I’ve been to Algeciras twice for work, in May 2012, April 2016 and December 2017. I’d never heard of it before, which is strange as it’s Spain’s largest port (and one of the largest in the world for cargo), built by Franco to compete with Gibraltar over the water.
The reason for this is probably that there’s very little of anything cultural to experience and it’s not a holiday destination by any stretch of the imagination. Even local people I have worked with describe it as ‘not beautiful’ and ‘ugly but comfortable’ as part of their warm but slightly apologetic welcome. It has grown on me with time though, and I’ve discovered a few gems hidden away in the corners.
One good thing about the city is all the other places you can get to from it, such as Gibraltar, which is just a bus ride away on the other side of the Bahia de Algeciras (or Bay of Gibraltar depending on your loyalties). You could visit the beautiful beaches of neighbouring Tarifa, or travel the famous train line inland to lovely Ronda, or perhaps even take a short ride on a fast ferry to Tangiers in Morocco. I’ve written posts for all these places except Tarifa.
For all three of my visits I’ve stayed at the Hotel AC Algeciras www.marriott.com. It’s located near the waterfront in a barrio called El Mirador, which is walkable from the centre.
It’s worth requesting a room on floor seven as they have private balconies and the reception seem happy to upgrade you if they are available.
I’ve stayed in 601 which is a suite with an extra bathroom and a sitting room that I never used. I preferred 604 which is one large room and has better views, although the downside is it’s opposite the lift. It might be better to ask for the higher numbers on each floor.
The AC is a modern hotel (around two years old in 2012) with (usually) friendly and helpful staff, a good breakfast spread (it’s part of the Marriot group who always put on a good brekky) and a small gym. It’s quite stylish with lots of stained dark wood, bathrooms with glass sinks and plenty of chrome.
I’ve eaten in the hotel once (something I never usually do) when it was raining stair rods outside. There are only about four options for each course on the menu, none of which particularly inspired me. I had the Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Jerez Vinaigrette, which arrived without the vinaigrette (C). We were overseen by the waitress from hell; sullen, rude and intentionally accident prone. I was gobsmacked to find her still working there in 2016 but she was much better behaved. Still my advice would be to walk into town, or to one of the places below if you’re feeling lazy.
Jaipur (Elementary B+), 82 Avenida Virgen del Carmen
In 2016, in need of a change from weeks of eating only Spanish food, I came to this ‘Indian’ (actually Pakistani) restaurant for a light evening meal. I wanted to order more from their extensive menu of Indian standards but having had a large lunch I had to rein it in.
A spicy Aloo Gobi will always be a winner with me and this hit the spot despite the potato being ever so slightly undercooked (B+). The Raita and Pilau Rice were both perfect (A) and the Chipati was okay (B). The friendly owner gave me a complementary Gulab Jamun (B), a Delhi speciality, when he heard I’d lived there for a while.
The total bill was only €24 with a tip. There is zero ambience as it doubles as a pizza and burger takeaway, but they’ll deliver to the hotel should you be feeling lazy. You’ll find their menu here.
La Pampa (Intermediate B), 5 Avenida España
In 2017 the hotel receptionist recommended this Argentinian grill house as a good place for Sunday lunch near the hotel. The food is good, which is why it’s very popular with the locals (I only just got a table at 1.30) but you can only score it a B when you’ve eaten at some of the best parrillas in Buenos Aires.
I greedily ordered the Parrillada La Pampa which it only available for two (€36). This included morcilla, chorizo, ribs, entrecote, sirloin, and a couple of baked potatoes thrown in for good measure. It was of course way to much even for a greedy guts like me, but I wanted a bit of variety which you can only get with a parrillada. If I were to order again though I wouldn’t get the chorizo (C) and just get one of the meats instead (all B). Presentation wasn’t great either, hence the minus.
They have a good wine selection by the glass and the beer is served in chilled terracotta cups which is a nice touch. Their complementary chilled limoncello is very good too (which is an improvement on Argentina where it’s served warm more often than not, yuk!). Service was pleasant and efficient so I would happily go again but order more carefully.
With olives, a beer and three glasses of red I spent €47.30.
Meson La Posada de Millan (Intermediate C), 47 Maestro Millan Picazo, mesonlaposadademillan.com
This was a recommendation from the hotel receptionist in 2012. It’s nearby, fairly cheap and you can get some okay food if you choose the right things. It looks like it should be part of a chain with paper menus for place mats and decor on the faux Posada theme (like thousands of other similar places around Spain) with fake wooden beams on the ceiling, modern ‘old world’ ceramic tiles and cast-iron electric chandeliers.
To begin I had the Gazpacho Andaluz, which was fine (B) but nothing special. To follow I had Carrillades en Salsa. The beef cheeks were beautifully fibrous as you would expect and the gravy sauce was full and rich (B+), while the skinny chips were just ok (B-). This was only a half portion but would have been a full meal in itself.
I went with the Protos Roble (C+) for €14.75 but wished I’d gone for the crianza (two year old) version which is much better. I‘d been spoilt by a Protos 2006 a few weeks earlier, a reserva I think, which was stunning (A).
The very gruff waitress tried to whisk my plate away when I was only halfway through my cheeks and replace it with one of those crappy ice cream menus you get when restaurants outsource the dessert course. I wasn’t too happy and let her know it. Not sure if she hates all her customers or just the English ones (Gibraltar might be an issue here with some people).
The following Chuletas de Cerdo do Cabezal were the cheapest meat item on the menu but were too heavily salted (C), and the accompanying sautéed carrots, peppers and courgette were overcooked (C-) as were the square chips (C). The Tocino de Cielo (a kind of very sweet flan) tried to look attractive but was doused in too much honey (B-).
I came here on another day out of sheer laziness to sample the €12 menu-del-dia, for which I got the house mixed salad with lettuce, onion, sweet corn, beetroot, black olives and a chunk of great tuna (B+), followed by Secreto Iberico which involved some tiny tasty boneless chops (B) and the same poorly cooked veg (C-) I’d had the previous time. The flan (caramel pudding) to finish was just like anywhere else (B). You get what you pay for here.
When it comes to food I’ve heard Algeciras described as ‘gastronomically conservative’. I gave it my best shot, and after a poor start, I think I have eaten pretty well here overall. Please see the coming posts for some better tips.
For a room picnic, or more serious gourmet food shopping I recommend the Hipercor supermarket in El Corte Ingles at Calle Juan Pérez Arriete (see my Google map). This particular branch is a wonderland of top quality Spanish foods and wines. I picked up four 250g tins of Ortiz Bonito (best quality A+ line caught tuna) which were on sale at only €3.10 each. I also got a bottle of Cardenal Mendoza ‘Angelus’ brandy liqueur which I’d never seen before for only €17.30. All great bargains.