Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cafe Marquesa

Cafe Marquesa is one of the best restaurants in Key West, two blocks from Duval Street: a locals' restaurant.  Its website claims to be Zagat's highest rated restaurant in Key West.  We ate there in January 2013, with my mum and dad, and here is what we thought.

On the plus side:
  • the most beautifully and carefully presented food of all the restaurants I've eaten at in Key West - as you can see from my pictures below
  • good food
  • good service
  • At least on the evening we visited, the whole restaurant seemed full of locals!  Specifically, many power ladies.  It seemed like the top of Key West society was here!  And locals must know a thing or two about were to eat.
On the down side:
  • It's soooo noisy! It's a small dining room which they CRAM (and I mean cram) full of tables.  You need to squeeze by chairs to get to the restroom.  Because of the density of fellow diners and also the poor acoustics (they do nothing to dampen the noise, no soft furnishings etc) it is such a din!  I though it was just me, but my mum commented on it as well, several times.  It was so noticeable that it spoilt the experience, a bit.
  • The food or service or martinis were all good, but not exceptional.
The place
The Cafe (=Restaurant) is located as part of the main Marquesa Hotel, an old and impressive building.  The hotel is a very good one.

The hotel and restaurant complex is situated 2 blocks from Duval Street, on the intersection of Fleming and Simonton Streets.  You can't miss it, it's the aquamarine building dominating the corner.

The dining room is immaculate and laid out perfectly with white linens. But, as I already said, the tables are crammed in and very close together. Even though it's candlelit, I would not recommend this an an intimate dinner for 2 location.

Cafe Marquesa's martini menu.  Some very interesting options here.  

Onto the food.  Beautifully presented and very nice.

Oops, another cocktail.

The dessert looked great but was not as tasty as it looked.
The verdict
Nothing wrong here - it's a very well run restaurant with good food.  Good service.  But it's like dining in an upmarket place in New York - all dark and minimalist.   Not at all "Key West different". (For that, see here).

The main downside was the noise - it was like trying to have a conversation in the middle of the New York Stock Exchange (ok, I exaggerate but it was a real problem).

It's also expensive, not more than other top places, but on a par.  So there is nothing special to make me want to come back here.

For my choice of the very best Key West restaurants - click here.