I’m not typically one for hotel restaurant dining. Having spent some time behind the scenes of 5 and 4-star hotels, I was able to see the machine at work. A CFO to make sure the central purchasing system is running smoothly: that the group is paying the best possible price for eggs, even if they come from battery hens – lacks appeal. When has anyone rooted for Goliath over David?
I’m not alone in this sentiment and the hotels know it. The solution? If your pockets go deep? A well-known chef who gets to pick the provenance of their eggs because the money their name brings in outpaces any savings on eggs.
Interiors tend to impress too. At Línia in the recently opened Almanac Hotel, a restaurant I have been invited to try with a +1, the interior has been designed by Jaime Beriestain. No doubt at great expense and the result is that it all feels rather grand.
The staff is young, fresh-faced and hospitality school trained. I almost expect to see those pins with the different flags representing all the languages spoken.
My lunch date and I are served an embellished approximation of the Executive Lunch Menu (25€): usually four courses with a starter, first course, second course, and dessert.
This is a 5-star hotel and the Linia restaurant menu reflects this. They start us off with a mozzarella straciatella. It is adorned with sweet peeled dehydrated cherry tomatoes and small parcels filled with avocado mousse. Mussels come in a cauldron and are flavored with lemongrass. There is the stuffed squid. The most striking dish by far is a beef tartar served on a halved bone garnished with a generous line of tobiko. Besides making a visual statement, the hand-minced meat, the seasoning, the salty tart punctuations of cornichons make for a delicious dish.
The razor clams are cleaned, sliced and nestled on beds of seaweed. Tuna tartar is served on a dish that has the outline of a fish stenciled on it. Decorative elements that in a local bistro would appear effusive in this kind of environment, with the 5-star backdrop, are fitting.
After the generous selection of starters, we politely decline the paella dish that has been offered to us moving on to dessert and coffee instead. Instead of the simple, we-don’t-have-a-pastry-chef-so-this-is-what-we-can – do options of chocolate mousse with flaked salt and olive oil, crema catalana or coulant, there is a Sacher cake, lemon tart and a light tropical bowl of textures and temperatures.
I dab at my mouth one last time, sweep errant crumbs from my clothes before standing up. It’s been an excellent lunch. My surprise betrays a bias I didn’t realize had such a strong hold on me. I decide I will give some other hotel restaurants a try. I’ve heard good things about Carme Ruscalleda’s lunch menu at the Mandarin Oriental…*
*My lunch date and I were guests of Línia.