A new beachfront villa at The Viceroy Riviera Maya (Brad A. Johnson)
The Viceroy resort (formerly called The Tides) near Playa del Carmen, Mexico has just unveiled its brand new beach villas and a fresh new look throughout the property. The revamp also include a new beachfront restaurant and new menus. (The resort is owned by the Viceroy Hotels group, which recently sold the original Tides in Miami, so makes sense that the group would want to reposition the brand.)
The new villa design at The Viceroy Riviera Maya (Brad A. Johnson)
Starting today, The Viceroy Riviera Maya is debuting 11 new villas, increasing the total inventory to 41. Two of these are the resort’s first beachfront bungalows with direct access to the surf. New furniture has been introduced throughout the resort. Nothing drastic. Just a slightly more contemporary update in lampshades, fabrics, cabinetry and accent furniture (including the private alfresco daybeds). There’s also a new gym. yoga pavilion and temescal (igloo-shaped sweat lodge).
The resort formerly had only one restaurant, La Marea, but guests always enjoyed the option of dining in the restaurant or at the beach bar (with the same menu). The bar has been expanded into an all-day cafe called Coral Grill. And chef Jetzabel Barragan has created new menus for both the grill and La Marea.
The new Coral Grill at The Tides Riviera Maya (Brad A. Johnson)
Both restaurants serve what the resort dubs as “Mayaterranean” cuisine, because many of the techniques and dishes are inspired by classic Mediterranean cooking. But what they ought to be calling it is simply modern Mayan cuisine because that’s exactly what it is. Barragan’s cooking provides an absolutely authentic sense of place to this beachside resort. Some highlights from the new Coral Grill menu include a traditional tortilla soup with guajillo chiles and queso fresco, a delightfully spicy ceviche of octopus, shrimp and snapper, and a chile-glazed halibut roasted in the wood-fired oven and served with a tomato salad made with local heirloom tomatoes.
New dishes at La Marea at The Viceroy Riviera Maya (Brad A. Johnson)
The revamped La Marea is now open only for dinner, and the menu here is anchored by an extraordinary big-eye tuna tartare, which is seasoned with mint, lemon confit, ancho chile oil and a quail egg. There’s also astonishingly good chile-rubbed lamb chops served with a sweet potato tamale and port wine reduction. But perhaps the best dish of all is an ancho chile that Barragan serves for dessert. Ancho chiles are the dried, crinkly pods of what were once fresh poblano peppers. The easiest way to describe an ancho is to say it tastes like a large spicy raisin. Barragan softens the chile in a syrup flavored with star anise and cinnamon, then stuffs the pod with sweet guava mousse and serves it with dulce de leche ice cream.
Scenes from The Viceroy Riviera Maya (Brad A. Johnson)
One of the things that has always set The Viceroy apart from other resorts in the Riviera Maya has been its rustic interpretation of luxury, a style that recalls Gilligan’s Island or a Mayan version of Robinson Crusoe. The seaside resort is a collection of individual cottages with dramatic palapa roofs and private plunge pools set amid six acres of dense jungle paradise populated with wild monkeys and strange-sounding birds. Narrow pathways crisscross through a thicket of palms, mango trees and giant ferns. A wooden footbridge leads to an indoor/outdoor spa where smoke rises through the trees from a cauldron of smoldering crystals (used for traditional Mayan blessings and spa rituals). Opened in 2002 as Ikal del Mar and rechristened The Tides in 2006, the intimate hideaway has always provided a charming, soothing antidote to the region’s oversized modern resorts. None of that has changed.