The other night, my boyfriend and I went out to celebrate the public relations internship I received. Woot Woot.
We had not visited Peacock Garden Cafe in a while and who can resist the charming contagious ambiance? They have been opened for one year now, and I find it quite bizarre that there are not mobs of people outside their restaurant all day, every day.
It’s undeniably the most romantic eating spot in town. I’m not sure if it’s the enchanting garden, the dimly light dining room or the pastel Bahamian colors that set the seductive scene.
People have even been married there!
I must confess that I was not going to blog about this place because, I worked there last summer as a waitress. However, they have an entirely new staff in-house so I can conduct a somewhat unbiased review. One thing that has not changed, which I hope never will is the madman mastermind behind it all, chef Oscar Del Rivero (I only say madmen because, it only defines how passionate he is about his business). This is not nearly his first rodeo. In addition to carefully creating the menu at Peacock he also has 2 success under his
belt chef hat, like Jaguar and Talavera. Of course, these achievements would be nothing if it was not for the Jaguar Hospitality group. If you are a Miami foodie, this name should not sound archaic. Restaurateur, and partner of the group, Lalo Duarzo has only proven he can only create, innovative concepts for his widely, popular restaurants.
This group runs a tight shift and it obviously works since all of their other restaurants are winners. They take their staff members extremely seriously. During my training, I was required to memorize every ingredient in every dish and that was not including the daily specials. I even had to take a test! At the time I thought it was a tad ridiculous, but in the long run it helped me better describe dishes which, definitely sounded more appetizing. Also, it saved me when the conscious, food snob customers felt the need to quiz me on the menu. If someone had an allergy as well, this information was vital for me to know. Perhaps, the serious attitude is the reason why Jaguar Hospitality Group only develops victorious establishments. ..not so ridiculous after all.
Now, here is a little history lesson. Peacock Garden Cafe is named after the Peacock family. They were one of the first families to settle in Coconut Grove. According to Peacock’s website, the Peacocks moved into the area around 1870. The cafe has preserved not only the family but, also another early settler Eva Munroe. His grave is slightly hidden by the many ornate, elaborated, flowers right in front of the garden. My superstar, historian grandmother Arva Parks helped design this historic”sight”. Her theme was the history of the grove, and the inside walls are flooded with old photographs. The back dining room, named the Dinner Key, begins with the mangroves and picnic grounds, the story of the Dinner Key Naval Air Station, Pan American Airways AND the acquisition of the Pan Am Terminal and surrounding acreage and hangers by the City of Miami to eventually become City Hall. Not only can you feed your stomach here, but also your mind.
The Grove also happens to be the oldest neighborhood in Miami. The restaurant has honored the family by planting an abundant amount of beautiful, bright, colorful flowers resulting in the gorgeous landscape for this “hangout” cafe.
Guests have the option of sitting in the dining room or outside in the garden. You can even have the best of both worlds because, during the daytime if you sit inside by the a.c. (yes,please) the doors slide open so you can eat by the “flowerful patch.” There are also a few high speed fans outside. so you don’t melt onto your plate. The outdoor patio is the most ideal spot for any girly get together whether it’s for a celebration or just a sunny mimosa. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Are you planning a wedding rehearsal or giant party? The back Dinner Key room can accommodate large crowds for graduations, weddings, business luncheons…you name it, and you can speak to someone about special menus as well.
Enough of the small talk- let’s go onto my divine dinner.
My boyfriend and I arrived on a Wednesday night at about 8:30. The inside area was partly occupied and practically no one was sitting outside. We wanted to in the cool dining area at a candle lit table. After we sat down our waiter brushed by us and said he would be right with us. I noticed that the menu had more than a few additions and changes since I worked there. They added new Mac and Cheese Casseroles, Mussels, Corvina Ceviche, and Flatbreads. I was sad there were no more grilled artichokes with their creamy mayo based dip. However, they added tuna tartare so that made up for the loss. The drink menu still had their infamous Basil lemonade and sangria and popular Passionfruit Martini garnished with a chewy ginger candy.
When our waiter introduced himself he was very upbeat and never stopped smiling throughout our entire meal. Right off the bat, I ordered the so necessary, signature basil sangria. The basil really adds a bitter freshness that counteracts with the sweet wine. My boyfriend ordered the Grayson Cellers Cabernet which was only $25 a bottle and very decent. Another Cabernet I recommend is the Louis Martini that ia a bit more expensive. A fabulous Chardonnay they offer is, the Sonoma Cutrer is a must for those heated summer days.
While we shortly waited for our drinks my date and I were arguing on how I was going to take the pictures. Ok, I HATE being the obnoxious camera flasher at dinners, especially in the secluded darkness. I find it incredibly, embarrassing and awkward. We agreed he could take the pictures so I don’t have to feel bothersome to my neighbors. Except, I did realize he is much more persnickety at taking photos than I. Even though, I should have this menu memorized I still did not know what I wanted. When I asked the waiter about the mussels (my boyfriend and I were both curious about) he said he always recommends them. He then shared the special of a fish casserole topped with a cheese gratin. It sounded delicious but, it was not that striking for me.
We started with the tuna tartare prepared too pretty to eat and an entrée of the mussels. The mussels were served in a heavy mini cast iron pot with some grilled bread for dipping. We also still had some hot bread that was brought over earlier. My boyfriend loves the bread there. I like it too, but I rather save room for the giant meal I had coming. I’ve had the tuna tartare before and it was just as good as I remembered. All of the flavors together form one match made in heaven. On top of the towering stack are the crunchy wontons,then the sweet, avocado sauce, as you travel down you get to the middle chunk full of fresh tuna seasoned with soy and sesame and last but not least, the underlying cucumbers in an acidic vinaigrette. This combination creates the perfect bite.
My boyfriend and I (or maybe just me) are obsessed with George’s french style mussels so when this mini skillet arrived we were a bit thrown off. The mussels themselves were cooked thoroughly, and the broth was unlike any we ever tried. It was much lighter than your typical French creamy, sauce. Our waiter told us the broth was very simple yet, (clearly) flavorful. It consisted of white wine, a little butter, garlic, lots of fennel, giant cherry tomatoes, and earthy, tarragon. We could certainly taste the sweetness from the tomatoes and wine contrasting with the vague anise zing. This dish is very appropriate to have on the menu for those many Miami women watching her figure. It also isn’t heavy in the current blazing hot weather. However, we probably would not order this again. It was the same price of the mussels from George’s and half the size. They were tasty, but not that mind-blowing.
I knew I wanted an order of the Gravlax flatbread. Last summer, it was usually a special but I guess it became so demanding that the chef decided to make it permanent. I never heard of the word Gravlax before I worked here. It is a Scandinavian term for salt-cured salmon. When I explained the “gravlax” special to customers, I got more than a few raised eyebrows. The name sounds completely unattractive but, once you try it, the hideous title disappears. In addition to the bread, I kind of wanted a salad because, I love the way mixed greens cleanse my palette. Since, I could not make up my mind…yet again… my boyfriend ordered me the gravlax and greek salad with mahi mahi. He ordered the filet with asparagus. A different side suggestion I have is the crispy shoestring french fries, ask for the spicy aioli on the side for dipping. Caution: You may rollover in a food coma.
Our gravlax came out first even though we wanted it to all come out simultaneously but, that did not stop us from sampling. We ordered the small flatbread which looked like a mini pizza for one. I was relieved it was not too large since I still had a salad coming. This dish is meant for an appetizer but, we love it too much to stay resistant. This amazing “pizza” is laced with smoked salmon, tomato, goat cheese, onions and lets not forget-you can’t have smoked salmon without capers. This is always worth ordering. If I came to this restaurant and had a glass of sangria and gravlax I would 110% exceed content. If you’re looking for a lazy pizza night, why not at least have this sophisticated flatbread? Get it to go and it will only cost you $12 and gladly feed 2.
After I attempted to grab another slice of the crispy salmon goodness, more food came out…good thing I ran that day…. The presentations of both our plates were spectacular. We would not expect anything less. The steak was cooked exactly to order and the side asparagus had the perfect crunch. It came with the best tasting chimichurri sauce I’ve ever had. I thought the jarred stuff was good but, I could sense the freshness from all the different herbs and of course the Italian side of me appreciates the garlicy touch. Ladies if you’re on a date, bring some gum. I didn’t care so much since my boyfriend was eating it too. We always share our food. If we didn’t I would mostly likely break up with him.
I could tell he did not seem too fond of me ordering a “salad.” But, people always have raved about their greek salad. It might be because, the chef adds a unique take and tosses in fresh, crunchy falafels. My salad was not dressed up too much, there were equal portions of the gorgeously giant cherry tomatoes, firm bell peppers, cooling cucumbers, acidic olives and salty feta. All of my falafels were eaten so quickly. When he tried my greek salad he was quite surprised that a salad can indeed taste that good. He never had falafel before, and after trying the chewy, fried chicpea he has a greater appreciation for it. The fritter was very earthy and seemed like it had thyme and undoubtedly parsley. My mahi mahi was my least favorite for the night. It wasn’t that it was dry, it was moist but there was no flavor. The little salsa verde on top, helped a little but, not enough to match my taste bud’s expectations. It was desperately screaming for seasoning.
No, our meal did not end there. We asked the waiter to bring out whichever chocolate desert they had. A slice of chocolate cake shortly arrived with a raspberry coulis and a dollop of whipped cream. Coulis is a fancy sounding name for sauce. The cake was as rich as I hoped and I could have eaten much more of the evidently homemade,whipped cream. It was a flawless ending. Our sweet teeth were wildly comfortable.
My only problem was that no one gave us the Spice Menu or even told us about it. The lovely manager reminded us about it, but this was after our dinner. Either way, I already viewed it online and was not tremendously, captivated. If I was a regular customer who has not seen it earlier, I definitely would have wanted to see it.
Chef Oscar and The Jaguar Hospitality Group have done it again AND within the same block of another of their legacies, Jaguar. It’s not surprising that they don’t advertise for Peacock, and rather people hear it about from the ear. Perhaps this is a way to keep the effortless, engaging enviroment. The loud, large lines could possibly ruin this secluded atmosphere. However, either way on the weekends they are notably busy.
The menu is a bit pricey, though, this is a special, almost secretive, restaurant. Sometime it’s necessary to spend your time and money on one of the most enchanting evenings you can expose yourself to in Coconut Grove.
This is much more than your average outdoor patio eatery. This is unlike any garden you will ever visit. The entirely historical theme compliments the charming garden and elegant menu to a tee. It will impress anyone and every one. Peacock Garden Cafe is almost like the best kept secret in the Grove…at least for now.
Located right next to Sunesta, under the BRIGHT orange awning (yes, people still claim to never notice it)
Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Brunch on weekends till 2:30
Giant parking lot is adjacent to the cafe, unless you miraculously find an empty spot on the street
No, they do not validate parking ticket
- Don’t just have a quick snack here
DO: Enjoy your surroundings and relax especially with a group of friends and a pitcher of Basil Sangria