by: Lydia Linton Pontius
Tucked away on a pretty little pedestrian street, Calle de Cordazon, just off of 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen is a gem of a bar and restaurant. They have three other locations in Cancun and Puerto Morelos that I look forward to trying. I had enjoyed cocktails in their bar on pasts visits and was impressed by the comfortable, cozy atmosphere.
This evening 16 of the women from the Women In Wellness Retreat started off shopping and all met up at John Gray's Place for dinner. We had made arrangements ahead of time the staff worked with us to create the perfect menu for our groups palates and wallets. The staff was attentive and creative in meeting our needs.
I arrived early, opted to meet with the staff instead of shop. I was glad I did because it gave me an opportunity to talk about future plans that John Gray has and events such as his appearance in the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Perrier-Jouet Champagne Bubble Q. I sat across the street in the pub Gray’s newest endeavor, a bar/lounge, The Den at John Gray’s Place and talked and enjoyed a watermellon infused martini and had the opportunity to sample their newest personalized pizza with shrimp.
Once our group started gathering I joined them in the main dining room. The setting is elegant and comfortable with woods, leathers and mirrors. The simplicity is stylish and makes you feel at home. The service is impeccable, attentive without being over done. There is a smaller bar located in John Gray's Place, an extensive wine cellar and open kitchen.
I started with a glass of John Gray’s Private Barrel Selection 2008: El Corazon. The Zinfandel, Syrah, Petit Sirah, and Grenache blend was created in collaboration with restaurateur/chef John Gray and renowned negociant-eleveur MariaTinto owner and Humberto Falcón. . It was wonderful; a great wine that pairs well with all types of food. It is a blend of reds that goes as well with seafood as it does with beef.
For our first course the group had a choice between, spicy shrimp cocktail, iceberg lettuce with bacon and blue cheese or tuna carpaccio with wasabi cream and sweet soy. I opted for the Tuna carpaccio and it was without question one of the best I have ever eaten. The first course was enhanced with an herb bread served with extra virgin olive oil.
For our main course the choices were penne pasta with tomatoes, garlic and basil in a light cream sauce, peppered salmon with crispy potatoes, lemon, basil and sauteed spinach or grilled chicken breast with black olive mashed potatoes. The latter is one of John Gray's signature dishes, for that reason I chose that and was very pleased with the tenderness and juiciness of the chicken. It was full of flavor and simply melted in your mouth.
Desert was the highlight. One of the ladies was celebrating her 70th birthday and we surprised her with a white and dark chocolate mousse cake with warm berry mix and a candle. She was delighted and raved about the flavor. I chose one of my childhood favorites, chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. It was divine, moist and chewy, just the way I love it. We all ordered different deserts so we could have the opportunity to sample them. I would have to say a very close second was the banana bread with lavender honey. The coffee crème brulee and flan were equal crowd pleasers.
Many of us ended the evening with cappuccino, espressos or coffees, as the atmosphere lent itself to laughter and great conversation. It was comfortable and elegant and we all felt right at home.
I would highly recommend John Gray's Place for your group and would also consider it top on my list for a romantic evening for two. If the evening is a special one this will surely make it even more memorable.