Food and drink on the Costa Brava
We’ve just returned from the Costa Brava. We had a very relaxing time, visiting beaches and eateries mainly, taking a couple of days out to go to Figueres and Girona on the rainy days.
We spent the first week on a campsite in L’Escala. This little town is split into two very distinct parts – one, a Blackpool type sea-front dream for kids – complete with amusements, spray on tattoo stalls and foam parties (!). Very chilled and friendly, our initial horror (sorry, not our favourite type of holiday destination) subsided when we found a number of excellent ice cream shops. We were further delighted to take the little train from our campsite to find that L’Escala old town is actually very beautiful and its back streets hid a number of excellent restaurants. One was a tiny Catalan tavern which managed to squeeze us in and served up rare steak (quite superb) and good red wine, (can’t remember the name!) and the other, L’Escalenc which was full on the Friday night, so we made sure we went back on the Sunday.
The decor was very 70s (we have nothing against the 70s) and the welcome warm – it turned out the woman who welcomed us owned the restaurant was from London. She’d arrived 25 years ago as an au pair and never left. She sensibly stopped us from ordering everything on the menu (we always get over excited) and limited us to steak and a fish stew for two (after the pre-requisite ‘sonsos’ miniature fried fish and calamares).
Papa loved the fish stew – a silky fish stock filled with monkfish, prawns and squid and the steaks were cooked perfectly to our liking (very pink). Puddings -Papa had crema catalana and I fancied the ‘frutos secos’ dried fruit and nuts with manzanilla, which was a million miles from any El Bulli creation, came a white plate with a handful of dried fruit and nuts scattered around a glass of sweet sherry. Just as it said on the menu. Quite refreshing really.
There is something very comforting about Spanish food – it is generally exactly as it says on the menu. A steak – this will be steak (no garnish, vegetables etc) unless asked for. Mixed salad – as long as your idea of a mixed salad is iceberg lettuce, carrot and green olives, then you will be happy.
We did notice tapas in many bars have become enormous ( no longer just a little plate that might have been used to cover the drinks and protect from flies…) but enough for three or four people or one hungry person’s main course. The prices reflect this too, but still, most places we visited are still priced very reasonably.
Beer is Spanish and wine of the region, which is as it should be. The claras (shandy to you and me) are still made with Fanta limon so really lemony – they even have it on tap now thanks to Damm limon. So good for a sunny day lunch.
Other places we ate….
The boys had their best day ever in the waves at St Pol de Mar. We took the train from El Masnou and walked round to the left past the wonderful Banys Lluis restaurant where we were lucky to get a table. The calamares was delicious as was the paella. All washed down with some lovely rose.
The pudding was one of our all time favourites – layers of puff pastry and custard topped with toasted sugared almonds.
Beaches in the Costa Brava
While we were staying in L’Escala we drove up to a number of beaches including Sa Tuna (pictured above left) a beautiful little cove and clear green water. It was a challenge to park here and the two little restaurants were full so we had lunch in Begur at Pali Blau – absolutely lovely courtyard, perfect rose and sea bass served by very friendly waiters. Definitely recommended!
We tried to visit Aguablava but couldn’t park! So drove on to one of our favourites, Llafranc (above, right). It’s a lovely town with a busy, family beach. You can walk from here on the coastal path to Calella de Palafrugell, which is stunning and has some lovely restaurants. We didn’t make this coastal journey as we were very excited indeed to drive to El Masnou to see our friends Carrie and Tom and their children. Carrie and Tom have made a wonderful life for themselves on the Costa Brava (they are involved in two great businesses – www.lucasfox.com an agency which sells stunning properties on the Costa Brava and www.mumabroad.com a site for mothers who have moved abroad to Spain, Italy, France and Germany).
From there we took the train every day to various beaches along the coast including St Pol de Mar (see above) and our favourite Caletas where there were few people on the beach and lots of fabulous chiringuitos (beach bars / cafes). There were lots of cool septuagenarians in their costumes drinking a morning brandy before a dip in the sea. Papa and I have put our name down for a residential home here 🙂
Carrie and Tom took us to a great little restaurant in El Masnou – very small, with extremely friendly staff. Their menu was the most original and imaginative we’d come across – and particularly loved their gin and blackberry cocktail, sprinkled with flowers and leaves. We can’t remember the name but it had something to do with blackberries – perhaps Carrie will remind us….?!
Our last day was spent in Barcelona – first we returned to our beloved bar Jai-ca in Barceloneta which has opened another branch such is its popularity. It is no longer packed with locals but tourists as word has got around about its great tapas (it has featured in The Guardian amongst many other papers and websites).
We didn’t eat too much here (just some octopus, calamares a la plancha, patatas bravas and deep fried anchovies) and so moved on to a restaurant / bar recommend by our host Carrie. L’Ostia is also in Barceloneta and its interior is very contemporary and cool. The menu is great, complete with foodie quotes. Here we went for a cheese platter and cava (we felt we’d had enough deep fried fish for one day). We would really recommend this one and will make sure we return to eat more next time. We met up with lovely Aimee (who used to work in Papadeli and now lives in Barcelona) and her gorgeous little boy Curtis and loved hearing about her plans for her textile business Studio Amour.
We returned full of inspiration and will be celebrating Spanish food at our supper on September 26th. To book, click here.
For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org.