Elements - one trendy, certainly extremely popular restaurant on the north island favourite beach, Benirras. The location is truly stunning. Benirras is a bay and as you look out to sea a striking spiral rock explodes from the water, reaching for the Heavens and has long been nicknamed "The Hand of God". Walking on to the beach, Elements sits to the right, sheltered by the hills that drop down at the side of the bay. More than just a restaurant, with a clothes, music and jewellery boutique plus massage area, it is quite a striking environment. If you're mad enough to want to go there at the weekend AND eat, book well in advance.
Three years ago my family ate at Elements. It was a disaster and they have point blank refused to go back since. However places change - at least I was hoping it had as I was going to be reviewing the restaurant with not just one guest but four - including a very dear friend who was celebrating her 40th birthday.
As I drove to collect them, I received a text asking me if the restaurant catered for vegetarians? Oh dear God, I had no idea. Please let this night not be a disaster.... The last night before my friend flew home and my only opportunity to see her.
Thankfully on arrival, having booked a table for minutes after the sunset (setting into the waves, silhouetting the "Hand of God" - beautiful!) my vegetarian guest was more than satisfied with the options available, both in the starter and mains menu.
Enjoying the conversation we all sat back as the starters arrive. Sizeable and delicious, beautifully presented, they ticked all the boxes and myself and guests tucked in with enthusiasm. I intentionally ordered the asparagus with ibicenco ham and parmasen - asparagus is so easy to get wrong (ultra chewy & tough if neither fresh or properly cooked) but it was perfect.
Then main course. Compliments on the calamari. The portion was so huge that one guest was unable to finish her dish. I nabbed a piece long after I'd finished my own mains and still it wasn't stringy or tough. Everyone at the table tried it, impressed. My own salmon fillet was moist and flavoursome. More boxes ticked. I checked with everyone else at the table and aside from an unexpected saltiness with the Special of the Day - a fresh clams with asparagus dish, everyone was happy. The evening was going well, the beach now in darkness behind us, drums beating on the far side of the sands, the verandah fronted Elements restaurant, buzzing.
I think at this time I should share that one of my guests was a beautiful transvestite and having really enjoyed his meal as we discussed dessert he started to fret if his dresses would fit. Ha! That was a new one on me for the season. Nonetheless we managed to persuade him to help us with the cheesecake, one serving generous enough for two (and indeed despite the best efforts of us all, after our starters and mains, we couldn't collectively finish the cheesecake and requested to take it home. Trust me, it was an exquisite breakfast!)
A beautiful setting, certainly reasonable food with one or two really impressive dishes.... was this all? No, Elements stood head and shoulders above otherwise similar calibre restaurants with one seemingly small but crucial point. The service... Having reviewed restaurants week in, week out across the width and breadth of this amazing isle, nine out of ten times I am left to refill my guests and my own wine glass through the course of the evening. It is indeed a small thing but start adding small things up and you start to experience the difference in good dining to potentially great dining. At Elements, my glass, my guests glasses were kept discreetly topped up and I inwardly cheered!
An average three course meal at Elements, excluding drinks, is easily going to tip in, in the region of 40-45€ per head. It can't be called 'inexpensive', I admit. However, taking in the location, the superb ambience, the above par service and suddenly it starts to be a little less expensive and more a 'great night', particularly one to share with friends not familiar with the beauty to be found in the north of the island.
As you arrive, look to the far side of the wall in the boutique area - someone has written, "Thank you for this beautiful day". Thank you for ensuring my friend had a lovely evening.
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