Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fez Cafe at Jardin des Biehn ~ A New Direction

Paul Biehn has returned from France and taken over the management of the popular Fez Cafe at Jardin des Biehn in the Fez Medina.  As he told The View from Fez's Suzanna Clarke, he is very happy to be back.

When he first arrived five years ago, the ancient Medina of Fez made a big impression on Paul Biehn. "Oh my god, it's wonderful!" Now Biehn, 30, has returned from a year living in Paris to take over the management of the renowned Fez Cafe at Jardin des Biehn. And he has plans for the place - including a free tapas night on September 22.

Fez Cafe can be found at the end of a magnificent Islamic-style garden - part of the complex which is also a pretty and colourful boutique hotel. It is owned by Paul's parents, interior designer Michel Biehn and his wife Catherine, who runs a sophrology consultancy from the premises.

Paul helped to supervise the purchase and renovation and set up the restaurant. "We have 48 seats outside and 20 seats inside. A big improvement is that in the spring we are going to open the terrace upstairs. We are not changing the menu or the prices - it will still change from meal to meal and be based on seasonal produce."

Reliable internet will be another improvement, and Paul is planning to improve the bar offerings, with "mocktails" - non-alcoholic cocktails - on the menu, and is upgrading the beverage list, "so people can enjoy a nice drink in a lovely garden".

Biehn says he wants the style of the restaurant to be "eclectic and changeable", so regular patrons and visitors will not know exactly what to expect. To achieve this, Paul is working closely with chef Hicham Moufid, who has been with Fez Cafe for more than a year. "He used to work in Rabat for many years at La Mandarin," he says.

Born in Aix-en-Provence, Paul grew up in the mountainous Luberon region of France. He left home at 16 and went on the road with a group of friends, "looking for the illusion of freedom", he says. He was involved in running rave parties all over Europe, but at the age of 25 decided the life-style was taking too great a toll on his health. "So I stopped everything, and went to Afghanistan in 2006 for a year, to run a restaurant in Kabul for a friend of mine."

It was during this period that his parents made the momentous decision to move to Fez and purchase the summer palace that the Pasha Tayeb el Mokri built in 1906. After helping with the set up Paul took off for Paris where he has spent the past year working in set construction for theatre and in a famous bar, Les Trois Baudets (The Three Donkeys.)

Now the Fez Cafe is well established, Paul is planning to offer regular events. The first of these will be the tapas night on September 22. "The tapas will be free, and people will just pay for their drinks," he says. "We are hoping for a lot of people to share a nice moment in a beautiful place."

When: September 22 from 7.30 pm
Where: Fez Cafe, Jardin des Biehn
Fez Cafe: +212(0)664.647.679

Photographs and text: Suzanna Clarke


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