Luxury Hotels

MARRAKECH – 7

Trains between Morocco’s main cities are to be recommended. The Tanger route south to Casablanca is especially good. High-speed track and relatively new French rolling stock. Carry on south from Casablanca to Marrakech, however, and it’s a case of relatively old Chinese rolling stock om high-speed track. Wanna pretend you’re in a tumble dryer? That’s the sensation on that leg. BUT, and a big but to anyone used to rail travel elsewhere, especially USA, the trains that carried Girlahead left and arrived on the appropriate dots.

When it comes to travel by car, the winner by far was Le Royal Mansour in Marrakech for its Bentley – see the beauty above, with Jean-Claude Messant, who heads the brand (he’s actually a really keen cyclist but that’s part of another story). Sadly the Bentley ride was only about five minutes. Quality rather than quantity, Girlahead’s rallying cry.

M Messant certainly has quality. The royalty-backed property is like the ultimate First Class riad, opened in 2010 as part of His Majesty’s vision to improved tourism. The hotel, which has Hélène Darroze as its consultant chef, is such a success that it will have siblings.

This month sees the opening of the 149-room Royal Mansour Casablanca. In July there will be a third property, a new-build beach-set 55-room Tamuda Bay Royal Mansour, 90 minutes’ east of Tanger, on the Mediterranean coast.

 Casablanca is an interesting revival. A hotel with the same name had been part of the late Lord Forte’s Exclusive Collection. It later became part of Starwood and was bought by the Moroccan Royal Family in 2003. The new hotel, however, is a complete re-build. Its immediate strengths will be the strength of the brand, its service – half of the team come from the Marrakech flagship – and its food. Lead culinary name is Eric Fréchon, based at Le Bristol in Paris. There is also a top sushi master manning the Japanese restaurant’s stoves and other restaurants feature Moroccan, and Silk Road, dim sum through to tiramisu.

There are, by the way, at least another two Royal Mansours in the pipeline but Jean-Claude Messant is keeping quiet right now. Remember he is a quaLITY guy.