Oh, I Do Like to Be Besides the Seaside
Punta Bonita at The Rosewood Mayakoba l https://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/mayakoba-riviera-maya/dining/punta-bonita l Cltra. Federal Cancun, Rosewood Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico l +52 984 875 8000 l Visited June 2017
There’s something calming about the ocean. Hearing lapping waves, crashing against rocks offers a peaceful distraction from the hubbub of everyday life. It can be a reminder that atmosphere can be passive, as well as active. Not something pressed upon you, but rather you present in it. The relaxation offered, replacing the need for the usual commotion of a restaurant.
And so it is with Punta Bonita. Set on the coast of the Yucatan Penninsula, overlooking the water as part of the impressive Rosewood Mayakoba complex of resorts. Meandering through oil lamp lined walkways on a golf buggy. Winding your way down to the dining space, further setting the scene of luxury.
The restaurant is quiet, for now, which would usually make me feel uncomfortable. Here it just feels intimate and secluded. 2 seats sit next to each other, looking out on the patio. We both get a wonderful view out instead of staring at the rest of the empty tables. I was told prior that the restaurant is usually a beach bar with high-end Mexican sharing plates. This left me a little surprised that at night the table layout is fairly formal and has a menu without any real sharing in sight.
You probably won’t find a much better setting for a pre-dinner cocktail. Fortunately, Punta Bonita is all too happy to oblige. A charred pineapple margarita and a passion fruit and ginger version are boozy and sharp in their jam jar containers. They’re shortly joined by a large, satisfyingly-golden, ball of brioche. Its shiny outside crust gives way to a buttery, soft interior from a goats cheese centre. Served with churned garlic butter and local sea salt, we make short work of a large loaf.
Maybe it’s the sea air, maybe it’s the variety in the menu but hunger sets in as we order. A large portion of guacamole topped with 3 shards of airy, light pork crackling arrives. Next to it is placed a small but surprising bowl of deep-fried crickets and tortillas. There are individual starters as well, a Mexican twist on steak tartare and a chilli tomato snapper dish served stacked between disks of vegetables, like an open lasagne.
Guacamole is a weakness of mine and this is creamy with soothing avocado and a little bite from the chilli. The crickets are actually an enjoyable accompaniment, really just providing some needed crunch and a hit of saltiness. The chilli tomato snapper is underwhelming. Like something you throw together with left over bits and bobs from the veg drawer. Which is a shame to the bit of fish as it’s swamped. The tartare, on the other hand, is a beautiful thing. Meltingly soft beef, well seasoned, sat atop more avocado and a smokey, chipotle salsa. Then discs of radish, jalapeños and finished with micro herbs. It’s fresh, vibrant and may be the prettiest dish I’ve ever looked at. Impossibly it’s an improvement on tradition.
A main of slow-cooked beef appears disguised as a small portion of sticky toffee pudding. The hunk of meat lacquered with a sheen of smokey BBQ sauce. The meat is giving and breaks immediately to offer up its soft strips of meat. Although the buttered polenta and roast veg it’s paired with could be taken from a European dish at a bistro, and don’t really fit the vibe of the rest of the meal. It’s in complete contrast to an achiote chicken dish that is served from a parcel, coated in a rich, deep sauce over a mix of wild rice and grains. It’s generous and exciting. The pops of freshness from citrus and herbs in the served-cold rice salad and a warming hug from the achiote sauce covering large chunks of chicken.
A slightly over sugared dessert of berry fruit compote, cream and meringue is an enjoyable finish, like an Elton mess or a nickabockaglory. It will placate the innermost child in you but it probably won’t last long in the mind.
Some of the food at Punta Bonita more than meets with the views. The classic Mexican items are a particular highlight. With the bill coming in at a whopping £220 for two with service, it really needs to be less temperamental with some of the other dishes, however. It’s really the main fault that I can find here, the prices are such that everything needs to be perfect and unfortunately, a few selections fell a little short. The restaurant really thrives when it sticks to refining traditional staples, but would probably do well to steer away from more European influences.
The view is still spectacular, however. As we sat back and listened to the waves drifting in, sipping an impressive, full-bodied Mexican Malbec, the waves are interrupted. The peace and quiet finally being interrupted by a large group of 12 Americans staying at the all-inclusive resort, making the most of the ‘hospitality’. Calm never does last too long.