Altrincham’s vibrant Market Quarter has gained a little piece of Morocco with a brand new cafe and retail concept, So Marrakech.
We spoke to the people behind it – Blanchflower owner Phil Howells and Anissa Damoussi, whose So Marrakech shop was previously located on George Street.
ALTRINCHAM TODAY: You’ve just launched a completely new concept in a great new location in Altrincham – tell us a bit more about it
ANISSA DAMOUSSI: I am very excited to be re-opening So Marrakech. 25 Market Street is such a fantastic spot and we have some wonderful plans for the interior. The space comprises our homeware shop, celebrating Moroccan designers and artisans, in collaboration with Phil and Claire Howells (owners of Blanchflower), a daytime cafe serving contemporary Moroccan breakfast and lunch dishes. It will also be a base for our Moroccan interior design and experiential travel services.
PHIL HOWELLS: It combines the wonderfully curated, handcrafted Moroccan homeware that So Marrakech is known for, but expanded. Along with this, there will be our contemporary take on authentic cuisine in a cafe.
AT: You’re the only place making Moroccan food in Altrincham. Why do you think this will work?
AD: I believe our cafe menu is a welcome addition to Altrincham’s thriving food scene, it offers something quite different. As consumers, we are constantly seeking new, authentic experiences, and I think our new concept offers just that.
PH: For starters, Morocco is home to one of the planet’s great cuisines. Throw in the French influence that we will show off in the baking and you have a pretty awesome base for a cafe. As Alty’s food scene now has such strong foundations I think that a cafe or restaurant doing anything really well would have a good chance of succeeding, especially if it’s something different.
Also, I hope people know us well enough from Blanchflower to know that we can really cook and bake. I hope they will find the idea of us bringing something different to Alty’s food scene exciting. We are very comfortable that our instincts are right and this new cafe will blow people away.
AT: What kind of retail experience can people expect?
AD: Colourful displays of our carefully curated artisanal Moroccan homewares. With a continued focus on natural materials, our collections include painted pottery, handblown glassware, wooden furniture, brass lamps, raffia baskets, wool rugs, cushions and more. Being of mixed Moroccan and English heritage, I have a very close connection with Morocco and take pride in showcasing our beautifully handmade products that have often been created using centuries’ old techniques. Our new space is a real feast for the senses… a little piece of Marrakech in Altrincham’s vibrant Market Quarter.
AT: And what will they find in the cafe?
PH: First, as always, a warm welcome. One of the joys of this project has been diving deeper into Moroccan cuisine and our job is to bring something authentic but also modern and appropriate for the time of day we will be serving. We are shipping a stack of ingredients in from Morocco to ensure that the flavours are as close as you would find there as possible.
Moroccan salads are different to the European version in that they are often based around one main ingredient and you would have several at a sitting rather everything mixed into one. This is very similar to what you’d get at Ottolenghi’s restaurants in London. This will be a central core of what we do.
We will bring to the menu our contemporary twist on tagines and bastillas (a filo-style tart) – two Moroccan cuisine staples, as well as ‘berber eggs’ for breakfast. We have created new bread for So Marrakech, and Moroccan pancakes that we are sure everyone will love.
The cafe’s patisserie menu boasts three or four brand new cake recipes, and delicious choux ‘buns’… all Moroccan inspired.
AD: In preparation for this collaboration, Phil and Claire have immersed themselves in Moroccan cuisine, spending time baking with our family cook in Marrakech, and sampling the best of the city’s cafe and restaurant scene. Food is a huge part of Moroccan culture, and we are really looking forward to bringing a taste of magical Morocco to So Marrakech.
AT: How did the collaboration between So Marrakech and Blanchflower come about?
PH: Claire and I were big fans of Anissa’s shop on George Street and we bought quite a few things. Also, Anissa would come to Blanchflower and eat brunch at the weekend, so we started chatting. Then we found that we were both interested in the shop in Market Street, but both thought it was a little big for our needs so it seemed logical to see if we could do it together. I’m a great believer in serendipity.
AD: As soon as we started talking about 25 Market Street and how it could work as a collaboration, the concept very quickly came together. It’s been a very natural partnership between So Marrakech and Blanchflower. Everything is made in-house at Blanchflower, and everything So Marrakech is handmade in Morocco… having a strong, authentic product is super important to us both.
AT: Does this affect Blanchflower in any way? How is Blanchflower doing at the moment?
PH: Blanchflower is doing wonderfully, thank you. So well, in fact, that Claire and I felt that we were ready to do something else. This is it.
So Marrakech, 25 Market Street, Altrincham, WA14 1QS.
More pictures from the newly opened So Marrakech: