Cafe Clock: Offering cultural exploration in the heart of Fez, Morocco
Cafe Clock as described by the owners is “a 250-year old courtyard house, that has brought to Fez a cultural zone that we are all desperate to set our watches to. Musicians, thinkers, performers, lovers, restorers, teachers, travelers–national and international–are walking onto our zellij carpet and playing out their tempos.”
We set foot in here on our first day in Fez. It’s only about 15 minutes walk away from our riad and a mere 200 metres away from the Boublue gate. Cafe clock is probably the most hidden restaurant I have ever been to. Hidden not on purpose but just an enchanted victim of the old medina’s charming architectural design. It’s a huge space with a library, a terrace, a bar, the red room, a courtyard and a balcony none of it can be seen from the main walkway.
What first hit me about cafe clock was the outer entrance. It was right next to a Fez style outdoor grocery store and couldn’t have measured no more than 3 or 4 feet. It was not ornately designed to stand out. Blink and you’d probably miss it and finding it is certainly worth a celebratory jig or two.
Having navigated through the medina whilst dodging oncoming carts and donkeys carrying wares is to get into Cafe Clock itself. Less uncertain but no less adventurous, you’d have to walk through a narrow passage to get to the inner entrance. It was incredibly narrow, dark but, lit well enough to feel safe and to spot any of the ubiquitous stray Fez cats before you stepped on any and suffered the consequences. In the distance I could see a black and orange coloured sign giving extra directions to the main entrance.
We could have chosen any one of three floors to dine on but we chose the middle floor not for any particular reason. A purely random choice.
We had the Harira chebbakia and dates. Harira is to a Moroccan what light soup is to a Ghanaian or pepper soup is to a Nigerian. It is Morocco’s national soup often had during Ramadan. It is said to open up the stomach before heavier meals are consumed when the fast is broken. Made from tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas we cane to love it as a starter on our trip.
We also had the Chicken Rfissa, trid, lentils and ras el hanout. Rfissa is an authentic traditional Moroccan dish eaten mainly on occasions. It is traditionaly served to a mother after delivery of a baby or apparently served to guests to show gratitude. Neither of these scenarios applied to me but that did not stop me from ordering it. Perhaps the most filling meal I had in Fez. It was somewhat new to the taste buds but it went down a treat.
I hadn’t had coffee in a couple of days so I grabbed a cuppa the first chance I had to get my intake. Being Fez, it had to come with a twist. It was spiced coffee and served as a bit of a break from the usual mint Moroccan tea.
Cafe Clock is a mini lesson in branding for any budding restauranteurs out there. There was much to see and admire but as you look around you’ll not fail to see the name “Cafe Clock” inscribed everywhere. You certainly knew where you were.
The owner (easy to spot) friendly to his patrons and that had obviously filtered through to the high level of hospitality displayed by the staff.
A fellow diner, however, had to move a couple of times each time irritated by other diners smoking. Culturally this is not Europe or other countries where smoking is a big deal. We were not that bothered by it. We were in a semi-terrace after all.
It is obvious Cafe Clock takes its role as some sort of a Fez cultural ambassador seriously. The decor was admirable. My favourite was just a simple raw leather piece hand on one of the numerous walls in the restaurant.
We had heard about the Cafe Clock camel burger which we intended to go back for. Unfortunately our days in Fez were numbered and tight so that didn’t happen. However, if I ever found myself back in Fez I’ll certainly pay Cafe Clock another visit!