Walking into Moroccan dining venue Al Bab Mansour from the hustle and bustle of St Nicholas Market is like being transported into a different world. Alongside the rest of the (fairly plainly decorated) food outlets within the market, it’s a slightly surreal experience: either opt for using the takeaway counter at the front, or step inside into a small dining area decorated in a “stereotypical” Moroccan style.
Swathes of patterned fabrics adorn the walls, which also feature paintings and an ornate metal decoration in the style of a Moroccan window. Artefacts such as old bellows are hung around the dining area, and the music playing softly in the background adds yet further to the experience.
Patrons sit alongside each other at a large square mosaic patterned table (or at one of just a handful of smaller tables available), and – as with a number of St Nicks Market establishments – you may find yourselves in for a bit of a wait if you’re looking to eat in.
The tiny kitchen is very much open plan, and the compactness of the menu and positioning of Al Bab Mansour as a quick and cheap lunch spot means that dishes are cooked on a large scale: you won’t be waiting long for your food.
Just eight vegetarian options and four meaty options are available for diners to choose from, with a special fish menu also listed on a board. Prices hover around the £5-£7 mark.
I, as always, went for the Moroccan Chicken (£6) on the last visit. Served with a choice of couscous or rice, expect to be presented with a heaped plate of food that you’ll struggle to finish – especially at lunchtime!
The chicken itself is slow cooked and falls apart under the lightest touch of your fork, and is delicately spiced enough to give it a rich, warming flavour but not so much that it’ll scare off those who can’t handle a chilli heat. The preserved lemon – normally an integral part of a Moroccan tagine – appeared in the form of a single slice sat on top of the dish, ideal, I guess, for those who aren’t a fan of its sourness.
It wasn’t just the chicken and the couscous on the plate, however – if you’re worried that you’ll still be hungry, then no fear. A handful of olives and a heap of vegetables (in our case, carrots and potatoes) will ensure that you get your money’s worth.
For £6, you can’t really go wrong. It’s always nice to feel like you’ve temporarily stepped into another world on your lunch break – you just may need to wait a while in order to secure a table to do so. Recommended.
Find Al Bab Mansour on the Bristol Bites Directory…