If you’re in Fès to explore its burgeoning food scene (and you should be!), Dar Roumana is an excellent hotel choice. The riad is managed by French-Aussie couple Vincent and Vanessa Bonnin — he leads the kitchen and she the house. Dar Roumana boasts a restaurant that would rival the dining in any city.
Vincent generally cooks in the Mediterranean style, influenced strongly by Morocco’s exceptional seasonal produce and by his French roots. He trained formally in Le Mans for five years (and throughout his childhood with his pâtissier father), and has worked in Michelin starred restaurants in Australia, England, and France. My lamb kefte and salmon were bursting with flavour and freshness, and my crème brûlée was perfection — one of the best meals I had during my five weeks in Morocco.
Even when the building was the home of the Bouayad family, the riad was famous for its food. A woman from sub-Saharan Africa was the family’s cook, and her kitchen talents were coveted by many. The riad is a beauty, and while traditional in style, it is not overwhelming to the western eye. Built around 1900, the structural woodwork, doors and window frames are all original; the tile work was done in the early 1920s in honour of the marriage of one of the Bouayad daughters; and much of the carved plasterwork is original (though some required restoration to repair damage). Be sure to look out the huge windows of your room to admire the carvings and painted decorations of the central courtyard — they’re so intricate you can’t appreciate them from the ground floor.
Dar Roumana has five suites — they’re large and spacious, with stained glass windows, and furnished simply in the Moroccan style. Each has a private bath; mine featured a deep tub in which I soaked away a day spent exploring the depths of the medina. The hotel also has five common areas in which guests can relax — a library, salon, reading room, tv lounge (no satellite or local channels, but DVDs), and the two-tiered rooftop terrace.
Staff at Dar Roumana — Rachida, Nezha, Naima and Mohamed — are all excellent, providing friendly and professional service. They go out of their way to make you feel at home, even giving you a front door key, so you don’t feel you’re bothering anyone when you ring the bell. Special extras are available at Dar Roumana. Just two examples: If you’d love to leave Morocco with a henna “tattoo”, Nezha does beautiful designs with good quality henna, in a no pressure environment. Bring home unique gifts, curated by Vanessa, which are difficult or impossible to find in the souks, such as jewellery and hand-stitched handbags by Alfred, usually only available in Paris and London.