First we Eat, Then we do Everything Else
Gastronomic excellence awaits you at both Abadía Retuerta Le Domaine’s Refectorio or Vinteca restaurants. Very different from each other, whether you wish for Michelin starred formality or more intimate tapas, the hotel will not disappoint
Review by Andy Barnham
It is hard not to make religious references where Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine is concerned, and the obvious sense of pilgrimage when making one’s way through the Duero wine region to the 12th century abbey. Fully restored, the abbey sits in the middle of a 1,730 acre estate of which 420 acres are devoted to the Abadía Retuerta vineyard – divided into 54 plots according to soil type. Now an award winning hotel (TripAdvisor named it the #1 hotel in Spain in 2016) the abbey boasts two restaurants overseen by chef Marc Segarra Sauné, the fine dining Refectorio and the casual Vinoteca restaurants.
Opened in 2012, it took just over three years for the Refectorio to gain Michelin star recognition. Located at the front of LeDomaine the restaurant was formerly the monks’ dining room; the high ceilings allowing plenty of natural light while guests dine under the gaze of Christ from a mural of The Last Supper. With the aim of keeping the Refectorio special, the restaurant is used for breakfast in the mornings and dinner service only. Thin and long, here are only a dozen or so small tables, which help create a sense of intimacy in this otherwise large room which can also be hired out for private use with a long table available for up to 40 guests. Under the watchful eye of Christ, diners are in for a treat, dished out with impeccable service. The tasting menu, consisting of seven courses not including an assortment of amuse bouches and bread is paired with award winning wines from the estate.
Rather than a wine per course, which seems to be the norm for tasting menus, the evening consists of three main wines. The selection are the best of the estate wines which shows confidence in the home grown products and allowing diners the chance to fully appreciate the local grapes. The meal starts with the Pago Garduña 2013, a deep, dark smooth 100 per cent Syrah aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels, before moving on to the Pago Negralada 2011, the 100 per cent Tempranillo aged for 24 months. Most commonly used as part of a blend due to a relatively neutral profile, the Pago Negralada has a liquorice and herb flavour with soft and silky tannins which has led to the wine winning several international awards. Rounding off the evening is the Vendimia Tardía Syrah 2014, a fine sweet wine with a floral bouquet and a rich honeyed taste.
Under the direction of Chef Marc, the wines are paired with a variety of local and seasonal ingredients; in this particular incarnation of the menu, the evening began with the tomatoes and kombucha followed by braised endive with poultry sauce and lobster coral. The final vegetable course was leek, hazelnut vinaigrette with roasted garlic croquette and truffle before the menu then flowed into the mains starting with the cod, turnip and tripe sauce and then the squab (young domestic pigeon), confit artichokes and Kalamata olives. The menu was then rounded off with confit kumquat, basil and kefir ice- cream and then finally with rosemary cream with honey, pine nuts and toffee. Despite this appearing to be rather a substantial meal, accompanied by the odd piece of bread, the dishes were all elegantly light, the final result of which meant that guests feel full, but not to the extent that they need to be rolled out of the restaurant.
Compared to the high vaulted majesty of the Refectorio, the Vinoteca casual dining restaurant is a much cosier affair altogether. A relatively low ceiling together with a wall decorated with wine bottles and only two recessed windows intentionally creates a darker atmosphere, paralleling the mood and feel of the cellars that lie below the restaurant.
The menu remains the same whether it’s day or night. Specialising in tapas and sharing dishes – again with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce – with a handful of mains after a wide variety of starter courses. The “Tiger” mussels, chunky and meaty, are a must with the lettuce heart and chicken and tomatoes doing a very tasty local version of Caesar salad. From the ‘tablas’ or ‘board’ section of the menu (the dishes are literally served on a wooden board) a trip to the region wouldn’t be complete without some Ibérico ham which (as you’d expect) is fantastic. Alongside this is the “Cecina” beef raised and cured in the same manner as the ham. Visually similar, this reviewer had a mental disconnect when tasting something that looked like ham but tasted like beef, however this didn’t detract from the quality of the local delicacy.
Of the mains the cuttlefish filled with pork trotters and ink sauce along with the pork cheek stew, leeks and thyme were the order of the day. Despite not being fully convinced, my wife left none of the cuttlefish and then genuinely tried to protest her lack of judgement on the dish, despite informing me with her next breath that were she to order the cuttlefish again she’d finish it, again. Incredibly tender, the two chunky pork cheeks were bathed in a rich sauce. Incredibly flavoursome, the sauce makes this a heavy dish and should only be tackled after a light starter; don’t fall into the trap of ordering lots of ‘small dishes’ and then run out of appetite for the more substantial offerings.
Deserts consist of various cakes and custard; the ginger, beer toffee and broken biscuit custard was lovely and the ginger not overpowering, while the semifreddo but cake was light and tasty.
For a destination such as Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, it is no surprise that the restaurants are as impeccable as the abbey itself. For those who like their dining al fresco, head to the hotel in summer when the quadrangle, or Jardin del Claustro, hosts Vintoeca’s evening meals.
Enquiries: Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, 47195 Sardón de Duero, Valladolid, Valladolid, Spain / +34 983 68 03 68 / www.ledomaine.es/en/