Villa Mercedes sits overlooking the stunning marina in San Antonio, a converted villa, it offers much more than an amazing view for a night out. The venue itself is surrounded by beautiful gardens where diners can enjoy top quality food al fresco and where, every Friday, they erect a stage in the corner of the garden and host island favourite Paco Fernandez, who pops in and plays for a few hours as part of the Villa Mercedes Live series.
We popped in to get a taste of the restaurant in full flow as they get set for another Friday night performance. The soft lighting really gives the restaurant and garden area a warm glow, the new lighting behind the cocktail bar washes across the patio and happy diners chat and laugh at their tables, producing a great atmosphere. Having eaten here in the past we are fully aware of how delicious the food is and with the impending performance from a genuine guitar hero, things couldn’t be better.
Villa Mercedes has several options for the diner, the al fresco is the obvious choice but for those that prefer a little privacy, there is a table on a terrace that looks over the second cocktail bar and lounging area to the side of the great house. You are still connected to the restaurant but you get the feeling of complete isolation. The view across the marina from this particular table is breathtaking. There are numerous little balconies and areas where the dining experience changes and for those that like to relax with a cocktail before dinner the huge cabanas draped in white linen provide a tranquil spot to prepare for your meal. They also offer the option of shisha, which can be enjoyed with an amazing cocktail after dinner.
The Villa Mercedes staff are warm and friendly, they really do try and make you feel like part of their family during your time with them, I would challenge anyone to eat there and not want to immediately book a table for a return visit! It is one of our favourites at Essential HQ. As he prepares for his latest show, we catch up with Paco for five minutes to find out what it is about this restaurant that he loves so much…
How does Villa Mercedes compare with your other gigs?
Villa Mercedes for me is like home. I have played here ever since it opened and they feel like part of my family. I am very good friends with Javier, the owner, and I like the people in the restaurant. It’s a different kind of gig for me from a concert or a sunset, every show is different, you have to adapt the music and the show depending on the stage that you’re playing on.
How do you adapt your performance to suit the restaurant?
We need to remember that in the beginning of the show, people are still having dinner so at this point we are careful to have the music as background and not disturb the enjoyment of the dinner. Later, after 11pm, we can push it more. The dinner is usually finished and we can provide more of an after dinner show.
Villa Mercedes offers an intimate setting, is this something that you enjoy?
Yes, it is a great place to play. We only bring part of the band to Villa Mercedes, a very special trio, including my DJ. I trust them and we always enjoy playing together. Villa Mercedes is a performance where we need to give more thought to the people and the time of night, other performances we can just play but we have to put a little more thought into this one. Here I am very comfortable and I play for me. Sometimes forget the time when I am on stage. The only rule that we have is that we finish at twelve but apart from that I forget the time and sometimes my band will remind me that we have been playing for two and a half hours without a break! I love playing here because I can play some songs that we don’t play anywhere else and I can experiment.
After he leaves us, Paco makes his way to the stage and begins his performance. His ability on the guitar is already the stuff of legend; his fingers are a blur as he runs through his set list for the evening, ably backed up by his DJ and some audience interaction, in the shape of carefully orchestrated clapping, which adds a fun, percussive element. Paco is a friendly, laid back guy and this is translated from the stage to his audience, who have now mostly finished their dinner but have no intention of leaving the restaurant. Combining live entertainment with dinner can be tricky sometimes but not in Villa Mercedes where both the restaurant and performer are so comfortable with each other that everything just happens naturally. The winner, as always, is the diner, who not only enjoys some of the finest food on the island but also one of the most talented performers. It’s no wonder Friday is a popular night!