Restaurante La Granada Divino and El Gecko Hotel Cortes de la Frontera – Two jewels in the Andalucian Hills – ‘A must visit’ on the ‘wish list’ for residents and visitors alike.
Many living on the coast think that Marbella is the ultimate heavenly destination to visit or reside in. What more could one ask for than sun, sea, sand, seafood and sangria? Until now.
With two salubrious establishments recently opened in the glorious Costa countryside and a mere 1 hour’s drive from the coast, they will not only be seen as jewels in the crown for many town dwellers seeking a twenty-four hour respite from the coast and it’s frenetic lifestyle, but also for those visitors who just wish to expand their knowledge and exploration of Hispanic territories.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by owners Milan and Gina for lunch at La Granada Divino. Who would not be tempted to accept their generous hospitality, in such beautiful surroundings?
I left Marbella at 11am and had a glorious drive to Gaucin, stopping several times en route to take photographs of the glorious countryside. I arrived at Ristorante Granada Divino nestled in the heart of Gaucin just under an hour later. On arrival I was greeted warmly by them. Milan is the renowned architect of such iconic establishments as Puente Romano Hotel, MC Café at The Marbella Club, Polo House and Da Bruno’s. Therefore it is hardly surprising when Milan with his wife Gina completed the entire refurbishment of the restaurant within two months. The end result; spectacular; the views breathtaking.
Whilst enjoying my complimentary aperitif of gazpacho with a sprinkling of palma ham, I perused their A La Carte menu. What immediately struck me was although the menu has a selection of four starters and 6 main courses it offers a diverse selection of Spanish and international dishes which vary according to the season. I opted for the Chicken Terrine of the Day which was mouth- watering followed by sea bream fillets on a confit of cherry tomatoes, pesto Genovese and crispy Jamon serrano. Friends who had joined me ordered the spicey fishcakes and a caprese salad followed by the prime Black Aberdeen Angus steak of the day with wasabi and herb butter and hand cut chunky chips. The third member of our party relished the vegetarian risotto. All main courses are served with roasted vegetables. We finished with a selection of desserts including Sticky Toffee Pudding with almond praline and butterscotch sauce, lemon grass and coconut pancecotta with chocolate brownie and a platter of local cheese served with fine Muscatel wine. The consensus of opinion throughout was that the restaurant although recently opened was worthy of a Michelin star! Praise indeed from those who dined there on the day.
In a nutshell their menu offers delicious affordable food with locally sourced ingredients; a spin on old-fashioned Spanish fare with local, regional and international cuisine and a selection of quality Spanish wines. Their wine list is varied and ‘refreshingly’ sourced from Spanish family owned vineyards. Their house wines are reasonably priced and include Tinto Vino Bujanda crianza rioja 2011, Edalo rosado from the Syrah Grape 2013 and White Menade verdejo organic 2013. For a final digestif, a semi sweet Moscatel from the ancient Roman and Phoenician vineyards of Manilva.
This charming three storey restaurant includes a private dining room that can seat up to fourteen around a refectory table with further indoor and outdoor dining. There is one large terrace seating up to 28 covers and a higher terrace, The Eagle’s Nest, which can be booked for private use for up to ten people. Both have equally magnificent views towards the coast and mountains. It suits not only the palates of any discerning customer with their A La Carte menu but also casual dining for those who just wish to sit, relax, take in the outstanding views whilst enjoying a cana or glass of vino (or two?) with maybe a pizza from their recently installed pizza oven or the dish of the day. All these are prepared by their chef Neil Brown who, before relocating to Spain, had been the Chef de Partie at Scotts, Mayfair and Head Chef de Partie at the Fifth Floor Cafe of Harvey Nichols under the world renowned David Massey.
Following my superb lunch it was then time to hop into the car for a fifteen minute journey to my next port of call El Gecko Hotel, Cortes La Frontera; a riverside and mountain retreat for coastal expats and locals’ alike seeking peace, tranquility, fine wines and gourmet dining. A perfect way to end a perfect day. A sumptuous dinner and then retiring to one their five glorious en-suite bedrooms overlooking the river below. Bliss. Initially people such as myself, come to the Costa del Sol for the magnificent climate, the beaches and lifestyle. However on arrival I discovered El Gecko Hotel is the absolute antithesis of the area. It is mountains and rivers; world class scenery and only 50 metres from a picturesque train station where one can travel to historic locations such as Ronda, Granada, San Roque or to the coastal town and ‘Surfers Paradise’ of Tarifa.
I was greeted by Greg Wroblewski and Sarah Mahoney who have recently taken over the management of the hotel and pride themselves on personal, individual and attentive service. Having unpacked I went down to the bar for an early evening aperitif. It was then time to settle in for dinner. Their extensive 3 course a la carte menu is prepared by Greg whose culinary background reflects the high standard of delicious and fresh cuisine presented at El Gecko Hotel. Starters include soup of the day, homemade pate flavoured with oranges from the hotels own tree, a special salad of the day and prawn pil pil. Main courses offer a variety of meat and fish dishes according to the season and of course, not forgetting their special El Gecko beef burger. Also on offer were a variety of tapas and a large selection of homemade desserts. Their house red, white and rose wine is 9.95 a bottle, a glass at 2.50 and small beer 1.50. Also on the wine list is a choice of Spanish, French, Italian, Chilean and South African wines, once again at excellent prices affordable to locals and visitors alike.
I awoke the following morning to a sumptuous Mediterranean breakfast whilst sitting on the terrace overlooking the river. I then treated myself to a luxuriating massage which I had pre-booked prior to my arrival. What a glorious twenty-four hours. I departed feeling like I had been away for a week, not just one day!
La Granada Divino, Calle de las Piedras, 29480 Gaucin, Malaga, Spain. Opening times 13.00-15.30 & 19.30-23.30. Closed on Tuesday. (Open on Tuesdays from mid-June). Tel: +34 951 709 075 email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lagranadadivino.com.
El Gecko Hotel, Canada de Real Tesoro 39,Cortes de la Frontera29391, Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, Spain. Tel: 952 153 300 or visit: www.elgeckohotel.com.