(Published in The Cayman Book magazine, Nov. 2018 – Nov. 2019)
Small bites big on flavour
The passionate sound of a Spanish guitar fills the air, while the precise footwork of the flamenco dancers emits a series of rhythmic clicks, creating an atmosphere of excitement and intrigue.
It might sound like I’m in Spain, but I’m at the hugely popular El Mercat – Nit De Tapes, held every Thursday at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort’s chic restaurant Anchor & Den, located in the heart of Seven Mile Beach.
The night transports diners to the eclectic tapas bars that fill the streets of Barcelona, Spain, offering a delicious and authentic slice of this Mediterranean country.
At this luxurious dining destination guests enjoy Cayman’s only truly authentic Spanish night, where pitchers of Sangria flow and small plates of tapas are designed to be savoured and enjoyed family style.
“El Mercat – Nit De Tapes is one of our most popular theme nights,” Nicolas Franco, the resort’s marketing manager, says. “It is a real culinary experience with authentic tapas and live entertainment. The flamenco dancers are also a huge hit with our guests.”
The menu features a smorgasbord of culinary delights bound to tantalise the taste buds, including an extensive selection of traditional hot and cold tapas, cheeses, and meats. Anchor & Den’s popular raw bar is also available, featuring not-to-be missed delights such as freshly flown in oysters and snow crab claws. What’s not to love?
Charcuterie and more
Kick-start the meal with the restaurant’s popular charcuterie board. This showstopper features a delicious spread of gourmet cheeses and handpicked meats that are guaranteed to go down a treat.
Many of the meats and cheeses have been imported specially from different regional areas of Spain by the team, and it is this dedication and attention to detail that truly makes El Mercat – Nit De Tapes an exceptionally delicious event.
On the board find mouthwatering meats such as wafer thin Iberico ham, Chorizo, Spiannata, and Salame Ventricina, alongside olives, oven-baked garlic, freshly baked toasted bread, and a delicious assortment of sweet and savoury spreads. With a Sangria in hand, it’s the perfect way to ease yourself into the evening.
The dinner is designed to be taken at a leisurely pace. During my visit we let our waiter choose our dishes and it resulted in a satisfying stream of small plates gracing the tabletop.
Some of the standout dishes included the Pulop a la Gallega, a delicious Galician-style octopus cooked to perfection, and the Albondigas, flavourful Spanish-style meatballs, which were so good we didn’t hesitate to order seconds. Other must-haves included the Pimientos del Piquillo, seared piquillo peppers stuffed with Idiazabel cheese, and the Tortilla Espanola, a Spanish omelette.
Round off the night with a selection of desserts, including the ever-popular almond cake, made from a traditional recipe that originates from the north of Spain. A wonderfully light cake filled with citrus flavours, it’s the ideal finale to this grandiose Spanish-inspired feast. Indeed, my dining companions and I devoured every last morsel.
El Mercat – Nit De Tapes was first launched at Anchor & Den in 2015 and during the last few years has developed into a popular weekly event, with an evolving menu that keeps diners coming back for more.
The night is just one of many vibrant events held at the Marriott where the extensively travelled team have drawn on their global experiences to create something unique, exciting, and filled with authentic offerings.
“When we see something that we like from our travels around the world we then use it for inspiration,” Nicolas explains. “Our food and beverage programme incorporates elements from countries that we have visited like Spain, Mexico, France, and Italy to name just a few. Our chef de cuisine visited Barcelona to discover Spain’s culinary delights, which influenced the enticing dishes that are offered at El Mercat – Nit de Tapes.”
Indeed, the menu was originally put together by Thais Rodriguez, Anchor & Den’s former chef de cuisine, following a four-day visit to Barcelona to discover the region’s culinary delights. Her aim was to replicate the simple, yet flavour-packed dishes of Spanish cuisine, while keeping them as authentic and true to the original recipes as possible.
That aim is continued today by the current chef de cuisine, Santiago Mancini, who develops new recipes and dishes, enticing diners to come back for more.
Originally from Argentina, Santiago has been a chef for more than 17 years. He has worked in Cayman for some eight years, during which time he has had the opportunity to explore flavours from around the world.
His desire to keep food simple and delicious, and to utilise only the freshest ingredients marries perfectly with the concept of Anchor & Den’s tapas night.
“I love basic, rustic-style homemade fare,” Santiago explains. “Age-old recipes handed down through the generations I feel are among some of the tastiest, and I love exploring and elevating these types of dishes.”
He adds: “El Mercat – Nit de Tapes is one of my favourite nights here at Anchor & Den. The atmosphere, great food quality, and the opportunity for diners to try lots of small dishes all in one sitting makes for a great meal. Of course, there is also the phenomenal charcuterie and cheese, which is hugely popular with all of our guests.”
And, we are inclined to agree. With our bellies full and the night ending, we each head on home, promising to come back soon.
Visit http://www.anchorandden.com to find out more.