When I was 15 my family went to the Dominican Republic for a Spring Break trip. Despite getting hooked on the TV series 24 on the plane ride down, causing me to spend far too much time in the room watching a laptop screen, I loved every minute of it. As a 15 year old, I remember thinking a buffet for every meal was like a dream come true. My Grandma, who is the closest thing our family has to a foodie, was far less than impressed.
Fast forward 12 years and I still appreciate a good buffet every once and a while but I also have grown to appreciate quality over raw quantity. When we started thinking about a relaxing trip to do over the holidays we had originally written off all-inclusive resorts as massive and overcrowded with unappealing food. Then, we stumbled across the Royal Hideaway and that all changed.
The Royal Hideaway is a small resort (it can host a maximum of 500 or 600 people) that focuses on quality dining experiences. In fact, you’ll only find one buffet here with small portions. For lunch and dinner, the focus is on a la carte menus. There are six restaurants to choose from and in this post, we’ll talk about them all.
Spoiler: It’s not what you would expect from an all inclusive.
Breakfast at the Royal Hideaway
For breakfast you have three options. You can order room service at any time (which is included at no additional cost) or you can visit Spices or the Grill.
Spices for Breakfast
Spices is open all day and serves amazing food off a fairly diverse menu. It’s falls into the restaurants casual dress code so you can wear your beach/pool attire. This is nice as it features panoramic windows looking out over the beach and is just steps away from the pool.
The service as Spices was always good and we really enjoyed the food. For breakfast our group agreed that their favorite dish was the French Toast which was made with an incredibly light and fluffy bread and served with a wonderful cream and fresh agave syrup. Coffee, fresh juice, and cocktails were always in good supply.
The Grill for Breakfast
If you’re looking for something a little quicker just below Spices is the Grill. It’s a beautiful indoor/outdoor patio that looks out over the ocean. You can hear the waves crashing and watch the beach come alive over a breakfast buffet.
The buffet features eggs, various meats, fruits, and pastries. Each day they usually had a rotating offering of more traditional Mexican breakfast food. You could also order a custom-made waffle, pancake, or omelette.
Dinner at the Royal Hideaway
Wait, you skipped lunch you may be thinking? Yes, I did. Honestly, we generally had such big portions for breakfast that it was rare we got hungry for another big lunch meal. Both spices and the grill are open for lunch though with similar offerings. As always, you can get room service.
Dinner is where the Royal really shows it’s uniqueness.
Note: if you’re going to visit the Royal Hideaway, make sure you get reservations in advance. You can get them up to 10 days ahead of time but each restaurant has limited capacity. If you want to try them all, book well in advanced.
Spices for Dinner
We’ll start with the more casual of the dinner offerings. We ate at spices for the first dinner during our stay and really liked the food. The food was exceptional but simple, nothing overly fancy here.
For our Gluten Free readers out there, notice how clearly marked everything is on the menus! The hostess and servers also confirm any allergies with you ahead of time.
The Grill for Dinner
The Grill was actually one of my favorite places to eat. I love sitting by the water and the grill’s open air layout meant you could listen to the sounds of the sea while you eat your steak and sip your cocktails.
At night, the Grill offers a variety of grilled options (surprising, right?). From a New York Strip steak to grilled shrimp we enjoyed all the options we tried. It is definitely the most casual dress-wise with most people wearing shorts and flip-flops but the atmosphere and service still felt like an upscale seaside steakhouse.
El Palazzo: Gourmet Italian
Spices and the Grill have a very loose dress code (basically, you just have to have cloths on). The rest of the restaurants required men to be wearing long pants (not jeans), closed shoes, and a shirt with a collar on it.
El Palazzo was designed to look and feel like an upscale Italian restaurant. They offered a diverse set of menu options. The food was good, and many guests say this is their favorite place to eat. For me, it was probably my least favorite. I like a lot of flavor in my food and Palazzo was the most subtle in its flavors.
They had gluten free pasta and as with all the places handled allergies well. We only ate here once though, so we will need to try it again next time. You can see the menus (as of December 2019) for Palazzo below.
AZIA: Hibachi Grill
Growing up, on very special occasions, we’d go to Genji - a Japanese Steakhouse in my hometown. I loved their YumYum sauce and the spectacular show their chefs put on while they prepared your meal.
Those fond memories came back as we sat down at AZIA - The Royal Hideaways take on Japanese steakhouse. Unlike the other restaurants, everyone gets the same appetizers (in our case, Edamame and Sushi). From there you have your choice of Hibachi (see the menu for AZIA below).
We loved it and the chef did an exceptional job with both the cooking and the presentation. Our food was exceptional. For many in our group, this was probably our favorite restaurant.
Dinner at Ventanas
Ventanas is the crown jewel in the restaurant collection at the Royal Hideaway. It likely could compete for a Michelin star and it’s menu is as unique and eclectic as you’d expect from such a spot. The service here is top notch and if you’re not careful the live piano music, brilliant marble, and amazing food may have you thinking you’re at a Michelin starred piano bar in Manhattan, not in the tropics of Mexico.
The menu was unique and at times pushed our comfort zone. I tried the octopus, Gnoqui, warmed scallop salad, and the steak complimented by an espresso martini. You can see the menu at Ventanas while were there below.
Missing from the list: The theatre. We decided to skip the dinner and the show option. If you’ve been to the Royal Hideaway and have done the dinner and a show, let us know how it is in the comments!
After Dinner & Snacks
Bar Allegro isn’t really a restaurant in the same sense that the others listed here are. You’d an order snacks and light meals (similar to the room service menu). Where Bar Allegro really shines though is the after dinner entertainment.
Every night that we were there the bar had some sort of live entertainment option going until 11pm or in some cases well past midnight (New Years Eve). The bar itself is open until 1am.
Our favorite was the silent disco - which was a new experience for Meghan’s parents who were traveling with us. We also enjoyed some of the live music. We never felt like we were lacking for things to do in the evening.
Conclusion: The food is top notch
We picked the Royal Hideaway for a number of reasons but a big one was the food. We thought it would be good but had no idea that it would be as good as it was.
I think one of the elements we under appreciated was how nice the all-inclusive aspect made the dining experience. In a normal (fancy) restaurant I’m always looking at the prices and using those to help inform my decision. I may not try a new drink because I’m worried about a $15 cocktail that I don’t like. At the Royal Hideaway you were free to explore and experiment with new things without ever looking at a price. When you were ready to be done with the meal, you just get up and leave - no worry about the bill, how to split it, etc. It makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.