THIS week we caught up with Marc Quinlan, owner of the Harbour bar and restaurant Marbella and Amazonica at the Playwright in Elviria, to talk about how things are changing on the coast and where his journey started.
Marc, originally from Dublin, has been here for 18 years, raised 4 children and owned, operated and sold many businesses, from bars to inflatable water parks, he’s a well known and loved character in the area, and I was lucky enough to be taken on a mini-tour with him and his son, Jordan.
Marc´s first restaurant Becketts opened in 2003, he saw a gap in the market and opened the first real international bar in Marbella. When Ireland changed from the Punt to the Euro, he foresaw the Irish tourism boom and Becketts was just what Marbella needed.
It´s a rare thing to find, not just reliable, but adequately qualified staff here on the Costa Del Sol as so many people find it hard to adjust to living in a tourism destination. Marc´s had his fair share of crazy chefs and awful bar staff, but the team with him now really are the dream team. With his wife Penny running the front of house, keeping staff in line and standards high, they bring a well-needed air of professionalism that’s missing in many parts of the Costa Del Sol.
There is a reason they still have staff with them who have stood by Marc´s side right from the very start of his venture at Becketts. Marc´s a visionary, he designs everything himself from custom cocktail glasses to ostrich heads and flamingos, he really does see things in a very unique way and it must be so inspiring to work for someone who truly puts the guests experience at the forefront of their business. Marc’s staff have followed him from strength to strength and he encourages and nurtures their talents.
The refurb of The Playwright may appear to most as being crazy given the current climate and pandemic we find ourselves in, however, in Marc´s eyes it was exactly what people wanted and needed, and he couldn’t have been more right. He gave the community a reason to get dressed up and feel good about themselves again.
Community is important to Marc and it shows, when he took on the Harbour Bar and Restaurant, he did so on the condition that it became open to the public. After the recession in 2008 & 2009, Marc learnt from Becketts that targeting just the Irish and English tourists and ex-pat community was not viable, he now enjoys success with all his ventures which have become melting pots of cultures.
On the subject of cultures Marc told me an interesting story, have you ever heard of a place called Batumi? Nope, me neither… but it turns out to be the second-largest city in Georgia and is a city twinned with Marbella. On a chance encounter Marc met some members of government whilst they were dining at the Playwright, he then opened the following day for a private lunch for the officials. This gesture on Marc’s part, has led to multiple opportunities for him in the country, and he actually splits his time between Georgia and Marbella equally now as hotel developments, revolving restaurants and culinary schools ( to name a few) take up a fair chunk of his time. It just goes to show there are still plenty of opportunities here on the Costa Del Sol!
When Marc is home in Marbella he has much more free time and spends lots of it helping neighbouring businesses. Playing a huge role in the community supporting and encouraging both new and long-standing establishments along the coast.
For anyone struggling, especially with the pandemic causing a lot of people to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, Marc is offering free advice to anyone who needs it. Starting his career in the kitchen he knows the industry inside out and back to front. So, anyone looking for advice on best suppliers, how to form a co-op with other restaurants to reduce pricing, how to make your business more social media-friendly or just a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective to inspire you to keep moving forward you can contact Marc directly by email at email@example.com
On my mini-tour we first went to La Scala it was early evening and guests were starting to arrive for their reservations. La Scala is beautifully designed and has a real air of calm about it. The white and cream decor is anything but cold, it feels cosy and welcoming. Like a lot of bars and restaurants in the area, they have seen a decline in bookings, however, they’re very much open for business as usual. Booking is still required for Sunday Lunch and the traditional Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding is a winner! They do still recommend booking for the rest of the week also as locals have made it a regular haunt for social get-togethers. Opening hours at La Scala are currently Tuesday – Saturday 6.30pm – Midnight and Sundays 1pm – Midnight
Next up was The Beach House and the sun was just setting over the sea, it is truly magical to dine down there. The menu is varied and accommodates just about everyone. I’m also told they do a fabulous eggs benedict for breakfast! Many people are unaware that The Beach House is open to the public for breakfast but they very much are, its a serious hidden gem. Again they’ve seen a decline but not enough to reduce staff or the menu, they’re opening hours are Monday – Saturday 9am – 10,30pm and Sundays 9am – 5,30pm Booking is essential on Sunday’s. Breakfast served 9am -12,30pm. They also have a Bruno Mars tribute on for Halloween and it sounds fabulous.
Around the corner we arrive at Harmons Irish Pub, the terrace is well spaced out following new guidelines, but there are plenty of people about enjoying their evening with a lovely Guinness on draught and really welcoming staff it’s no wonder its a favourite for a tipple with the locals. Opening hours here are Monday-Friday 4pm – 11pm ( depending on how busy they are) Saturday and Sunday from 1pm. Food served from 5pm.
Straight over the square there is RokaBar, again with a nicely laid out terrace and a lovely atmosphere, food is served here until 10pm and I’m told ‘Henry’s Ribs’ with sweet potato fries and slaw are seriously tasty! They’re open 7 days a week from 5pm til 1am.
We made our way back to the Playwright and the place was ‘alive’ every table was taken, the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve come across in a long time, Marc’s mission to give people a reason to get dressed up and feel good has been a success, the food coming out of the kitchen looked and smelt divine, with dishes like, Slow Cooked Sticky Pork Belly
Marinated with Kimchi, Bok Choi, Green Beans & Spinach with Fried Noodles and a cocktail list including Lychee & Coconut Rum Punch, you really are transported into a whole new world. The live music isn’t overpowering it’s entertaining and done with elegance.
So as the UK press reports that tourism is on its knees and the Costa Del Sol is empty, they couldn’t be any further from the truth, Elviria especially is thriving!
This community spirit of supporting and promoting each other clearly works, instead of jealousy and trying to outdo one another, these neighbouring bars and restaurants are fantastic ambassadors for each other’s businesses, it’s so refreshing to witness a community with such solidarity working with one another to continue to be the best they can be. All these businesses are family-run, everyone’s following the new regulations for covid-19, it really couldn’t be a nicer, safer place to be!
The motto here is “We’re stronger together and WE WILL beat this!”.
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