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La Montana Restaurant and Bar, Bedar

1 Mar

A few weeks ago, on a chilly and (unusually) rainy night here, our lovely friends John and Heidi invited us out for dinner to a restaurant which they had been to on a number of occasions.  We had heard of it, but had not managed to go there yet!  It is way up in the hills, beyond the lovely village of Bedar, around half and hour’s drive from here in El Campico (which on our roads is nothing!).  It was Friday night and so we were all in good spirits and looking forward to the start of the weekend.  We still get “that Friday feeling” here, as Mick works office hours all year round and I kind of have a 9-5 work “around the house and garden” ethic when I am not looking after guests.

Off we went on our little journey, and we noted how wonderful the drive would be once the evenings were light, later on this month.  We arrived at La Montana, situated in a little clearing, at the top of the hill, next to a big barn.  It immediately looked cosy and inviting, and once inside I knew that it was my cup of tea.  There is a gorgeous little bar, which the local residents have clearly embraced, as there is not much else nearby.  The restaurant consists of two or three intimate and subtly lit rooms, not a thing common in Spain, and a warm open fire with logs smouldering away.  It put’s you in mind of an upmarket country gastro-pub.

We decided to go straight into a main course – often when I visit a recommended restaurant where the food is really good, one is tempted to tuck in a bit too much to the starters which always takes the edge off ones appetite. I was very glad that I stuck to a couple of olives and an aperitif!

 

I had the roast belly of pork with red cabbage which was sensational. The others had lamb which was equally fantastic but there is something for everyone on the menu.  It is not cheap, nor over the top expensive and actually because the food is so good, it is very good value for money.

We all had dessert – also absolutely delicious (though because I didn’t write them down, I have forgotten exactly what we had, only that they didn’t disappoint!

La Montana is open for lunch too, as well as tapas and they have live music outside during the summer – phone to check out when.

It is somewhere that we will be going back to very soon – maybe when the clocks go forward!

La Montana, Bedar telephone number: 670 589 788

 

GB Triathletes in Cuevas del Almanzora

28 Jan

You will notice that I haven’t been posting much recently – the minute the family left after Christmas, I started cooking for the triathletes at the Kinetic PB training camp  and just finished last night!   It was fantastic fun, if a little tiring – 6 nights a week for girls and boys who had been training virtually all day long and therefore came back hungry and looking forward to some home cooking.

The camp has really taking off with triathlon teams from Manchester and Scotland choosing to train here, mainly because of the dry, sunny weather.  It can be chilly first and last thing, but during the day you can get 5 or 6 hours of lovely warm weather- a little different from theUK!

The latest athletes to make it out here are the GB Triathlete team who are manically training for their busy season ahead and what is after all an Olympic year.

We have high hopes for medals at the event which is to be held at Hyde Park this summer and so shall be watching out for any familiar faces!

I, too, felt like an athlete, but of the culinary kind – racing to shop, cook and serve substantial and tasty meals that I thought they would enjoy – they were an amazing bunch to cook for – no complaints and hardly anything they didn’t eat and so made life very easy from that perspective.

They had a gruelling but enjoyable time here – the roads are amazing for cycling (they went up to Seron – twice -an hour away by CAR!) – I think they loved the rugged scenery, the blue skies and the great location of their camp.  They even swam in the man-made lake at the camp – freezing at this time of year, the sea at Garrucha (crazy), but mainly used the indoor swimming pool in our local town of Cuevas.

Running, of course, is made easy, due to the lack of traffic, endless hill and mountain.

In the next weeks, they are all off to various parts ofSouth America– I can’t pretend that I am not envious, but only of the travel part – I am no athlete really!  We wish them all the best and hope they will be back again.

San Jose

20 Nov

It occurred to me that I never blogged about San Jose, yet another fantastic beach fairly near us.  To get there, you have to drive in the direction of Almeria and then come off the motorway and through the Cabo de Gata, the natural parkland which goes on forever.  It is simply a stunning drive, I guess the equivalent of, say, Dartmoor and a long windy road goes right through it.  Obviously, there are severe building restrictions here thank goodness, but dotted around are sugar cube houses, a few rather beautiful houses and miles upon miles of hills and mountains in the distance.  Eventually you come upon the lovely little town of San Jose.

In July and August, it is of course incredibly busy with holiday makers, but for the rest of the summer months it is not crowded as really this is a little known corner of Spain.  There are several beaches around here, but the main holiday one is San Jose itself and is absolutely gorgeous.  A large, sandy beach, surrounded by great restaurants to eat and a few hotels sits at the back of the main street.  There are no sunbeds or brollies to be hired and so everything must be brought to the beach.  The water is sensational and like a bath to swim in.

During the Autumn, you can still enjoy a day out here as a lot of the restaurants stay open, and you can sit on the beach  and while away an afternoon quite happily as the climate is so mild so well into October and early November expect to pick up a tan!

There is also a very good little tourist information shop here with good maps and books, and a small selection of very nice gifts from the local area, pottery, olive oil, sea salt for those foodies among you.

San Jose is definitely in our top ten of favourite beaches in the region, so if you are staying in Almeria, it is a must.

Angus and Hereford Steak Restaurant, Garrucha

28 Oct

As a lot of you who have been here know, we are very lucky in the vast selection of restaurants near the Cortijo – within 5 minutes away to 25 minutes – that is usually our limit particularly if we are going for dinner.   One in the middle, 15 minutes, is the Angus and Hereford Steak Restaurant – it is just fantastic if you are a carnivore.  It is on the main road into Garrucha, known for its fish restaurants.  It has no view and one purely goes there for the food and the service, both of which are always great.

Obviously it is known for its fantastic steaks (clue in the name!) but you can have an array of different main courses, including a fantastic rack of lamb or a huge mixed kebab on a skewer to name a couple.  They also have a decent selection of tasty starters, but really, a salad is more than enough as they serve you warm bread with alioli (garlic mayo) and chimichurri sauce (chilli and oil) so unless you generally have a massive appetite I would forego anything else.  All the cuts of beef are divine – I usually have a rib eye steak – but the sirloin and fillet are also excellent. They make lovely big home made chips too, so with a glass or two of Rioja and you are all set.

The staff are always glad to see you (obviously!) and the service is really attentive.  At the end of the meal, you are always asked what drink on the house you would like (not a dodgy liqueur either), whatever you like.  Although not the cheapest place to eat here, they have kept their prices the same for the last couple of years, and certainly you would be hard pushed to get a better steak anywhere. If you haven’t been there yet, I urge you to give it a whirl.

Angus and Hereford Restaurant, Garrucha telephone number: 950 460 588

 

 

Trialthon training in Almeria

20 Sep

Up by the dam at Cuevas del Almanzora is a huge man made lake and clubhouse which was built in 2004 for the rowing and canoeing events of the 2005 Mediterranean games. The thought of rowing and canoeing in the desert has always made us chuckle.

After the Games it just sat unused –we couldn’t believe what a waste it was – until earlier this year Kinetic PB run by Oliver Watts took it over to launch a very impressive triathlon training camp. We met Oli when some friends came to stay and one of them wanted to hire a bike and found him on the internet.  So we thought we would get in touch with him too as we thought it may be of interest to people who stay with us.

The Tri Lodge (10 minutes from here) is at the centre of all training activities – obviously it is ideal for winter training when the UK is pretty grim so makes a brilliant base for athletes.

The lake (or swimming channel) is pretty impressive at 1,150m long and 115m wide offering controlled environment swimming right next to the camp HQ and Kinetic also have their own indoor swimming pool.

Cycling in Almeria is already recognised as one of the best places to train, again particularly during the autumn and winter months as we get so much sunshine during the days.

Oliver is very helpful and obviously enjoys what he does and has a great atmosphere going up at the Tri Lodge along with the equipment and facilities.

Several top coaches work up there during the year but you’ll have to visit the website for a full schedule or just call Oli direct at Kinetic PB.

For those of you who live nearby, do go up and take a look – it is so great to see this structure being used for something sporty!  It is only around 10 minutes drive from Cuevas itself.

Kinetic PB telephone number: +44 (0)7976275503

Sorbas

8 Sep

We have some guests staying at the moment who like combining beach holidays with a bit of exploring – September is certainly the month to do it as it really has cooled down (I think it is only about 80 degrees today!) and therefore is conducive to taking leisurely drives to hilltop villages.  One of these that I always recommend is a gorgeous little town called Sorbas.  There are three good reasons for visiting here – the beautiful old fashioned little town itself – a typical white Spanish village on top of hill, reached by a tiny, winding little road which circles its way to the top; the wonderful array of pottery you can find here (and visit a working potter); and the caves, which are found just outside the town, with their amazing stalactites and stalagmites and just experience the coolness inside.  If you have never seen caves then this really is worth a visit.

When you reach the village, it seems like you are going back in time (like many places around us) – it is uncrowded, untouristy and you can just wander around the charming streets, popping into the odd grocery store where no-one is in a hurry, or ending up in the square for lunch or a drink in one of the two restaurants there.

Sorbas is very easy to get to from here, and you can still cram in a long afternoon at the beach as well.  It is one of the things I love about this area, there are loads of really interesting places to visit which don’t take a whole day and you really get to see how very simply some Spanish people still live.

Triana Bar & Restaurant, Valle del Este, Vera

26 Aug

Last weekend we went up to the pool at Valle del Este, 10 minutes from here.  We used to go here a lot at weekends before we had our own swimming pool as they have a beautiful one and as long as it is not too busy, they let you use the pool, I guess because you will have drinks and lunch etc.

 

Next door to the pool area is a commercial centre albeit a small one.   There are a couple of restaurants and bars here and our favourite is one called Triana.

It has recently been refurbished and extended and has lovely views over the hills beyond the golf course.  It is a family run business, and the very charming son speaks English very well.  Mum cooks the most delicious food – there is an extensive tapas menu which we normally choose from, dishes ranging from 1.50 euros for a small tapa to 5/8 euros or so for a racion (a larger portion suitable for 3 or 4 to share).  Our favourite is the aubergine deep fried and drizzled with honey – it is divine and no matter how I plead, they won’t give me the recipe!  There is something for every taste (including children, who don’t normally go for tapas in a big way!), from prawns to chicken “tears” (a little like tiny chicken nuggets), and clams, chorizo – the list just goes on.

If you do want a more substantial meal and you like fish, order the cod – it is fantastic. They are also famous for their rice dishes on a Sunday, but you have to pre-order these. The meat dishes are delicious too and there really is something for everyone.

Do try it for a lovely relaxed early evening drink, or a linger over a selection of really fantastic dishes – as it is only 10 minutes from here, it is lovely to go there when I feel like a night off!

Triana Bar & Restuarant, Valle del Este, Vera telephone number: 950 461 182

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Canadas Bar & Restaurant, Cuevas del Almanzora

19 Aug

My cousin April is with us at the moment, with her partner James and part of their fantastic brood.  James has triplet boys and April has one of her daughters here too.  They arrived a few days ago in an absolutely brilliant motor home, taking their time and stopping nearLeonto stay with some friends.  We all decided we needed a night off from cooking and cleaning up and we also wanted to go somewhere low key and away from the crowds.

So, what better place than the “brasa” opposite the castle in Cuevas.  April and James have been here before, and like us, they love it.  Ok, you don’t get a sea breeze ( neither the cocktail, nor the literal one) but what you do get is the most fantastic array of grilled meat – racks of pork ribs, spicy pork kebabs, quail, chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) to name a few things on offer here every night of the week, every month of the year.  Add a huge salad and some fries and all the kids are happy as well as all of us too.  In August when everyone else is at the beach, they are delighted to serve us.

Not a word of English is spoken here but lots of great and friendly service.  It is a family affair, with mama doing all the cooking over a roasting open brasa – no mean feat in 90 degrees!  Whatever you order here, including drinks, always seems to come out at around 15 euros including a tip.  They also seem to have cottoned on that us “visitors” like reasonably decent wine with their food, and now serve very good white and red rioja, previously the wine, it has to be said, was undrinkable and only came in the house red variety!  There are some fabulous photographs of Cuevas del Almanzora in days gone by (when there was a proper river flowing through it!) so take a moment to look at these wonderful momentos.

This really is an experience not to be missed and we go there all year round – in the winter it is lovely and cosy and we sit inside, being toasted by the wood burning grill, and in the summer, we enjoy eating outside and staying late until it gets cool, and mingling with the locals.  Do give it a try the next time you just fancy some great barbeque and salad and a lovely glass of vino.

 

Mi Casa Bar and Restaurant, Antas

9 Aug

We are spoilt for places to eat and drink in and around Cuevas – we have everything from a funny Spanish “pub” in Cuevas (it is the nearest thing we have to a proper Irish pub, but it is very Spanish!) to beach bars and restaurants, which you know I feature regularly, but both in and out of season. Mi Casa is a gorgeous bar near us which is part of a small hotel on one side of the road, and a restaurant/bar on the other!  It has recently been refurbished and now the interior could actually be a bar in any big city so chicly has it been done.  In the summer there is a long terrace facing the road but still lovely as it is shady and is surrounded by plants and trees and you can watch the world go by.

We call the owner Tommy Lee (as he reminds us of the actor!) – he is lovely and usually can be found about the place.  It is about a 6 minute drive from the house (2 of those are on our track!) and is just a great place to have a well earned, end of work, end of the week drink.  They do a mean gin and tonic over loads of ice or a chilled glass of wine or beer.

The restaurant is great too, though I feel a little on the pricey side, but then as said, it is a bit more sophis than usual for around here.  The food is excellent though, they always have a great selection of fish, shellfish or meat, salads  or just have a tapa or two in the bar or on the terrace.

Next time we have a night off I think we will mosey on down there. We especially love this photo of Mi Casa from 1973.

Mi Casa Bar & Restaurant Telephone Number: 950 453 048

Chiringuito D’Maruja, Puerto Rey Playa

5 Aug

Yesterday I managed to drag Mick out of his office to meet up with our lovely friends, David and Graeme, for lunch!  As it is August, London business is quieter for Mick, whilst of course, mine is full on, so it is important to get away for a few hours and take a bit of holiday time ourselves.  David and Graeme have been here for a long time and so know all kinds of out of the way places – they are also very chic and therefore I am always eager to go anywhere that they like!

So off we went at1 o’clock and had a pre-lunch cocktail at their beautiful place near the beach, only 15 minutes drive from us.  David called the restaurant to make sure we could have a table upon arrival – top tip, never leave it until 2 pm in Spain to lunch anywhere on the beach – the Spanish literally take every table in sight during July and August at five to two!  So either book, or arrive at 1.30 pm.

Anyhow, with an assurance that our table would be waiting (David and Graeme are well known here!) off we went.  Well, I have never come across this part of the beach in 7 and a half years of living here.  A little tricky to find, it is situated between Vera beach and Garrucha, D’Maruja is only one of two Chiringuitos on this stretch of beach.  The other thing that should be noted is that the beach itself is simply divine –white sand all the way and the water as calm and blue as anything.  There are beds and umbrellas for hire in front of the restaurant and so it makes a perfect location for a whole day out.

But back to D’Maruja itself – ok get this – they only have to open for around 7 weeks a year and so after the 1st week in September you will have to wait until the middle of July next year to dine here!  It is basically a huge structure covered with canvas – there are lots of kind of portable kitchens at the back, cooking the most amazing array of delicious food and a little different too than the normal fayre.  I guess they have enough tables for 100 people here and puts me in mind of Le Club 55 in St Tropez (the first beach bar there) only about a million euros cheaper!  Go for the berenjena, pimiento y cebollo (Tempura of aubergine, green peppers and onion rings like you have never had in your life).

Next time we go, I am taking a small pot of chilli sauce with me!  Then there is the usual fantastic salad and after that a huge choice of meat or fish – we all had veal escalope just because I had cooked fish for two days running at home and I needed a meat fix!  But you can be sure that everything here is freshly cooked and absolutely delicious because their clientele is clearly very important to them (most of the houses on this stretch are upwards of a million euros and so standards are high).  We didn’t have any room for dessert – I would concentrate on the starters and mains frankly.  We had a few glasses of wine and the boys drank beer and lots of water.  Our bill came to an amazing 20 euros a head with a tip!  You can’t complain at that can you?  Suffice it to say we will be cramming in as many visits as possible before they close during the second week of September!

David and Graeme have come up trumps again!

Chringuito D’Maruja, Puerto Rey Playa Telephone number: 629 614 880