When I visited: August 2017
Location: Marbella, next to Amare Marbella Beach Hotel
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 1 star
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Fairly formal, intimate
Course of the meal: Ricotta with sorbet, orange peel cake and thin pear slices
If I could change one thing: More coherent booking system
Messina, affiliated with the Amare Marbella Beach Hotel and sitting right next to it, provides a more formal dining experience than the chilled beach bars along the seafront and has a lot to offer in terms of high-quality, innovative Spanish dishes.
We made our reservation through the hotel but the staff still didn’t seem to have it when we arrived (although we still got seated). The guests eat in a formal-looking dining room, but the staff are very friendly and were very helpful in choosing wines for us throughout (which were all good value). We started with a glass each of Cava and then moved on to glasses of white Rioja, which were creamy and dry; my partner owl also had some dessert wine (Muscadet, which tasted of oranges).
We went for the tasting menu (which was smaller than the Messina menu) and everything was served pretty quickly in succession (which was also a problem at the Spanish restaurant The Bazaar in Miami), but as the portions were all small and carbs were in short supply, this wasn’t too much of an issue.
The first ‘snacks’ were a caprese crisp (a tiny tomato and ricotta on a crisp), sea urchin mi cuit and celery water (a mini sponge eaten with the fingers) and cheese bread with coconut milk and leaf – all were tiny and tasty. Next came crusty bread with two different types of olive oil, then fresh prawns served in a bowl with foamy soup and Gorgonzola (I am not a fan of strong cheese but this wasn’t overpowering). We also had fish with carrot-shaped peppers, cow sweet bread (meaty) and a serving of iberico pork with mashed potato and Gorgonzola dots. I tried the cheese course but am just not a fan (this was what I think of as a horrible mouldy piece with banana cream and mini crackers) but if you like cheese it would be no problem.
For the pre-dessert, we had a gorgeous bitter lime sorbet with Pisco sour and berries, followed by a well-rounded dessert of ricotta with sorbet and orange peel cake and very thin pear slices. We ended with green teas served in glass teapots with amazing petits fours – dips of coffee and pistachio accompanied a spiced white chocolate, a cardamom piece, a muesli piece, a mini caramel biscuit and a dulce de leche sweet.