Benahavís has fast become one of the Coast’s gastronomic havens, with its reputable cooking school and select list of restaurants offering excellent cuisine at affordable prices.
When it comes to experiencing the very best this scenic area of the Coast has to offer, though, it’s got to be Hills Café, part of the Benahavis Hills Country Club, yet open to all diners.
The restaurant boasts two features that few others can compete with: one is the panoramic view of the rolling hills and sparkling Mediterranean, very much symbolic of the unique nature of life in Benahavís – so close to the hustle and bustle of Marbella yet firmly entrenched within the verdant beauty of the natural surrounds.
The second magical ingredient is the Chef – Jean Francois Job, who obtained a Michelin star at his restaurant on the Côte d’Azur and who has worked alongside Alain Ducasse and Roger Verge (both of whose restaurants boast three Michelin stars).
Jean Francois was a lucky find for the restaurant; “My daughter lives on the Coast, as does my grandchild,” he smiles, telling me he is also appreciative of the relatively slower pace in Southern Spain. Hills Café is open for breakfast and lunch, enabling the seaoned Chef to have something few other successful chefs can claim: excellent quality of life, and time for his loved ones.
Jean Francois is passionate about Asian food and his cuisine reveals Oriental as well as Belgian influences. The menu at Hills Café is select and includes generous salads and sandwiches, as well as daily specials, which Jean Francois changes according to the produce available.
Worthy of mention is the fact that the restaurant offers an affordable set menu (€19,50 for a three-course meal or €15,50 for a main and starter) from Tuesday to Friday (the restaurant closes on Mondays). On Saturday, diners can tuck into a hearty Indonesian Rijsttafel (‘Rice table’), featuring a host of dishes accompanied by rice prepared in different ways. Sunday lunches, meanwhile, comprise a three-course roast, with all your favourite trimmings and sides.
Ordering was an easy ‘task’ for me; a fan of crisp bacon, I opted for the stilton and bacon salad, fresh, salty and cheesy all at once and perfect in size to serve as an entrée. My companion opted for a healthy bowl of vegetable soup – creamy and hearty, ideal on a cool, pre-Spring day.
My main dish was a beautifully fresh, grilled fillet of sea bass, served with stir fried noodles, bearing all the sweet and tangy goodness of this classic Asian dish. A beautifully sweet tomato and basil sauce was gently ‘painted’ alongside the fish, complementing it to perfection. We also ordered the Argentinian entrecôte, flavourful and tender, served with fresh herbs and oil, as well as a salad and – of course – crisp, hand-cut chips, fried Belgian-style.
While I normally try to watch my waistline by passing on dessert, the magnificent view and the proximity of our tables to the deep blue of the Country Club’s pool, made it seem almost sinful to deprive ourselves of a sweet end to our meal. We shared a tarte tatin, bearing plump, golden bites of apple, which we dipped into freshly whipped cream and enjoyed alongside the freshly cut strawberries and raspberries.
Benahavis Country Club is part of the Benahavis Hills urbanisation; a select collection of luxurious villas and townhouses. All homeowners enjoy automatic membership of the Country Club, though external clients can also purchase single or family memberships (for one, three, six, or 12 months).
Those simply wishing to experience a day at the Club can obtain a day pass, enjoying a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool or de-stressing at the beautiful spa, which boasts a circuit pool, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and relaxation area, as well as a gym (featuring Cybex equipment) with treatments and personal training available on appointment.
Of course, if you are simply after a lovely meal with a view to die for, no day pass is needed; just head straight to Hills Café, sip on a cool glass of wine and remind yourself that once in a while, body, mind and spirit deserve a fantastic meal in the midst of beautiful natural surrounds.
Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography Kevin Horn
Sector la Coja, s/n, Benahavís. Tel: 952 856 171.