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La Parranda Restuarant, Murcia

16 Mar

If you follow my blog, you will know we had a trip up to Murcia a couple of Saturdays ago.  We crammed some shopping in, but more important than shopping is of course, eating and drinking!  Murcia for us is pretty much undiscovered, and as Spain’s 10th largest city, there is quite a lot to discover both culturally and cuisine wise.  As we were in one of the familiar parts to us, i.e. around the Cathedral and old town, we went for the third time to our favourite restaurant, La Parranda.

La Parranda restaurant frontage

We first discovered it about 5 years ago when we stayed overnight on our way to Valencia for a little city break.  We could see La Parranda from our hotel bedroom window in the Plaza San Juan amongst several other rather marvellous looking places.

 

The are about 4 or 5 and I would be happy to go into any one of them – they have tables outside with patio heaters in the winter time and fabulous displays of trugs or glass vases containing  vast amounts of tomatoes or aubergines – they are quite stunning.

Outside eating area - beautiful in Spring and Summer

Anyhow, the thing about La Parranda is that when you order your first drink, you are treated to a bowl of big fat olives along with the biggest potato crisps you have ever seen in your life, and we loved this gem of extravagant bar snacks that we just feel the need to go there on every trip.  I think La Parranda comes from the verb Parrandearse, to go out on the town but I could be wrong!  Cheap it is not, but sophisticated it is, and we are not talking London prices either.

Olives and big crisps

We decided to stay at the bar, on high stools and around tall round tables, and order from the tapas and racion menu (Racion is a more substantial portion than a tapa, and often enough for two or three of you to share).  We had boquerones (anchovies) on toast, peppers stuffed with salt cod, morcilla (black pudding), grilled pork loin in tiny baguettes, meltingly tender, a huge salad of the most delicious green tomatoes that you get here, with hearts of palm – I can’t remember whether we had anything else to eat, but the menu is pretty vast just in the bar area.

One of the tempting salads

With a few drinks the bill came to 50 euros with a tip for three of us – I imagine it would be double the price in London. Each time I eat really authentic and posh Spanish food, it inspires me to get out my Spanish cook books and be a bit more inventive rather than sticking to the things I know and am confident cooking.

 

Next time we are in this area of Murcia, though, I think we have to have a drink and a snack in each of the other restaurants in Plaza Juan – they all look worthy of a peak inside.

La Parranda telephone number: 968 220 675

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Pastores Restaurant and bar, Sierra Cabrera

30 Nov

On Sundays, quite often we will arrange a lunch here or meet up with friends and go off for a lovely relaxing afternoon.  This Sunday was a beautiful day – that wonderful blue sky and lots of sunshine that you get here and also in the UK (except that here if the sun is out it is usually T shirt weather, sorry).  Anyhow, we met our friends at the bottom of our track and went off together to Sierra Cabrera, around 25 minutes away.  There are several lovely restaurants there, but the one I like in the winter is the one at the top – Los Pastores, or The Shepherds.  The restaurant occupies part of a Mosque/ church building and there is an adjoining Torreon (tower) which is believed to one of only two examples in Spain (the other tower is in Malaga) and dates back to the11th century.

Los Pastores entrance

The view is exceptional and in winter time you get that kind of alpine air feeling (it is several degrees cooler up here than at our house!).  Today we are wearing jumpers and so can enjoy a drink on the terrace with the spectacular view.  I have booked a table inside, but there are lots of visitors (you can tell as they are all sleeveless!!) who are happily lunching outside in the sunshine.

Beautiful views

The menu here is pretty extensive, delicious and good value.  My friend Gill and I share a starter of tempura aubergine and courgette with a chilli jam dipping sauce.  Mick has his favourite of salt cod fritters (they are fantastic – I make them at home) and Mike has smoked salmon.  Then two of us have roasted shoulder of lamb which falls off the bone, Gill has chicken in white wine, and Mick has a wood oven pizza which looks fantastic!  I am trying to diet so have a bite of Gill’s apple pie which is delicious.  The boys have coffee and cognac and I have an espresso as I am driving us down the mountain!

The bill comes to a reasonable 32 euros including a tip with a bottle of wine, pre lunch drinks beforehand and a glass of white wine for me.

Los Pastores restaurant interior

We are coming here for our Christmas day lunch – just for a change and I must say it will be lovely to have breakfast on Christmas morning, presents and then have Mick drive my parents, Kim and Stuart (my sis and her husband to lunch in our friend Cannon Bennett’s people carrier (he has gone to New Zealand!)  – and then just leave!!!  I will still be cooking a turkey on Christmas Eve of course to have over the rest of the holidays – it wouldn’t be Christmas would it?

Los Pastores Resaurant and bar telephone no : 950 982 585

 

 

 


 

 

 

Rincon del Puerto Restuarant & bar, Garrucha

13 Nov

This is probably our favourite restaurant in Garrucha.  It is fantastic in the summer particularly at night, as you sit right on the water and have the benefit of the sea breeze.  The menu is great – loads of fresh fish as you would expect, big salads, and a great selection of all kinds of shellfish.  They do an all year round trade here, both because of the food but also the superb location.  Sunday lunch in a crowd here is hard to beat – endless platters of food to share over several hours, sitting in the fresh air and not being ripped off!  You can pretty much come here at any time of day – coffee in the morning, lunch, drinks in the afternoon or before or after dinner, or dine up until midnight if you want to.

Great for tapas

If you come and eat at 8 pm you will probably have the place to yourselves – the Spanish in seaside towns don’t tend to do the after work drinks thing as they do in the cities, and as we do in the UK.  Those who work in offices will be at home until 8 ish and then start to go out – have a walk along the promenade with their families and then eat late – no-one really starts work here until 10 am and children are frequently kept out late (even though they have school at 8.30 am!).  All through the winter you can enjoy sitting outside at lunchtime on many days as it is nearly always warm enough as long as the breeze isn’t too strong.  At night time, there is a bar and very smart restaurant inside in which to have dinner – whatever the time of year you decide to visit,  you will be guaranteed a good time.

 

 

Tito’s Beach Bar, Mojacar Playa

1 Nov

Sunday afternoon and we have planned to go down to Mojacar Beach to meet up with some friends at Tito’s one of the beach bars there.  This is the last Sunday opening until the spring and it is packed with regulars and visitors.  Today they have some live music and a belly dancer (gorgeous looking, bet she can’t cook!) for our entertainment.  It is lively and buzzy and everyone is out to enjoy themselves.  The weather is still very mild, and was blustery when we left home, but not here on the beach.  The sea is calm and there are a few fluffy white clouds in the sky – we aren’t wearing jackets yet and some of us are in T shirts still.

Live music by the sea at Tito's

The menu at Tito’s is reliably good with some really delicious dishes on offer.  Fresh mussels and sardines are the order of the day to start together with a huge salad for all of us.  I choose lamb kebabs for my main course, other choices are chicken tempura (massive), mushroom risotto (just with as much gloop as it should have) and Dorada (see bream) grilled until the skin is just slightly blackened and crispy.  I am not driving today (Mick drew the short straw!) and so I glug some fresh, white wine down very happily.  We take a look at the dessert menu, which I have no intention of ordering……. Until I see chocolate brownie with ice cream which I immediately order and share with Mick.  It is divine.  We order coffees and more wine with the entertainment, a couple of really good guitarists and the beautiful belly dancer.

Bring on the belly dancer

It is Halloween and all the kids are out in costume scaring everyone and having fun – the clocks have gone back and so I suddenly realise is getting dark and is now gone 7 o’clock!  We have to go and check on the mutts as we don’t like leaving them for too long by themselves.

What a fantastic last day of summer we have had – and it is November on Monday!

If any of you reading this come next spring, go to Tito’s for a drink at night or a Sunday lunch – you will always have a good time.

Tito’s Beach Bar telephone number: 950 615 030

La Brasa Restaurant and bar, Vera

28 Oct

Last night, having got back from London late the day before, I didn’t really have the energy to cook as I had been catching up on a week’s chores and sorting all the rooms out now that the season has quietened down!  Mick said he would take me a local place between Vera and Antas that he had discovered whilst I was in London.  Anything cooked on a brasa usually means wood burning grill and is likely to be very meaty although usually a menu del dia will have something fishy on too.

These kind of places are very Spanish, no frills and frequented by local people.  You can have tapas from the bar or you can order a la carte, in which case they will put a tablecloth on one of the tables for you!   I was really hungry and so ordered from the menu del dia – 3 courses for 14 euros, including a couple of glasses of decent wine and coffee which didn’t seem to appear on the bill and so I guess were included.  I had a massive salad and an entremeses, a plate of salami, chorizo, cheese and ham, followed by the most delicious lamb chops with fried potatoes – not very healthy but just fantastic.  Mick just shared the salad, which came at the beginning for both us, and then had a really decent, well-cooked sirloin steak for about 15 quid!  They are continually putting meat on the embers of the fire in a wire rack so that they just cook through slowly (no burnt meat here!).  The result is just the most delicious, smoky, well-seasoned fare – if you are a carnivore, you could not do better in any top restaurant.  Then I ordered something for pudding which I didn’t understand – Mick said it translated something like “Bacon in heaven” but he may have been teasing me – anyway, it was a kind of bread puddingy thing with whipped cream which we managed to plough through with no problem.  The diet starts today!

The total bill for the two of us was 32 Euros.  Years ago I would have walked out of a place like this because they look like workman’s cafes (in fact usually, hidden in the back is also a much more formal dining room where christening receptions take place!) – now I know better!  Local people don’t put up with bad food or being ripped off.  And being about 7 minutes drive away is just a bonus!

La Brasa telephone number: 950 390 753

 


Terraza Carmona Restaurant and bar, Vera

24 Oct

On Saturday’s we often go to the market at Vera, a large town 10 minutes away.  After the hustle and bustle of shopping and lugging all our goodies back to the car, we pop into Terraza Carmona for a drink and a tapa – it is a hotel but with a fantastic restaurant and bar.  The bar is miles long with lots of tapas to choose from along with a fabulous choice of fresh prawns and all kinds of fish and seafood.  Cheap it ain’t if you want to eat in the restaurant but fabulous it is.  If you are just snacking and having the house wine or beer, it is a bargain though and you can stay for a couple of hours with no problem at all.

Terraza Carmona tapas bar

They also have the famous jamon from acorn fed piggies which as far as I am concerned is one of the most delicious things you can eat in the world.  A plate enough for four of you is around 20 quid so well worth ordering along with some bread and manchego cheese.  It is very very Spanish and over the weekends the bar is always busy – we always do the non Spanish thing and go reasonably early (around 8 o’clock) if we are going in the evening as otherwise it is hard to get a table if there are more than two of you.  It is lively and mostly frequented by well to do Spaniards, along with hoards of children who are always welcome at all hours of the evening.

Terraza Carmona restaurant

The restaurant is very much more sedate and very classy.  The menu is extensive and varied and also very funnily written – you kind of need to see it to know what I mean!  The kid is absolutely delicious so long as you manage not to picture what it once looked like, as are all the meat dishes.  There are lots of fish choices too – always order a salad as Spanish people obviously think “what is the point of having vegetables, we get those at the market”.  And so you may well get a tablespoon of frozen veg on your plate, along with good potatoes or chips though.  It is something I will never get used to but they seem unwilling to change in this region.   (This isn’t true in most cities in Spain).

Carmona is an absolute must for any visitor – just go for drinks and tapas if you are on a budget or treat yourself to a big fat Sunday lunch – you are guaranteed to enjoy either.

Terraza Carmona telephone number: 950 390 760

El Mar La Mar Restaurant and bar, Villaricos

23 Oct

El Mar La Mar The sea, the sea – what an evocative name.  It is a restaurant and one of our favourites and is indeed on the sea at a small fishing village near us.  We go there often, sometimes just the two of us (it’s very romantic!) but more often with friends (it is good fun!).  The owner and chef used to be a big cheese in the kitchen at Desert Springs golf club, but has owned his own restaurant for some years now.  It does very well, thanks to the delicious food, the great front of house staff, the location, and so important in this economic climate, the value for money.

El Mar la Mar dining room

 

Very cleverly, Richard (Shepherd) introduced a “Friends of Mar de Mar” menu a couple of autumns ago when the hoards of holiday makers were no longer around and so this was very much aimed at us locals, both Spanish and English.  If you order before 8 pm you are treated to a two course dinner with wine for 30 euros per couple – brilliant.  Even if you don’t eat from this menu, prices are good and the menu choices go on forever.  It is very much an international menu, with some Spanish specialities too, and always interesting and tempting.

We have never had a bad experience here and there is something for every taste, even the most fussy child.  The surroundings and atmosphere are really charming too and I never get fed up of going there.  And no, they’re not paying me.

El Mar La Mar telephone number: 950 467 030

Neptuno Beach Club, Mojacar

20 Oct

On Sunday we went off for lunch with my cousin April and her friends who were staying with us, and Sadie, Mick’s mum, who is also staying for a couple of weeks.  Sunday is my day off – no housework is done (guests are forewarned!) and usually no cooking apart from breakfast if they are lucky!  It is a day for lying around our courtyard or by the swimming pool, or, more often than not, lunch or dinner with friends.  We debated sea or mountains for lunch and sea won!  So I booked a table for 7 at 2 p.m. (never before!) at Neptuno – my sister Kim’s favourite restaurant here.

Neptuno outside deck

It is quite Californian in decor – a wooden shack type building smack on the beach and great for lunch or dinner – dinner is very romantic here as you can dine on the terrace and hear the sea gently lapping on the shore a few feet away.  Unsurprisingly, you can order wonderful fish which is done on their barbeque, a beaten up old motor boat (which incidentally used to be a charming old fishing boat!), or there is a vast choice of barbequed meats as well, along with rice dishes.

Sardines from the boat

The staff are friendly and quick to serve you with drinks, fresh bread and alioli to keep you occupied whilst you decide on the food.  My cousin is prone to over order so I warned her about the portions of potatoes and salads and said we could order more if we needed it.  We didn’t of course.  Some of the party had mixed paella, the rest of us had fish and meat on the barbeque, a huge salad and mountains of salty chips.  Heavenly.  You can stuff yourself here for around 20 euros including loads of decent plonk, water and coffees (no pud needed). It is open all year round, so is great for those sometimes blustery winter days when the sea is crashing onto the beach and you are all cosy inside.  The owners let you linger and are never in a hurry to push you out so we rolled out at 5 ish and came back to the cortijo for a siesta.  No supper needed that night!

Neptuno Beach Club telephone no. 616 005 387

Bar Casa Puga, Almeria

7 Oct

Yesterday we took Mick’s mum to Almeria shopping.  Well, at least I wanted to go shopping and the last time Sadie went to Almeria with one of her other boys she was taken straight to the football stadium and home again!  So we thought she deserved to actually see the city this time, you know, with shops, coffee stops and everything!  I always like to go to Zara Home at the Mediterranean Shopping Centre and needed to exchange something.   But our other main reason for going to Almeria was to take Sadie to our very favourite tapas bar for lunch.

 

Casa Puga exterior

 

Casa Puga is something of an institution for the locals; located in the old town near the cathedral, it has been run by the same family since 1870 and is a truly authentic Spanish experience.  It has a fabulous long marble bar where people stand and have a drink and a tapa, where the waiters tot up and write bills in pencil on the bar and then there are a certain amount of small marble tables, mainly at the back for a proper lunch or dinner.  You are all crammed in together, which is just as well as you want to see what everyone else is having (in these places they always seem to serve stuff which isn’t on the menu, and we hate missing out!).  They serve the best mushrooms, prawns in batter and the most fabulous jamon iberico – it is the good stuff and pretty pricey by standards around here – 17 euros for a plate, but plenty for three of us.

 

As authentic as it gets!

 

The staff run around constantly, bringing more dishes in any old order, and you just lift your glass to indicate wanting another, so you are never really waiting for anything.  Mick finished with what I can only describe as a miniature black pudding paninni – exquisite.  As we were having a leg of roast lamb for dinner we decided not to go too crazy, but could have easily stayed until 4 o’clock stuffing ourselves – it is the most wonderful place to end a shopping trip – you need to arrive by quarter to two though, in order to get a seat – otherwise you have to stand and eat at the bar, not good if you have been schlepping about for 2 or 3 hours.  Evenings there, particularly on Friday nights, are noisy, smoky, fun affairs and attract a vibrant and interesting crowd – so long as you can persuade one of your party to drive home it is worth the hour long trip.

Here’s the fabulous mushroom recipe as shown by Juan the barman.

Casa Puga telephone number: 950 231 530

Riad Cabrera/Fatima’s Restaurant – Sierra Cabrera

13 Sep

If you are happy to go for an ever so slightly hairy drive into the hills that are Sierra Cabrera, you couldn’t find a more charming gem than this fantastic restaurant.  It nestles in a dip high up in the Cabrera’s, near the town of Turre.  The influence of course, is Moroccan and is where Fatima herself hails from.  The restaurant is absolutely beautiful – a fabulous terrace to dine or have drinks on in the warm summer and early autumn nights and an intimate bar inside with stunning Moorish tiling for when the evenings are no longer warm enough to be outside.  The huge inside dining rooms are immaculate and stylish and would make a magnificent venue for any party, whether it is a formal wedding reception or a special birthday or anniversary do.  So all of that without even mentioning the food!

The view onto the terrace from the restaurant

Well, you need a good twenty minutes and a large gin and tonic (served in a wonderful goblet) to study the extensive and inventive menu.  It is a joy to read and very hard to decide what to choose and in fact, when deciding,  you are in your mind already planning your next visit!

To start you have to select one of about twenty six – no mean feat!  Duck foie with blackberry sauce and sweet wine jelly does it for me (but among other things you could have Spanish ham and melon, anchovies, fresh marinated tuna tartare with wasabi sauce, ostrich pate, various delicious sounding salads, prawns, risottos, fresh pasta with pear and cheese….. I could go on.

The beautiful terrace

The house specialities consist of various delicious tagines (lamb, chicken, venison and vegetable), several different types of cous cous, fish pie with Moroccan herbs and spices, confit of duck cooked in onion oil, cinnamon, lemon and honey to name a few.

Then there are the most delicious meat and fish dishes, including suckling pig with mashed apple, lots of beef choices and roast leg of young goat with cous cous.  There is fish for every taste, red tuna rolled in sesame with teriyaki sauce, grilled hake, cod, or tuna and prawn kebab.

There is separate dessert menu, if you manage to get that far.  I am sure you have gathered that this is a high end restaurant but still offers fantastic value for money.

The service is warm and welcoming and I guarantee you will want to go back again.

Go for lunch if you are scared of driving in the dark, but do go – you won’t be disappointed.

Riad Cabrera telephone number: 950 092 042