Wednesday 9 September 2015

Mexico Review part 4 - Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita hotel

Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita, Riviera Maya, Mexico

This hotel is one of the Leading Hotels of the World group which says it all. We transferred here from a hotel we really didn't like and it was bliss. With parrots.
and from the moment we walked in the door, it was paradise. Polite and attentive staff, everything from the pool chairs to the lobby looks good quality and best of all they have resident parrots! There are a couple of pairs of parrots which don’t mind you coming up to them to take a photo, then a single female who rather likes the men. We saw a guy giving her high-fives and my boyfriend did the same and she took hold of his hand, walked up his arm and sat on his shoulder, which was brilliant…until we realised she didn’t want to get off and we had to ask a member of staff for help! My boyfriend wasn’t thrilled but I got some great photos. After a couple of days I also got her to stand on my arm which was good because apparently she doesn’t like women!
We had the most basic room the hotel offered and it was still amazing. It was overlooking the beach, and our balcony was huge, it had two big day beds which were so comfortable we could just lay there and look at the sea and sunbathe. There was a bottle of champagne and also a bottle of tequila waiting in our room, or rather in the living room as we had a separate  bedroom (and the marble bathroom was amazing). We were only here three nights and I didn’t want to leave!
I didn’t go in the sea here as there was a lot of seaweed, more than I’ve ever seen in fact, but the pool is great so I didn’t mind. In the morning I saw towels on every sun bed which made me think they were all taken so I would have to sit on the sandy beach but when I asked a passing member of staff where I got the towels from, he explained that they are all put out on the loungers already, and the ones that were still rolled up weren’t taken yet. So I got myself a lounger, not under an umbrella, but shortly after another member of staff came over and asked if I would like an umbrella and went to get me one. They are also very good at bringing drinks which you are allowed to drink in the pool in plastic glasses. And their cocktails are to die for!
They offer two free excursions, a sunset boat trip and a boat ride to the next village for a shopping trip. There are only 8 places on each which run once a day so you have to sign up as soon as you arrive. As we were only staying for three days they were fully booked but said often people don’t turn up so if we came and waited we might be lucky. In fact we were able to go on the shopping trip, but I’m not sure to what extent it was worth it. The boat ride took 40 minutes, and it was quite fun at first – we were all allowed to have a go at steering and have our photo taken – but by the end I felt quite seasick so we got a taxi back! The village is really small with just a few shops around a main square. We had been told we only had an hour before we had to come back to the boat which I thought wouldn’t be enough time but actually it was plenty as all we did was buy a couple of postcards and some tequila from a little supermarket (which was a lot cheaper than airport prices). We decided to get a taxi back to the hotel because I didn’t think I could face the boat again!
On our first day we had lunch at the Kaax Grill restaurant and I had grouper ceviche to start which was amazing, and then prawn tacos for my main course, which was quite a small portion though the prawns themselves (three) were huge. They were in a beer batter though and the beer taste was a bit strong for my liking.

My boyfriend had a grilled chicken sandwich with chips which he really enjoyed. I asked the waiter if I could have a non-alcoholic cocktail and he made a few suggestions and made me something amazing with mango. At the beginning of our meal the waiter had said he would bring nachos and salsa and to watch out for the salsa as it was hot and by the end of the meal we realised he had forgotten to bring it!
We went to the grill restaurant for dinner, and sat outside; we were seated on the end of a long table – even though there was at least one table for two available – then when a group of four came in later they were seated next to us on the same table. The waiter never came to take our drinks order so we just had water. We both ordered the steak; we had had some very poor quality fatty steaks on our travels around the Yucatan peninsula and assumed this would be much better but in fact again it was very fatty and we couldn’t eat a lot of it. It came with some roasted peppers and onion and only one potato wedge each so the whole thing really wasn’t very filling.

We were still hungry and quite disappointed so decided to go back to our room and order room service, since it’s all inclusive and we didn’t have to pay! We both wanted pizza and I wasn’t sure whether to get one each or share but ordered one each, and I’m glad I did as they were tiny! We also had the chocolate cake to follow (we really hadn’t eaten much in the restaurant) which was a surprisingly big slice and delicious.
For breakfast in the Kaax restaurant there is both  a menu and a buffet. On the first day we didn’t realise there was a menu so helped ourselves from the buffet; there was a good selection with some really nice eggs in a slightly spicy chipotle sauce, lots of bread and pastries, fruit etc.

On the second day we sat down and had waiter service; the eggs were so good yesterday I chose them from the menu and this time they came on a muffin like eggs benedict, with the same delicious sauce over the top.

On our third and final day for breakfast I chose a salmon bagel.

The maids leave a newsletter every day with all sorts of information including a schedule of activities like yoga classes and the boat trips and so on. The first activity I decided to do was ‘cigar rolling’ and I watched a guy set up his stand by the pool; myself and another guest went over to watch. The other guest liked to smoke cigars (I don’t even smoke cigarettes) so the man quickly realised I wasn’t going to buy anything so he spent time explaining to the other guest about the different kinds of cigars he had and the prices. He did show us some tobacco leaves but didn’t do any rolling and just seemed to be there to sell cigars so in the end I went away. The next day however I did a cocktail masterclass which was far better – I’m going to review that separately and share the recipe I learnt.
The hotel does afternoon tea between 5 and 6 with a selection of teas and little cakes which was lovely (and I couldn’t get over the fact that we didn’t have to pay for anything, as I’ve never done all inclusive before!).

We were given $200 of vouchers to spend in the hotel when we arrived but didn’t use them at all – you can use $10 a time on a bottle of wine in a restaurant (but since the house wine is free I was happy with that) and only $40 a time in the spa and given most of the spa treatments cost about $200 I wasn’t exactly tempted!
We had lunch in the pool bar on our second day; the menu there is mainly pizzas and a burger. We both decided to have the burger and were asked how we wanted it cooked and if we wanted cheese with it; it then came with a single potato wedge like our meal last night. I don’t know why they think a portion of potato wedges consists of one, or maybe it was more of a garnish? The burger was extremely good but by now my boyfriend was really craving chips!
The second time we had lunch here, I ordered for both of us as my boyfriend had gone to get something from the room, and I asked if he could have chips with his burger. The waiter said it was the other restaurant that did the chips so I said not to worry but then when the food came he had managed to get a portion of chips so my boyfriend was very happy. Unfortunately his food arrived ten minutes after I had actually finished eating mine even though I ordered both at the same time! I had a pizza; they are pretty small but tasty, and I wanted the seafood pizza without octopus (yuk) and was a bit worried they would misunderstand but it was just what I wanted.

On our second night we had dinner at the posh restaurant; they do have a dress code but as long as you are smart that’s OK (eg my boyfriend had a polo shirt with a collar and was worried he needed an actual shirt but it was fine). It was a very nice restaurant with good service and a guy playing the violin inside. In fact another day there was a harpist at breakfast!
I had a starter that was described as “watermelon salad, celery cloud, goat’s cheese ice cream”. It was a round disc of watermelon, a sort of celery mousse (which I didn’t like at all) and the goat’s cheese ice cream was interesting because it was so unusual. For my main course I had duck breast with foie gras risotto and shallot confit which was delicious. My boyfriend had steak again, as he’s very fussy and there wasn’t anything else on the menu he liked. It was a thick piece of steak with no fat (finally after two weeks, a decent, edible steak!) though he said it still wasn’t the same quality as a good steak restaurant in London. And of course it still didn’t come with chips. For dessert we both had a chocolate sabayon with salted caramel sauce that was amazing.

The bar in the library is great; I had a chocolate martini one evening and asked the barman (I think his name was Tico) who the people in the photos were and he went round (there was nobody else in the bar) pointing out each person, some were the family of the hotel owner and there were various celebrities who had stayed there. Another day one of the activities listed was cocktail making in the library; after the cigar rolling I didn’t have high hopes and thought it would be a demonstration at best. There were 8 of us standing along the bar and perhaps because I had been speaking to him last night, Tico chose me to come behind the bar and I made quite an elaborate cocktail (with his help) for 8 people!

It was really fun and we each got a turn – a few people were in the same group and after one of them had made a cocktail the rest of them drifted off but I ended up drinking four cocktails over an hour and a half plus doing a shot of tequila – Tico had been a tequila taster before working here! It was brilliant fun and I really enjoyed chatting to the other guests including a lovely young couple on their honeymoon. If you get the chance to do the cocktail making then make sure you do, and say hi to Tico in the library bar!

On our last night we had dinner at Kaax which had a different menu to lunchtime but as my boyfriend is so fussy there wasn’t much he liked again so he had another steak, which once again was thin and fatty and was served with some lumpy mashed potato. I was confused by something on the menu called ‘rock Cornish’ which was chicken – apparently Americans would be familiar with that term but I’d never heard it before. One item on the menu was ‘mixed grill’ and the waiter said I could choose any two of the other dishes on the menu so I had the chicken and the prime rib. The chicken was quite nice but three quarters of my steak was absolutely inedible, it was nothing but fat. In the UK a restaurant just wouldn’t serve you a steak like that in the first place.
Overall though we had an amazing time at this hotel – I keep wishing I was back on our balcony overlooking the sea with a glass of champagne in my hand. The staff were wonderful and the parrots a real highlight too!

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