With its snake charmers, monkeys dressed in nappies and colourful stalls, the Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech, Morocco is a hive of bustling activity with a vibrant and magical atmosphere.
When darkness falls, the Preston street of Friargate comes alive in its own way, but is more likely to be frequented by students and revellers meandering to and from the city centre.
Having visited Marrakech on a cheap family getaway last year and having thoroughly enjoyed sampling traditional Moroccan cuisine, my husband and I were intrigued when we spotted La Piazza cafe spring up in Preston.
With Preston having a plethora of Indian restaurants and takeaways, with most of the rest being Chinese, we were keen to give something different a whirl. However, getting in seemed to prove more difficult than haggling in the souks.
Whenever we tried to call in, we found the doors closed even when the opening hours advertised it as open.
Being essentially a café, La Piazza only opens during the day, but is open on Saturdays.
After turning up two Saturdays in a row to find the doors closed, we feared we might never get our tagine fix.
Patience paid off when we walked past after a Saturday family shopping trip and found it open.
The mystery was solved after chatting to the owner who told us that shortly after opening, he had been forced to close after suffering a football injury and then opened on limited days while he recovered, but was now all systems go.
La Piazza serves a range of meals and snacks including omelettes, paninis, sandwiches and salads.
However, it was the section of Moroccan dishes we were interested in which included Moroccan style meat balls, fish tagine and Moroccan chicken, all priced at either £4.50 or £5.
The children went for a mushroom omelette and a turkey ham and cheese omelette at £2.50 apiece and their food came served with a side salad and a dollop of delicious homemade hummus.
After quickly polishing off their sizeable omelettes, the children proceeded to tuck into our food too.
My steamed lamb raselhanout was divine. It came on a generous plate of rice which itself was incredibly tasty and the lamb came in a sauce cooked with special Moroccan spices.
The meat was so tender, it just fell off the bone. The children loved it too and I saw a lot of lamb disappear off my plate.
Keith’s chicken Mahshi was also a hit. The chicken breast came stuffed with rice, onions and Moroccan salsa and was also served on a mountain of rice.
The side order of potatas bravas (£1.80), actually a Spanish dish, was one of the most delicious potato dishes I have eaten with slices of potatoes cooked with onions and herbs.
The owner – who is Moroccan – was extremely friendly and the service was prompt with his young son lending a hand.
Friargate might be poles apart from true Morocco, but this humble café is a wonderful addition with its authentic Moroccan fare.