As the advert asked – well on Tuesday of this week we were certainly chipped or patatas out!
Mon 1/2/16: And a big hooray for those finishing ‘dry’ January, not for me this year but congrats to those who did it or nearly did (H). For us a day of exploring Tarifa town, mainly the old part with its Moroccan influences in style and food. The plan being to stay and explore and have an early dinner before it got too late to cycle back. But we happened upon the market place in the old town which was really cute, not as big as Cadiz and unfortunately just closing as we arrived and perhaps the sadder thing is now we are noticing that other types of non-food stalls are creeping into these once food only markets. Probably like the UK as a result of the many big supermarkets bullying their way in. Plus the fact that these markets places are now becoming tourist attractions as well- take Borough Market in London Bridge- you can’t walk around there without a bumping into a long zoom lens or selfie stick hoping to get that ever arty photo of a tomato! With that in mind and the draw of a small original market café in the corner we decided to stop and take refreshment- a small beer and glass of Tio Pepe (the sun was over the yard arm) and they had a small choice of uncooked fish on the counter, the local market workers taking in a beer and a few tapas of these fish as well. Once over the usual looks we took courage and opted for the main fish food word that we knew for certain – gambas. A decent sized portion arrived and they were wonderfully cooked, almost to the edge of under rather than over. A near fight ensued between us as ever as to the division of them, but this was easily decided, me being a faster prawn peeler then David is!. A good start to the day and our wanderings through the old town. Dinner had been decided on at Vaca Loca a meat restaurant well reviewed in several guides. It was in one of the many lovely small squares in the old town that you just come upon at nearly each turn and we could imagine it in the height of the season with all the little bars open, table and chairs out, but for us at the start of February it was quiet and just a few locals having an after work drink. What might have been lost in the atmosphere was made up with by the food, not a large menu, no starters or postres – about 10 main courses with one veggie option. David opted for a sirloin streak and for me a chicken kebab-both came with a lovely well- dressed salad and the most wonderful hand cooked chips. The chips were again, as per our Saturday night choice hand cut some with skin and well- seasoned but these had the edge on Saturdays. For David the steak was better than most he has had in London’s main steak houses. The chicken moist and tender. A great restaurant but the odd feeling for us was that the meals were too big- are we becoming too ‘tapa’ in our portions.
Tues 2/2/16: For the first time we started the day disappointed and feeling slightly ‘ripped’ off as tourists in our breakfast choice. We had seen a small café on the road into Tarifa advertising Artisan home cooked cakes and the place always had cars outside as it did again this morning. As we wanted to be on the road and away quickly we opted to have breakfast treat here, but not a good choice- expensive, dull and the coffee luke warm- all well as the saying goes, never judge a book. After a quick stop to Gibraltar and not wishing for fish and chips, lasagne etc. we made iton to Estepona and after parking up we headed again for the delights of its old town. Again very pretty with the small streets all opting to have plants outside in different colours pots and although the plants not quite yet in flower still wonderfully pretty. Following a recommendation by a close friend we headed off and found the restaurant, again early to eat in Spanish terms but late for us after a no food Gibraltar visit and here the potato took over as did the egg. All the dishes seemed to have egg in them and there was a whole section on the potato option. The restaurant however was lovely, very local and so we opted for potatoes with aioli, a 2nd with aioli and a hot sauce, fried peppers and a plate of mixed meats- the restaurant having a wonderful display of the jamons. The potato dishes came, but instead of being cooked chopped potatoes with the sauce mixed through, they were in fact very very thin chip cut potatoes with the sauces dribbled over. Not what we were expecting at all but tasty enough, but in fact one of this style would have been enough especially as when the fried peppers arrived they were served on top on a pile of the same chip like things- so 3 lots of ‘chips’. So on this occasion on the Daddy or chips question, chips won out. Having said that all were very tasty and the meats outstanding and we were lucky enough that when we paid the bill the owner invited us to try a couple of the more expensive jamons. If you do remember Rick in Spain being fortunate enough to be invited to one of the top jamon producers you might remember them discussing how the fat just melts on your tongue and these did just that.
Weds 3/2/16: Back into Estepona old town, and after the delights of a same-same weekly Spanish market, (where I did purchase a pair of seriously odd plimsolls which are so strange I’m sure they’ll catch on)- a menu del dia was in order. None to be found, one tip off failing to be open at this out of season time of year. We tossed a coin and a small Art with Tapa bar won and it was indeed a good choice. The bar was clean, trendy and with a variety of art on the walls, some decent some very much average, but the manager was funny and helpful. We had the loveliest brie with honey and walnuts on toast and a wonderful rare cooked beef- again on a small piece of bread. Along with these the dish of the house- prawns pil pil and a portion of homemade chicken fingers with salsa- not a chip or potato for us today. This was a great place and a lovely lunch indeed and I hope theplace does well with all its competition in Estepona.
Thurs 4/2/16: We headed back to Tarifa as the campsite in Estepona wasn’t really working for us, we had been spoilt by Tarifa and its view of the beach and openness so decided on one more night there. The drive along this coast line and indeed most of the coast of this south west corner in Spain is just beautiful and rivals many of those ‘ must do’ drives. We opted for a lunch main meal again before checking in, as lunch for us at the moment seems the best option. So we stopped on the outskirts of town, and true to its name and what Tarifa is known for it was blowing such a wind not even kite surfers were out in it. The town was quiet and many places still closed, waiting for the weekend visitors I guess. We had in our mind a small side road near the port where we had seen a few restaurants on our previous visits and we were drawn into one by the ‘gordito’ smoking chef plonked on a chair outside. Chefs always look miserable don’t they and this one certainly wasn’t going to replace James Martin on Saturday Morning Kitchen, but as we found out cook he certainly could. Inside the restaurant we were greeted by the cheery front of house owner, and for once I do know he was the owner as on the menu he had written a little history about the restaurant and his family, and using my best Spanish consisting of 3 words he confirmed he was the son and the story was about his father and grandfather and the fact they originally built boats on this very spot, and after some time on his part In Bilbao he returned with a passion for food especially fish and opened the restaurant. As with most restaurants in Spain and again just confirming what Rick indeed said at the start of his Spanish adventure- most restaurants in Spain will have a TV on in the corner and most likely football will be on as well. The menu was obviously mainly fish and he had a wonderful display of it in the front cabinet which Manolo took the time to explain to us what they all were. I opted for a red mullet, ‘me’ sized and David for a fish kebab which was in fact monkfish. Manolo recommended that we had the speciality of the restaurant to start which were the black ink croquettes. They arrived with a lovely lightly flavoured garlic dip and were if I’m honest better than the ones we had had the other day in Bolonia. The blackness of them when you cut into them could put some off but boy they really do taste good. My mullet was beautifully cooked and presented and came with just a couple of boiled potatoes sprinkled with a herb which we couldn’t agree on as ever. This truly was a locals place and then a young bloke came in, whom they all knew and were teasing over his very expensive sunglasses but he certainly knew his fish, starting with a plate of small anchovies in vinegar and then having the most amazing sole, it was definitely not a ‘slip’ and all the staff seemed to gather around him when it was served to see if it met withapproval, and it did from said young man and from us as well. Please note here that the guy was sitting just by my elbow so I couldn’t help but see and notice was food was arriving, I wasn’t doing my drive by of tables to see what others were eating. The name of this restaurant, and Manolo made a point of giving me his card was El Ancla and if you are in Tarifa do look it up.
Fri 5/2/16: Heading back to our home base of Vejer and we opted to revisit Bolonia again as I really wanted NiKi to make the drive, now we knew there was no tiny streets at the end of it. A quiet day again it seemed everywhere and it was still blowy. The good point about returning here was that the Roman ruin- Baelo Claudia was open and so we spent a couple of hours in the museum and looking around the actual ruins, an amazing example of a Romanvillage and boy those Romans knew how to pick a spot, very much location location location. After our cultural dose we were drawn back to the little bar where we had eaten on the previous Sunday and opted for a light tapas lunch, well David’s tapa was actually a burger, made from the local cattle, very tasty and definitely not a shop brought one. I had anchovies which really our delightful here, chicken wings and a potato come fishy egg one as well. That set us up for the day and was again just supplemented by 2 small tapas in our favourite local bar in Vejer, Manolo’s. Thank goodness it’s the weekend and we can relax!!