Above the hotel Albatros Suites by Bedsfriends, sits the rooftop, open-air restaurant Sereno – Roof Bar & Restaurant. New, at just 6 months old, we were intrigued by their photos of beautifully presented food and we at Deliciosa decided it was time to wander over – and up – to take a closer look.
We opted to make our visit in time to watch the sunset from the rooftop vantage point. Stepping up from the stairwell and onto the open roof area, the bar and main restaurant area spreads out to the right. The surrounding cement walls are painted white, and reflecting the low afternoon light, contrasting with the Caribbean-blues clearly visible, just across the street. With a simple cement floor, wood tables and a partial roof with a Spanish-tile look, the appearance is open, simple and functional with a relaxed vibe. The bar is wrapped in wood with a sleek, polished-concrete counter and sea-green tiled back wall, which has an interesting triangle formation for holding it’s shelves of bottles and other barware.
We chose a corner spot where a table sat beside the balcony railing, which runs parallel to Melgar. Once seated, a waiter appeared and presented us with a cold glass of water, our tableware and the food menu. Inquiring about a drinks menu when he returned, we were informed there was none specifically but our waiter easily recited available drinks and when asked about what rums were available to make a Mojito, he was able to list the rums they had without needing to check at the bar. Having requested a Mojito made with 7yr Havana Club and an Old Fashioned, it was time to take in the view and peruse the menu.
Arriving a half hour or so before sunset, the first impression was that the space was much more open and austere than had been expected. With a lack of greenery and very little additional decor to “warm up” the space, it has a more spartan appearance than we’d initially expected and although this isn’t necessarily a detractor, it is worth noting. Having looked through the photos on Sereno’s Facebook page prior to arriving, the initial impression was more cozy and intimate than the actual space. That being said, as the sun set, the multiple strands of Edison lights decorating the partial roof, added great warmth in terms of ambiance. And as the light from the sun faded, the lights strung above took over the seating area with a gradual golden light, creating a warm and fuzzy, welcoming atmosphere.
Sereno opened in August 2020 with Chef Jonathan Ynsensé and his 2 partners at the helm. The location above Albatros made sense as Sereno is actually a part of the Bedsfriends company, as is the hotel. Striving to create something special and unique for their guests, Sereno was born.
Chef Jonathan is the mind behind the food of Sereno. Originally from Puebla, Jonathan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Mexico and has worked as a professional chef in places such as Peru, the United States, England, the Vatican and China, where he actually lived for 2.5 years.
“….one thing I can say is that without a doubt, all the dishes that are on the menu are very special to me, I chose all of them with such care that I could not choose just one.”Chef Jonathan Ynsensé
Inspired by local produce, Chef Jonathan is constantly striving for excellence and to keep things fresh by changing the menu while also catering to regular customers who’ve come to love certain dishes. Developing off-menu items and having specials, helps keep things exciting.
We asked Chef Jonathan, what is his favourite dish from the Sereno menu? “My favorite dish probably doesn’t exist, it depends on the mood I’m in, there are days when a salad sounds amazing and there are times when I want to eat half the entire menu! But one thing I can say is that without a doubt, all the dishes that are on the menu are very special to me, I chose all of them with such care that I could not choose just one.”
Food doesn’t have to be pretty, it can be an ugly, haphazard mess – and be utterly delicious despite the appearance. But there’s just something beautiful about a plate of food, when it’s been meticulously arranged like a work of art. Of course, it’s essential the flavour match the visual expectations. There’s nothing worse than having a meal look incredible, only to be disappointed at the flavour (or lack thereof), cooking technique, or some other key factor.
It’s fair to say, the presentation of dishes from Sereno is what prompted Deliciosa to investigate further. The dishes all look like something from a magazine, or professional chef’s Instagram and the natural question was, is it a matter of great food photography…or is the taste, technique and flavour there to back it up?
“Everything on the menu has a story and an exact moment of creation and one or more inspirations, we don’t just sell food, we cook what we love and also love to serve you.”Chef Jonathan Ynsensé
When asking what sets Sereno apart from the other island restaurants, Chef Jonathan immediately points out the presentation. “Sereno is different from the way the food is served, to the production and care of it, also food that was not seen on the island before, now in just 6 months, we can see how other restaurants have evolved their recipes, their way serving and presenting their food has changed and we like that. We love challenges and we could say that it is different because there is no doubt about the passion we have for serving our customers and food is a pretext that helps us make new friends. Maybe that’s it… Everything on the menu has a story and an exact moment of creation and one or more inspirations, we don’t just sell food, we cook what we love and also love to serve you.”
With the food of Sereno, there is all of the beauty while it boldly holds up it’s end of the bargain with flavour. With it’s Instagram-worthy dishes, rich flavour and just enough twists to keep it fresh and interesting, Sereno did not disappoint.
Starting with the Loaded House Fries, the flavours just kept coming. While the Fries are not fries per se, rather they’re chunks of crisped potatoes, the bold addition of longaniza sausage from Vallodolid, cotija cheese and rich guacamole make them something different from any of the usual potato appetizers found around. Although listed as a “snack,” rather than appetizer for sharing, the potatoes were delicious and filling and a dish that could be easily shared between two, to whet your appetite for the main course.
The main courses for this evening were a good old-fashioned Pepperoni Pizza and the Sereno Catch of the Day.
The 10″ slow-fermented dough pizza arrived and our first reaction was uncertainty. It was almost too perfect in shape and with the pale colouring of the crust, there was even a moment of wondering if it was a store purchased crust. However, this was most certainly not the case and our initial impression was in no way a reflection of the actual taste or experience. With a thin, soft (but not doughy) crust, this pizza will erase all your previous pepperoni pizza trauma. Nevermind those childhood memories of woefully sparse pepperoni pizzas, this one was chock-full of pepperoni, all resting over a deliciously fresh tomato sauce and a generous topping of mozzarella. Delicious and filling, simple – and yet ohhhh so worth those stairs.
The Catch of the Day was Mahi Mahi. It arrived on a bed of coconut curry sauce, with Mexican Succotash, chickpeas, plump, roasted tomatoes and topped with sprigs of fresh cilantro. The fish itself was cooked to perfection. A generous portion, both tender and flaky and the coconut curry sauce with chickpeas was a surprisingly delicious twist.
Although there is no set dessert menu and the selection varies, the waiter was well-versed in the current offering and described a delicious sounding lava cake, with a creamy “lava” and fresh, passion fruit topping. The taste was a fresh alternative to the usual, rich chocolate lava cake, with the contrasting acidity of the passion fruit and fun ‘pop’ of it’s seeds in the mouth, to the subtle sweetness of the cake.
Location, Location, Location
One must note, Sereno is literally on the roof of the Albatros Suites and there is no elevator, so before you go making reservations, take this into account if mobility is an issue and you’re unable to walk three levels of stairs.
The initial evening visit was on a Sunday evening and we quickly discovered that the beach club across the street had a live band playing. The music was surprisingly loud and carried over to Sereno, so much that it was quickly obvious there’d be no point in the restaurant having any on site music while they were playing. While this isn’t necessarily a detractor for music fans (and the band set list was enjoyable that evening), it is important to note that the restaurant itself was subject to this and could not provide dinner-friendly music until the band across the street had stopped. This may be something you’ll want to consider, when choosing your day and/or time to go.
Sereno had us somewhat perplexed in regards to categorizing it and even Chef Jonathan was unsure when we posed the question to him. While the food is most definitely well-prepared and delicious and it’s presentation is that of a high-end restaurant, the spartan decor and ultra-casual vibe had us unsure of how to categorize the restaurant overall, however after speaking with Chef, as well as our own impressions, we landed on the side of casual, but with exceptional food.
Sereno is one, of a handful of restaurants in that particular area, which puts it somewhat at the mercy of the area hotel guests, particularly those staying right below at the Albatros. This means hosting dinner guests who’ve finished their day excursions and want to let their hair down and relax, not necessarily dress up for dinner.
Although initially this didn’t appear to be an issue, there was a guest who strolled in barefoot, complete with wet hair and beach cover-up. This would not be the case in a more formal or upscale restaurant, however, that may be also chalked up to the guest’s indifference, rather than that of the restaurant itself. And being a vacation destination, this type of thing does happen here on the island, regardless of the restaurant quality. Unless there is a specified dress code to adhere to, it’s unfair to place the responsibility for the faux pas on the establishment.
A Second Look
Having realized our perception of Sereno was going to be impacted by the outside music of the beach club that evening and our mixed first impression (in regards to formality), we felt it was important to go again and look at it with fresh eyes. And so off to breakfast it was!
Arriving in more casual dress than the previous evening and with an eye towards gauging the overall daytime impression, we stepped out onto the rooftop. In the morning sunlight, it was fresh, bright and clean. We were quickly greeted by staff and chose a table in the far corner. The tables were in a slightly different arrangement from the previous evening, being set further back from the railing and now sheltered from the sun, by the partial roof.
Once again, we were quickly set up with tableware and just moments after, we were asked about our preference to drink. With it being somewhat cooler that day, it was agreed that it was a Cappuccino morning. Our orders arrived topped with a rich foam and at perfect drinking temperature, it was a delicious choice for sitting in the breezy shade, looking out over the beautiful blues of the sea.
Breakfast was a selection of sweet and savoury, with an order of French Toast and Huevos Rancheros. The French Toast was a remarkably thick, rich-textured slice of Brioche, delicately sweetened with a blueberry compote, local honey and topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt. The sheer size and texture made it feel decadently and deliciously like eating cake for breakfast.
At the savoury end of the table, the Huevos Rancheros were a rich and saucy affair. Three eggs, topped with a delicious sauce, cannelloni beans, fresh cilantro and thin radish slices with a sprinkling of cotija cheese. Unlike some Ranchero dishes, the generous covering of sauce ensured the tortillas were easy on the tooth and fork-tender, without being mushy.
“It’s the perfect addition to the Cozumel restaurant scene and quickly becoming the place to go for locals and tourists alike.”Bryant Williams-Clowers
What kind of place is Sereno?
So what kind of restaurant is Sereno…fancy? Despite the food, not so much, it’s really more of a relaxed, casual vibe overall. Is it a place for friends to gather? Yes. Absolutely. With beautiful natural scenery and fantastic food, day or night, this is most definitely a place to enjoy with friends, family or as a couple.
Is Sereno a place for a romantic evening date? Possibly. In this case, it really depends on the level of formality, intimacy and/or romance you’re looking for. With a beautiful view of the water, palm trees and sunset, good food and drinks – it certainly has potential but if you and your date are “dressed to impress” and looking for something more formal, or with an intimate, romantic ambiance, you may wind up feeling overdressed. Particularly if the restaurant is busy with a more casual crowd.
When asked about future plans for Sereno, Chef Jonathan told us they’d like to add more tables and are planning some changes, to give Sereno more of a fun vibe. They will also be starting with their own on-site live music, so customers and friends “…can enjoy our dream sunsets a little more.”
If you’re searching for a morning meal, Sereno is a great place for breakfast. We spoke to staff and recommend going sometime after 9am, after the morning hotel diving crowd has eaten and left, then there should be no issue with getting a table.
If you’re going for a sunset or evening visit, we advise you make a reservation in advance and regarding the music from across the street, if you’re concerned it may be an issue, be sure to ask about it. Although we’re certain Sereno will do their best, there is no real way to guarantee there’s no band in the other establishment and remember that this is out of their control.
We certainly recommend any of the dishes or drinks described above and the only caveat is with the mojito, be sure to request the rum you prefer. Upon inquiring, we were told the default rum is Bacardi, however Mojitos are a Deliciosa favourite and we prefer a more authentic Cuban flavour with Havana Club 3 or 7 year. Aside from this, we found no fault with any of the dishes and are eager to return and try more!
Grab your besties and go check out Sereno, whether it’s to enjoy the evening sunset, maybe for brunch, or for a relaxing afternoon break, and as always ¡buen provecho!
Sereno is located on the east side of Rafael E. Melgar, atop the Albatros Suites hotel, just minutes south of the Cozumel / Playa del Carmen car ferry.
Service available in English and Spanish.
987 688 3998
Feature Photo from Sereno, all other photos by Deliciosa