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Wellington's Newest Moroccan Eatery

Tucked away down the Left Bank, Kasbah is a new Moroccan restaurant, "built out of sticky tape and love," according to manager and co-owner, Alex. Decorated in traditional styles and with numerous left-field self-published 'zines scattered around the edges, it occupies a comfortable zone in between the rustic and the counterculture. The floppy-haired waiting staff were friendly to see me, but, "we're changing shifts in about an hour as a few of us are off to man the doors down the San Francisco Bath House – we're expecting it to get pretty hectic." Nevertheless, a fresh glass of water was never far away. The menu was a little on the small side, but considering that the place had just opened this was understandable.

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The bread came with some humous, sprinkled with a mixture of coriander and chilli powder, which gave the otherwise beige dip a kick. This was accompanied by traditional Moroccan mint tea, served out of a floridly decorated teapot into some pretty extravagantly designed glasses – far from being as I expected (masking taste like most mint things) it actually brought out the edges to tastes.

For the starter, I had a sample of two choices – the first, garlic mushrooms with a small salad, covered in a slight pesto sauce. The second, a soup containing all sorts of various pea-based vegetables. Both taste slightly strange (in a good way) considering their ingredients. I asked Alex about this.

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"Oh, the chef, he's a real old mysterious guy, doesn't tell anyone what he puts in his food. He'll probably take the recipes to his grave."

When Ahmed (the chef, and another co-owner) came over after this and introduced himself, I joked about it. "Oh, no, for you that's no problem! You need something to write about, after all." I contemplated it for a while, but figured the mysterious extra-something in each dish needed to stay. I also didn't want to destroy the carefully constructed Moroccan aesthetic – they'd even draped a curtain over the fridge in the corner so it didn't stand out. If you close your eyes and concentrate on the music and smells (and ignore the nasal voices of those sitting on tables next to you), it's kind of convincing.

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For the main, a traditional tagine – essentially a spicy stew in a large bowl, full of various root and tuber vegetables, to be mixed with rice. Very simple, very delectable, but it wasn't the highlight of the dinner. No. That accolade goes towards the desert, a baklava I'm pretty sure I would kill someone to have the pleasure of tasting again. There were more than just crushed almonds, vanilla ice cream and a honey sauce there – but, alas, as has been established, the recipe will be taken with the chef to the grave. Rest assured, though, that there is something special to that dish.

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Reasonably priced and reasonably located, well worth a night out. Do bring your own booze, though, as their license hasn't come through yet.

- Ian Steadman

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