BusinessNews May, 8th 2013 by

Restaurant Review

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AJ Linn
Messina, Marbella
The old maxim that if you make the best mousetrap in the world everyone will beat a path to your door may have been a truism in pre-Internet times, but no longer. I am not really sure it was ever accurate for the restaurant business, as more eateries have failed by being poorly located than for any other reason, regardless of the quality of their product. The contrarian view is of course that there are three basic rules: access, access, access.
So it is surprising that a successful restaurant in Marbella’s Old Town should move to what is effectively a residential location. The truth is that the original premises were simply too small, and it was expand or die. To be fair, the chosen relocation site, next to the Fuerte Miramar Hotel on the main avenue through town, could be worse, with the plus that when the Hotel is open there is an underground car park within 50 metres of Messina.
feb12 007As already mentioned in these pages, Messina was voted by Malaga’s Gastronomic Academy the Best Restaurant of 2012, and perhaps justly. I have watched carefully as owner-chef Mauricio Giovanni, from Argentina, ploughed new culinary fields, so I thought it would be cool to get two of Málaga’s leading food writers to dine there recently.
Let me just say that the Oopla moment came when one of the reviewers showed me what he had just tweeted: ‘This is the next Michelin star for Andalucia’. The other reviewer would later write in his column that he genuinely regretted having taken three years to make the visit, describing the dinner as ‘an intellectual exercise in search of textures and tastes pushed to the limit.’ He awarded Messina a special 9 points out of a possible 10.
So was the food really that good? Let’s see……
Although one of chef Mauricio’s specialities is home-made pasta, the serious foodie will probably opt for the menu de degustación, the tasting menu, at 62 euros (including IVA, plus wine)…, and consisting of more dishes than you can shake a fork at. It starts with a selection of mini-aperitifs and finishes a couple of hours later with homemade chocolates served in a silver cigarette box. In between there is red prawn thermidor with sauce made from pata negra ham; sargo, a local fish, served in a bamboo leaf singed at the table; deconstructed sushi; beef mollejas with yuzu cream; octopus roe with lentils, and chivo, young goat….. just to name a few of the courses. The various desserts would need a separate article to do them justice.
The service, headed by Mauricio’s wife Pia, is immaculate, and even the most blasé diner will stare in amazement at some of the serving dishes. Specially made, or rather carved, out of Micel marble, you perhaps have to wonder whether they really contribute to the experience, rather like those whether those outlandish modern wine bodegas in the Rioja designed by famous architects actually make the wine taste better. And speaking of wine, Messina’s wine list is short but very adequate, with a marked Argentinean accent.

The Etchart Privado 2011, Cafayate, and the Humberto Canate Gran Reserva 2006 Rio Negro Malbec were sort of in the top 25%, but the Spaniards fought back and won with Avanthia Godello 2011, Valdeorras, and Herencia de Remondo Rioja 2000.
There were dark mutterings at our table about this restaurant being better than a couple of other Michelin-starred places locally, and while this sort of haute cooking, or what we used to call nouvelle cuisine, may not be to everyone’s taste, it is hard to deny that these days it has its place in the modern culinary hierarchy.

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Messina, Avda Severo Ochoa 12, Marbella. (Next to El Fuerte Miramar hotel). Tel 952 864895. Open daily for dinner except Sunday. 

AJ Linn

Andrew Linn left England 40 years ago to relocate to Spain, having been involved in businesses such as wine shipping and publishing. He currently writes regularly and professionally on wine, food, flamenco, and the Spanish way of life for various publications, and has a regular column in a Spanish newspaper. Andrew is involved in charity work relating to abandoned and mistreated animals.

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