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Can Sueño: How Rob and Hennie literally built the dream!

Once upon a time, Rob and Hennie took a trip into the mountains near Tárbena, on the Costa Blanca. There, they found a plot of land with nothing but almond trees, and they fell in love. They dreamed of building a big house right there, in Nature, where they could offer bed and breakfast to visitors to the area, and have their family over from the Netherlands to stay  … and they all lived happily ever after.

 

If you don’t believe in fairy tales, then you have clearly never visited Can Sueño. This beautiful restaurant and guest house, in the idyllic setting of the mountains above Altea, is a dream come true for Dutch couple Rob and Hennie. The name of their property means ‘Dream Inn,’ and how it came to be a sought-after restaurant, where clients become friends and each meal is an experience for the senses, is certainly a fairy tale come true.

 

Rob and Hennie had never been to Spain until around 17 years ago. Hennie, a writer, sculptor and garden designer, was increasingly unwell with lung problems, and their doctor advised them that the climate on the Costa Blanca would be beneficial to her. Never ones to turn down the prospect of a good adventure, they relocated to Calpe, where they soon built up a network of friends.

 

Hennie’s health improved so much that when they saw the 10,000 square metre plot that would eventually become Can Sueño, she knew she wanted to be there, and was not daunted by the enormity of the task ahead. They both fell in love with the view and the setting, and felt the irresistible call of Nature. To be honest, there was very little else to fall in love with, as back then the site was occupied by almond trees and nothing else! No roads, no buildings, no utilities – just an incredible sense of calm and coming home, which spoke to both Rob and Hennie.

 

 

Can Sueño

 

They planned to build a large finca, which would accommodate their families when they visited, and also provide some income from bed and breakfast guests. Things started off very well; they built a log cabin to live in while they built their dream home, and had made a start on clearing the land and making roads. A year later, when the foundations for the main house were in place, disaster struck. All their hard work, including the foundations of their new home, was washed away in a severe storm.

 

Their friends in Calpe were divided when Rob and Hennie announced their plans, and those who had said they would never manage to complete the project thought they had been proved right. However, the couple’s spirit of adventure and faith in their project and in themselves was infectious, and soon all their friends came together to help them bring their

dream to life, while the contractors got on with building the house –  or should that be the dream factory?

 

 

Can Sueno

 

As if Rob and Hennie hadn’t faced enough problems, just as they were selling their house in Calpe to fund the build, the financial crisis of 2008 hit. They were forced to take a huge loss on their investment, but they had no choice, As Rob said:

 

‘It never, ever occurred to us to give up on our dream. We had faith in ourselves, and the project, and we would do everything in our power to keep going.

 

They couldn’t afford to pay their friends for their help, so instead, they cooked for them in the evenings, when work was done for the day. Neither Rob nor Hennie have any formal training in cooking or hospitality, but they are both creative people – Rob is a goldsmith – and they do love their food!

 

Can Sueño

Clearly their friends felt the same, because when the building was finished, friends of friends were begging to be fed by Rob and Hennie, and offering to pay for the privilege! As sociable people themselves, they were happy to oblige. They both enjoyed cooking, good food and wine and good company, and now they had created the perfect setting for it.

 

When things snowballed to the stage where they were hosting meals for 30 people or more, Rob and Hennie realised that their adventure was far from over. Indeed, they had managed to create a restaurant by accident!

 

Can Sueño, though, is no ordinary restaurant, and its owners are no ordinary restauranteurs, although they do share the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to make any business a success. They don’t just want their guests to eat – they want them to enjoy a sensory experience, where the food is just part of it. Friendship, appreciation of Nature and relaxation are all part of the Can Sueño experience. If you book lunch, plan to be there for the entire afternoon!

 

Lunch is available from Thursday to Sunday and must be pre-booked. The menu is fixed but varied, and everyone eats at the same time, with Rob introducing new guests to returning visitors. This makes for a convivial environment from the start, but if you’re shy, and not sure about mixing, don’t worry.  Your wishes will be respected, and you will receive the same excellent service as everyone else.

 

Can Sueño

 

 

At Can Sueño, Rob, Hennie and their team make use of the abundance of Nature around them. They grow their own herbs and teas, and use flowers and leaves creatively, as decorations and garnishes, or as ingredients in salads and other dishes.

 

Rob smokes his own duck breasts in the mountains, ready for the superb duck breast and marzipan starters that form part of the set menu. Absolutely everything that comes from the Can Sueño kitchen is cooked from scratch, from the appetisers, to the beetroot, dandelion, daisy and truffle cream soup, the meat, fish and vegan main courses and the beautifully presented, mouth-watering desserts.

 

When the sorbet is served to clear the palate, there’s a 30 minute break to enjoy relaxing in the garden while the tables are tidied ready for the main course. Before service, Rob and Hennie will tell you all about the food and wine you are about to enjoy.

 

The Can Sueño dining experience is truly remarkable, and is available for just €49.50 per person. Wine is not included, but there is a wide selection, priced to suit every budget. Or you can opt for Rob’s excellent selections to accompany the meal for the special price of €19.50.

 

 

Can Sueño

 

Unusually for Spain, Can Sueño offers vegetarian and vegan options across the menu. Food allergies and tolerances are also catered for, so mention this when booking your table. It’s advisable to book well in advance, if possible, to avoid disappointment.

 

Looking forward, how do Rob and Hennie see the future for Can Sueño? Unsurprisingly, they want to take their dream forward into the next generation. As Hennie says:

 

We want others to be able to create the total experience, so that Can Sueño can continue when we retire. So we are bringing in more professionals to the team, to train the chefs of the future.

 

Sous chef Hiram is now on board to share his own skills, and also help train the next generation of professionals. It’s unlikely that Rob and Hennie will be quitting the kitchen any time soon though. They are looking to expand their bespoke wedding package to cater for 12 – 15 weddings a year. They hosted their first weddings around five years ago, and enjoy it so much, they would love to do more.

 

This is the secret of Can Sueño’s success: the team enjoy the experience as much as their guests, many of whom return again and again. Rob and Hennie have created something beautiful, in an outstanding, natural setting, which feeds the soul as well as the appetite. So, does Rob have any advice for anyone considering something similar?

 

Be true to yourself, have faith in yourself and your dream, and always see life as an adventure.

 

Wise words indeed from someone who is literally living the dream in Spain, and sharing the experience with other lovers of fine food and wine, and natural beauty.

 

To enjoy the Can Sueño experience for yourself, or to discuss your requirements for a wedding or private party, contact Rob and Hennie. They are waiting to take your call.

 

Can SueñoContact details:

Address:

Partida Bichauca 196

Tarbena 03518

Alicante

Email: info@cansueno.com

Phone: 0034 966 183 244

Website: http://cansueno.com/en/home

 

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