By Jonathan Byrne
Nights in a Moorish Castle
As the car that had collected us an hour ago from Malaga Airport slowed to a stop and changed into first gear to attack the near vertical incline of the road, Karen stated, “Well if I have to walk back up this hill after an excursion I’m simply not leaving during our stay!” And we did not leave the hotel until four days later when another car came to collect us. Though it was not just the thought of a challenging climb that kept us captive.
Castillo de Monda is an Andalusian Castle built on the foundations of Al Mundat, a 9th Century Arab fortress creatively converted into a 26 bedroom boutique hotel. It is owned by three Dutch guys who have poured their passion for perfect hospitality into everything you encounter. One is Chef, one is in charge of Food and Beverage service and one delivers the rooms. The service is warm and friendly yet attentive and flawless. The staff range from local Spanish and Brits who’ve grown up locally to Dutch Interns studying International Hospitality. The are all multilingual, young, attractive and schooled in the perfect balance between engagement and discretion. The uniform sets the standard – pale denim cut offs and white shirts – relaxed but neat and immaculate.
Setting an atmosphere of relaxed welcome a sign greeted us on the reception desk. “Karen and Jonathan we are elsewhere in the hotel at the moment. Please leave your luggage in reception, take the lift to the sixth floor, enjoy our hospitality and we will come to find you to complete check in.
” We reached the dining room around 10.20 after breakfast service had ended at 10.00. As we had taken a very early morning flight we were both hungry. The dining room staff did not blink an eye at our request and ten minutes later we were sitting on a delightful terrace enjoying the beautiful views and a selection of breakfast dishes.
As a fortress, Castillo de Monda commands the top of a hill capturing cool breezes . . . perfect for summer in Andalusia and engaging scenery in every direction. The whole of the top floor is a series of rooms and terraces hosting the bar, lounge rooms, dining room, dining terrace, secluded terraces and the pool. Ideal for us to relax and enjoy the days.
The food was also pretty special. The highlights from four days: Tuna Salad creatively served in clean Tuna Tins, mixed with creamy mayonnaise, capers chopped gherkins and garnished with bread sticks and fresh shoots. Oysters topped with a fascinating topping of citrus, sake and soy crushed ice. Either as a generous starter or lunch main course succulent meaty roasted quails taken off the bone on a salad of young leaves, tomato, lardons and chives. A heavenly terrine of duck liver with smoked duck breast and a reduction of Pedro Ximenez, sherry’s dessert wine. An exquisite, meaty fillet of Monkfish cooked with sage and Pata Negra ham served with a creamy saffron sauce. Perfectly cooked Sea Bream with spinach, home made gnocchi and light basil sauce. Served for two people but enough for four Ð dry aged rib eye with hashbrowns, green asparagus, chimichurri and bernaise sauce.
Not one dish disappointed. Even the Dutch apple pie with vanilla ice cream captured my eye and the deconstructed Eaton Mess was alive with flavour. The only disappointment was having to leave and not be able to try more of the delicious food. A memorable wine we enjoyed with the rib eye – Enate Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvigon 2013 from Somontino in Northern Spain matched the richness of the steak perfectly.
I have to admit Castillo de Monda is not for the faint of pocket but worth every cent!