Dining Concepts’ latest opening takes us to Marrakech, Morocco, a city brimming with culture and cuisine, home to glittering mosques, colourful souks and bazaars, and beautiful gardens. With attention paid to every detail from the authentic materials and decorative items sourced from Marrakech, to the intriguing fare from head chef Ahmed Boulalam, Lilya transports guests straight to Morocco, with a casual, laidback vibe inviting guests to stay and relax through the night.
With Dining Concepts planning to focus more on nightlife offerings in the future, it’s no surprise that Lilya feels more like a bar rather than a restaurant, with scattered colouful velvet poufs in place of proper chairs, and an outdoor terrace where guests can smoke shisha and order bottles late into the evening.
Many of the details have been directly sourced from Marrakech — there’s the colourful baboushe slippers that greet you as you walk through the entrance, the wall of mystical Fatima hands — a Middle Eastern symbol of good luck — and another wall covered in brightly coloured silk tassles. An ornate brass lamp is the focal point of the room, designed by famous Marrakech artist Yahya Rouach, while glowing golden lanterns greet you at the doorway, evoking the feeling of walking into someone’s backyard.
Food and Drink
We begin with the Oriental Fashion cocktail, a smooth concoction with Ron Zacapa 23 years rum hit with syrup rass el hanout (a special blend of 27 Middle Eastern spices) for a complex and tantalising aroma. The eye-catching beverage is meant to come with a smoking ‘genie lamp’ for dramatic effect, but rather disappointingly, ours arrives without the theatrics. Nonetheless, the smoke is potent, balanced out by a hint of citrus and floral notes from lavendar.
We also try the signature Majorelle, a secret recipe from bar manager, Younes Ateyah. With jasmine-infused gin as the base, the aromatic drink is perfumed with basil leaves, apple juice and jasmine water, with raisin and cardamom syrup adding a touch of sweetness. Pretty as a picture served in a mini red tagine, the light drink is perfect for social sipping (and Instagram shots).
The food menu is meant for grazing — encompassing mostly small plates made for sharing, and a few larger meat and seafood items, including lamb, chicken and fish. From the selection of briouates (sweet or savoury Moroccan puff pastries), the deep-fried mini pastry vegetable rolls are a hit (HK$88), golden and crunchy with a well-seasoned filling of thinly diced zucchini and carrot. We could have easily devoured two of these plates.
The salads, meanwhile, are a vegetarian’s dream — a smorgasbord of artichokes, zaalouk with eggplant caviar, spinach with lemon and olives, marinated sardines, zucchini, and carpaccio of beetroot and orange (HK$58 each). We opt for a new item on the menu — the zaalouk, or marinated eggplants and peppers with harissa and tomato. Built like a tartare, the diced eggplant is juicy and packed full of earthy spices such as cumin and chilli powder.
From the mains, the Moroccan pastilla is a clever play between sweet and savoury, with tender chunks of pigeon enveloped with onion and almond in a flaky pastry crust, liberally dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. The first bite of sweet pastry dissolves quickly into the savoury filling inside, adding extra depth and complexity to the traditional meat pie. We can see why this dish is beloved in Morocco, and around the world.
The classic saddle of lamb, although not as interesting, is executed well, with tender meat and caramelised onions, almonds and saffron to bump up the flavour. A colourful wreath of edible flowers adds a pop of colour to the plate, showcasing chef Ahmed Boulalam’s eye for aesthetics in addition to nailing well-balanced flavours.
Sensual and exotic, Lilya adds a worthy new addition to the smattering of bars and lounges on Central’s Wyndham Street. While our city doesn’t lack for Middle Eastern-inspired food, Lilya is one of the few places in the city serving up a taste of Moroccan nightlife, with in-house DJ Issaad Nassim setting the mood with Arabic beats, and late-night menus available until midnight on weekdays, and 1am on weekends. Whether you pop in for a cocktail, shisha or some light bites, Lilya provides a gateway to a much-needed escape from Hong Kong’s hustle and bustle.
Opening Hours: Mon–Sun, 6pm to late
Recommended Dishes: Deep fried mini pastry rolls, kefta beef and lamb meatballs, traditional pigeon pie, zaalouk, free-range chicken, saddle of lamb
Price: Less than HK$500 per person with food and drink
Noise Level: Moderate to noisy
Service: Standard, well-trained
Lilya, 2/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2526 2578