Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, Four Grove Isle Drive, Coconut Grove ** 

(305) 857-5007 www.groveisle.com

Chef Jeff O'Neill and the waterfront Gibraltar are a most welcome addition to Miami's restaurant scene.  Exquisitely crafted food, a welcoming bar, funky braseros  and a spectacular view.












by Simone Zarmati Diament
Following a recent multi-million dollar renovation, the Grove Isle Hotel and Spa, has opened the waterfront indoor/outdoor Gibraltar Restaurant where Baleen (and its ubiquitous monkeys) once stood.
When you get in past the receptionist - one day we waited for a hostess who didn't materialize - you will see that the monkeys are gone and so is the elaborate dining room. The restaurant is now sober, bright and comfortably classic with wide window overlooking Biscayne Bay and an outdoor space where you can dine around lit braseros.

This is the concept of Executive Chef Jeff O’Neill who was given free rein in the creation of the restaurant, from its name Gibraltar – “it connotes the famous rock of Gibraltar overlooking the sea, a cross road of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic,” he explained – to its cuisine.
Chef O’Neill comes to Miami after a stellar trajectory in New York in the kitchens of Daniel Boulud in New York where he was part of the opening team and where he worked for six years, of Le Bernardin, where he worked for three years under Chef Eric Ripert. He moved to Florida in 1998 to open L'Escalier at The Breakers in Palm Beach and most recently served for six seasons at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.

The menu - contemporary sea-food oriented cuisine – is based on the chef’s French training and the use of superlative ingredients: locally caught fish, seafood, organic poultry, prime meats, sustainable and organic vegetables and herbs.
For starters there's a varied and appetizing list of soups, salads, crudos and small plates ($8-$22), each surprising and delicious such as regional oysters napped with spiced mignonette;  mussels steamed in coconut-coriander broth with mint, tomato and lobster oil; local snapper crudo with minted mango, pink radish and crisp cassava chips.
Our soup was an unforgettably silky mandarin-scented carrot soup ($8) that became even silkier after it was poured over a quenelle of  mascarpone, with a bed of fresh green peas and crunchy pumpernickel croutons offering an interesting contrast("I learned the secret of simple but great soups with the two French chefs I worked with in New York, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert,” he said).

Not to be missed is the amazing  antipasto plate of prosciutto, Gongonzola and lardo ($16) for at least two people, with Savannah honeycomb, pickled onions and crips rye toast.

The pasta is homemade: roasted pumpkin tortellini ($9) with spiced pistachios, maple and sage and a splendid dish of deliciously fresh hand-rolled garganelli with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, fresh peas and Asiago cheese ($14 for appetizer and $22 for entrée).
I can't wait to return for the other appetizers. After all, there's so much one can try in a couple of visits!
Mains ($23-$39) include Florida striped bass with black olive faro, preserved lemon and sun dried tomato vinaigrette; sweet water trout with lemon-pine quinoa, tomato compote and shellfish sauce and a somehow bland soft-poached lemon sole with tomato escabeche , butter potatoes and fennel purée.
A masterful take on surf and turf: the black grouper and veal cheek – the latter slow-cooked for hours till it reaches its fork-tender consistency – with charred polenta, pea greens, mushrooms and Benedictine.
There are specialties like Hot smoked salmon loin with sweet corn beignets and dill clabber cream ($15) and a seasonal vegetable platter "from today's harvest" ($24).

Meat lovers can dig into an 8 or 14 ounce prime steak, a juicy and crispy skinned roasted organic chicken au jus, with spinach, bacon, mushrooms, potatoes and onions and smoked salmon loin in a mustard seed crust served with sweet corn beignets.
Sides ($6-$8) range from classics such as whipped potatoes with buttermilk to mushrooms roasted with shallots.
Desserts ($8-$9) are made by the chef, according to head waiter Sean O'neill ( yes, he is the chef's brother!) and they include key lime pie with a salted graham crust and fresh vanilla whipped cream, featured on Oprah in 2008; a decadent warm chocolate fudge brownie with a cooling coconut milk sorbet spiced with tarragon; a soft tasting lavender panna cotta with mango-basil chutney and sugar croutons which I hoped would be more of a revelation,  and a hearty and satisfying  home-style apple streusel with cinnamon cider sauce.
Chef Jeff O'Neill and the indoor/outdoor Gibraltar are a most welcome addition to Miami's restaurant scene with exquisitely crafted food, a waterfront bar, funky braseros and couches outdoor  and a spectacular view no one can ever tire of.    


Gibraltar, Coconut Grove

Address:  Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, Four Grove Isle Drive in Coconut Grove www.groveisle.com
Phone: 305) 857-5007
Cuisine: Contemporary sea-food, Mediterranean American
Ambiance: Casual and sophisticated
Wine: Excellent selection of boutique and international labels
Service: Excellent
Prices: Appetizers $8; entrees $16-$21
Credit cards: All 
Hours: daily
Breakfast: 7 a.m. to 11 a.m
Lunch: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday through Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6:30 p.m. to 11  p.m.
Sunday: brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.



0 #1 Guest 2010-04-06 15:39
Not too bad, but won't rush to return. The wait staff took 20 minutes to bring wine glasses and open a bottle I had brought from home. Wine list is good, but way overpriced. I saw a wine I had recently purchased for $79 that they were selling for $240! Corkage is above average at $25. I had braised ribs, a very generous portion, but too fatty. Rest of meal was very good, but not great. Also, they automatically add 20% gratuity (a little on the high side), which I paid, but I don't think the service was worthy of it. Also, $10 to park, they should validate parking at the hotel for Gibraltar diners.

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