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Food review: Villa Mercedes reignites San Antonio Marina

Classy surroundings - both inside and out - dining at Villa Mercedes is as smooth and stylish as its namesake.

From the charming hostesses at the entrance to the antique lanterns and perfumed candles that adorn it, Villa Mercedes simply exudes style. Set in an elegant, turn-of-the-century villa and with many an art deco touch, this august venue has long been a San Antonio institution.

Much like the rest of the resort, however, it’s moved with the times so that now - in its latest iteration - it’s better than ever. Since last year, it’s undergone a transformation in terms of kitchen crew, serving staff, menu and wine list and ample vegan options. Villa Mercedes 2.0, as one of the waiters put it. 

The Spotlight review team popped by recently to have dinner and check out the changes.

Apart from the architecture, the first thing that grabs you at Villa Mercedes are the gorgeous surroundings: Beautiful murals in soft tones, comfy outdoor seating areas with sofas, stylish rattan furniture and abundant vegetation with palms, ferns and a pretty cactus garden.

There's even a little stream, gurgling through the greenery, further adding to the impression that you’re in an enchanted garden. The leafy setting invites you to wander around, find your spot and enjoy a cocktail, a meal or a post-dinner drink (diners can stay on in the garden till 02:30!) 

It also has a panoramic view of San Antonio Bay over the fishing boats and yachts in the marina and the hills of San Jose beyond. With a lovely, cool evening breeze and lots of powerful fans, it affords a welcome respite from the early evening summer heat. The musical accompaniment at Villa Mercedes features a different DJ every night and live music on Sundays.

Especially with a well-mixed concoction from their snazzy cocktail bar in hand:

The elegant Mayahuel, made of Mezcal Ojo de Dios, pineapple juice, lime juice, passion fruit, agave syrup, and Port - a successful marriage of the New World and the Old.

Villa Mercedes is a fascinating building that’s well worth exploring. On the first floor, there are comfy seating areas with sofas in soft hues that are ideal for a romantic moment. For groups of up to eight, there’s even the chance to dine on the terrace while enjoying an elevated panorama of the bay.

Another cool feature is the conservatory-like extension on the ground floor that will enable diners here in the wintertime to savour the restaurant's fare in a cosy setting.

The service at Villa Mercedes is everything you’d want: affable, professional, knowledgeable and genuinely engaging. Both Jorge, the dynamic young manager and David, our Colombian waiter, impressed us with their enthusiasm and commitment to ensuring we got the dishes that best matched our palates.

Villa Mercedes certainly makes the most of their Josper oven - it was the source of dish after tasty dish, even the dessert!

When we heard they had oysters - No.2 Poget, from France, to be precise - we just had to try them. They were brimming with briny Atlantic goodness.

We know you're not meant to fill up on bread before a meal, but when the bread is this appetising, it's impossible to resist. 

The shredded pistachio added a nice touch of texture to the cherry tomato and watermelon salad with basil vinaigrette.

The perfectly done asparagus had a slightly piquant touch thanks to the use of the Peruvian chilli pepper Rocoto in the Hollandaise sauce.

We’d almost finished ordering starters when the waiter mentioned that the chef was South American; at which point, we cheekily asked for one of his homemade pork-filled empanadas with caviar.

Aubergine carpaccio with roasted aubergine, parsley, spring onion, Ibizan honey, caramelised pine nuts, and tiny dollops of fresh cream -  the chef’s amazing creation had us in raptures.

The succulent chicken was marinated in a rich sauce made up of 30 spices.

Accompanied by potatoes and peppers, the crayfish was sublime. We had fun scooping out its soft white flesh.

We’d probably have gone with a traditional dessert, but David’s vivid description of this dish won us over. We weren’t disappointed. Pineapple and coconut carpaccio from the Josper oven.

This chef is on fire! Ivan Acquista and his team produce an exceptional Mediterranean dining experience

We came away deeply satisfied, not only with the feast we’d been served but also impressed by the sensation of having dined at a well-run, well-organised establishment. The sumptuous Mediterranean food was on another level, and the setting ensures this is a dining experience you will treasure. 

If you would like to sample Villa Mercedes' delectable cuisine and drinks, reserve a table here.

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