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Archive for September, 2009

Today, having totally slated the disgusting food at the JS Andalusi Park yesterday, I want to absolutely RAVE about the best hotel I have ever found here in Spain.

The Molino del Santo Hotel in the Ronda mountains north of Marbella is the Carlsberg of Hotels without a doubt.

It may not have the facilities of a five star hotel – ie instead of 500 rooms, it has a bespoke under 30 simply beautifully put together rooms ….

….. Instead of twelve lifts, its rooms are mostly external to the main hotel, so that you amble up some crazy paved steps to your own private patio area then into your air conditioned room, each generously furnished and with all manner of teas and coffees within to choose from…..

….. Instead of two or more restaurants allowing it the extra star, there is only one … but one that serves sumptuous food exquisitely presented and served frequently by the owners whose duty of care to their customers is only surpassed by their outstanding humour and attention to detail.

The hotel is absolutely family friendly – my 9 year old was quickly scooped up by the kids round the pool which allowed me the absolute luxury of snoozing under a shady tree with my mother who nodded off as well!

The hotel is a stone’s throw from Benoaján’s light railway, allowing you to ditch your car and be whisked away without the worry of drinking and driving (check the train times carefully).

As far as things to do is concerned, it depends on what you like. I personally loved walking in the cool of the evenings, swimming in the Cueva del Gato (Cat Cave) water which was fresh and invigorating, visiting Ronda itself which is beautiful and very ancient in its design and travelling down to the coast by car for a seaside day.

If you’re interested in Bull Fights, Ronda boasts one of the oldest rings in Spain and has many fights which Andy or Pauline, the owners, will be happy to tell you about.

So, if you’re heading that way, the least you should do is book in for dinner, and if you haven’t sorted out your accommodation – do yourself a favour and book in there. Oh – and tell them Amanda Hamilton recommended you …

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I used to love the star rating system of hotels – it meant you knew exactly what you were going to get. From cheap and cheerful one star-ers to the top notch fabulous-everything five star luxury.

So when I booked the Andalusi Park Hotel just outside Seville, a four star hotel, I honestly thought that my mum, Zack and I would have a gorgeous time for the three nights we were there.

Oh dear…..

In fairness to the hotel, the reception staff were wonderful and extremely helpful. The room was adequate, and the pool was huge.

But I’m a chef, and so food counts for me. And at this juncture, the hotel’s ideas and mine sadly parted dramatically.

Breakfast consisted of processed spam, spam and more spam, some with added olive slices or appetising chunks of fat.

The cheeses – ditto. The tomatoes had been obviously cut the day before!

There is no willingness on the hotel’s part to cater for anyone with allergies or health issues around wheat or dairy intolerances – in fact we had to take all our own requirements with us – that’s a first in over 25 years of international hotel stays!! I stayed safe with a slice of melon each morning and water being as the fruit juice offered – orange only – was sweetened and fake! The rest looked unfit for human consumption – the “cooked” bacon was pure poison drenched in and laced with raw fat.

And as for their gourmet outside barbeque restaurant dear GOD please help us all …

I should have known we were in for a nightmare when, as the first table of diners to arrive, I clocked that the chef was already barbequing the lamb “cutlets”. Think of a leg of lamb chainsawed into slices across the bone then slapped on the grill and you’ve got the picture.

Mum and I chose a mixed grill of meats as we felt a carnivorous need, and it was horrific. No marinading in sight, no herbs, no oils to soften the muscle fibres. Additionally, no careful timing so that the skinny little chicken fillet went on right at the end – OH NO! It was cooked first then stored in a dry oven to turn to a crisp.

It was like trying to chew through my old school shoes – and to add insult to injury, all the food was served on cold plates so by the time you’d hacked off one mouthful, the rest of the meal was grossly chilled in part by the plates and not helped by the “breeze”.

I really do think that a hotel with four stars really should offer decent food that is delicious, well prepared with fresh ingredients and love. If that’s what you’re after, don’t go here!

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