The great Audrey Hepburn once noted that people and things alike “have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed,” an idea that very much sums up the recent restyling of what is a veritable icon on the Coast, the Kempinski Hotel Bahía in Estepona.
The new look, dreamed up in collaboration with the visionary Zsidai Group (who manage a selection of hotels and dining venues, including Jamie’s Italian Budapest and Jamie’s Italian Vienna), proffers a new appeal for the international traveller. Openness, communication and a fresh dynamism abound in the new spaces.
The lobby design by architects Akos Bara reveals a complete break with the past. The central reception area has been toned an inviting blue, and the reception desk, once at one end of the hall, is now more centrally located. Breezy exotic palms grace the front of the desk while the carpets bear cool blue imagery of world maps, a nod to the joy of travel and discovery.
The concierge desk, ensconced beneath a vertiginous dome which invites natural light to percolate through open circular lamps, is graced with a soaring library with aged books that transport the mind to a setting one might find in a J.K. Rowling novel.
There are little nooks where you can enjoy a cocktail or chat, even if you aren’t a hotel guest. Take the Moroccan inspired lounge by the new Black Rose The Bar, which turns the lobby into a hub of social interaction, adding a splash of life to what was once an elegant, yet more stately ambience.
Black Rose The Bar is one of the three spaces that make up El Paseo Del Mar, which also comprises two new dining venues: the poolside Baltazár Bar & Grill, and Spiler Beach Club on the seafront, tempting diners with wood-fired artisan pizza, Argentinean grilled steaks, salads and burgers – perfect after a day out on the beach.
We recently sampled the food at Baltazár Bar & Grill, whose design exudes modernity, charm, and a cosy family feel. Warm wooden furniture is married to emerald hued columns, while rows of ceiling lamps are livened up with designer lighting features for an eclectic, upbeat look.
There is a sizeable open kitchen where the Chefs vibrantly chop and sautée away and the furniture is comfortable, with leather booths and wooden tables and chairs forming an exotic haven that overlooks the aquamarine pool and the sea. At the entrance to the restaurant is a wall installation of an elephant with wings, which seemingly guards over an impressive bodega with select wines from all over the world.
Baltazár Bar & Grill is, as its name would suggest, a brasserie. An ideal setting for a hearty dinner with family, business associates, or friends, it serves a wide array of international dishes, including burgers, salads, steaks, and fish and seafood.
My dining companions and I shared various starters, including a roasted pumpkin salad with goats cheese, lentils, and toasted seeds, creamy burrata with heirloom tomatoes, crispy capers and rocket, and a hearty tiger prawn pil pil with garlic and chili – classics that definitely hit the spot.
Another starter saw Chef, Santiago Guerrero, take a tried-and-tested Peruvian favourite (ceviche) and add his personal touch, with a dish comprising sliced fillets of seabass served with avocado, lime, and spring onion. We accompanied the fish with a refreshing Finca La Colina Sauvignon Blanc, elegant yet expressive on the palate with a delightful fruitiness. The hotel also offers an impressive range of refreshing cocktails.
Baltazár Bar & Grill boasts its own Josper Grill and Tandoor oven and, as a lover of traditional Indian cooking methods, I couldn’t resist the seabass, cooked Tandoor style for just four minutes. One dining companion chose the aged ribeye steak, also cooked in the Tandoor, which despite being a completely smoke-free way of cooking bears a texture and flavour similar to that produced by a grill.
Others at our table chose a variety of burgers, including the Baltazár Burger, a towering feast layered with aged cheddar and crispy pancetta. One companion with a big appetite went for the surf & turf, featuring a 250gr Galician beef fillet and half a grilled lobster – a real treat that couldn’t be more fitting when dining with a view to the Mediterranean.
A meal at a beautiful brasserie such as this wouldn’t be the same without a traditional dessert, so we enjoyed three: a piping hot chocolate volcano, cheesecake, and of course, a lemon meringue pie, all of which were sinful yet necessary.
El Paseo del Mar is already rearing up to be an ‘it’ social site in the spring/summer season, with its swish new bar and dining venues. Baltazár was definitely an inviting, comfy venue with a wide range of dishes that hit the spot. We look forward to our upcoming experience at Spiler Beachclub, listening to the waves crash while we enjoy fresh bounties from the sea.
Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography the Kempinksi Hotel Bahía
At the Kempinski Hotel Bahía, Estepona. Tel: 952 809 500