Flanders has long been famous for its Trappist breweries, with monks in ancient monasteries mastering the alchemy of brewing ales from the end of the Middle Ages. But today there is a craft beer revolution across the globe, and traversing the rural countryside from West Flanders across to Limburg, you can visit not just traditional Trappists and innovative abbeys, but funky, experimental microbreweries producing American-style IPA or exotic coffee stouts, as well a brand new generation of hop farmers deciding to brew for themselves rather than just selling all their harvest to industrial breweries.

On the road you can also stop-off at artisan cheese and charcuterie makers, to discover that the food and wine pairing so loved in gourmet restaurants works just as well for beer pairing, even if it is just a fruity organic white beer enjoyed with a hearty picnic picked up direct from the farm. And if time permits, it is always worth tracking down one of the artisan distilleries that still produce jenever, the most famous spirit invented in the Low Countries. Dating back to the 14th century, complex copper alambics distill first a mash of cereal grains, then a secret recipe of aromatic herbs and botanicals. The key ingredient being the juniper berry, giving the distinctive aroma that became known the world over as gin. Visiting a distillery today is like stepping back in time, the process unchanged over the centuries.   

De Struise Brewery

Begin your beer tour in this revolutionary  microbrewery, in the heart of rural Flanders, just 20 kilometres from the North Sea resort of De Panne.  Time your trip well as De Struise, ‘The Ostrich’, is only open on weekends, though they have a fully-stocked boutique in the nearby village of Vleteren. Craft beer enthusiasts from across the globe make a pilgrimage here, and though there is barely a sign outside, after walking through a long corridor you suddenly enter a packed courtyard of what was once the local school, with towering fermenting vats, where some 24 different brews are on tap, at €2 a glass. ‘We only serve in small 8mm tasting glasses so everyone can still head home sober afterwards,’ says Urbain Coutteau, the rock and roll master brewer and founder  of De Struise.

Urbain has a colourful history, changing  careers from professional photographer to civil engineer in the Congo, then running an ostrich farm and holiday centre right here in the Flemish countryside, before starting experimenting with beer to serve the holidaymakers at the farm.’But everyone loved the beer, Pannepot, an intriguing, unclassable mix of strong ale and creamy stout,’ he recalls, ‘and when it got selected by the ultimate guide, RateBeer, as one of the world’s Top50 beers, everyone said that it was time to open a proper brewery. And then we were suddenly the World’s Best Brewery!’ Today he proposes a mind-boggling, ever-changing portfolio of some 150 weird and wonderful beers – pioneering cask-aged, spontaneous brews, intense cold-fermentation eisbocks. And this is a committed eco-brewery which boasts zero carbon footprint for those drinking on the premises! So have fun tasting the likes of Black Albert, Clash of the Titans, Black Damnation, Tora Tora, and an unforgettable vegan tomato beer, Bloody Mary Sex Magic.

Leroy Brewery 

Though just a few kilometres drive from De Struise, visiting the venerable Leroy is a very different experience. Operating two breweries in the village of Boezinge, just outside the First World War battlefield of Ypres, records show that beer has been brewed here since 1572, and Bruno Leroy is the 11th generation of the present owners.

He relates how, ‘we are neither a craft not commercial brewery, just happy to be independent, family run, and employing 30 people who are almost part of the family!’  His grandfather built the redbrick brewery in the 1920’s after the original was destroyed by the French Army during the Great War, with their family home was right on the premises, ‘and my father was actually born here.’ The family are very keen to encourage beer tourists to visit, and in 2021 they will open a centre for brewery tours and tastings.

The beer to try is  their signature Hommelbier, created in 1981 as a homage to the excellence of hops produced at nearby Poperinge. ‘It is a secret recipe using four different types of hops, just don’t expect one of these fashionable IPA style beers as we pride ourselves an making easy to drink ales.’

Brewery De Plukker

This brewery, ‘The Picker’, offers the unique possibility of understanding the product that is right at the heart of beer culture, the humble hop, as De Plukker is literally located on a Poperinge hop farm. Dressed in bright red overalls, Joris Cambie is clearly a happy man, swelling with pride as he shows visitors his Jack and the Beanstalk hops that climb up almost 6 metres at harvest time. ‘This is the only brewery in the world where everything from  hop to  beer is done right here on the farm,’ he proclaims. ‘Moreover we are the only organic hop growers in Belgium. My family have grown Poperinge hops for breweries for generations, probably since the Middle Ages, and organic cultivation was a natural choice for me, over 25 years ago. ’

His dream of making genuine organic beer on his own farm became real in 2011, when he teamed up with  brewer, Kris Langouche, and they converted the old hop drying barn. They proudly claim that carbon footprint is virtually zero, and the beers are simple but delicious. ‘We are not interested in brewing extreme IPA style, complex, over-strong craft beers,’ says Joris ‘Obviously our ales are hoppy, especially the special range using the freshly harvested flowers, the ‘green hop’, but we always seek drinkability. For me, the perfect beer is the one where you want to open a second bottle straight afterwards.’


Just outside the historic bourg of Poperinge, renowned for growing hops, the ancient farm of the Boeraeve family is undergoing something of a revolution. Bard and his wife Anabel are fifth generation farmers, but the young couple only moved back home here three years ago, giving up the city life in Ghent. And they swiftly decided to increase the cultivation of hops by planting different aromatic varieties and to limit carbon footprint they only sell their harvest to nearby Belgian brewers.

Now they are opening up their farm for tourism with organised visits and foodie events. Part of an old cow stall was transformed into a traditional Flemish wood-beamed Brown Cafe to receive visitors, and Bard recounts that, ‘the natural next step was that we should be able to let them taste and buy our very own farm beer, so working with an old university friend in his craft brewery, we launched a classically hoppy brew, Saison Lokaal.’ Poperinge may be traditionally hop country, but Belhop recently became the first vineyard here. ‘We looked at some fields on a gentle slope that were difficult to farm cereals, so I told my Dad we should  cultivate something permanent, and we have hops, so it had to be vines. In 2020 we planted 1,000 Chardonnay vines that will soon increase to an hectare. The first vintage is expected for 2024, so a little patience is necessary before we can all have a glass’

St Bernardus

This has to be one of the perfect breweries for beer lovers to visit in West Flanders, offering a comprehensive tour and tasting, a tempting boutique, a comfy ten room guesthouse for a longer stay, and a recently opened panoramic rooftop bar, restaurant and open terrace that is nothing less than spectacular, with views over never-ending hop fields that almost become ablaze as the sun sets. St Bernadus is very much an independent brewery following its own path. Producing 18 million bottles a year it is too big to be described as a new generation craft brewery, but it is nowhere near the size of a commercial brewery. It is also neither a Trappist nor Abbey beer, even though it follows their principles of quality and purity. As they favour traditional, drinkable ales, don’t expect to discover hipster craft brews like IPA, gueuze or spontaneous lambics. They rarely launch new beers either, and the latest brew, Tokyo, their first canned beer, was over 10 years in planning.

The original St Bernadus site, which is just celebrating its 75th anniversary, has been carefully preserved, while ultra modern brewing annexes have been added on recently as the charismatic owner, Hans Depypere,  aims to make his beers more popular and relevant to a younger generation. And there is no better place to try them then up on the rooftop terrace, creatively paired with traditionally-inspired cuisine based on local ingredients.

Beauvoordse Walhoeve

Visitors to the Walhoeve farm and dairy are greeted by cheery Lyn Deeren,  a 7th generation cheesemaker in the heart of rural West Flanders. The sandy North Sea beaches and dunes of the Belgian coast may just be 10 kilometres away, but the dairy is set in the midst of bucolic rural countryside, with a herd of 180 Holsteins grazing in the pastures. While her brother Jan and his wife look after the animals, Lyn and her parents have transformed the dairy into a foodie’s Aladdin’s Cave, presenting their 30 different cheeses, yogurts, irresistible desserts and homemade ice creams.

Visitors sit out in the farm courtyard and order a picnic of 100% kilometre-zero produce – not just her cheeses but ham and salami from the local butcher, fruits and juices from a neighbouring orchard, regional craft beer and Flemish wine. This summer their artisan ice cream salon opens with a longer term project of organising guided tours of the dairy where you can see how cheeses are produced and aged, and even watch a bathtub of chocolate mousse being mixed by hand. It is a rare slice of life of traditional dairy farming.

De Gebrande Winning

Over in the province of Limburg, alongside the Dutch border, the picturesque grand square of Sint-Truiden is lined with bustling cafes, bars and bistrots, but to find its most famous restaurant you need to head out to the quiet backstreets at the edge of town. Here lies a shrine to beer and gastronomy that attracts foodies and beer connoisseurs from across the globe. Although only open for 7 years, it has already been awarded the title of World’s Best Beer Restaurant, and genial host and chef, Raf Stimorol, creates a modern take on traditional Flemish recipes using seasonal, essentially local ingredients, complemented by a variety of beers in the cooking.

There is a special beer pairing menu created by the chef himself, and if you are  still looking for something different, more unique, well there are a mere 600 labels on the beer list, all perfectly conserved in the ancient vaulted cellar  – Raf’s secret paradise.

So with dishes like succulent pork braised in rich Bourgogne de Flandres beer, line-fished turbot cooked with fresh hop flowers or crisp shrimp croquettes to dip in a creamy Orval sauce, The Burning Farm, really deserves to be called a Temple of Beerstronomy. Raf has a privileged relationship with many of the world’s most famous independent craft brewers, with some rare ales like the 40° Black Albert oak-aged Eisbock or Antidoot Sauvignac  that may seem expensively priced at over €40 a bottle, but as the chef says, ‘for beer geeks searching the internet they will be happy to track down the same bottles  at over €800!’

Wilderen Brewery and Distillery

The sleepy village of Wilderen, hidden away in the rolling hills and fruit orchards of the rural Haspengouw region, has literally been transformed these last years, into a vibrant  ‘smaak’ – taste – destination showcasing food, wine, beer, whiskey, even artisan ice-cream. All this was sparked by the 2011 reopening of the legendary Wilderen distillery. But this is much, much more than a distillery, as the 2,000 revellers that crowd through the door each weekend will testify. While the distillery dates back to 1743, it was already closed and abandoned since 1939, a total ruin when Mike Janssen bought it. He has lovingly restored the 19th century industrial distilling machinery into a ‘time machine’ museum, alongside a state of the art brewery and modern alambic for distilling.

While he still makes an old-fashioned jenever for tradition’s sake, his craft W Double You gin has been voted the world’s best gin, while there are also Omertà Rum and Wild Weasel Whiskey. On the beer front, Mike brews traditional, top-fermented ales like a fruity cherry kriek, white beers, malts and the whiskey-infused, Cuvée Clarysse. The soaring wood-beamed interiors of the old farm and barns have been transformed into welcoming chalet bar lounges, perfect when the weather stops everyone sitting in the beer garden.

Vanderlinden Distillery

Hasselt is one of the most famous places in Flanders for the production of jenever, the origin of modern gin. But today, many of the small artisan distilleries have been replaced by industrial production. That is until young local businessman, Olivier Vanderlinden, decided to take matters into his own hands to preserve these ancient traditions by founding a craft  distillery. An old shed at the back of the family house was filled with modern copper alambics, and  his first distilled  jenever, trickled out of the still some five years ago, made with a secret family recipe of fragrant herbs, botanicals and of course the crucial juniper berry. 

Aided by a team of 16 enthusiastic amateur tasters, Olivier distills a range of jenevers, including an organic one, and describes how, ‘I enjoy experimenting with different kinds of wood for ageing, using not just oak but cherry. I guess you can call us a boutique distillery right now, but I hope that in the future we will be able to increase sales and production so I can give up my office job and devote all my time to making jenever.’ Come for a tour and tasting and be sure not to miss another local speciality, known as Most Wijn, Malt Wine, which is much closer to a malt whiskey than any wine you have ever tasted. 

De Achelse Kluis

Heading into northern Limburg, beer and cheese lovers should stop at the village of Achel, home of another of the mythical abbeys that Flanders is so famous for.

The Achelse Kluis is a monumental Benedictine Abbey, founded by Westmalle monks in 1846, though the religious site – and beer brewing – dates back to 1648. The monks brewery was actually destroyed by the Germans during World War 1, and their famous Achel 8 only became available when they started brewing again in 2001. Today, although no longer officially Trappist, as the last monks have departed, the Abbey brewery continues to produce its very drinkable blonde and brown ales.

In Flanders there is a proud tradition of pairing the region’s beers with its cheeses, and everyone will tell you that nothing can compare to a plate of Achelse Blawe cheese with a glass of  creamy Achel Extra Bruin.


This buttery, blue-marbled cheese is a serious competitor to either Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort, and the place to taste it is Achelse’s Catherinadal Dairy where artisan cheesemakers, Peter and Bert Boonen, make small batch from the milk of their 100 cow herd.

Where to eat

In de Vrede

Bustling brasserie located right opposite the Trappist monastery that  brews one of the world’s most famous and mysterious beers, Westvleteren.

The cuisine is copious and  tasty – steak frites, big salads, braised pig’s cheeks – but everyone really comes to taste the unique Westvleteren beer.

De Goeste

Right on Poperinge’s picturesque town square, this kilometre-zero foodie homage to regional producers has just opened its doors.

The creative young chef creates delicious dishes like succulent scallops, crunchy salicornes and a creamy mushroom risotto, with pairing suggestions from Heuvelland wineries or local craft breweries

Where to stay 

B&B De Rentmeesterhoeve

The Bailiff’s Farm is actually a romantic manor house, hidden away in its own private grounds, surrounded by a moat and flower gardens. The wood-beamed interiors have been beautifully renovated by welcoming owner Ann Bekaert, who provides a sumptuous breakfast buffet of homemade products including freshly-laid eggs. 



Marrakech ranks as one of the world’s ultimate foodie destinations, be it sitting down for a gourmet tasting menu in a sumptuous palace hotel, whose haute-cuisine restaurants are invariably overseen by an international  celebrity chef, or feasting off traditional Moroccan specialties cooked up at the hundreds of tantalising stalls around the ancient Medina’s immense Jemaa El-Fna square. But the line between fine dining and street food has become blurred for some time now, especially during this new era of pandemic travel when time almost seems to stand still. It is the perfect moment for reflection, to step back and ask the question; what kind of gastronomy will travellers be looking for in this new uncertain world? In Paris, London and New York, food lovers are now used to ordering simple Click&Collect meals prepared by the restaurants of stellar gourmet chefs.

Here in Marrakech, it is the city’s most prestigious, most luxurious address, the Royal Mansour, that has launched a pioneering initiative. The Food Lab is a unique competition, throwing down the gauntlet to the hotel’s predominantly local Moroccan kitchen staff to create exciting new dishes from a melting pot of local and global food trends.

The 100-strong brigade of the Royal Mansour already work under the supervision and inspiration of two of the world’s most renowned Three Star Michelin chefs, Yannick Alleno from France and Italy’s Massimiliano Alajmo. But the hotel’s innovative director, Jean-Claude Messant, admits that, ‘there is a challenge to keep staff motivated, creative and busy during a pandemic.’ His solution is the Food Lab, an unconventional competition open to everyone working in the kitchens, calling for recipes with ‘freshness, colour, taste, pleasure, audacity’, with the ultimate prize of the top three dishes being featured on the hotel’s menu. He explains how, ‘it was essential to demand creativity, to ask everyone to think out of the box, beyond the constraints of classic Escoffier-style training, instead taking inspiration from World Food and Street Food, where you maybe only need to spend 15 minutes perfecting a dish rather a meticulous 8 hours.’ And this really seems the right time to offer something different for discerning diners. Monsieur Messant is adamant that, ‘the new generation of food-loving traveller just wants to eat well. That is all. The crucial word is now ‘gourmand’ – tasty – and no longer gourmet or gastronomic. He wants to be tempted by Chinese and Indian dishes, raw fish prepared Japanese or Peruvian style, Middle Eastern vegetarian, exotic takes on pizza; to be surprised by new tastes, new spices, new ingredients. That is the challenge we laid down in the Food Lab, and the response and results have been simply sensational.’

A total of 28 kitchen teams worked the best part of a month during the quieter moment of lockdown, creating 56 cosmopolitan, eclectic dishes for the 6-man jury of the Food Lab. Revisiting the food heritage of the likes of Mexico and Vietnam, Senegal and India, Zanzibar and Japan, then adding in a certain Moroccan touch, it is difficult to imagine many of these trainee chefs had not even travelled outside the Morocco. But the competition gave them the freedom for a virtual global foodie tour to seek inspiration. 

Below, discover the stories of ten tastes of the competition. The first three will soon be enjoyed by guests at the Royal Mansour, but all the Food Lab’s dazzling dishes merit applause.


Bành Xéo

You find many French influences in Vietnamese street food, dating back to the  colonial days of Indochine, with surprising local favourites like a baguette stuffed with luncheon meat, Banh Flan crème caramel, and Bành Xéo, the local take on crepes. Zahira Lasri and and Mariam Hammoudi, are experienced chefs, currently in Massimiliano Alajmo’s Italian-influenced Sesamo restaurant, and have worked together in many of the Royal Mansour’s restaurants since they arrived direct  from Marrakech’s Ecole de Cuisine.

Zahira has travelled to Italy for training in Alajmo’s Three Star Michelin restaurant just outside Venice, while Mariam has visited France to test the cuisine there. ‘But we both really love Asian cuisine, even if we have never been there,’ says Zahira with a smile, ‘and Bành Xéo sounded like something different, interesting to taste and also a good dish for people with lactose problems. Rather than classic French crepes, ours are crispy rice pancakes which we fill with plump shrimp, soya shoots, pickles and herbs. For the guests of a hotel like the Royal Mansour, presentation is critical, and for that we were inspired by our local market where rural women come in to sell Jben, every Moroccan’s favourite creamy fresh cheese delicately wrapped in palm leaves, that looks so good you are desperate to eat it!’. Not content with creating one dish, this adventurous pair also proposed Tokoyaki, delicious octopus balls flavoured with spring onion, ginger and a fragrant sweet sauce, which will also find its place on one of the hotel’s restaurant menus.

Pani Puri

The uncontested star of Indian street food are the delicious snacks known as Pani Puri. Round, hollowed-out balls of deep-fried, crisp dough are filled with a mysterious savoury mix, with each street vendor proudly guarding his own secret recipe to attract loyal customers.

Quite a challenge to recreate this for one of the Royal Mansour’s dining rooms, but one that caught the imagination of Frenchman Guillaume Laratte and Moroccan Meriem Inaam. Guillaume has experience of working with not just the Royal Mansour’s Yannick Alléno, but Three Star Michelin chefs Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsey in Paris, London and New York. ‘But I have never travelled to India,’ he admits, ‘and my chef friends are always talking about the amazing cuisine there. So the Food Lab was to occasion to try something new. Although Pani Puri is essentially street food we wanted to create a version that could be served in the hotel, so it needed to be elegant and appetising.

We decided to resist the allure of chili and instead created 3 dipping sauces for the deep-fried bread balls – tamarind, minty yogurt and coriander sweetened with palm sugar.’

Falafel Sandwich

Jaouad Boulaayat is joint Chef de Cuisine of the Royal Mansour’s prestigious Grande Table Marocaine, one of the country’s leading restaurants dedicated to Moroccan gastronomy. But his first working experience was in one of Marrakech’s Lebanese restaurants, where he discovered the subtle recipes of Levantine cuisine, inspiring him for the Food Lab to transform an iconic mezze into a surprising Falafel Sandwich.

‘I have always been excited and intrigued by any kind of Oriental cuisine,’ recounts Chef Jaouad, ‘and this dish combines the flavour and heritage of Lebanon’s iconic falafel with our traditional Moroccan batbout bread, accompanied by the Middle Eastern flavours of babaganoush and tahini, grilled pine nuts, and garlicky tzatziki to awaken the palate.’ Assisted by Mohamed Ben Doudou, a young Demi Chef de Partie in Room Service, who has worked with Jaouad since he was a trainee, the pair explain how ‘we both jumped at the challenge of this competition, firstly to share our own experiences and ideas, and also in the hope that if our dish becomes part of the hotel’s menu, that may give us the chance to travel overseas to both show other people our Moroccan cuisine and discover new ideas and influences.’

Pho Gà

When it comes to tempting Comfort Food nothing quite compares to a nourishing dish of chicken noodle soup, known in Vietnamese cuisine as Pho Gà. You will see rickety stalls on every street corner from Hanoi to Saigon, with a pot of bubbling chicken broth balancing atop a red-hot charcoal brazier, ladled into a bowl brimming with delicate rice noodles, fragrant herbs and spices. Customers usually perch on tiny pavement stools, but it will be very different when Abdelhadi Mamri and Fatima Khabir’s version of Pho Gà is served in the Royal Mansour’s chic Le Jardin restaurant. Abdelhadi has the important position of overseeing the preparation of meals for the Royal Mansour’s staff. ‘I love Asian food,’ he enthuses, ‘even cooking  it at home. Fatima and I found the recipe for Pho Gà in the hotel’s library but decided to adapt it for Morocco. The base is still an 8 hour slow-cooked chicken broth, with shitake mushrooms, cabbage and rice noodles. But for the spices, apart from the Asian ingredients of basil, mint, ginger and lemongrass, we add in Moroccan cardamon, star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon and cloves. Well, not only did my family love it, but the Food Lab jury approved too, so we are very proud.

Tostones Rellenos

While many of the 56 members of the Royal Mansour’s kitchen brigade who took part in the Food Lab competition found inspiration in the virtual world of global cuisine on show on the internet, Chef Amine Abdelai has worked here since the day the hotel opened and is more old-school in his methods. ‘Our Executive chef, Jerôme Videau, has the most amazing collection of cook books from around the world, ‘ he enthuses, ‘a real library where I love to come to seek inspiration for new recipes.’ Amine is aided and assisted by Abderrazak Anzaoui, who is just starting out as a young Commis straight our of college, and the two have both travelled extensively around their native Morocco. ‘We love the varieties and uniqueness of our regional cuisine,’ they declare, ‘so for this project we chose the country of Mexico for inspiration because it also has many regional specialities. We took a traditional recipe from there and revisited in with our Moroccan touch to add freshness, gourmandise, tastiness and simplicity. This meant adding in coconut milk, marinating with lime and using espelette, a less forceful chilly than Mexican ones, and to substitute local green bananas for Latin American plantains. To be one of the three winners is a great honour, and who knows, when the world finally goes back to some kind of normality, one day the Royal Mansour might send the two of us to Mexico to look for ideas for new recipes!’  

Ice Cream Pastilla

Aziz Bouzkri and Soukaina At Said both work in the pâtisserie section of the Royal Mansour, essentially catering for room service right now while travel restrictions continue.

‘Before confinement,’ relates Aziz, ‘I worked in the Grande Table Marocaine preparing traditional Moroccan desserts, and for the competition I wanted  to try something different, combining the use of our traditional flaky pastilla pastry with the freshness of homemade ice-cream.

Rather than use classic vanilla flavour, we opted for a neutral milk ice-cream to let our ingredients come to the fore; dried apricots and raisins, almonds.’ Soukaina adds with a satisfied smile that, ‘we worked together for a month to come up with the dish, and although in the kitchen we always have to have total respect for hygiene regulations and social distancing, I think for the whole time we actually managed to forget about the pandemic, the lockdowns, and just concentrate on such an exciting, creative project.’

Sucrine Salad with Ketiakh

Karim Ben Baba and Mouna Al Yachiri travelled far to find the inspiration for their Food Lab dish, across to the West coast of Africa, where ketiakh is a treasured ingredient in the cuisine of Senegal. ‘I am very interested in the principles of natural, sustainable conservation,’ recalls Karim, ‘and when a Senegalese friend told me about ketiakh, preserved sardines or anchovies, I wanted to create a dish using them.’ The idea of leaving fish to dry in the sun, to rot almost, was created by the Romans with their Garum anchovy sauce, and it is the same principle used today in Senegal where ketiakh  is a staple ingredient with rice and sago. Karim and Mouna were enchanted by the empathy of this dish – the connection between the fisherman who catches the sardines for his wife, whereby she salts and sun dries them, he debones and cleans them, and then she prepares the dish.

‘But we decided to revisit the ingredient by creating a light, fresh dish, using crispy sucrine salad, locally-caught sardines, and a touch of Morocco with orange, persimmon and cinnamon.’

Croustillette Savoyarde

Romain Correze arrived at the Royal Mansour from France just before the pandemic started. Though he may not have seen much of Marrakech, life in the kitchens has been busy, testing new creations, where he and Chaima Mouharare both work as pastry chefs.

They made the conscious decision to propose something completely different than their speciality pâtisseries. ‘I have no experience of street food,’ admits Romain, ‘and am not even from the Alps in Savoie where our recipe comes from. But we wanted to experiment. Under the hot sun of Marrakech, it was a gamble to propose such a  hearty, wintery dish, but everyone seems to like it. Although there are several key ingredients, in the street food spirit, everything can be put together quickly, as long as everything is perfectly prepared; a thin crispy puff pastry bread is filled with sautéed and puréed potatoes, tasty onion jam, smoked beef bacon, fried shallots and creamy melted Reblochon cheese. We thought about adapting the recipe for sweet ingredients, our speciality, but this tastes too delicious!’

Steamed Nori Fish East-West

The culinary heritage of Japan has been inspiring for many of the Food Lab recipes, but chefs Youssef Ait Belkas and Ali Timouni went one step further by combining the fresh, line-caught fish from the coast of Morocco with Japan’s emblematic nori seaweed that has become a global trend for chefs searching to recreate the elusive deliciousness of ‘umami’ flavour. Youssef recalls that he had never even heard of nori before working in the Royal Mansour’s kitchens, ‘and it is an ingredient that can add a totally new dimension to this recipe where we unite  two of the great cultures of cuisine, Morocco and Japan.’ Their dish creates an osmosis between local seabass, the West, and flakes of nori seaweed from the East. ‘The best, simplest way to eat fish is steamed,’ explains Youssef, ‘so the seabass is wrapped in nori leaves, but from Marrakech’s market, we add in lemon confit for acidity and sundried tomatoes for freshness.’

Waffles with Spices

Belgian cuisine has long lived in the shadow of French gastronomy, but it is responsible for giving the world several of its favourite dishes; crispy, irresistible frites, delicious steamed mussels, ‘moules  marinières’, while the humble waffle, ‘gaufre’, has been turned into an art form by Belgian chefs.

Jaouad Oualadi, assistant Chef Pâtisserie for all the Royal Mansour’s restaurants, along with Lamya El Jazy, a specialist in Moroccan pastries, decided to relook the waffle for the Food Lab competition, explaining that, ‘Belgian waffles are already a popular street food here in Marrakech but we wanted to recreate the traditional recipe from Liège. Their technique involves using a brioche dough instead of a liquid batter, creating two different doughs, one a classic chocolate base, the other totally Moroccan, a smooth praline using local almonds and Argan oil. ‘I think this will surprise foodlovers,’ says Jaouad, ‘when they see what looks like a traditional waffle which then surprises with the flavours of Marrakech.’