TripAdvisor on trial: Marbella

LAST UPDATED: 27 Aug, 2012 @ 20:37
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TripAdvisor on trial: Marbella

By James Bryce

THESE days ‘Marbs’ may be best known for the invasion of Britain’s TOWIE stars, but it has always attracted an international crowd, with the well-heeled rubbing shoulders with the towering-heeled.

This eclectic mix of clientele has inevitably influenced the variety of food and hotels on offer, something which has resulted in an interesting mix being thrown up by TripAdvisor.

The number one restaurant on the site’s list for Marbella is Restaurante Messina, which gained wide approval among the band of experts we quizzed about the list.

“It’s very small but it has been getting rave reviews for years,” says Hot Marbella editor Giles Brown.

It is a view reflected by prominent Marbella businessman Sunil Ram, who listed Messina at number two on his personal Top Five.

TripAdvisor’s number two restaurant, Bijou Bar and Bistro, has gained 151 reviews, 122 of which rate it as excellent, with the most recent review waxing lyrical about ‘stunning food for a fantastic price’.

But the eatery did not register so much as a ripple among those in the know within Marbella, and failed to feature in any of their Top Fives.

Similarly, the final three in TripAdvisor’s Top Five, Sloanes Bistro, Stuzzikini and II Cantuccio all failed to make any of our experts’ lists, although Stuzzikini was highly-commended for ‘doing great pizzas’.

Among our team of six critics, they were almost unanimous about Dani Garcia’s well-established two Michelin-starred restaurant Calima, described as ‘still delivering’, and El Lago, a ‘great setting and talented chef sourcing local produce’.

The restaurant is a keen member of the important Slow Food Movement.

El Lago is ranked 28 and Calima, 69, with other notable entries by our experts including La Sala (47) ‘for the full Marbella celeb experience’.

The overall feeling regarding TripAdvisor seems to be one of scepticism, with a cautious acknowledgement of the benefits it can have.

“It can be very hit and miss with TripAdvisor,” cautions Brown.

Ram is more explicit in his views: “There are some really phenomenal restaurants out there that don’t score very highly at all.

“Yet there are others which seem to have an unnatural amount of reviews, which makes me a bit suspicious.”

Another Marbella restaurateur Ian Radford is equally suspicious. “If you look at the top of TripAdvisor, there are many restaurants that certainly are not great at all,” he says.

“But obviously have someone working on the mechanics of TripAdvisor and how to get to the top, and knock their competitors down.

“The site certainly has its flaws.”

But he adds: “Generally TripAdvisor is good, I would like to think that the majority of the time it gives people the chance to share their experiences, and get some honest feedback.”

The lesson from Marbella seems to be that TripAdvisor can be a great tool for putting restaurants in the limelight, but just don’t take the rankings too seriously.

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According to TripAdvisor

5 Top Restaurants in Marbella:
1. Restaurante Messina
2. Bijou Bar and Bistro
3. Sloanes Bistro
4. Stuzzikini
5. II Cantuccio

5 Top Hotels in Marbella:
1. La Villa Marbella
2. The Marbella Heights Boutique Hotel
3. Hotel Claude Marbella
4. Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort
5. El Oceano Beach Hotel

According to the Olive Press

5 Top Restaurants in Marbella:
1. Calima
2. Messina
3. El Lago
4. La Sala
5. Nermans/Mumtaz/Stuzzikini

5 Top Hotels in Marbella:
1. La Villa Marbella
2. La Morada Mas Hermosaa
3. Marbella Heights Boutique Hotel
4. Town House
5. Hotel Puente Romano/Marbella Club

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  1. Like ANY survey taking impressions and ratings, the results depend on at LEAST two things: 1) the population giving you survey data and 2) the narrow scope of survey questions. Exs: 1) Are respondents Tourists or Residents (Tourists in NYC still like Momma Leoni’s… residents do NOT go there) and 2) “Do you prefer men/women with what color hair?”. All different data and it messes up survey results. My family owns 5 restaurants in NYC, 3 Italian – 2 French, and about 18 pizzerias. After 15-20 years … they KNOW good Italian! And when I was on college vacation back home, my Aunt Annabel, one of our Owners, offered to take me for “THE BEST Italian dinner!” thinking she’d take me to one of our restaurants, I was puzzled when she parked on 9th Avenue, in front of an old apartment house. No restaurant along the street?! She rang the bell and announced “It’s Annabel and Joseph – we have reservations”. Clean place – NO elevator! so we walked up 3 flights of stairs and rang the doorbell.
    I asked “Where’s the restaurant? She said “inside the door!
    An elderly Italian woman opened the door, kissed my Aunt on both cheeks & said “great to see you again & your nephew!”
    She led us thru the narrow hallway/entry, passed the kitchen that had aromas that made me salivate, and seated us at one of the 4 tables in their living room, closest to the one window… the best in the house my Aunt said!
    I asked my Aunt “What is this?” Her reply,”THE best in NYC!”
    That night, we dined on THE best Italian food I’ve ever tasted. My Aunt said “I offered her $50,000/yr to come cook or supervise cooking for us – she said she was flattered but too busy cooking for her family … and friends, like us”.
    Michelin Stars..Trip Advisor comments – never heard of them!
    That’s WHY NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes VIPs and honored guests to Dominic’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, NY for a great Italian dinner- served Family Style at picnic type tables – NO reservations taken – even for a NYC Mayor!
    Long time Residents KNOW THE BEST! It’s where they dine!

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