Interview with Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa, Manager of Passion by Martin Berasategui, Paradisus Palma Real, Dominican Republic

Before assuming her current role as the Manager of Passion, Melia in Punta Cana, Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa worked with Martin Berasategui for 7 years in managerial positions at Restaurante Enoteca, Hotel Art (2 Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona) and Restaurante Lasarte (2 Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona), and Restaurante Gaig (1 Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona).

Martin Berasategui winner of 7 Michelin stars, and for the last six years his restaurant San Sebastian, Spain has been listed as one of The World’s Top Fifty Restaurants.

I sat down with Meritxell to discuss everything from the restaurant Passion, to Chef Martin Berasategui, to glassware, and of course Champagne. Step into Meritxell’s world with me. 


Liz Palmer

I understand that Paradisus Resorts are responsible for bringing Martin Berasategu, the seven-star chef to the Caribbean two years ago. Can you tell me has it been a success?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

According to Trip Advisor, Passion is the number one restaurant in Punta Cana and the number two restaurant in all of the Dominican Republic – that tells us!

Liz Palmer

Has Passion won any recent awards?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

I’m very proud to say that we received four months ago the 4-Diamond Award by AAA.

Liz Palmer

What is Passion by Martín Berasategui’s signature dish?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

That’s funny that you ask thisthe signature dish at Passion and all of Martin’s restaurants Spain is Egg cooked at lower temperature with fine-herb liquid salad. People all over the world ask for this dish – it’s a very popular on the menu.

Liz Palmer

How often does Chef Berasategui come to the Dominican Republic to oversee his restaurant and brand?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

Martin comes three to four times a year to review the menu. His presence also impacts the selection of products, staff training and standard operating procedures.

One of Martin’s philosophies is that he works with local produce and fruits and meats. In the Dominican his menu and recipes are 50/50 50% Spanish and 50% Dominican influence.

When Martin changes a recipe he changes it gradually and slowly.

Every two to three months he changes two to three dishes.

One thing to note is that the chef is very flexible in changing the menu for customers that have food allergies and for strict vegetarians.

Liz Palmer

Tell me about the wine list, like who selects the wines?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

The wine list is developed by the head sommelier who works together with the chef and the tasting menu.

The specially selected wine pairings have been developed from three separate wine lists created exclusively for the restaurant.

Liz Palmer

Which stemware does Passion use?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

We use Stölzle from Germany, its innovative, excellent quality and lead-free for wine glasses – the various shapes and flutes. We also use their decanters.

It’s important that the team undergoes training and learns to understand the importance of each wine and food pairing.

Liz Palmer

Every year we see new and interesting restaurant trends develop. – What do you do to keep up and pushing the boundaries?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

It’s important to compare competitors and to learn what they do and how they do it.   It’s also good to travel to different countries and see and experience different cultures and bring this back home.

Liz Palmer

On a personal note – what is your favorite dish on the menu?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

I have a few favorites: the turbot fish, slow cooked veal with potato risotto

What is your favorite restaurant around the world?

I have two favorites: Restaurante Martín Berasategui, in Lasarte. This restaurant has maintained a three-star rating from Michelin since 2001, and El Celler de Can Roca is at heart a local family-owned restaurant rooted in the fiercely independent state of Catalonia and named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world

Liz Palmer

You have an opportunity to taste lots of interesting and unique wines. Do you have a preference for Champagne?

Meritxell Lecha Vinuesa

Yes absolutely – my favorites are: Bollinger ‘Grande Année, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, and Cristal Champagne and I do collect. 

TYPE OF CUISINE:

Berasategui has incorporated Caribbean flavors into his signature cuisine. Local seafood has a starring role. Dining a la carte or enjoy the full sampling menu with wine.

ATMOSPHERE:

Rich with design and colour – airy vaulted ceilings with whimsical lighting features and stunning art pieces.

OPENING TIMES:

This gastronomic experience serves dinner nightly or Private Parties

DRESS CODE:
Resort Elegant

Passion by Martin Berasategui is accessible to local residents and visitors.

 

Liz Palmer
Wine + Lifestyle Writer

Champagne is served…. A List of Champagnes Served in First + Business Class

first class champagneIf your 2015 travel plans include flights in First Class or Business Class on the following carriers, be sure to ask for that pre-departure flute of these fine pours:

Air France – Serves Taittinger in First Class and Champagne Deutz Brut Classic NV in Business Class

Aer Lingus – serves Jean Pernet Tradition Brut Champagne in Business Class

American Airlines – Champagne Demilly de Baere Carte d’Or Brut is found in First Class International and Gosset Brut is found in Business International 

British Airways – First Class passengers sip Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, Henriot Vintage Brut 2007, and Balfour Brut Rose. Club World passengers receive pours of Taittinger Brut Reserve

Cathay Pacific – Those upfront get to taste Krug Grand Cuvée and Business Class pours Billecart-Salmon Brut

Delta – Jacquart Brut Mosaïque is served up in Business Elite cabin

Emirates – First Class passengers sip Dom Pérignon and Business Class passengers are poured Moët & Chandon

Eva Air – This Taiwanese airline serves up Dom Pérignon to its Royal Laurel or Business Class passengers

Hainan Airlines – This Chinese airline won awards with their G.H. Mumm Brut NV poured in both First Class and Business Class

Japan Airlines – Serves 2002 Salon in First Class

KLM – Serves Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top

LAN – Premium Business enjoys LAN edition Louis Roederer Brut Premier, and occasionally Henriot Brut Reims

Lufthansa – Krug is served in First Class

Qantas – First Class serves up Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs and Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill, while Business Class to sip Billecart-Salmon Brut or Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Singapore Airlines – First Class has the option of two labels: Dom Pérignon and Krug Grande Cuvée. Business Class enjoys Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve or Bollinger

Swiss – Serves Duval-Leroy Brut NV in Business Class

United – First Class passengers are served Castelnau Blanc de Blancs and Business First can sip Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve

 

Note: Varies by route or destination

Air France’s La Première Cabin has Caviar and Champagne on its Menu for the Holiday Season

For the Christmas and New Year holiday season Air France will be offering passengers traveling in the La Première cabin some exceptional dishes to make their flight a refined experience. From December to January 2013 on flights departing from Paris, passengers will now be able to enjoy a unique appetizer, an individual ‘egg’ of Cavier Alverta Royal Eggxiting by Petrossian.

La Première passengers will also get to enjoy exclusive gourmet dishes by Jacques Le Divellec, a noted French chef and a member of the Servair Culinary Studio, with two of his own recipes; the fillet of turbot with clams and the seafood medley with shellfish sauce.

Along with caviar and seafood selections, the dessert menu is designed by Lenotre, and Oilvier Poussier has selected wine from various French regions, along with the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000.

L’appart Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit: Bond & Bollinger Champagne Dinner on Monday November 5th

Are you in Bangkok on November 5th at approximately 7 PM? If so attend L’appart’s Bollinger Champagne Dinner! This fabulous champagne dinner celebrates 50 years of James Bond.

Having a Parisian Haussmann-style design L’appart features a luxurious lounge, a library, a state-of-the-art open kitchen serving exquisite dishes and an outdoor terrace capturing panoramic views of Bangkok’s vibrant skyline.

Liz Palmer

Raffles Hotel celebrates 125 years with Champagne Sling

In celebration of its 125th year, the iconic Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, Singapore has created a new Champagne Sling called the ‘1887’.

Not your standard tipple, the 1887 is a subtle twist on the traditional sling with a base of Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve Champagne. The recipe for this high precision cocktail is a closely guarded secret, but its creator, Randolf Velasco, reveals that Gordons Gin, Cointreau and essence of orange, lemon and lime all play a key role.

The utterly indulgent anniversary sling is available from September exclusively at Raffles hotels worldwide, including Singapore, Raffles Beijing Hotel, Raffles Dubai and Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris.

It was 125 years ago in 1887 that Raffles Hotel first opened its doors and welcomed its first guests. Today, the hotel is virtually synonymous with Singapore, named after the city’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles.

Throughout the years, the glamorous guest list has read like a Who’s Who of business tycoons and adventurers, politicians and movie stars, authors and writers – all of whom fed in to the stories and legends, both fact and fiction, which have added to the mystic of the hotel ever since.

The Singapore Sling is one such legend. Invented in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon at Raffles Hotel, no visit to the city is complete without a stop in the fabled Long Bar to enjoy this great classic cocktail and – in the spirit of tradition – to toss a few peanut shells on the bar floor.

Liz Palmer
@champagnehouses