Vovem: An Asador with Va-Va-Voom!

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We are already dedicated fans of the Vovem Asador in Nueva Andalucía, so were obviously keen as mustard to test drive the team’s other establishment in Marbella’s Paseo Maritimo. Since its opening in June it has become a popular venue for discerning carnivores, with its range of top quality steaks and meat.

The location could scarcely be better, as Vovem’s Marbella branch stands on Avenida de Ahumada, directly opposite the Puerto Deportivo which, with its lovely terrace, makes it the perfect venue for enjoying a cocktail or two as the sun sets over the Mediterranean.

Inside wood and chesterfield sofas dominate, the cosy but elegant décor inviting diners to relax and enjoy an evening spent in the company of a team completely obsessed by providing customers with the best produce available on the Coast. To ensure that they stock only the best meat, Head Chef Enzo and the team use the services of 10 suppliers and say that some of the meats are hung for 90 days before being deemed sufficiently full of flavour.

Of course, no five-star meal would be complete without a good wine and Vovem scores points here too, with a well-equipped bodega and staff members who can offer recommendations if necessary.
Offering diners a warm welcome without overwhelming them is a skill that many restaurants would do well to master – even here on the Coast, where service is generally of the highest standard – but the Vovem team has this down pat. Chef Enzo and his team offered us the benefit of their knowledge without overcomplicating the process of ordering our food.

Every dish that we tasted was a real declaration of intent from an establishment dedicated to serving the best meat on the Coast: the Wagyu Black Pudding Cannelloni with Oporto Gelatine and Caramel tasted as spectacular as it sounded (consider this a SOCIETY favourite), while we also adored the Suckling Pig with Homemade Sweet Potato Sauce.

If you aren’t quite so carnivorous and plan to visit Vovem with friends, don’t panic – there are some dishes that will suit you. We can wholeheartedly recommend the Avocado Cannelloni filled with Prawns and Carabineros, which is presented in a way that makes it look like a leaf – not at all what you might expect from a meat restaurant. Another dish that is superbly tasty yet suitable for non-meat eaters is the Caramelised Cod, which is a treat for the most discerning pescetarian.

However, you will find that it is very often Marbella’s steak lovers who are beating a path to both Vovem venues to enjoy the best food in town. If you are one of them do make sure that you arrive in a state of advanced hunger and order the Rib-Eye Steak. We were told that this had been imported from the Netherlands and aged for 45 days before being cooked and served at our table. The customer can choose how the steak is cooked and select a range of delicious accompaniments, which include black or lemon salt or salt with spices. We opted for the Pepper Sauce, which was the perfect foil for the deep richness of the meat.

If, like us, your evenings out involve sharing plates of food then Vovem is a wonderful place to go, because this is actively encouraged. Discover the flavours on your neighbour’s plate and – you never know – it’s possible that you will find yourself ordering the dish that they have chosen next time you visit and, believe us, you will most definitely want to return.

There was one final treat for our sweet-toothed party at the end of the evening. The Brazil Voyage consisted of a Caipirinha served with Lemon Mousse, Sorbet and Vanilla Jelly and contained the perfect hit of citrus to contrast with the previous dishes.

Whether you are a resident or a visitor hoping to find a venue specialising in traditional Spanish cuisine, you cannot beat Vovem. This imaginative reboot of the classic asador looks well placed to be one of the culinary revelations of the year.

 
48 Hours in the Coast's Best Kept Secret

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I can scarcely believe I am about to do this but, here goes - I am about to share the best kept secret on the Coast. When asking the question about which location would be ideal for a romantic getaway that doesn't involve air travel and is less than two hours from Marbella, the name Vejer de la Frontera kept popping up.

Therefore I decided to visit and investigate what all the fuss is about. When you approach the town it is perfectly manicured and downright gorgeous. Located in  Cádiz province, Vejer de la Frontera is one of the area's most spectacular sites, thanks to its geographical location, not to mention its history.

Visiting this special place is like taking a trip back to the past of southern Spanish society. The historic centre consists of characterful cobblestone streets and is virtually free of cars, with the sole exception of the local residents who will sometimes be seen driving their vehicles through the streets in a slightly erratic manner, so beware.

I would recommend that you park your car as you arrive in the town or you might end up in a narrow cul-de-sac from which it can be difficult to extract yourself. We managed to find a suitable space and wheeled our luggage through the winding cobbled streets to Hotel V, which is small luxury boutique hotel that has been beautifully restored from a 17th century manor house and is located in the town centre. As soon as you enter you can sense a rich history, teamed with some modern twists.

Keen to see more of the town we left our luggage and started exploring.

Our first stop was Las Delicias, a refurbished theatre with the funkiest of vibes. Upcycled crates used as décor, vertical plant walls and hanging light bulbs, cool background music playing. Why had we not visited before? After a glass of wine and a starter we decided to try another place that was recommended by the hotel.

Vina Y Mar was tiny and quaint, with one of the smallest kitchens I have ever seen, but with the biggest wine and sherry selection from the region. Ramón, who served us enthusiastically and knowledgeably, described the daily specials and recommended the local sherries with a particular passion. This place is definitely worth a visit if if you are into interesting menus with a twist. Beetroot bread anyone? Exhausted from the drive we decided to have an early night as we had a full day of exploration ahead.

Our morning started with a 9am yoga session conducted by the lovely Jana Doss and, as it was so windy, this was held in the reservoir, 20 meters below ground. On arriving back at our room, breakfast was served and consisted of tasty local produce and a well deserved cup of tea.

As we began to explore the town, I couldn't help but notice all the amazing, tiny speciality shops. Ajonjoli sold olive oils, authentic home baked breads, Spanish cookies and some very interesting selected products.

Eclectica Deco was a small décor shop with cool home accessories, including pink flamingoes, cactuses, ceramics and more. This turned out to be heaven for a foodie and props addict like me! Kombucheria sold artisanal, local and organic products, including kombucha. What was all of this doing here? And why, in my 10 years of living in Spain, had I never been? It was as is these places had ripped a page out of the style magazine, Wallpaper and decided to create the most amazing little spaces that ooze cool and are usually found only in big cities.

I received an insider tip that a restaurant had opened only two weeks previously, and was run by two sisters who had spent a lot of time in Mexico. As major lover of Mexican food this place had to be put to the test. Again, the décor was cool, the menu small but perfectly formed and everything that we ate was out of this world. I will be day dreaming about the Patatas Bravas for years to come, as they were the best I have ever tasted.

After a full day of walking we headed back to the hotel, where an ayurvedic massage was awaiting. Pacci was fantastic and I must say it is the first time I have had my whole face massaged - plus places on my body I scarcely knew existed! All in all, just what the doctor ordered after a long day.

Invigorated and rested, it was time for dinner and we decided to try out Jardin de Califa - a Moroccan inspired restaurant that has been included in the Michelin Guide for a number of years running. Priding itself on local produce, seasonality and choosing organic products whenever possible, this place did not disappoint. It also had many vegetarian and vegan options, even gluten free bread.

One common denominator stood out over the weekend and that was how proud every single vendor was of their produce and their method for sourcing it whether it be a 30 year-old sherry, a specific dish or even the colourful tiles that covered the floors of most places we visited.

If you are looking for an authentic culinary experience combined with history and a sprinkle of funk, with an über cool vibe, then Fronter de La Vejer is the place to go. It's perfect for a romantic getaway, but equally suitable as a family friendly destination.

 
The Grand Ole Smokehouse!

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There are occasions when American cuisine is just what the taste buds ordered and where better to experience the full on hickory smoked, barbecued style of cooking than at Jacks Smokehouse, which in case you haven’t heard is where Jacks American Brasserie used to be on Puerto Banús’s prestigious frontline. Jacks has been a favourite eatery in the Port for many, many years, and has always enjoyed a great reputation for its food and service, so we were delighted to have the opportunity to sample and savour the delights of its new incarnation as Jacks Smokehouse.

As you can imagine, the newly renovated Jacks Smokehouse is a big favourite with the younger, international Marbella set who crave a good burger and a rack of ribs, and judging by the crowd of diners happily tucking into the meaty elements of the menu, it continues to attract a clientele with hearty appetites. Of course, another of Jacks’ attractions is that it feels authentically American. The interior décor takes you from Marbella to the southern states of the USA with a touch of Nashville glamour in moments. Plus, the outside terrace on a sunny day is the perfect place to perch and watch the supercars slide by and the yachts bob on the marina’s gentle waters. There is nothing you can’t learn about life and the people in Puerto Banús when you sit outside Jacks Smokehouse day or night.

We reckoned that any visit to Jacks would require a good appetite and an empty stomach, so we starved ourselves in preparation for our visit. Of course, the downside of starvation is that when you arrive at a restaurant your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach and we were overwhelmed by the variety of dishes on offer in the revamped menu. So much so that several of us just couldn’t decide what to choose at first. However, after the initial cries of “Oh, I’ve got to have the ribs,” we all gradually calmed down and chose items that we could share, thus giving everyone ‘a bite of the burger’ so to speak.

Burgers, burgers!

So, let’s start with the burgers on offer. You can have your burger straight or with cheese. You can also have a New York deli burger made from Angus beef, a Smokehouse burger or a Wagyu beef burger. Not keen on beef? Then the Jerk Chicken burger brings you a touch of Jamaica, there’s a Southern Fried chicken burger (move over Colonel Sanders) and for the non-meat eaters there is a five bean burger. Then there are the Combo Sliders with pulled pork, which top chef Gordon Ramsey has been encouraging every burger house in the USA to make in his show “Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.” Of course, there are no kitchen nightmares at Jacks; the service and the quality of the food is perfection. And, if you’re a hot dog fan, then you’ll be able to order a proper American one here. We selected the Smokehouse burger and the Jerk Chicken, both of which were delicious and the dressings were spot on. Please also note that all burgers can be served gluten free.

Are you ribbing me?

At least one of our party is a serious rib fan and you can usually predict that if they are on a menu, he’s going to order them. Imagine the smile on his face when he saw the Main course menu and saw the Slow Braised Beef Short Rib served with sweet potato mash and smoked shallot gravy. Or, should he have a half/full rack of 12-Hour Smoked BBQ Ribs served with coleslaw, shoestring fries and either Creole dry rub or Smokehouse BBQ sauce? It was a tough choice but in the end, the Smoked BBQ Ribs won the day. It is fair to say that not every establishment can cook ribs so that they remain succulent and fall off the bone, but we can truthfully report that Jacks really does know how it should be done. We also sampled the Sizzling Fajitas and the Smoked Chicken with charred corn on the cob, mash and gravy. We felt as if we were close to dining with Frank Underwood in “House of Cards” when he goes to Freddy’s BBQ Joint for some real southern cooking.

On the grill

There is also a Grill menu. How about a Longhorn 28-Day Dry-Aged New York Strip Loin, or a Prime Irish Fillet Steak or Argentinian Rib Eye? Or, a Jacks 40-Day Dry-Aged Galician Tomahawk Steak for Two? Well, we had to try the latter. The combination of Galician and Tomahawk in the same phrase had our imaginations running amok. What a revelation it was and if you’re out on a date, or just out with a mate and you want to share a dish, then this is the perfect choice.

Fish lovers do not despair. From the grill you have a choice of freshly Grilled Tuna Steak with black sesame crust, 5-spice Asian vegetables, soy, honey and ginger. Or, why not push the boat out and have the Whole Grilled Lobster with garlic butter. Yum!! 

And, before we forget, there is an excellent pizza menu and a Kids menu with mini versions of the adult offering.

Sweet endings

We were more or less fully satiated by now, but it would have been rude to leave without sampling the dessert menu. Society has more than one Brownie lover, but when we saw that there was also Key Lime Pie and an Oreo and Peanut Cheesecake, a Knickerbocker Glory and Cherry Pie we went a bit sweet crazy.

We may have walked in with empty stomachs but we certainly left Jacks Smokehouse with well-filled ones. This restaurant has a great location, a menu that suits just about everyone’s tastes and a welcoming atmosphere. There’s everything to like about Jacks – make sure you pay it a visit!

 
Seduced by Volnay

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Volnay is a village in the Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy, renowned for making some of the smoothest, most delicate red wines of the southern Cote d'Or. Located between Pommard (famous for its powerful reds) and Meursault (the home of rich whites), Volnay is fortunate to have a winning USP to distinguish it from its more-prestigious neighbours. In general the wines from Volnay are lighter, more elegant and graceful than most other red Burgundies.

Over the centuries, the wines of Pommard and Volnay have alternately shared popularity, according to the fashions of the age. When powerful, full-bodied wines are in favour (as in the current global market), Pommard enjoys the limelight. But when silkier, smoother wines are in demand (mainly during the summer), Volnay takes centre stage. The appellation's wines are often referred to as being the most 'feminine' of Burgundian reds with prevalent aromas of violet, gooseberry, cherry and spices, game nuances and cooked prunes.

Volnay can deliver an irresistible hit in its flush of youth, giving pleasure and offering more sensual, fruit-driven, softer, rounder Pinot Noir. Maybe it doesn't possess the breeding of Vosne or the complexity of Gevrey, but your viewpoint will depend on whether you seek to be impressed by Burgundy Cote de Nuits or seduced by the sensuality of Volnay.

Santenots, Clos de Ducs, Les Caillerets and Clos de Chenes are the most famous Premier Cru climats of the Volnay appellation in the Cote de Baune.

D-Wine Advice

Coq au Vin is the perfect match for Volnay, but you can also try Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Goose and Game Birds .

Top Five Volnay at D-Wine

Volnay PC Santenots Jacques Prieur
Volnay PC Caillerets Michel Lafargue
Volnay PC En Chevrets Henri Boillots
Volnay PC Santenots Pierre Morey
Volnay Dominique Lafon

 
Olivia's: Paradise By the Sea

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One thing you cannot help noticing when living on the Coast - or even merely holidaying - is that there are some venues that just have to be visited during the summer months. Olivia's is one such place that is excellent all year round but really comes into its own at this time of year.

During one particularly warm day recently we considered all our favourite places to visit on such a beautifully sunny day and thoughts of Olivia's terrace sprang to mind. So off we went to La Cala to experience one of the finest examples of beach dining on the Costa del Sol.

Famously the brain child of TOWIE star Elliott Wright and named after his daughter, this seaside venue could quite easily have opened its doors and waited for fans of the reality show to arrive but, since its 2015 launch, Elliott has shown that he is very serious about running an establishment that is as famous for its food and service as it is for its proprietor.

On the day that we visited the place was already buzzing by the time we arrived at two o'clock, but we managed to find a table on the terrace with a fantastic view of the Mediterranean. We agreed that, living on the Coast, we don't spend enough time enjoying all of its benefits and this is a great excuse to kick back and enjoy the sun and sea breeze.

Olivia's prides itself on its superior customer service and this was evident from the moment we arrived. Staff members have perfected the art of being attentive without overwhelming you with unwanted attention and are very patient – as they need to be when waiting for customers to choose from such an extensive menu. Elliott and his kitchen team have cleverly succeeded in assembling a tempting array of dishes that represent the best of Spanish cuisine (we were very tempted by the Conejo en Salsa de Tomate con Ajo in the Flavour of Málaga section) along with some favourites from around the world, from Italy's Pappardelle Bolognese to Australian Kingfish Carpaccio. We have some excellent restaurants on this Coast, but you would be hard pressed to find one with a more proudly international menu.

Not wanting to ruin our appetite for our main courses we ordered some starters to share: the Smokey Baba Ghanoush with Za'tar Flatbread was delicious, as were the Spicy Endame Beans. We also decided to add a local touch with the Boquerones en Vinagre, a true taste of summer.

Elliott has helpfully indicated his favourite dishes on the menu, so we decided to try the Crispy Thai Beef Salad with Wild Mesclun Leaves, Soya Beans, Coriander and Fried Vermicelli and had to agree. Authentic flavours coupled with the finest beef made this a salad worth remembering. The other members of the party decided to stay in the Far East and opted for a Mixed Sushi Platter For Three, which we were all delighted to 'help' her eat. As expected, the fish was fresh and all of the components were absolutely delicious. If you're a keen carnivore then you must sample the Wagyu Mini Burgers: served with melted Cheddar Cheese, Pickled Gherkin, Tomato, Lettuce, Tamarind Relish, Homemade Chips and Onion Rings, this was the tastiest burger we have ever been served. Although purists might think it sacrilegious to mince Wagyu beef, we are so pleased that the Olivia's team did!

Asked whether we wanted to see the dessert menu we only intended to look, but in the end were tempted by what was on offer and ordered a Mon Chèri, which was described as White Chocolate Mousse, Cherry Gelee, Coconut Dacqouise with Maraschino and Chilli Sorbet and was one of the most striking desserts we have ever encountered. We also ordered a Belle Hélène, a French classic that consisted of Pâte à Choux, Pear and Marzipan Mousse, Rum Infused Pear and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream and also couldn't resist trying the Banoffee Delight, a combination of Peanut-Feuilletine, Flamed Banana Cream, Salty Caramel-Coated Peanuts and Butterscotch Sauce. We were especially impressed by the care and attention paid to producing a range of desserts that really are something out of the ordinary; even the Pear Belle Hélène, which is a famously old school dish, had been given a contemporary twist.

All in all it's not difficult to define Oiivia's appeal. It's reasonable to assume that some punters will be lured in by the possibility of catching a glimpse of Elliott Wright but, once there, will find plenty to enjoy with a fabulous location and the attention of a team that places customer service at the top of its agenda. Most importantly, the sheer range of the menu and the excellence of the food will ensure that most visitors to Olivia's become repeat customers.  

This is one experience that you must do your best to enjoy this summer.

 
Merry Gourmet Christmas and a Happy Delicious Year

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The holiday season is upon us. This is a time for celebration, regardless of culture or costumes, and it is always the perfect time to gather family and friends and spend some special time with our beloved ones. This season brings out the best in us: the kindness, the love and it makes us more caring. Of course, the centre of every reunion is a nice, warm Christmas meal. The children look forward to eating it all year long and the grown ups enjoy planning what is going to be part of the menu each December, or what goodies they are going to bring with them to that party they have been invited to. Society magazine knows the perfect place to get all the treats that are going to make your Christmas celebrations memorable.

Kobe and Delicias de la Huerta are the places to go when you are looking for a prime quality gourmet experience. These two shops work together and combine forces to offer everything you need to prepare the perfect meal. They are a foodies’ paradise year round and a visit becomes a MUST, especially during the Christmas season. Both locations are widely known in the Marbella area, mainly due to their wonderful selection of products and their exceptional customer service, and each store has its own personality and purpose. Whilst Delicias de la Huerta is the perfect pantry full of healthy, bio veggies, fruits and gluten free products, Kobe presents the most exquisite and luxurious selection of gourmet goods such as Beluga caviar, truffles and fine meats. Let’s be honest, the 24th and 25th of Decembers are days in which everyone goes “all out” culinarily speaking, and in Kobe and Delicias de la Huerta we can find the “all”.

The moment a customer walks through Kobe’s doors they are welcomed by a finely curated selection of goods. The bottles of wines and champagnes are what catch the attention at first sight. And, whilst running the eyes along the names of the spirits you are transported to a quiet evening holding a glass of wine and caching up with a friend over an already empty table and your bellies are already full. Perhaps, if you see a bottle of Don Perignon Vintage your thought will be, of course, about toasting the New Year.

It is also inevitable that the outstanding selection of Spanish hams and charcuterie will catch your eye. This is, after all, Christmas in Spain and even if the locals try to enjoy these prime quality products throughout the whole year, during the holiday season they really become an irreplaceable part of every table.

But, Kobe offers not just the best of Spanish gastronomy; it also supplies its clients with a wide selection of international gourmet goods. These include traditional English homemade roast beef, Russian caviar and vodka, sea products such as traditional smoked salmon or some very appetising crab legs, delicate foie gras to be served as the perfect appetiser, or the best quality white truffle.

Still, what gives the shop its name, and the product they might be most proud of, is the Kobe meat. It is imported from Japan and it is easy to understand at a glance why this meat is produced with such care and tenderness. The stock is raised in ideal conditions, listening to classical music and drinking beer: yes, cows drinking beer. But, that is the key to the fine piece of steak that Kobe offers their most discerning clients.

Delicias de la Huerta on the other hand is like your basic grocery shop; the place you go to fill your pantry on a daily basis, or to get that extra special ingredient that that recipe needs and you cannot find anywhere else. Also, they offer organic and gluten free foods, something that is really appreciated by clients that want to eat yummy but healthy food.  It is also very festive. There are a lot of enticing goodies for those with a sweet tooth, such as traditional Spanish turrón, Belgian chocolates and Italian panettone. Plus, it has a fantastic selection of cakes for clients with a sweet tooth following a gluten-free diet.

These very special shops are the best option for organising your dream Christmas meal regardless of your origins or culinary tastes. Now that the countdown for the festivities has started, hurry over to the gourmet universe at Kobe and Delicias de la Huerta. All the lovely staff will be ready to welcome you and help you find everything you need and more. There are no excuses now not to enjoy the best food. We have told you where to find it, now just go and get it. Merry Christmas and have a happy table everyone!

 
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