Hoping to escape the chilly London winter, David suggested we try out an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. My initial reaction was apprehension, as I know all-inclusive resorts traditionally focus on quantity of food over quality. Buffets are popular at many all-inclusive resorts, which means cross contamination is extremely likely and special orders are less likely.
What Sets Royal Hideaway Apart
Our initial searches confirmed this tendency at many of the large all-inclusive resorts. Fortunately for me, my husband is a tenacious and very talented Googler. He eventually stumbled upon a diamond in the rough. The "diamond," called Royal Hideaway Playacar, sets itself apart from the majority of quantity-over-quality resorts in the Cancun area.
With beautiful two-story hacienda-style rooms on a relatively small property, Royal Hideaway was the perfect choice for us. The resort offers a large white sand beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea and five separate pools. In total opposition to the standard all-inclusive resort, it also has five distinct restaurants on-site offering gourmet dishes and plenty of gluten-free options.
The five restaurants are Azia, Palazzo, Spices, The Grill, and Las Ventanas. We visited each at least once and I had a great experience at each. Every night, the host or hostess would ask if anyone had any allergies before seating us. The servers were extremely attentive, always bringing me gluten-free rolls when they served bread to the rest of my family.
The menus have gluten-free and vegetarian labels but the servers are the best resource. The servers will go check with the kitchen if they don't know the answer. I never felt like I had to sacrifice in order to avoid cross-contamination. In fact, every meal I ate was delicious and memorable. Here are a few of my favorites from each restaurant:
Spices: Mexican-Caribbean cuisine
At Spices, I ordered the Tlayuda de tasajo, a delicious corn tortilla pizza with steak, chorizo, Oaxaca cheese, and greens. It was so tasty that I've actually been contemplating how to recreate it at home in London ever since we returned last week...
In addition to serving dinner, Spices also serves a sit-down breakfast (there's also a buffet downstairs), and lunch. For breakfast, many of the egg dishes--omelettes, huevos rancheros, etc.--are gluten-free as well as the fruit plate and fruit salad. If you're not into eggs, I highly recommend the quesadillas. These come on corn tortillas and are available with just cheese or with ham or chicken.
Palazzo: Italian cuisine
On our second night at Royal Hideaway, we were pleasantly transported to Italy. The decor of Palazzo is very charming and the food was delicious. Of the restaurants on site, I would say that Palazzo has the fewest gluten-free options. This is not a surprise as this is often the case with Italian cuisine.
However, the gluten-free asparagus risotto I ordered for my main dish was very nice. It wasn't large so I would definitely recommend ordering one of the salads on the menu—most of which can be made gluten-free. The dessert menu also offered some gluten-free treats like gelato. As with the rest of the restaurants, our waiter was very attentive and brought me gluten-free rolls.
While all of the restaurants at Royal Hideaway are very classy, Las Ventanas is the fanciest of the bunch. From the minimalist elegant decor to the pianist to the glass wine cellar, it has a very high-end vibe. The food is similarly posh. The combinations are exotic and the platings are very chic.
We dined at Las Ventanas twice, which gave me a chance to sample a few different things. My favorite gluten-free items were the steak with potatoes and olive tapenade and the watermelon salad.
Las Ventanas also offers a flour-free gluten-free chocolate cake for dessert, which was a delicious surprise.
Azia: Japanese cuisine and hibachi
In addition to Las Ventanas, the other formal restaurant at Royal Hideaway is Azia. This is a Japanese restaurant with hibachi tables that also serves sushi.
Unlike my experience in some other Japanese restaurants, Azia was able to accommodate my gluten intolerance. While the rest of our table's food was prepared in front of us on the hibachi table by a very talented chef, my steak, rice, and veggies were prepared in the kitchen, away from cross contamination. For my sushi appetizer, the waiter let me know that only the California roll was gluten-free but, luckily, it was the one I really wanted, so that worked out well.
The Grill: Steakhouse and seafood on the water
Last, but certainly not least, is the Grill. Another restaurant where we had the opportunity to dine twice, the Grill has possibly the nicest vista of any of the dining venues at RH. That's because this beachside open-air restaurant looks over the Caribbean Sea—a beautiful sight to take in as you await your dinner.
As the name suggests, The Grill offers grilled options such as steak, chicken, shrimp, scallops, and so on. Everything we had in our two dinners at The Grill was scrumptious and memorable. My New York Strip and garlic shrimp were two favorites for the whole week.
A Gluten-free Haven
Royal Hideaway is the perfect resort for anyone on a gluten-free diet. The gluten-free offerings are well thought out, delicious, and diverse. The staff are knowledgable and accommodating. You will not feel like you have made any sacrifices at the end of your stay. Instead, you will most likely dread returning to the real world where gluten-free options are fewer and much less desirable.