Tucked on the edge of Canterbury’s city centre, the family-run Azouma Restaurant allows you to imagine you had stepped onto a magic carpet and left wintry Britain for a more exotic clime.
Inside you immediately sense a warm and inviting atmosphere. The old architecture of the building somehow lends itself to being decorated with the rich colours associated with Morocco, with the accompanying lamps, vases and geometric shapes.
We picked our drinks (Siroua rouge, a warm and delicate house wine, and a cold Marrakesh lager), then we tussled over what to choose. Moroccan cooking has Arabian, Mediterranean and African influences, and not one dish could be rejected on our first scan of the menu. Often we associate certain flavours with our seasons, but Azouma’s menu promised the best of both worlds: fresh herbs and spices in some dishes suggesting the spirit of summer, whilst others acting as rich winter warmers.
In the end, my husband and I shared a vegetarian mezze (£11.95): dips of lebneh, hummus, and babaganoush, with falafel, sambousek (little parcels) and warak inab (stuffed vine leaves). Olives and bread also featured, and there was plenty of everything. What a delight!
For mains it was a neatly presented lamb shish kebab for him (£13.95) and for me a rather greedy, but very agreeable choice, of both soup and salad. The harirra soup I’d almost chosen as a starter (£4.20) is described as rich, colourful and spicy; it didn’t disappoint. My grilled halloumi salad (£8.95) was served with tabouleh, with zesty flavours that livened my taste buds.
Stuffed as the vine leaves we’d started with, we did share a portion of orange filo cake – not what we expected, but fragrant and sumptuously moist with honey.
Mint tea, served in an authentic pot and tiny glasses, finished the meal to great satisfaction.
Service was friendly, competent and attentive all night. Although we ate on a quiet evening, we did note that Azouma has Friday Belly Dancing! I am sure we will return.
• Azouma Restaurant, 4 Church Street, St Paul’s, Canterbury CT1 1NH, call 01227 760076, visit www.azouma.co.uk. Takeaway menu also available.