Supperclubs have become a longstanding favourite for foodies, and while the concept of private dining might be ubiquitous in cities like New York and London, supperclubs in Marrakech are a novel idea. Friend and Hg2 Marrakech writer Sonia Day fell in love with Marrakech a few years ago, first starting her own wedding planning business and now refitting and living in her private riad in the medina. Sonia’s latest adventure, the Souk Supperclub, has brought this intimate dining experience to Marrakech. We caught up with Sonia about her riad and the new Marrakech supperclub project.
Can you enlighten us a little about Moroccan riads? What drew you to this type of venue?
I first visited Marrakech in 2006 and stayed in a riad – a small house in the Medina built around a courtyard. I loved the contrast between the buzz of the streets in the medina, filled with donkeys, carts, mopeds and people and the beautiful, candlelit tranquility of the riad. We stayed in the riad for three days and were hooked on Marrakech – we flew back in early 2007 to buy a riad in need of some TLC.
Your riad started as a somewhat run down building and has taken quite a bit of work to become the stylish place that it is. What inspired your vision of the finished riad? Were there any hiccups along the way?
We were looking to buy a riad that needed a little work, as we were very excited about having the opportunity to design our own home – but we did not realise when we bought the riad that it was not structurally sound! A LOT of work needed to be done for us to be able to use the roof terrace (which was one of the main attractions for us), which basically involved rebuilding the place!
We designed and renovated our riad over a three year period – an almost impossible task, as we were living in London at the time and had to keep flying out for weekends to meet our builders! We visited many riads along the way and took inspiration from the many amazing designs that we saw in places in which we stayed.
During this time, I set up a company that helps people in the UK plan weddings in Marrakech – again inspired by the exotic, romantic venues – Marrakech Weddings. We were very fortunate to be able to see an incredible range of places through this, as well as being able to get to know some fantastic people based in the city, who have helped us tremendously.
How would you describe the décor and theme of the riad?
The riad is very modern in style – we wanted clean, simple lines and neutral, calming tones – and this has been crafted using traditional Moroccan methods. We employed a “metal man” for eight months who made by hand all of our doors and windows based on our hand drawn design – one of the amazing things about Morocco. The riad was designed to be our private home, so it is also intended to be somewhere practical for us to live!
We loved the idea of having big glass doors and windows letting in a lot of light into our home (something that is unusual in Morocco because of the heat). We have also designed our home to revolve around the outdoors – we intend to spend our time on our roof terrace and in our courtyard.
You’re now hosting a supperclub at the riad. Tell us a bit about the Souk Supperclub – what can we expect from the pop-up dining experience?
We have been going to some amazing pop up restaurants in London over the last couple of years and have always felt that innovative dining options in Marrakech have been limited. There are of course many amazing restaurants in the medina that offer traditional Moroccan cuisine, but there is very little availability of other types of dishes. In addition, the only options available for a whole evening out are dinner at a restaurant aimed at tourists, with entertainment being the standard belly dancers and musicians. Whilst this is a fabulous experience for the first time tourist, we wanted to create a unique environment for people to be able to experience the medina in the intimacy of a private home, with some fabulous food cooked by visiting chefs who take inspiration from the environment as well as the flavours, produce and spices surrounding them.
We have chosen to work with chefs that have a rustic, relaxed, easygoing approach to cooking, which will reflect the atmosphere in the riad for the evening. We will have a cocktail hour on our roof terrace, where people can relax and watch the sunset. We will then be serving a set four course menu (sample menus will be available on the website and will depend on the chef in residence) with Moroccan wines to the 24 diners.
What inspired or motivated the change to the Souk Supperclub?
We are moving to Marrakech for a few months to experience life in the medina. We wanted to open up our home to friends and travellers so that people can fall in love with the magical city as we did so many years ago.
Your innovative and unique approach is new to Marrakech. How is the Souk Supperclub different from other restaurants?
Our supperclub nights will be relaxed evenings, filled with good food, wine and conversation. It will be possible for guests to choose to sit on a communal table and exchange stories of Marrakech or to have a romantic table for two. We will not be running every night – people will need to check the website for dates – as the evenings will take place in our home.
We are asking chefs from around the world to come and cook for us – they will arrive in Marrakech and experience the magical, exoticism of the city which will inspire their dishes. We are looking forward to seeing what they create!
Why Marrakech? What has drawn you in to start both a weddings business and a riad supperclub in Marrakech?
Marrakech is such an exotic, romantic place – I love the busy streets packed with donkeys, carts and people, with mopeds whizzing by. Just sitting on the roof terrace hearing the call to prayer makes the city feel a million miles from home – yet it is only a three hour flight away from London. So many incredible designers have renovated riads in the city, which make unique wedding venues. It is also possible to have fire eaters, storytellers and camels at a wedding reception – something not available in the UK!
In your opinion, where are the best or unique places in Marrakech? What do enjoy most about Marrakech? Do you have any favourite secret spots or ‘must visit’ places?
A visit to the main square, Jemaa el Fnaa, cannot be missed on any visit to Marrakech – I would recommend going at around 4 or 5pm to one of the cafes to watch the snake charmers, storytellers and monkeys slowly be taken over by the nighttime food stalls, with the Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque as a backdrop.
Our favourite place to go for lunch or an afternoon glass of rose is the Grand Cafe de la Poste – it is in Gueliz, but is really worth the trek (or 2 euro taxi ride). La Pause is an amazing desert oasis just 45 minutes outside Marrakech – you can have romantic meals for two or more there under the stars and it is even possible to stay if you want to. In the medina, the roof terrace bar at Cafe Arabe is a fantastic spot for a pre dinner cocktail. Terrasse des Epices is perfect for lunch in the sunshine!
If you want to go to a traditional hammam, the place to go is Les Bains de Marrakech.
For more information, check out our Hg2 Marrakech city guide.