Their tagine was stupendous. I used to go back every trip for more. Whenever my pal Lena would ask where we should go for dinner, I'd try and get us to the Patio.
It was so good. The guy had to be Tunisian or something. Fragrant, delicious, tender chicken floating in a sharp, harissa-spiced chickpea broth laced with flakes of red-tinged onion.
It had no fruit or nuts or other stuff in it. In fact, it's not really a proper tagine, but the type of mixture that maghrebis serve around hot couscous. It didn't alter the fact that it was delicious.
I finally cracked and asked to talk to the chef. I wanted the recipe.
We chatted by the kitchen door. He was Jordanian. In pidgin English and Arabic, we went through the magical process. He kept talking about 'spice', adding 'spice'. I asked him to show me the spices. He came back, smiling sheepishly, with a plastic bag of Tunisian spice mix.
The next time we went back, oddly, The Patio had closed. I suppose it was meant to be: I'd never try the tagine again and have my romantic vision of a maghrebi chef cooking up mama's own tagine spoiled by the knowledge that it was all down to a supermarket spice mix.