The food reviews are not advertisements. We visit a different restaurant every month, we pay for the meal and we comment and give points as honestly as we can for the benefit of our readers.
Benahavis is well noted for its many and varied restaurants so, having received some good reports on this particular restaurant, we decided that this month our quest should take us to the heart of restaurant land. Benahavis is one of the typical quaint little white villages with the advantage that the road taking you there is fairly good and it is at a shortish distance off the N -340.
The minute you arrive, you are welcomed by Burkhard Webber. He is the owner and he believes in offering his hospitality in person. Burkhard will identify your booking and he will show you to your table making certain you feel at ease and at home with a welcoming cold cava served in a frozen clay mug, hand-made locally. Some special appetisers follow such as the crushed olive paste prepared with some special herbs or the poached garlic bulb served with some home made brown bread and tomato. Once you are at ease you are presented with the days menu with your name clearly printed on it.
Rural, there is no other way to describe the decor and atmosphere within the premises. It is a small restaurant and all guests receive the same level of attention, but only when needed and at the right moment, from both Burkhard himself as well as the waitress. Clean, neat, and simple in design, although its a smallish restaurant, the tables are not on top of each other and there is ample space for diners not to feel that their space is invaded. We imagined how more romantic it would be in the summer when tables are also laid out on the patio, by the pool. It is very handy to know that if you have a drink too many, you can actually stay overnight in one of the individual bedrooms, assuming there are vacancies.
The menu is set with a choice of 5 to 6 starters, 9 to 10 main courses, and 4 to 5 desserts. The menu is changed and altered every day which means that all ingredients must be fresh. One can choose between a two and a three course meal from the set menu. All ingredients used are purchased daily from the local market and creatively prepared by the chef with the object of making each dish unique and original, which he seems to be doing rather well.
Not extensive, however it offers a good choice of red Spanish wines ranging from the most famous Vega Sicilia to some well chosen Riojas. There is also a small choice of Rosé and a small varied selection of whites that include Australian, New Zealand as well as French Chablis. Champagne or Cava lovers will not be disappointed either. I liked the idea that most of the wines could be purchased by the glass, with some obvious exceptions.
*Key: FBA = First Bite Appeal
These came daintily presented in the centre of a stone, hand made plate accompanied by a small salad. FBA The fresh pasta tortellini were indeed two very large tortellini filled with locally produced fruits and garnished with a fine herbs sauce. I had never tasted anything quite like this with the result that it is difficult to explain other than to say that it was delicious and purely intended to spoil the taste buds; must be tried.
Team score 9/10
Sea bass Soufflé
Again, this too was well presented in a rustic stone plate with a colourful mixed salad. FBA The soufflé was warm and although it included prawns, the typical strong fish taste that one would expect was just not there. It was possible to taste the fish and prawns but somehow the anticipated strong flavour had been mellowed down to make it pleasant to the palate. The salad, which included some roccola, was a good blend with the soufflé.
Team score 10/10
Braised beef cheeks
I chose this because I was told that the main ingredient is a local delicacy so I just had to try it. FBA the first thing that one notices is the subtle taste of anis and honey in the gravy, which blends with the meat to perfection. As far as the meat is concerned, it was very tender and delicate. Having eaten tongue before, which I do like, I thought it tasted very similar. The mixed vegetables served with the same dish, were not all cooked the same way, some were steamed, others sautéed and others boiled, according to what suited each best to enhance the flavour.
Team Score 10/10
Braised & baked goat
Local Benahavis mountain goat braised and baked in mild Rioja wine and thyme sauce. It was surprisingly tender while still retaining firmness and colour and not flaky, probably because it was braised and baked. It was exceptionally good and the secret was clearly within the uniquely flavoured sauce. I would certainly have this again.
Team Score 10/10
This was served beautifully decorated with a caramel display and accompanied by a puree of mixed fruit and a Cassis sorbet. FBA It could only have been made on the premises because it was creamy, rich and with no extra additives (such as the unwanted vanilla), just as it should be. I left the sorbet for last because after all that spoiling by new flavours my palate needed it.
Team Score 8/10
The cake was served on a lemon-caramel sauce with a pistachio ice cream. FBA The intriguing thing about this item is that it was said to be made with no flour. I believe that almonds may have been used as the base. The ice cream was a refreshing, well thought out finishing touch.
Team Score 8/10
Benahavis can be a bit of a tourist trap, so we were glad to discover this 16th century building, lovingly converted into a small hotel and restaurant and intended to genuinely please all guests. The main message that comes through is that Burkhard makes everyone welcome with the object to ensure that his guests come back. He and his wife Leslie would seem to have done their utmost to maximise the rural character of the surrounding to give a quality service at affordable prices. Not an easy task when surrounded by so much established competition and succeed, which they have since they started several years ago.
It is strongly suggested that you book. We went on a Monday night and there seemed to be a full house.
I have recently visited this restaurant this year (2007) and, to be honest, I found it to be much too overpriced in respect of quality, service and ambience. It may be worth reconsidering the review!!
Rated: 3/5 (28th March 2007)
Editor's comments: Thank you for the information. We shall make a point to look into this as soon as we have the opportunity.