Did you know that Southsea now has its very own Moroccan restaurant? In fact, it’s the only one you’ll find within a 100-mile radius along the South Coast!
Zaytoona opened its doors on Marmion Road last summer, where Barcelona Tapas used to be. Visiting recently, first impressions were good and our party received a warm welcome.
The restaurant is tastefully decorated and comfortably furnished. The owners have already injected a warm North African vibe – from boldly patterned plates to colourful tealight holders – and I hear that there’s more to come soon.
A family affair
From the kitchen to the front of house, Zaytoona is very much a family affair – with different members and generations working together.
The Arabbetou family has been living in Southsea a long time and general manager Eissa says he loved growing up here while preserving the best of Moroccan traditions. “Throughout our upbringing, our parents have always had lovely parties with many dishes being cooked for family and friends – and our hospitality has always been loved!” he says.
His mother Zainab had wanted to open her own restaurant for some time and, with that ambition now realised, their aim is to share authentic Moroccan cooking with the rest of us. “My parents have extensive experience with cooking, having recipes passed down and keeping them going, and we are now fortunate enough to be able to share them with others”, he explains.
A taste of the real Morocco
Zaytoona’s menu is fairly short and simple, and you’ll find many of the Moroccan classics you’d expect on there. Dishes are all freshly homemade, some are cooked over charcoal, and I love the fact that most ingredients are locally sourced while the spices are brought all the way from Marrakesh!
Starters include hummus, Moroccan salad, aubergine Zaalouk and filo pastry pastillas. Among the main courses are a selection of tagines, couscous dishes, and grilled meats and fish. For something sweet to finish, you can choose between baklava, traditional pastries or ice cream.
On my visit I was part of a group of ten who eat out regularly together. We probably aren’t the easiest people to impress, but all of us left feeling very satisfied and well looked after.
The cooking struck us as authentic and the flavours and spices were on point. I chose a zingy harira soup, followed by tender lamb served sizzling in its tagine dish, and a simple strawberry ice cream. Other hits at our table included seabass, baklava and chicken shashlik.
We all thought the prices were pretty reasonable, with several starters costing £5 and mains from £15. In fact, I worked out that you can have a simple three-course meal here for as little as £25 which feels like great value these days.
It’s hard to find much to fault here. I suppose if you’re a very fussy eater you might find the shortish menu a challenge, but I have to say the team coped well with our large group and a number of dietary requirements!
The warmest of hospitality
Although we loved the ambience, authentic cooking and value for money, the highlight for me was the hospitality we received from the Arabbetou family.
Having chatted to them, it’s clear this is no accident. “We are not just serving food in our restaurant, we want to treat our customers like family guests at our house” explains Eissa.
That’s exactly how it felt to me and, while it may sound like a cliché, I think Zaytoona is one of those places where you arrive as a stranger and feel like you’ve left as a friend.
Info and booking
Zaytoona is located at 17 Marmion Rd PO5 2AT. It’s open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday, and for lunch only on Monday and Tuesday.
Make sure to end the meal with a cup or two of the family’s achai (Moroccan tea) to end the meal!