My love as usual, seventeen steps ahead, found that chef Martin Berasategui, a spanish chef of many hats and several restaurants has opened a restaurant Tempo right here in this resort. Now the most amazing thing is the price of things in Mexico. Despite having all you can eat and drink tickets to this resort, with a three michelin star restaurant offering alacarte options at around $22 a main and a tasting menu for around $45 or $70 with a wine paring, why would you line up at restaurant ordinaire?
After our first time at Tempo and enjoying the most exquisite tasting menu, repeat visits are a no brainer and we experiment with alacarte options as well as opting for more than one go at the tasting menu.
After a first mini faux pas, where my love arrived wearing an elegant but tropical, open toe shoe, (due to the extraordinary humidity and the very casual, wear your sarong vibe of the rest of the resort) and was asked to rectify his attire before he could be admitted; we formed a strong familial bond with the staff. Our Sommelier Carlos and waiter Ruben were there to look after us each time we came for dinner and remembered our preferences and what we had already tried. They went out of their way to make each visit different and special.
So much so that on our last evening, after several previous visits to Tempo we were most surprised to be led into the exclusive private dining room, a room separate from the rest of the restaurant with a beautiful long table set just for us, glowing with candles and surrounded by racks of the very special wine collection. Wow! I was wondering if the president of Mexico was going to join us for dinner.
Ruben had been our waiter since our first night and he was just gorgeous. I had been mesmerised from the first night by the fantastic colourful sculptures called Alebrijes on every table. Alebrijes are Mexican folk art sculptures of brightly coloured fantastical imaginary animals. They were first born from the fevered lucid dreams of Pedro Linares in the 1930’s. Pedro, desperately ill, dreamt of strange colourful hybrid animals; a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head. When he recovered he still held those fantastical creatures in his mind and he set about creating them out of papier mache. Old Pedro’s imaginings have become an inspiration for folk artists who now carve stunningly intricate creatures from wood and decorate them in vibrant exciting colours.
I couldn’t help myself, I found that the magical little creations drew me in. On our table was a deer with delicate horns and beautiful wings. I quizzed Ruben, expressing my fascination with these creatures. Before I knew it Ruben had made his way around the restaurant gathering up every sculpture from every other table so I could explore the whole Alebrijes zoo, i just loved it. I really wanted to buy them all, but with the more delicate creations I could not imagine being able to get them home unscathed. I chose a gorgeous wide eyed, blue and orange owl. Ruben had him wrapped carefully and he now sits in pride of place in my sitting room, amongst not dissimilar (but not so colourful) fantasy creatures that my children once made from clay. Tonight Ruben again brought several Alebrijes for me to enjoy. I think he knew I wouldn’t buy any more but that I loved them so. I felt very special and cared for. Our Ruben I felt, was very tuned in.
Tonight we had opted for the tasting menu again and the kitchen knowing it was not our first time had personalised it, changed it up so that we would have a new refreshing menu. We sipped champagne and chatted with Ruben, my love talked to him about food and wine and it was clear that he was very passionate about it. Chatting about champagne the subject soon moved to French food. Ruben asked if we had been and was terribly keen to hear about it. I felt a little sad when we asked him if he had been or would like to go and in no uncertain terms he said “no that would never be possible, it is too much money”. Such passion for food and yet limited in his potential to explore it by circumstances. Mexican wages are incredibly low. For the price of a couple of cups of coffee you could have a mexican worker for a 10 hour day. Unbelievable! I decide then and there that when I win the lottery I’m going to come back and find Ruben and take him to France.
A lovely series of little tasty bites begin our evening as we move through the amuse bouches and appetizers. There were no repeats of things we had tasted previously so Chef must have been creating little special treats just for us.
Slightly Warm Pickled Oyster with Iced Cucumber and Txakoli (a spanish sparkling wine) with Spicy Apple Foam is our first dish as such. Pretty plating is only the start, the little morsel is a whole journey in just one bite. A little cloud of appley foam gives way to a slightly warm, salty, deeply flavoured oyster juxtaposed against icy clean crisp cucumber granita. A stunning and clever combination of flavours and textures.
A beautiful white plate with neat little squares placed carefully around an egg yolk is placed before us. Rubin pours a rich green liquid onto the plate and we taste. The dish, “Truffled Egg Yolk Cover with Basque Carpaccio and Liquid Herbs Salad with Idiazabal Cheese”. Such simplicity of ingredients, yet the combination is divine. As my knife drags through the truffled egg yolk the rich yellow bursts across the bright green liquid herbs, I just love the visual excitement of it. Scooped up with a square of the carpaccio, the flavor is incredible. Then with the cheese, the firm dry and ever so slightly smoky cheese is somehow ever more celebrated by the lively freshness of the liquid herbs and the earthy creaminess of the truffled yolk. Mmm… happy…..
The colours of our next plate pop! Orange purple and pink are lifted by sweeps of black against the white canvas of the plate. Shiney white spheres of horseradish cream dotted across the plate are the perfect highlights. Black Garlic Beet Ceviche, Marinated Salmon in Nori and Horseradish Cream is a dish that feels artistically visually exciting. A collection of contrasting colours so pretty. The stark contrast of colour disappeared as the flavours of this dish combine in my mouth. The garlic sweet, earthy beets, the saltiness of the nori and creamy heat of the horseradish are such a gorgeous framework for the silky morsels of salmon.
The next plate is my kind of weird. Infusion and Diced Melon with Raw Salad,
Marine Caviar And Melon Sorbet. So is it dessert or is it a savory course? I think it the perfect balance of natural sweetness and saltiness, refreshing and invigorating all at once.
A simple black plate is set before us, a flat, matt disc of clay decorated with a few simple ingredients. Grilled Butterfish over Truffled Spinach, Crab Gelatin and Foamed Champagne. The flavours here are gorgeous, delicate, clean, clearly distinguishable flavours that celebrate each individual ingredient but combined lift the dish to a whole nother level.
I just love the unexpected and the next plate visually has me thinking dessert. But no it’s actually “Grilled Lamb Truffled Tubers Liquids, Pickled Cucumber in White Vinegar and Its Own Juice with Olives” The lamb is tender juicy and gorgeous and the plate is a very pretty composition. Such fun!
And now the real dessert! “Pistils of Saffron Veil with a Soft Citrus
Biscuit and Ice Cream Tea Flowers”. A simple refreshing dessert, cold delicious ice cream lightly swished with a fine elegant saffron sauce and zippy crispy biscuit on the side. This is a dish that works so well for me I just love the little tart notes.
And to bring it home “Frost Sour Cream Chocolate and Lemon Thyme Salt on Crispy Quinoa, Volcanic Rock and Mint Sphere”. The plate is just beautiful, the white porcelain canvas, smooth and shiney is scattered precisely with each element, the colours of purple flowers, bright lime green micro herbs and rich chocolate brown. A beautiful composition and equally beautiful combination of flavours.
Ahhhhh so so very good and so very very satisfied.
Ruben brings Petits – Fours to complete our meal and Carlos makes sure we are well lubricated with dessert wine to wrap up a wonderful last evening here in Cancun. Tomorrow we leave Mexico and head back to America to start the final leg of this amazing adventure. I am feeling quite emotional. I didn’t expect to feel this way on this part of the trip, it’s like we have been welcomed in and made part of the family here at Tempo. I hope Chef Martin realises just what he’s got in his crew here. Great food is one thing but delivered with such loving respect lifts everything.
Happy sad is an an emotion I know well. I am a crier, my mum was a crier and my grandmother was a crier. Happy tears we call them, those silly wet things that flood out especially when we actually feel deeply happy. We say a happy sad farewell to Rubin, Carlos and Tempo and head back to our room to sleep off magic food and wine.