Finding Marrakech’s Riad Jardin Secret, as the name suggests, was something of a challenge; no one, from the omniscient concierge at La Mamounia to our guide to the taxi driver, had ever heard of the place, or the hidden alleyway deep within the maze of the medina where it is situated. It took four of us half an hour to pinpoint the location, but when we did finally find this chic bolthole-cum-boutique hotel, we were not disappointed.
Cyrielle Astaing and Julien Phomveha worked in fashion in Paris before moving to Marrakech and opening their very special riad, which has a focus on vegetarian cuisine and traditional Moroccan crafts, with the added bonus of an expansive rooftop terrace overlooking the Koutoubia Mosque and the Atlas Mountains beyond. The early-20th-century home has been lovingly restored – right down to the colourful mosaic tiles, lattice woodwork and intricate, honeycomb stucco cornices – and peppered with thoughtful details, from stylish bentwood rockers (second picture) to Berber baskets.
Riad life centres around a courtyard fountain and this one comes with resident turtles – there to bring good luck – and is surrounded by cosy nooks piled high with pillows (third picture). The rooms (from €80), meanwhile, feature linens in tasteful, neutral hues, and exquisite, handcarved headboards. We stayed in a suite (from €140), a place of pure haute hippy fabulousness: sculptural wicker lanterns sway in the breeze, shaded tables are set for lunch en plein air (first picture). The whole vibe is very Talitha Getty circa 1969, and it was the perfect setting for our meal that included raw zucchini pasta with fig pesto and tomatoes, alongside reinterpretations of traditional Moroccan dishes such as harira soup and a vegetarian tagine.
My favourite part of the Riad Jardin Secret, however, was the boutique – a small niche, really - that highlights local crafts: leather slippers, kilim pillows, pots made of turquoise tadelakt clay, and the simplest, most beautiful wooden spoons I’ve ever seen.