ATTENTION to detail is normally a good measure of the quality of any venue.
And when the measure in question is the perfect gin and tonic – fastidiously crafted by white-suited mixologist Alberto, a Gibraltarian who trained in London – you know you are in for a treat.
And so we found ourselves being handed a superfluous Tanqueray Ten, one of a dozen different G&Ts on the wine list at Hotel Finca Cortesin, in Casares.
Lounging in the seductive bar of the five star hotel, that sits a few clicks inland from the coast, it certainly felt like the epitome of glamour.
We were here to review what is often described as one of the Costa del Sol’s top restaurants, Schilo, for the launch of the Olive Press’s new dining website Dining Secrets of Andalucia.
And after a lecture from barman Alberto on how vital it is to ‘break the botanicals’ when making a good mixer, we were ready to tackle some food.
It is certainly a delightful place to come for dinner, this elegant hotel where every aspect of the experience is carefully stage-managed.
It feels like a night at the theatre with the chefs taking centre stage at one end.
You arrive in a atmospheric courtyard, your car being quickly taken away by a valet, while you are ushered into a privileged world of antiques, hidden corners and, above all, style.
The dining room itself is designed to feel like a night at the theatre, with all the chefs taking centre stage in a production at one end.
The tables all tilt towards the opening, where leading Dutch chef Schilo Van Coevorden or, more likely, capable stand in Australian Dave Willcocks conduct the orchestra.
There is a choice of four tasting menus, ours being an exciting 11-course adventure coming in at 115 euros a head.
First and foremost, it should be made clear… this is a very Asian-influenced menu and not one for the faint-hearted. Probably best described as ‘fusion’, it has been created with the distinct idea of challenging the tastebuds.
This it certainly did, but not always with the desired affect. While there with some amazing creations such as the Foie Gras Gyoza with black truffle, a sort of filled dumpling, there were a couple of dishes that missed the mark, such as the jamon Iberico (Andalucia’s finest food) on the end of a bread stick with Wasabi mayonnaise, which simply destroyed the taste.
An aubergine Baba Ganoush seemed out of place, while the ‘conchas finas’ clams should have been hot.
Aside from that it was mostly a perfect performance, with the steamed egg custard with Riofrio caviar and tofu, coming with gold leaf on top a genuine winner. As was the ‘Daikon’ salad, which was a Japanesh radish, with gnocci mushrooms with a ginger dressing. A vegetarian’s dream and beautifully presented.
Best of all was the ‘lobster capuccino’, a fabulously original sweet and frothy winter warmer served in a classy French porcelein cup.
A wild woodcock in beetroot and chocolate sauce was a little difficult to get the head around, but the sea bass with black beans and garlic more than made up for it.
The wine list is easily one of the most complete in Andalucia and there were all sorts of wonderful (if largely unaffordable) chestnuts such as Chateau Y’quem at 300 euros a pop and Petrus at 2,500 euros.
The excellent Moray St Denis 2005 Domaine de Lambrays at 96 euros, was a bit more reasonable.
All in all, this is a groundbreaking – and exciting – addition to the Costa del Sol’s restaurant scene…. and it certainly gives Dani Garcia’s Calima a run for its money!
By Jon Clarke
Hotel Finca Cortesin
Carretera Casares Km 2
Phone: 952 937 800