It is fitting that an establishment as prestigious as L’Olive restaurant at La Reserva Club in Sotogrande, should have a La Línea-born chef at its helm.

Cristina Gutiérrez has honed her craft in prestigious establishments in the North of Spain under the guiding hand of chefs like Enrique Martínez of Michelin-starred establishment, Maher, in Cintruénigo, Navarra, and highly lauded chef and celebrity, Sergi Arola.

She may have impressed culinary greats and shone in the kitchens of the Palacio de Congresos de Navarra, but she has always had one wish: to bring all the knowledge and experienced she had gleaned back home.

When asked to describe her culinary philosophy, Cristina says that the use of local products is the key: “We obtain as much fish as we can from the Bay. We are constantly on the lookout for local producers, and only source our meat from northern suppliers owing to its exquisite quality.”

Cristina is equally passionate about presentation. A glance through her phone gallery reveals a plethora of colourful creations made with great detail. Sea urchin foam, violet crunch, and salt flower are just a few ingredients that make each dish a work of art… delicate and beautiful but somehow tempting enough to ‘demolish’ through consumption. These are dishes that appeal to almost all of the senses and taste always wins out.

L’Olive is open for breakfast and lunch. Since the Club is home to an 18-hole golf course as well as a brand new beach club, it is only logical that many visitors should seek to start the day early, with a ‘breakfast of champions’ or a healthy breakfast that is light yet nutritious.

Lunch is the time of day when Cristina and her team really get a chance to show off their talents. “Our cuisine has southern essences, jazzed up with world flavours from countries like Peru or Mexico,” she says.

One technique that is big at L’Olive is cooking with a Josper charcoal oven. “We use woods such as oak to lend dishes a beautiful woody, smoky flavour.” Indeed, one of the restaurant’s star dishes is the Josper-grilled octopus, served with a classic Peruvian ají sauce.

Another is the borriquete (a local blue fish), whose skin is torched to a golden crispiness, served with a refreshing Japanese sauce comprising soy sauce, rice vinegar and lime – a true flavour extravaganza. Then there is the braised monkfish salad, served with lobster-infused oil and mango: a true homage to the rich Mediterranean gastronomic tradition.

Meat lovers take note; the steak is sourced from Galicia (from a cross of the rubia gallega and Frison breeds), and is matured for over 50 days – the result is a refined taste and a welcome tenderness.

Cristina and her team change the menu three times a year. “We do so in the summer, autumn, and winter.” This month, enjoy refreshing dishes such as the Andalusian salmorejo (served with tuna belly and quail egg), a cold melon soup, or a cherry gazpacho; allow yourself to be surprised!

When asked to define the very best thing about her job, Cristina answers: “Having had the chance to assemble such an amazing team. The chefs in my group are young, keen to build something great, and full of energy.”

Cristina is also delighted to work in an ambience where creativity is encouraged. “Mr. Topiol (CEO of La Reserva Sotogrande) supports our concept and believes in growth and investment, making L’Olive an ideal environment in which to work.”

Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography Kevin Horn

Avda. La Reserva s/n, Sotogrande. Tel: 956 785 252.