The day started out overcast and cloudy so we decided to skip the beach and head to Puerto Banus instead. We finished a few errands at the Club del Gourmet of El Corte Ingles – buying jamon Iberico (Iberian ham from acorn-fed black hoofed pigs) and jabuguitos (Iberian chorizos) for a friend in Paris and getting the usual stack of weekend papers.
We were about to go back home when I suggested we stop by for a quick lunch at the new branch of Messina Puerto Banus on the Plaza Marina Banus. We had been to the Restaurante Messina in Marbella on several occasions and had heard about a new trendier tapas restaurant that Argentinean couple Mauricio and Pia had created in what used to be The Liquid Lounge. Where Restaurante Messina is all “small-plates-fine-dining”, Messina Puerto Banus is “tapas-style-all-day-dining”.
The place has been given a designer makeover with black, white and grey interiors offset by splashes of yellow. The menu is divided into two parts – on one side (the light green one) called Dia, meaning day, is a longer list of breakfast items, mini sandwiches, salads, sandwiches, hot and cold tapas and desserts while the flip side (the dark purple one) Noche, night, is a limited version of the day menu.
Since we had a late breakfast and we weren’t that hungry, we decided to order a few of the small plates with some fresh basil-flavored lemonade. A basket of assorted bread was served with some spicy Andalusian olive-oil. We chose two mini-sandwiches and two hot tapas. The mozzarella and black olive mini-sandwich was served first in a mini floury baguette – it was salty (from the olive paste) and sweet (from the fresh buffalo mozzarella) and was a simple yet delicious combination. Next was the other mini-sandwich of crispy duck served on another type of bread, a sort-of pita, filled with slices of duck and a confit of red and green peppers. Equally delicious and finished in about two bites.
Next up were the two hot tapas – a cornetto (cone) of morcilla (blood sausage) and the olive gnocchi. The ice-cream looking appetizer was in fact a cone filled with morcilla, both in paste form and in tiny cubes, and a salty cream cheese made to look like ice cream. It was fun to look at and good to eat. The gnocchi were several black olive flavored chunks of potato pasta in an olive-oil based stock – good but lacking in texture.
Still feeling peckish after sharing those four small plates, we ordered one more dish. The lamb was a double cutlet served off the bone in one large chunk. It was cooked perfectly – still pink in the center, and was complemented by chunks of lamb sweetbreads made sweet by a balsamic vinegar glaze and the wonderful combination of crispy sweet potato fries and caramelized onions.
Five small courses and three non-alcoholic drinks later and we were full enough to skip both dessert and coffee. Here’s the best part, we only spent €27 (US$38 or £24) and in these credit crunch times that’s definitely bang for the buck.
Messina Puerto Banus
Plaza Marina Banus
Tel: +34 952 815 9840
*Open all-day, Mondays to Saturdays