I SPENT half of my meal trying to work out which footballer was sitting at the table behind me.
And the other half being surprised at actually how good the food was.
Yes, Polo House, in Marbella has become rather like London’s iconic restaurant The Ivy.
The place to be seen on the Costa del Sol, where most nights of the week in summer you are likely to see a footballer, pop star or TV celebrity.
The last month alone has seen Glenn Hoddle, Ashley Cole and Joe Cole popping in to dine…. and Peter Crouch has apparently made it ‘almost his second home’.
Then there is the TOWIE crew, who popped champagne corks and paraded off their fake tans with plunging necklines and Estuary accents.
But, you are just as likely to see Alan Sugar or Mark Thatcher, who both have homes nearby, and Marbella’s mayor Angeles Munoz has become a regular.
Oh and then there is Status Quo’s Francis Rossi… who was a regular, at least until he had a blazing row with his girlfriend there last year.
It is perhaps no surprise the place is so celebrity friendly, it being run by the dashing, and somewhat mischeivous, former cavalry officer James Hewitt, he of Lady Diana fame.
A splendid raconteur, he is the life and soul of the place and very much in existence late at nights at weekends or over Sunday lunch.
“I really felt Marbella had the potential for this sort of place when I moved here,” he explains. “I have eaten in so many places around the world and know a bit about wine and food.
“Quite frankly, there was f*** all else I could do. I don’t really work here either,” he quips. “I just hang about, swan in and out. To be fair I have not really worked in my life before.”
The really big surprise though, is the quality of the food.
Dining in the recently rennovated restaurant – which now has a new, glamourous dining terrace and a lighter, more accessible feel – was actually a pleasure.
There is entertainment every night, but I was most enjoying the assured and confident cooking of Danny Lewis, a true cockney, who trained under Marco Pierre White for five years, before honing his skills at the Jumeirah Hotel in Dubai.
He doubles as the main buyer for the Metro Group, which also owns restaurants, including Jacks, Alberts and Mumtaz, and he certainly knows how to source good ingredients.
His sea bass cooked in a salt crust was absolutely spectacular as were his starter of scallops with artichoke puree and Iberian ham and pan fried foie gras with brioche with Sevilla orange marmalade and hazlenuts.
The steamed asparagus with Hollandaise and poached egg was also lovely.
Other mains that looked good were the Chuleton, a Spanish-style of rib-eye, which comes with stuffed bone marrow, or Osso Buco, as well as fresh crab and wild herb linguine and black cod in miso.
Our pudding Polo House mess, a take on Eton mess, was amazingly good.
As joint owner Ram Nandkishore explains: ‘A successful restaurant in Marbella must have a sense of fun,’ and he should know, having opened no less than 10 establishments in the town, including Mumtaz and Polo House.
“People don’t want to go to a boring place that takes itself too seriously… people come down here to have fun and to be amused. They want places with a sense of humour.”
Nobody can accuse Polo House of not having that.
By Jon Clarke
Polo House Marbella
Bulevard Principe Alfonso Von Hohenlohe
Telephone: 952 900 380