We’ve talked a lot about family travel but there’s been a hole in our coverage when it comes to all-inclusive destinations. They’ve never been big on my radar mainly due to food quality. I’ve often felt that all-inclusive resorts believe people are visiting for the beach or a quick getaway so food isn’t a priority. The Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa and Sunwing Vacations invited me to discover how wrong I was.
The resort is fairly new, having just opened in December 2014, and is located about 15-minutes from the Cancun airport. Unlike many resort locations in Mexico, the Royalton Riviera Cancun is the first to have been built in its area though I’m sure more resort development will follow. This isolation can be a lovely treat when you’re enjoying the sandy beach with your family but it does mean your dining choices are limited to what is on-site unless you make a road trip into town.
You certainly won’t want for dining variety when staying at the resort with its nine different restaurants based on cuisine from around the world. Enjoy Italian and Japanese one day and Greek and Caribbean the next. Variety is great but quality is key. I had a chance to visit a few of the restaurants on my recent visit.
Grazie Italian Trattoria | Italian Cuisine (open for lunch and dinner)
This open-air restaurant is located right between the activity pool and the kid’s splash park, which provided a dash of entertainment over lunch. I tried a personal size Neapolitan-style pizza and I was impressed. The crust was thin and crispy throughout (not overdone on the edges and underdone in the middle like so many places).
You can enjoy a lovely cocktail like a G&T (a new found favourite), glass of wine or maybe a sparkling water is something you favour. In my opinion no Italian meal is complete without an order of tiramisu and Grazie Italian Trottoria’s version was moist and delightful.
OPA! Mediterranean Cuisine | Mediterranean Cuisine (open for dinner)
Entering this Greek inspired restaurant was like a stepping into a Mediterranean café. The “wine cave” private dining alcove with an arch of wine bottles was an impressive sight. Our private dining room at the back of the restaurant was a glassed in room but the intricate scallop designed overlay gave a nice sense of privacy without feeling claustrophobic. I was really smitten by the chandeliers whose shadow gave the impression of clouds overhead.
The dishes, a selection put together by the chef from the menu, was impressive in presentation and taste. The Royalton Riviera Cancun takes pride in its wine selection and the sommelier made some wonderful selections for our meal. Before my first bite I couldn’t help but admire the time that went into each dishes presentation, like the petite balls of fruit in the melon salad accompanied by a mint dressing you added from your own dropper. The lamb was so tender, cooked to my specifications. Don’t let the portion sizes discourage you. It’s easy for an all-inclusive menu to encourage you to overindulge but the portion sizes for each course during our dinner was enough to give us a lovely taste without overdoing it. I even discovered a new after dinner drink, La Crema de Mexico. Thankfully I was able to score a bottle at duty free when coming home.
The nicest delight was the dessert the restaurant’s pastry chef created just for us. It was a delight for the senses:
The colourful Japanese parasols mark the entrance to Zen. This two story restaurant houses a sushi bar as well as a number of Teppanyaki tables, like the one we enjoyed. Our chef was not only skilled with food he was a wonderful entertainer. With a few food allergies at our table it was great that he asked and modified our meal accordingly.
We sampled some of the freshest sushi I’ve had in a long time, tender and not chewy. My kids would have eaten scores of these lovely rolled up delights. On the table we enjoyed fresh vegetables, chicken, steak, even lobster, all cooked to a perfect tenderness. A trio of sauces was provided but each dish could easily have stood on their own.
Of course a Japanese dinner calls for sake, either warmed or chilled, and also included with your meal. I only wish they had Japanese inspired desserts to round out our meal but a trip to Scoops Gelato Ice Cream Parlour could easily fulfill your sweet tooth.
Agave | Mexican Cuisine (open for dinner)
No visit to Mexico is complete without eating a nice Mexican dish. The barrel like seats at the tables were so comfortable after a busy day exploring Mayan heritage. Rumour has it the open kitchen located in the back of the restaurant may be the site for cooking classes made available to guests. It’s just a rumour but how fabulous?
We were greeted with handcrafted traditional margaritas, something guests can order with their meal. No artificial fruitiness or slushy mixture here. Again the chef had prepared us a sampling of some of his favourite menu items, like a light goat cheese salad and a warm corn soup. No surprise, the surf and turf option was cooked to perfection. My knife just slid through the beef.
Dessert gave us a sampling of what was available from cheesecake to Crème Brule and although delicious I was hoping for something more specific to Mexican culture.
Gourmet Marché | International Buffet
Sometimes vacationing with the family means the kids want to hit the pool and have no interest in waiting for someone to bring them their meal. The Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa has one buffet-style restaurant onsite that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t let the small entrance behind the Martini Bar on the pool level deceive you, this space is quiet large, both the serving and seating area.
I liked that this restaurant opened at 6:30 a.m. since most of our tour activities had us leaving the resort at 7:30 a.m. This meant I could grab a bite before heading out. My favourite breakfast feature was the made to order omlette bar and the smoothie section. The fresh squeezed juices hit the spot. It was great to see a few local dishes available as well as some standard items.
There was an even a children’s station with the tables a little lower and the food items a slightly smaller size. At first glance I didn’t realize the section was for the kids since the presentation of items was at the same quality as items made available for adults. Based on the number of adults visiting the area, others didn’t realize either (or didn’t care). Some of the breakfast items were so cute who could blame those 12 and older eaters for strolling by the tables.
Along with these restaurants there’s also Hunter’s Steak House (open for dinner), Armadillo’s for Tex-Mex cuisine (open for dinner), The Beach Club Grill for Caribbean food (open for lunch and dinner) and SCORE Sports Bar and Lounge for pub food (open for lunch, dinner, and late night snacks).
I visited the Royalton Riviera Cancun with somewhat low expectations when it came to food and the a la cart restaurants I visited impressed me in both presentation and taste. Although the restaurants listed above seemed very understated from the outside entrances, the interiors have a way of transporting you to a new destination.
The children’s menus were somewhat basic but they did seem to vary based on restaurant, offering items somewhat themed to the restaurant’s menu focus. We’ve never been big fans of children’s menus but I know they have a place. The benefit with the Royalton Riviera Cancun’s all inclusive menus means that kids with heartier appetites or adventurous taste buds can order for the main menu.
I visited this resort on my own but I think my whole family, kids included, would have enjoyed not only the variety of food choices offered but also the quality. Just because you’re traveling with your kids doesn’t mean you should settle on your food choices. Vacations are an opportunity to venture into new territory and the Royalton Riviera Cancun’s all inclusive food options offer the perfect adventure.
My stay at the Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa was provided for the purpose of this review though the opinions expressed are purely my own.