There are some special things, or rather features, at Mandarin oriental Marrakech, and Alain-Thomas Briere- usually just ‘Thomas’ – is new custodian. Having worked in China for Marriott for many years, he wanted to learn more about the MO culture. He had liked what he saw beforehand, from afar, and now, from within, he likes it even more.
The ten-year old theatre he runs is like a perfect stage set. 20 acres of pools, gardens and 60 villas, smallest size 300 metres. Approach the whole through a squash court-side preamble of six metre tall poles, a couple of metres apart and joined at the top by a horizontal bar that is fast becoming a mass of floribunda, white bougainvillea that every night becomes a dusk chorus, a carcophony of local birds. Down at ground level, meanwhile, there’s a metre-tall hedge of rare cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica or rackets.
The resort, owned by a grandee who once chaired the African Development Bank, has its own farm, famous for growing 90 different types of tomato. But the treasure that M Thomas runs believes in difference. Order burrata, imported from Italy, and it comes not with tomatoes, à la caprese, but with red fruits, and it’s delicious. Midday magic in the Pool Garden restaurant, soaking up winter sun. Exclaim at the surprise finale, bite-sized macaroons with a chocolate-piped personal message on the plate.
Thomas Briere was born into a Méridien family so hospitality was a certain future. Now, in Marrakech, he’s creating difference for all he’s worth. A former outdoor event space has been glassed over. Inside, ArtSpace, as it’s called now, is a partnership with Atelier Mayer, run by Austrian Carmen Haid and local architect Idriss Karnachi as homage to the Wieneer Werkstart Movement of 1905. It was characterised by black and white stripes and diamonds and, suitably, the current exhibition is themed ‘Noir sur blanc’. A genuine working taxi covered in multi-coloured carpet is parked in the centre of Artspace. How this fits into Noir sur Blanc or even MO culture Girlahead still has to find out, but it’s certainly different!