Before I even start on this, dear reader, you have to understand that it is actually very hard to find really good food in Marbella. Even if you are very rich – and I am not – it is hard to find anything that isn’t just “international cuisine” and we all know what THAT means…… I suppose the seriously rich have their own cooks, but back down here in the real world if you are used to decent French restaurant food you will probably be disappointed with what is on offer in Marbella, and probably also shocked by the prices charged. I speak as someone who has been visiting the town for many years, and who is usually much happier doing my own cooking because I object very strongly to being charged an arm and a leg for something I could run up myself at home. Pasta carbonara for €20 a plate?? Really??
However, last summer we discovered the newly-opened Palato restaurant in Marbella and were very impressed. One of my ‘measures’ of a decent establishment in Spain is to have a glass of wine and a few croquetas, and since both the Ronda white wine (Encina del inglés – Moscatel Morisco, Doradilla and Pedro Ximénez grapes) and the croquetas were very good we came back here for a meal. Julia had the best steak tartare she’s had anywhere, and I had sole, possibly my favourite fish ever.
This week we took a friend back to see if it was still excellent and in most respects it was. The food was seriously good, as before.
We started with two dishes that we shared between three of us – a goat’s cheese salad in which the cheese was wrapped in a filo parcel, and a plate of their lovely croquetas of jamón ibérico. You will find croquetas everywhere in Spain, some good and some awful, but at Palato they are light and tasty.
When it came to the main course, both Julia and I had the same main dish as last time.
Once again, the steak tartare was prepared beautifully at the table for us, as also was the grilled sole which our waiter expertly filleted in front of us and which was served with creamy crushed potato with tarragon and beautifully al dente vegetables (vegetables! Unheard of in most restaurants here!).
Our friend had the sirloin, which was a perfect medium rare, as requested, and came with foie gras, mushroom butter, port and truffle sauce and prawns, which she declared to be delicious; she lives in Marbella and like us would like to eat reasonably priced good food more often.
To give an idea of prices, the steak tartare was just €22, the sirloin was €25 and the sole was €25.
We were slightly disappointed to be told that all our favourite Ronda wines were temporarily off the menu – it is so hard to find a restaurant, even in this, their ‘local’ area, that serves them and they really are mostly very good indeed. However we had a fine Rueda white to start (Loess) for €15, followed by a nice Verdejo from Ribera del Duero at €18.
We didn’t explore the desserts on this occasion, although they too were very good last time; we particularly liked the fact that there were only three desserts on the menu. This made us feel that they really were being made to order.
The service in this restaurant is superb – the staff treat you like normal intelligent people, they are not subservient and yet they are there to answer every query, they know their menu and their wines very well indeed. In other words, it feels more like a French restaurant than the usual Marbella restaurant experience.
The surroundings are charming, tranquil and sophisticated with shades of pistachio, cream and beige, a perfect complement to the cuisine. The minute you walk in and sit down you just know you can trust the cooking here; well, all right, I’m talking in hindsight, but the surroundings contribute to the whole experience!
The only surprise is that the people of Marbella are not queuing round the block to get a table in this restaurant; there are always people dining, but it is so very much better than anything else in this town for the price (and beyond it – you can pay 3 times the price of Palato for very ordinary food in garish surroundings) that the lack of crowds is astounding. Come on, Marbella, get your act together! I want to dine here again next time I come, we need to keep this lovely restaurant in town!
Palato, Calle Ramón Gómez de la Serna, 4. 29602 Marbella. Tel: 952 82 12 79