[Key West, Florida] Cafe Marquesa

I’m drafting this review straight after eating at Café Marquesa. We are two weeks into a trip to Florida and this is possibly the best meal so far – although I may need to reflect on whether it has to take second place to Byblos in Miami Beach. It’s an elegant room, with a small bar. The use of dark wood and lots of mirrors gave it something of a feel of a Parisian bistro.

There was good bread and an excellent homemade houmous as an amuse bouche (apologies for continuing with a vaguely French interpretation – “freebie nibbles” didn’t seem quite right). Salads to start for both of us. One based around mixed young leaves, with a scattering of hazelnuts and a light blue-cheese dressing. The other based on Romaine with anchovies and an eggless Caesar dressing. They both work well.

I was immediately attracted to the pork chop on the specials list. It noted that it was from the Cheshire pig. I’ve come across this breed before in America and it’s very tasty. We don’t have that breed in the UK (at least not under that name) but I’ve wondered if there is a connection somewhere – my county in North West England is Cheshire and it’s known for its pork. They serve it to just medium (you wouldn’t have wanted it any rarer) and it comes with new potatoes, baby carrots and asparagus. This really is very good, packed with flavour although, as you’d expect, the tiny veg quickly went cold. The fruit barbeque sauce was a masterpiece. It had all the base notes of a sauce you get in a decent BBQ place but lightened with fruit and a skilled hand from the chef.

The other main was a “vegetarian feast” – an eclectic and, perhaps, disparate collection of things on the plate. You might think they wouldn’t work together – but treat them as a sort of mezze affair and they do. There’s giant couscous, perked up with the inclusion of butter beans and olives. There’s a good caponata. There’s a water chestnut, pak choi, carrot & broccoli combo. And pasta parcels containing pear and an Italian cows milk cheese. Eclectic, indeed.

We often pass on dessert, reckon they are rarely worth the calories. But, we’d enjoyed the earlier courses so much, we had to try a third. Chocolate fondant ( I forget the American name) was really good. A well made sponge and a nicely bitter chocolate sauce, softenened with vanilla ice cream on the side. The other – a key lime Napolean – thin strips of pastry with a key lime cream in between, with the plate decorated with fruit and a fruity sauce. Just excellent.

We’ll think ourselves lucky if we come across somewhere as good in the f


Hi Harters, I hope you enjoyed your trip. I’ve been to Cafe Marquesa a couple of times (I usually stay at the hotel). For my taste they do a good job, but can be slightly fussy - maybe one too many ingredients on each plate. That said, the service, wine, and room are excellent. Not sure where else you went in Key West, but I’d highly recommend 7Fish, Blue Heaven and Flaming Buoy to anyone looking for good food there (not always easy to find in touristy destinations).

The “one to many ingredient” is something that plagues a certain type of (otherwise) good restaurants, both in the UK and US. The deft chef’s touch is in knowing when to stop.

100% agree.