From time to time, the Working Gringos escape from their air-conditioned jaula (cage) and go out on the town. Such was the case a few nights ago when we met with two other Yucatan bloggers at a local restaurant.
The Hotel and Restaurant Villa Maria is an expat favorite and is becoming well known by visitors as well. Run by a gentleman from Mexico City via Spain who is a former hotel executive, and his partner who is from Austria, the Villa Maria is a place of casual elegance. It’s a perfect place to dine when you want to escape the traffic and heat of Merida, but not the historical ambiance of days gone by.
Villa Maria is located in a huge old renovated mansion. The rooms, which are all very spacious and most of which are even two-story suites, center around a lovely open-air courtyard graced by beautiful Moroccan-style arches. The original black and white tiled floors are still there, as are the elaborately carved tall doorways. The nicely-lit marble and glass bar at one end is a welcome addition to the original building. The courtyard is arranged with plants, tables, a fountain and in the corner, a grand piano. When Villa Maria is at its best, the sound of clinking wine glasses and low conversation blend perfectly with the Patsy Cline or light opera music that wafts around the tall ceilings. Its an airy, glowy, white tablecloth kind of place… but it’s not expensive!
What about the food, you ask? Well, before we get to the food, we must mention the service. Because after eating all over the city, we are convinced Villa Maria has the best trained and most elegant service in town. Waiters are impeccably attired in white. Guests are escorted to their seats, chairs are pulled out for the ladies, menus are presented, water is poured. Later on, crumbs are swept up with those little crumb-sweeper-upper tools, dinners are served, plates are removed… it all happens carefully, quietly and with a smile.
Okay, now the food. Villa Maria is probably never going to get an award for the most original cuisine. But the expat community rewards the restaurant with return business because the food is reliably good, hearty, delicious and comforting. The food is definitely cooked by a European, with dishes ranging from Moroccan Chicken (chicken served over rice with a compote of raisins and other dried fruits) to New York Steak with fries and a salad. Some of our favorite appetizers include gazpacho soup and crema doria, a cold cucumber cream soup… great in the heat! And for dessert, try the Pear Dali!
Usually, we are the couple hiding in the corner, enjoying our dinner over a hot game of Scrabble on our travel board that was a Christmas present last year. But this last time, we were joined by two fellow bloggers from the Yucatan, KAT of KATravels and Chris of Ruminations of An Expatriate. It turns out they both like to play Scrabble too, so that may be the focus of our NEXT dinner together.
This time, though, we were meeting f2f (face to face) for the first time, so there was a lot of catching up to do. And strangely, because we read each other’s blogs, it felt more like catching up with old friends than meeting new ones. Our discussions ranged from where to get the best mojito to the past tense of “dive” (dove? dived? diven? it’s still a mystery). We also had a long discussion about wikis, deciding that they were either a repository of useless urban myth or a process of negotiating reality and a product of true democracy and tribal consensus. Or maybe something else. You get the idea…
And Villa Maria is the perfect place for this kind of thing: long conversations over dinner, with a cigarette in one hand (for some) and a martini in the other (for others). The music isn’t too loud, you don’t have to get too dressed up, the light isn’t too bright or too dark, the walk isn’t too far, and la cuenta (the bill) isn’t too painful. Oh, and thanks Chris, for taking care of the propina (the tip)!
We left as we invariably do after eating at Villa Maria, with smiles on our faces and a friendly Buenas Noches from the staff. We’ll be back…