A corner of Galicia in Marbella… that is the catchphrase of Vila do Grove restaurant, and it describes perfectly what a client who appreciates quality will find in this establishment located opposite Puerto Banús and very close to the Casino. So much of a Galician aroma infuses this restaurant, founded in 1999, that even the wood, granite and slate that form part of its structure and décor were transported from Galicia at the express wish of its founder – who also brought a stonemason from his native lands to carve the columns on the establishment’s façade.
Current manager Alejandro García Peláez explains how the business developed. "It was the dream of my father-in-law, Jaime, who wanted to set up something representative of what truly is a Galician restaurant, inspired by stately country homes and bringing products from there."
“The idea here is to offer a representation of all Galician cuisine, and I say all because it covers everything from shoulder of pork with rapini to seafood that is still alive in the fish tank and cooked on demand by clients, including special varieties of clams which I believe nobody else offers here in Marbella, “buey del mar”, “centollo” and “nécora” crabs, depending on the season, and then fish, which is brought from there, for example, hake, monkfish and wild turbot – each piece more than four kilograms if possible.
According to García-Peláez, the most popular dishes on Vila do Grove’s extensive menu include fish dishes such as turbot, hake and sole. "In addition to grilled sole," he says, "we prepare sole in an Albariño sauce that is widely enjoyed by both Spaniards and foreigners."
Barnacles, adds Alejandro, are a relatively unknown product among the foreign clientele, although when they do try them they start to love them as much as the Spaniards. "Even when they ask for them," he explains, "you have to teach them how to eat them, because they don’t even know how to pick them up."
When it comes to meats, as to be expected, Vila do Grove restaurant mainly uses beef from the Galician “Rubia Gallega” breed. "We've been doing this since we opened. We have always worked with slaughterhouses and suppliers from Galicia who select the cattle. It is very important for them to select the right cattle, in the first place because it is rare that they are stabled – perhaps part of the day in stables but the rest of the time out grazing – and in the final phase of their lives they have prolonged fattening with corn and cereal grains, and that gives the meat its special aroma and flavour. Dishes offered by the restaurant include sirloin, ‘Rubia Gallega’ loin of fillet steak and T-bone steak, which for me is the ultimate culmination of flavours for that breed of cattle.”
As for desserts, all are made in the restaurant and one of the most typical is “filloa”, a kind of pancake usually served filled with custard, "of course made here", or alternatively made with “orujo” (grape liqueur), which is flambéd in front of the client. Queimada, a famous Galician liquor that is prepared with fire, is offered at a client’s specific request. "If a table asks for it, we seek out my father-in-law, who carries out the ritual.”
The restaurant cellar has no shortage of the best-known Albariños and Ribeiros, as well as other Galician wines that are beginning to gain renown such as Mencía reds and Godello whites.
Vila do Grove is open every day except Sunday, from 1pm to 4pm and 7pm to 12 midnight. It has capacity for more than 120 diners between its two floors. The restaurant also has an accompanying facet as a tavern with cold and hot tapas. "These include Russian-style salad, pickled mussels and anchovies in vinegar, all made here, a spectacular potato omelette (‘tortilla’) which is what most people ask for at the bar ... and among hot dishes we have just about everything and it is constantly changing.
"For me, the most important thing is that we bring the best products here and we aim to do things with all the love in the world, because Galician cuisine doesn’t hide anything – no sauces – so we have to do it well, for fish, meat and seafood: the product and that’s it. As I say to the maître, Daniel, we sell food here but we give happiness, and that's what we want: that people are really happy."