“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”
– Luciano Pavarotti
Summer seems to have been going on for ages now, the day’s sunshine sometimes accompanied by light breezes and the odd shower of rain, but summer nevertheless. July and August are when most locals will take a break, and I don’t mean just the odd day here and there; the Spanish, they holiday in weeks. Your butcher, baker, favourite restaurateur and mechanic will all disappear at various intervals during this time. A few may go around mid-June when temperatures really start to soar; others other hang on to the very end, often creeping into early September, just before schools begin again.
Regardless, summer means relaxation, summer means taking time off, and these two combined mean eating out! A visit from a friend naturally led to many new gustatory adventures; below are my latest summer food finds.
Pizzeria San Miguel Bajo, Albaicin Granada, Spain
People often say “looks can be deceiving”, and this is an example of where that phrase comes in handy. If you could be in a town square with open air restaurants on every corner, why would you stop at a streetside pizzeria with no outdoor seating and a tiny counter?
Well, it’s because a single peek through their window displays 3 rows of homemade empanadas – a Latin American half-moon pastry stuffed with a multitude of fillings. And if, like us, you had been walking the calles of Granada all day, nothing will strike you as quite so satisfying. We greedily managed three each but spread the flavours: spinach & soft cheese; Spanish ham, cheese & onion; minced spicy beef and Argentinian chicken; Pisto (vegetables in a tomato sauce) and finally mushroom & onion. We munched away as the lady at the counter worked away to replenish the damage we had done to her display counter, and left totally satisfied – but not before noticing a newspaper clipping of Rick Stein visiting the very same place!
Restaurante La Cigala, Paseo Marítimo La Carihuela, Torremolinos, Spain
In my view, no stay in Torremolinos is complete without a visit to this restaurant. Recommended last year by a friend from Leon, I have been here on many occasions and always eaten well. This time it was an opportunity to test ourselves and see whether we could go beyond the usual paella, grilled bass, and fried calamari. So we went for it and ordered the Arroz Negro (Black Rice). I could easily drop in another quote here and go with ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, because although it looks fairly simple – almost unappetizing – this dish is fantastic. The blend of seafood flavours, softness of the Spanish rice and the squid ink just make it just right. If you’re only two, I’d advise you not to order much else; this dish will challenge your ability to clean your plate. Ask for a small dish of alioli – garlic mayonnaise – and add a few drops to the rice to really take things to the next level! The restaurant sits along the promenade and from a window table you’ll have a view of the beach running into the deep blue sea. It fills up quickly from 2pm onwards, so plan accordingly.
Maestro, Calle Espinel, Ronda, Spain
This is perhaps my favourite local find this year. Squashed between two larger establishments, it’s hard to even spot it. With a few outdoor tables and only a bar counter inside, it’s very much home to locals in the midst of a tourist trap. Simple tapas of salmon skewers, prawns, croquettas, mini sandwiches, local ham and cheeses, and stuffed mushrooms will seemingly appear out of nowhere around you. The ‘Gambas a Pil Pil’ hit the spot nicely – so nicely that we had two portions. A simple dish of shelled prawns that come bubbling out in hot olive oil with dangerous amounts of garlic and a hint of dried chilli, all you need with this is some crusty bread for dipping. And don’t be afraid of the oil – Ronda is filled with olive groves, and their quality could not get any better!
From what I can tell, this is a family run place, and service may not be speedy; bills seem to take longest to appear. Use the opportunity to watch the world passing by, plan your next move, or catch up with a friend – honestly, do whatever you want so long as you take my advice and eat here when you’re next in town!
Restaurante Copacabana, Marbella, Spain
Marbella is made up of various beaches and this one is a little tricky to find, but thanks to modern day technology, a certain map app will get you to the doorstep. As you can see from the picture we thought it was time to go traditional, so paella it was! A Spanish rice dish which gets its colour from saffron, its flavour from seafood stock and its depth from seafood, chicken, peas and peppers, this is a dish that is deceptively simple and satisfying. There are different types on the menu so choose the one takes your fancy. If you are a large group coming here I would suggest phoning in advance and reserving your space and your paella for the time of your choice, to avoid long waiting times upon arrival. You can also opt to make a day of it and rent sunbeds for €5 each; either way, the beach is at your disposal whether for a cool dip or a stroll to work off that big lunch! The menu is extensive so don’t limit yourselves to just my advice, try as much as you dare.
by Alima Rehman