A good three or four years ago when I was a student at the University of Exeter, a friend and I discovered a Moroccan gem of a restaurant called Al Farid (www.alfaridrestaurant.co.uk) next to the beautiful Exeter Cathedral. A few weeks later, I introduced it to my boyfriend and he also fell in love with the place, so we just keep going back – even now we are based in London!
Al Farid is a very small, independent restaurant serving authentic Moroccan food, and decorated to match. On this Saturday night, it is already busy, and we are warmly greeted by the owner, Reza, as the familiar faces that we are!
Interiors: The ground floor of the restaurant is decorated in the style of a Moroccan living room: low mirrored tables surrounded by floor cushions, and a highly adorned ceiling: every inch decorated with gorgeous lanterns. This evening, we are seated upstairs, which is similarly decorated, only here are tables and chairs for a more formal dining experience. There is also a shisha terrace on a covered balcony at the far side of the upstairs dining space which is much beloved by students for a more alternative (and relaxing!) night out.
Atmosphere: As the interiors suggest, the atmosphere is different to the majority of the chain-y restaurants you would expect to encounter in a big city: one of true heart and warmth; the decor serves to transport you out of Exeter and into another land, probably due to the fact that Reza puts the effort in to source the furnishings from Morocco itself. Perhaps when living in Exeter we didn’t truly appreciate the peace, tranquility and altogether different feel that Al Farid has to other restaurants. But, coming from the bustle of London, and now that we have experienced more restaurants than a few years ago, the uniqueness of Al Farid seems even more special.
Menu: Now for the most important part: the food! Once we have settled with our drinks, we peruse the menu, where you have two options: 1) opt for a typical starter and main combination, where we have previously enjoyed choices such as marinated squid and houmous, followed by keftas (more on that later!) or 2) opt to share mezze, for which Reza offers a great deal: 6 mezze for £28. On this occasion, my boyfriend and I choose to share the mezze, and choose the following (all pictured above):
Hummus Sharwarma (homemade houmous topped with marinated chicken: smooth and flavoursome without being overly garlicky),
Falafel (crunchy on the outside and ridiculously soft and fluffy on the inside, perfectly accompanied by a small salad and tzatziki),
Izmir ‘kefta’ (a smaller portion of the above-mentioned meatballs – words cannot describe how delicious these are!: perfectly cooked, succulent beef meatballs in an unusual cinnamon and tomato sauce),
Lamb shish (a new addition to the menu and what a delight: two small skewers of beautifully cooked lamb shish to share),
Aradis (grilled tiger prawns with a hint of lemon and garlic),
And finally, calamari (obviously homemade: only lightly battered and served with a harissa mayonnaise).
As you can see, these are beautifully presented in little terracotta pots, with a side of homemade bread (obviously avoid if carb-free!). Each dish is so unique, and served in a perfectly sized portion, each with a side salad. Six little dishes allows you to sample a taste of the many beautiful flavours of Morocco that Al Farid has to offer, without feeling horribly full, and all for a fantastic price!
Overall, we are already planning to come back for a day trip, to make the most of a whole day session at Al Farid! We have been made to feel so welcome from day one, and it is such a delight to find a restaurant with both charm and delicious food, for which I urge anyone and everyone to visit!
Food menu (options available): 5*
Food (taste): 5*
Drinks (options available): 4*
Drinks (taste): 4*