The newly renovated Sea Grill Restaurant in the Puente Romano Hotel and Resort in Marbella is one of nine spectacular restaurants in this beautiful luxury hotel, and while our Gourmet Elite Team did not visit the other eight, it is hard to imagine that they could deliver a better dining experience than we had during our recent visit.
As we entered the beach-side restaurant, we were greeted by the hotel’s Food and Beverage Director, Sergio Sánchez-Pastor Millán, who gave us a tour of this impressive hotel and its many fine-dining opportunities. At the Sea Grill, we met manager Jhontan Ranchel, who guided us through a truly remarkable culinary experience.
We began with a round of cocktails and our team asked for a classical apperative. Quickly, the bartender began creating his hand-crafted work at the same time he told us about the bar and its history. The head bartender had been working at the Sea Grill for over 20 years. No measuring utensils were used and everything he poured was done freehand. From a guests point of this shows confidence. When the classic apperative came out it was poured into our three cups to the perfect line. It was a captivating and memorable taste when it first touched our lips – unforgettably sweet and salty with a bit of a sour tang.
Next we made arrangements for the wine, and we were not disappointed. The talented and passionate sommelier, Carlos Ceballos, oversees the vinicultural needs of the entire resort, including the two wine cellars at the Sea Grill. As a first wine, we were served Basa 2014 Verdejo from Bodegas Compañía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez. Its subtle citrus undertones as well as slight hint of lemongrass make the wine very easy to drink. The relative dryness made it the perfect match for our first course — seared tuna with honey and parsley mustard sauce, followed by avocado mash accompanied by baby leaf salad, grilled brie wrapped in vine leavesand, last but certainly not least, king crab leg with kimchi sauce. This was an intense dish. First the crab leg was slightly boiled to make the meat tender inside, then it was broken up and grilled to perfection. In the last stage it is drizzled with a special mayo and cheese and put under the salamander a-la-minute to marry all the flavors.
Our two main courses were tender fillet of tandoori turbot with garam masala and broccoli with yogurt and ginger sauce. Both were quite good, but the broccoli dish was truly exceptional. Of course, the wine pairing enhanced the experience. These dishes were accompanied with Albariňo Organistrum 2010 from the skillful production of Martín Códax. This straw-colored wine was a delight to taste with the turbot. On the nose, there is an immediate woody scent of French oak with hints of grapefruit and lemongrass. On the tongue, the taste is buttery with vanilla undertones and a smooth lingering aftertaste of honey. The wine was the perfect complement to the fish and the ginger yogurt sauce.
The third main course was tomahawk steak. Now it’s safe to say that the members of this group, all BBA in International Hotel Managementstudents at les Roches Marbella, have tasted some fantastic food in their lives, but this tomahawk steak was incredible. We feel it’s necessary to emphasize the beauty of this dish’s design. A huge cow rib bone half a meter in length with thin to medium thickness stripes of meat neatly laid across the whole bone. If this spectacle wasn’t enough it was accompanied by three sauces – a handmade chimichurri, Béarnaise and our personal favorite the red wine-port reduction. For this dish, Mr. Ceballos chose a beautiful Tempranillo Viňa Alberdi from the winery of La Rioja Alta S.A. This medium-to-heavy bodied wine was deep cherry red in appearance with a slight and clean pinkish rim. On the nose the aroma was crisp with the distinct note of oak and forest fruits, but the taste of this wine is outstanding with the flavor of vanilla and chocolate along with hints of pepper, red berries and licorice. Well balanced acidity and elegant tannins in both the well-structured body as well as in the prolonged aftertaste make this wine a delight with the medium-rare steak.
All the wines tasted up to this point were perfect companions to the impeccably prepared food. What really got our attention was the Santa Ana V.O.R.S made from Pedro Ximénez in 1861. Served with our desserts – banana doughnuts with coconut ice cream and and 5 different dipping sauces. The 2nd dessert was a dark chocolate mousse with black cherries, the bodega of Emilio Hidalgo was meticulous in creating this beautifully sweet and memorable wine. The color of the wine resembles a mature sun-scorched cherry and the nose of oak, dates and figs makes you want to forget your better judgment and finish the bottle in one seating. But this wine is not for guzzling. It should be savored and saved for special occasions.
After the amazing food and wine experience we had a chance to sit down with Jhontan and ask him a few questions. Since we are a Hospitality management school with a wide array of students from all over the world we wanted to know how he managed all the different guests who come into his restaurants. After all Marbella’s target market extends to French, Arabic, English, Russian and German visitors. How does he manage the international clientele? When we asked him this he said: “It is really hard and close to impossible to meet all these different types of pre-set expectations. What we can do is have our staff properly trained and confident. For example, it is important to have a waiter who knows the menu and ingredients inside out and who is very confident in answering questions that the guests have — in the end this kind of service appeals to all these different nationalities.” From an international point of view it makes sense. You have an obligation as a manager to create an ambiance of radiating confidence that makes guests feel comfortable in any restaurant.