Tripoli Restaurant Tips by TheWanderingCamel Top 5 Page for this destination
Tripoli Restaurants: 19 reviews and 49 photos
Returning from a day in the country, on our way back in to Tripoli we passed a makeshift row of roadside stalls all selling just one thing - desert truffles, the first of the year's crop. Whilst not as intensely aromatic as the prized black truffles of Perigord or the white truffles of Italy and Istria, these desert truffles are still a wonderful treat and are highly prized. 2000 years ago they were being exported in vast numbers to Rome from the Empire's North African provinces, the Latin botanical name Terfezia undoubtedly comes from the local term - terfez - by which they are still known here. Nowadays, it's the local people who get to enjoy them - and the odd visitor like us who is fortunate enough to have a friend living in Tripoli who can cook them at home. At just 20-40LYD a kilo you can afford to buy enough for a feast.
Sauteed simply in butter and served with fresh Libyan bread - it was a feast indeed.
Directions: Truffles appear for just a few weeks in Spring - late February to March - providing there have been good rans at the beginning of the growing season back in October-November.
Price: less than US$10
Short of catching it yourself, fish doesn't come fresher than this. Glamorous it's not but lively and full of local colour it certainly is. Hoffra Fish Market, a few kilometres east of of the city centre is a favourite with locals and ex-pats alike and considered to by many to be the best fish-eating in Tripoli.
If you arrive early in the evening, as we did, the fishmongers will still be setting up their stalls with the day's catch (photo 1). By the time we left, well after sunset, the stalls were all set up (photo 2) and the place was beginning to get busy as Libyans like to eat late.
The first thing you do on arriving here is choose your fish from one of the stalls. There's plenty to choose from (photo 4) - Tuna, red mullet (photo 3), grouper, eel, whiting, dendici, squid, seawater-filled tanks of live prawns and more. It's sold by the kilo but you don't have to take it home to cook it. Once you've made your choice, your fish, prawns, etc are delivered to one of the adjacent restaurants. You take your place at one of the tables, by the window overlooking the sea if you're there before the place fills up, choose any accompanying dishes and drinks you may feel like and enjoy the feast. The only thing missing is a chilled bottle of your favourite crisp white wine, but this is Libya so you'll have to make do with something non-alcoholic.
We were taken as guests so I can't tell you the cost, but although Libya isn't particularly cheap, the meal we had would have been quite reasonable by most western comparisons and, given the quality of what we ate, must have been excellent value. If you're finding your own way there, a taxi will cost you about 20LYD for the evening, ie the return journey and waiting time. Your driver will probably be happy to help you negotiate your fish buying but will neither expect nor wish you to invite him ti join you.
Favorite Dish: Three of us shared a feast of a whole dendici, prawns and squid, grilled to a golden-brown outside and succulent white perfection inside (photo 5). Among the range of excellent salads we chose to go with it was an aubergine salad that was, without any doubt, the most delicious thing I have ever had done with an eggplant anywhere.
Address: Hoffra Fish Market
Comparison: about average
Good food, great view
How often do you get to enter a restaurant by walking through a Roman emperor's triumphal arch? That's what you do at Tripoli's Marcus Aurelius restaurant. In winter, you'll have to be content with sitting inside and looking at the view through the windows. Come spring and tables are set up on the terrace - fantastic!
Favorite Dish: The menu at the Marcus Aurelius features all the standard Libyan dishes you'll find in most restaurants, but the cooking is quite superior to some. Soup (of course!) to start, good crisp salads and then a wide choice of meat and fish dishes, tagines, couscous, pasta and stews. I rarely eat desserts, so can't comment on those dishes but I seem to remember there wasn't a lot on offer.
I ate here twice and - after the soup and salad - really enjoyed both dishes I ordered - a fish couscous dish full of beautiful fresh fish and pumpkin chunks in a spicy broth poured over the couscous - hearty, lots of flavour - good, gutsy cooking; and a more delicate dish of fish in lemon, herbs, garlic and oil served with well-cooked pasta. Portions are generous, there's excellent fruit juices on offer, this is a popular restaurant with locals and ex-pats and deserves its reputation as one of Tripoli's best places to eat.
Address: You can't miss the arch
Comparison: more expensive than average
Directions: The restaurant is on the western side of the arch. Entering through the arch will take you into the lower floor - the main restaurant is then upstairs.
Everywhere you go in Libya the one thing you can be sure of is that you will find somewhere to stop for tea. Enjoying the passing parade from a teahouse in a square or a park in Tripoli, under fragrant pine trees at Leptis Magna, a roadside cafe out in the country, sitting on a blanket with Tuareg in the desert, in cool Ghadames courtyard ... wherever you are, taking time to sit and relax over a glass or two of tea is a time-honoured tradition and one to enjoy often during your time in Libya.
Favorite Dish: Your tea will be served in different ways, depending on where you are. Strong and sweet always (you'll need to say "no sugar" if you prefer it that way, otherwise it will come with the sugar already in it). If you like mint tea, ask for "chay na'ana". In Ghadames it will probably come with a spoonful of peanuts in the bottom of the glass - you can eat them when you've finished. Tuareg tea is very green and very, very frothy and may have a strong taste of desert sage - we picked our own.
It will almost certainly cost 1/2 or 1LD wherever you have it.
Directions: The teahouse by the clocktower in the medina is the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing in that part of town, as is Gazelle Park (near the Kabir Hotel) if you're in that area.
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