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87 Albert St,
Auckland Central

(09) 309 0933

The ViewAuckland Review

Review byAndré Taber11/10/2006

Chef-owner Makhlouf (Marco) Benyettou cooks dishes from his native Algeria as well as Morocco and Tunisia here at Marco’s, tucked inconspicuously in a line-up of ethnic eateries near the busy intersection of Khyber Pass and Broadway.

The night three of us visited, Benyettou’s wife Dianna undertook the waiting duties by herself; ranging around providing efficient and knowledgeable service in a low-key dining room with lemon-yellow walls, Moorish pendant lamps and a smattering of rugs.

We started by sharing two entrée dishes. The appetiser platter ($22) contained bread, dips, pickles and a mound of dressed salad. The bourek ($12) were two deep-fried crispy pastries containing a spiced-lamb filling.

Tagine dishes symbolise North African cuisine, and here at Marco’s they are brought to the table piping hot and placed on a decorative tile in front of you. The conical lid is then removed so you can eat from the cooking platter.

My female companion went for the lamb, apple and prune version ($26), in which the large dices of lamb were very tender, and the fruit contributed a heady sweet-savoury character.

My male companion was surprised at the level of spicy heat of his merguez lamb sausages ($23) which were made in-house by Marco and served on couscous with a simple tomato sauce over the top.

I was very impressed with my squid-ring tagine ($26). It looked a meagre portion, but was hearty and filling, so the size ended up being just right.

The squid rings had been stewed long and slow in a soupy tomato-based sauce until they were meltingly tender. A thick slice of bread was perfect to mop up the sauce.

This dish was what good restaurant food should be: sublime in its simplicity, yet the sort of thing that would be difficult to recreate at home.

Marco’s wine list was small, made up of good value Australian and New Zealand whites and reds, selected to match the food. We had a Pirramimma merlot ($36) which had plenty of warm and dry characteristics.

For dessert, we had well-made long espressos ($3) and two of us shared a moist orange and cinnamon cake ($10), which was a nice—but not spectacular—end to the meal.

However, an evening at Marco’s does not require spectacular flourishes. The low-key service, calm atmosphere and satisfying food invite you to relax and enjoy your food, wine and company.

Our five-out-of-five rating is based on those values and, of course, the fact that you must like North African food.

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