3 May 2023

Al Maghrib set to delight Wagga diners with Moroccan cuisine

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Mustapha El Mourtazak

Mustapha El Mourtazak is looking forward to serving Wagga diners traditional Moroccan cuisine at his new cafe Al Maghrib. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Much anticipated, Wagga’s newest cafe Al Maghrib has opened its doors to bring the taste and experience of Morocco to the region.

Al Maghrib is the Arabic word for Morocco. Maghrib in Arabic means sunset, hence the logo on the cafe’s entry.

Situated at 32 Fitzmaurice Street, the contemporary Morrocan cafe has welcomed diners since 2 May.

It had always been a dream of Al Maghrib’s owner Mustapha El Mourtazak to open a cafe or restaurant and he decided to make use of his 15 years’ experience in hospitality/tourism to start his own business.

Inspired by the famous medieval Muslim explorer Ibn Battuata’s travels, Mustapha hopes to create a unique and memorable experience for his guests at Al Maghrib.

Al Maghrib offers a delicately crafted menu featuring traditional Moroccan dishes with modern interpretations to suit the Australian palate.

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“We are trying to bring what Morocco is famous for … beautiful culture and hospitality,” Mustapha said.

“I want to bring the flavours and cuisine of Morroco to the people of Wagga … something new.

“The Wagga community has always been supportive of new local staff and new cuisines.”

Slow-cooked lamb tajine

Slow-cooked lamb tajine infused with prunes and almonds. Photo: Al Maghrib.

Mustapha is confident local diners will love the dishes.

As the diners get used to the food, Mustapha hopes to increase his menu and start offering more desserts.

The new cafe owner has recommendations for those who have never tried Moroccan cuisine.

Msemen served with honey

Al Maghrib’s msemen served with honey. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“For breakfast, I recommend msemen – a fluffy bread that comes with honey, butter and jam and Morrocan tea which is a combination of green tea and mint.

“For lunch, I recommend slow-cooked tagines (lamb or chicken with lemon, garlic, onion, saffron, ginger prunes, almonds, cinnamon, honey and sesame seeds served with freshly baked Moroccan bread).

“We have brought all the teapots, tagine pots and even glasses from Morroco and they are all handmade … we’ve tried to bring everything from Morroco to give people the flavour and how we serve our tagines,” he said.

Chicken briouat

Al Maghrib’s chicken briouat. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Mustapha is looking forward to seeing Wagga diners come through the door and their reaction to the food.

Mustapha had plans to go back to Morroco after his time in Dubai to start a restaurant but his life changed when he married Wagga-based orthopedic surgeon Angela Hatfield.

“It was also my wife’s dream to have a coffee place and we decided to make something for us,” Mustapha said.

Teapot and postcards

The traditional teapots are handcrafted. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

“We had two choices, either I move to Wagga or my wife to move to Dubai, but I decided to move because she’s a famous doctor here (Wagga).”

Mustapha and his wife thought the location would be ideal as it previously housed Harans Patisserie.

“We feel sad they had left, but we thought it would be good to bring something special to the place for the people,” he said.

Postcards on a table

Mustapha has special postcards for diners with iconic Morrocan locations and interesting facts. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Mustapha moved from Morocco to Dubai in 2007 at the age of 22, where he worked in hospitality, moving through various roles until 2019 in the UAE.

He worked for notable international brands such as Intercontinental Hotel and Crown Plaza where he learnt to hone his skills.

He later worked as a supervisor at the biggest Moroccan restaurant (Bab Al Monsour) in Dubai under celebrity chef Choumicha Chafay.

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“With all my experience and travels, I came up with my own way of making food and came up with Al Maghrib,” he said.

While working in Dubai, Mustapha met his now-wife when she was there for a conference.

After moving to Wagga, the Moroccan cafe owner worked at the Oak Room and Carlo’s Cafe as a barista.

Al Maghrib is situated at 32 Fitzmaurice Street and is open from 6:30 am – 4 pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

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