AN ENCHANTING CULINARY EXPERIENCE
If the walls of Monda’s venerable castle could talk, they would have some intriguing tales with which to regale modern- day visitors. Archaeologists and historians remain divided on the exact location, but there is strong evidence that the famous “Battle of Munda” – where Julius Caesar himself led his troops against the Roman republican forces – was held in the hills and on the plans of current-day Monda. That was in 45 BC. Today, life in Monda (a half-hour drive from the coast, in the folds of the Sierra de las Nieves mountain range) is considerably more bucolic, and the castle is now a hotel rather than a fortress, with its walls enclosing a serene setting of cosy rooms, relaxing terraces with breathtaking views over the countryside… and a restaurant serving sumptuous gourmet cuisine.
After passing through various different guises in recent years, the Castillo de Monda has now been taken over by three Dutch entrepreneurs – two of whom have previously run a restaurant in Coin – and it was re-opened in March after a major revamp that adds a more contemporary ambience while preserving the castle’s traditional charm. The restaurant is spacious (seating 80 people) and bathed in natural light, with a newly-refurbished décor featuring large plants as room dividers, high ceilings, arches and contemporary touches such as Thonet-designed elm wood chairs.
Both the dress code and the atmosphere are casual, encouraging diners to feel at home. The restaurant terrace is surrounded by glass and well protected against harsher weather elements. The chef and his team use sustainable local products whenever possible, and change the menu according to seasonal ingredients and new culinary trends and tastes. The menu is both innovative and reasonably priced. During our visit in April, we were able to enjoy an aperitif on one of the terraces overlooking the town below, with a mild sun and gentle breeze setting a pleasant late afternoon scene.
For our meal we savoured a succulent risotto with fresh peas, black truffle and crispy sage; steak tartar with toast and foam of Ras El Hanout; albacore tuna (white meat tuna) with oyster mayonnaise and wasabi: prawns on toast with avocado cream; and truffle chocolate pie with a gel of grapefruit, sorbet of oranges and crunchy sugared hazelnuts. Later we adjourned once more to the terrace for coffee and liqueurs, admiring the last remnants of the setting sun as it enveloped the mountains in a picturesque blanket of multi-coloured shades.
Photos: Peter Staes