and I bought 20 metres of quality cloth for the banquettes for the grand total of 55 euros. The previous day Ben and Zina acting as the impoverished newly weds went with me to an out of town souk where we negotiated a great deal on some hand made wooden bases to support the banquettes. When these are all made should only take 4 days then I will commision a low lying metal table and voila will have created a cool breakfasting spot in the apartment salon, which already has a cool cedar breakfast/sushi counter. Will post some shots when all is done.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Out and About

Doesnt time fly when youre having fun hey, lots of comings and goings over the last few weeks to keep an old man on his toes so therefore poor old Bloggy takes a backseat. First up was the Norwich invasion with Michael Mystere bringing along a very subdued and reflective Mr Connors from Norwich an international engineer of some repute.

Michael enthralled us with tales of cushions and fabrics, a far cry from the days when we used to run a underground dance outfit together but then that was a few years ago. Of course back then I had no idea I would be swapping a terrace house in Norwich for the more exotic Mernissi House leaving behind a mortgage and a smoking ban, whilst Michael became a happy breeder and the owner of a delightful soon to be fully cushioned Dar. We were joined by Paul and Debs from Norwich en route to the Puro DesertLounge dance party in Marrekech. We took in the sights including Riad Fes and Riad Laaroussa for lunch in between Fez buying for the natives back in Blighty.

Strange to look around from my top terrace to see alongside me four familiar faces from England whose more normal habitat would be the famous Fat Cat pub in Norwich, just voted best pub in Britain, again. Here our local as with most other bods in Fes is Thamis who never fails to deliver the culinary goods. Soon we will have the Cafe Clock as an option and we are all waiting and warming up our saliva glands for that experience and there are also rumours of a sushi bar opening in new town soon inshallah.

Have been out and about lately and one night came across a Rap night inside Bab Makina with thousands of young Moroccan hippity hoppity type dudes in outsize baggy pants and baseball caps, frugging and breakdancing to some very theatrical stage Djs. Up on the crenallated fort walls of Bab Makina which would not look out of place in a Lawrence of Arabia set, several storks in their makeshift nests looked down haughtily on the proceedings and if storks had eyebrows they would most surely have been raised at the antics of the crowd below. Having been the setting for some uplifting spiritual music in the Sacred Music Festival it seemed very incongruous to be hearing hard hitting angry polemic played to look a likey homeboys Moroccan stylee!!

Have been having a great time recently hitting the road normally with my esteemed colleague and entrepreneur Mike Clock as we need to keep ourselves acquainted with what is happening around and about Fes so we can reliably inform friends and future guests. Of course this has involved house hunting and we have both come up with interesting opportunities further afield as prices in Fes point skyward. How to pay for these projects is another matter but where theres a will theres a way.

Latest stroll through the Medina was again a revelation on returning to Fes as it was , how shall I put this and will you believe it, very SMART!! The Qaraouiyine Mosque doors were open on all sides and revealed the stylish renovation in all its glory and all around the shops, fronts, awnings and walls were how we say in England spruced up to the max. I popped out in Rcif very pleased and privileged to be a small part of the renaissance of this incredible place, and its still very much an ongoing process.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Up to his old tricks

Back behind the old Technics for a cocktail hour session at the very wonderful Riad Fes courtesy of the manageress Sesarina. It seemed to go down well with guests and visitors alike and it was nice to dust off my dormant vinyl to set the mood. Could end up a regular soiree we shall see.

Coming to the end of Ramadan here, could be tomorrow, so the medina is buzzing and frenetic in anticipation of normality including the return of alcohol sales and conjugal rights to name but two of the bonus points. Its been a rather pleasant month and not too many signs of the irritation and frustration caused by going without, although Mahoud the snail seller outside the house did have a spectacular meltdown when someone nicked his gas burner, we could here him 5 floors up for an hour. He ranted and raved to no avail of course as his bucket of snails sat forlornly on the pavement with no means to boil up the little blighters.

From this weekend after a 3 day holiday Fes goes into winter mode the shops and restuarants open earlier and close earlier and very soon it will be time to batten down the hatches for the winter rains and dig out those long trousers and woolly jumpers for the onset of the evening chill. All around the Medina people will be firing up their patio heaters, the Europeans that is, dusting off their gas heaters and stocking up on their winter logs. Yes folks it can get cold here though last year we only had a dusting of snow on one day to the great amusement of the kids.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

C'est pret enfin

Yes it is ready finally, the final project on my list here of major importance and no I am not talking about crucial dental work to fill in the gaps or botox injections to smooth over those renovation tramlines on my forehead, I mean the Berber Basement dummy...

After four coats of paint the sad looking walls now look pristine, the accumulated light fittings that have sat on stairwells performing no particular lighting function are now in place like flaming torches. Ben attacked the freshly zelliged fountain and floor with acid water which is not a nouveau hippy drink but a highly caustic solution that is smoking as you pour it out and brings rapid tears to the users eyes. Suffice to say it immediately devours everything in its wake including half your fingers given half the chance.

We moved some plants and cacti in, played around with the lighting and tomorrow will throw down some tapis or carpets and cushions and voila ....the chillout Berber Basement, just need to hook up the Ipod dock to African lounge mode and then i will turn my attention to draping the ceiling to get the all important tent feel... cant wait.

Have had some great contact with old friends recently who are winging their way to Fes, Paul and Debs from Norwich are coming over soon for the PurodesertLounge concert in Marrekech with none other than Bryan Ferry the original Lounge Lizard performing alongside Claude Challe and Dimitri from Paris amongst others. Also Pippa jetting in from Dublin to check on her house purchase here as well as Doug the photographer coming over for a short break with his family. The best news though was a longstanding friend Teju coming over from Antigua.

We first met in the Caribbean over 20 years ago when we were doing modelling shoots in Antigua as being half caste we both looked very brotherly/sisterly for the shots. I was moonlighting from my yachtie chef job whilst I was also Djing in her then boyfriends bar and was lead tambourine in the Barracudas a rock n roll combo of musical yachties. Oh sweet memories of halcyon days of my lovely misspent and wild youth when the world was your oyster and it was all beach, beer, barbecues and bloody huge hangovers to boot.

We had the privilege on the way to one of our many beachside gigs with the Barracudas laden down with guitars, drums and assorted maraccas of picking up a tired and emotional Keith Richards, depositing him in the back of our cramped van and dropping him off at his wifes house. He said he only went out for a pint of milk 3 days previous but somehow got persuaded to stay up and out of it....funny that. I mentioned to the somewhat squashed and smelly rocker that this must remind him of travelling to early Stones gigs to which his succinct reply was errrr no. Conversations with the rich and famous hey dont you just love em.

Talking of the Caribbean mentioned to Teju that the troubled popstress Britney was on her way to rehab at Eric Claptons Clean up Clinic in Antigua just down the road from where Teju lives so she thought she might dash off a few pics for the dailies to get some dosh for her hols ummmmm. Well dont want to get tabloidy here so Im off to play with the basement lighting will post some pics later.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Oh Crumbs

Josephine of Dar el Hana fame and I were cruising towards Macro supermarket in the trusty Merc not really paying attention to our surroundings as we were busy devouring a nice selection of biscuits. This being Ramadan we generally do not flaunt our eating, smoking and other subversive activities on the street but within the confines of the car its generally perceived as reasonably acceptable. Therefore with a mouthful of macarroons,spattering crumbs every which way over ourselves we were not aware of an approaching cavalcade. Suddenly a motorcycle outrider was flagging us to the side of the road closely followed by another.

My immediate thought was we were going to be reprimanded for driving without due care and attention as most of our due care and atention was concentrated on which particular tasty, crumbfilled delicacy we were going to devour next. Pulling over to the side of the road we were swiftly overtaken by a Maserati and an Aston Martin I believe and then a stretch black Mercedes containing his Royal Highness who we swore gave us a passing glance. What he would make of two Occidental infidels stuffing their faces with biscuits during Ramadan daytime I dont know,but it did make us feel slightly guilty for a few seconds so I sparked up a cigarette, which in England now is ILLEGAL if it impairs your driving. UTTER TOSH.

Now I know I can not comfortably feel at home again in that nanny state which daily is infringing on personal freedom and rights in so many areas,tapping phone calls being another recent idea. I wonder soon whether there will be any area of your daily life that the government does not have an influence on or an appropriate fine in place for. I feel in some ways it is a more restrictive regime than here in this liberal Muslim country. At least people go about their business here with a smile on their faces, oh well.

Sun is shining, plants are healthy on the terrace, new friends are coming and going and all is good. In the basement the painters are on track starting their work at 9pm till 3am in the morning such is the topsy turvy (great word for Moroccan attitude to work) world in Ramadan. This is when they have the most energy of course after that huge sugar intake at sundown. The basement is already transformed and soon will ready for draping and carpeting inshallah lets say about a week to be on the safe side!!!