Archive for the Algeciras Category

Algeciras – going to the beach

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, El Rinconcillo, Getares, Spain with tags , , , on March 26, 2017 by gannet39

Despite the huge container port dominating the shoreline, there are actually a couple of big beaches in and around Algeciras that are okay. I mention Getares below which is a taxi ride from the AC Hotel, but in my opinion the best beach is in El Rinconcillo which is about 20 minutes’ on foot from the hotel.

Gibraltar

La Playa de Rinconcillo is a fairly long and wide beach with fine, white sand. If you screen out the oil refinery on the one side and the ferry port on the other, you won’t feel the need to go anywhere else.

Playa de Rinconcillo

There are two ways to get there, along Paseo De La Cornisa, which is the park on the waterfront opposite the hotel, or the direct route along the main road. I recommend taking the latter if it’s your first time and you want to find the restaurant.

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Directions:
Turn left out of the Hotel AC and follow the main road for another two roundabouts.
After the second, bear right (following signs for Playa del Rinconcillo).
Go straight over another roundabout, past the Hotel Mirador.
Turn right at the next roundabout and you’ll see the place below on the left, just before you get to the beach car park.

Map here. I suggest taking photos of the screens if you can’t download in real time.

La Esquinita (High Elementary B+), 2 Carretera Rinconcillo, Playa de Rinconcillo

Recommended by a local teacher in 2012, ‘The Little Corner’ is a typical seafood beach bar ie nothing fancy (paper tablecloths etc) but good and cheap. Opening times can be a bit erratic in my experience, especially out of season, but if it’s shut, it’s only €5 in a taxi into town.

As I say, it’s fairly rough and ready, just like its owner Juan Moreno (the one that looks a bit like Maradona) who gets slated for being rude in a few English reviews on TripAdvisor.

It’s true that he’s quite brusque and I can quite imagine a couple of uptight Brits being offended by his manner, but hey, he’s got a busy restaurant to run (packed out by 3pm) and no time for fools who don’t know what they want in Spanish (the menu is only spoken, very quickly). Fortunately my seafood vocab is pretty good so he slowly warmed to me and was actually quite affable by the time I left.

I began with some Almejas al Vapor which were a bit big and chewy but okay (C+).

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The hefty Carabineros were also quite unrefined but perfectly good (B).

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My favourite was the cooked Gambas Blanco (A).

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To drink a bottle of the popular local vino blanco Barbadillo (C+), a local medium dry from Cadiz, in an ice bucket for just €9.

I later had another glass of Guerilla Albarino which was very good (B+).

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They don’t make their own desserts so I finished with a slice of commercial cheesecake with squirty cream (C+).

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With a beer at the beginning, and a complementary limoncello at the end (C), the bill came to just €46.

The beach is just a few yards away which is handy for a little siesta after a big feed.

If you want want a change from the view of the oil refinery at Rinconcillo, it’s just a €7 taxi ride to Getares, a small but ‘real Spanish’ beach resort in a neighbouring bay at the southern end of Algeciras.

The beach is sandy, wide and stretches for about 3km, the water looks ok and the ever present Rock dominates the centre of the view out to sea. The promenade is classically tacky and caters mainly for teenagers, and there isn’t a foreign tourist in sight. However, I didn’t find anywhere good to eat here.

Las Olas (Low Intermediate C-), 8 Playa de Getares, www.restaurantelasolas.es

When the taxi drops you off at the beach car park, turn right along the promenade and it’s the second unit on the right.

The hotel recommended this place and walking along the strip it did look like the best spot if only for having more modern plastic tables and chairs than the other joints.

I went with the gruff owner’s recommendation of a bottle of white Emparrado to go with my planned seafood banquet. Disappointingly it was so sweet that I couldn’t drink it. (D). The old chap wasn’t too happy but he replaced it with a Barbadillo 2011 which was much better (C+).

I started with a mediocre Ensalada Mixta with tuna, asparagus, corn etc (C) and moved on to a plate of grilled Navajas (razor clams) which were too salty but just about okay (B-).

I followed up with Almejas al Ajillo, hoping for clams steamed in their own juices with a bit of white wine and garlic but got them instead in a gloopy and again oversalted red sauce (C).

Still hoping for satisfaction I ordered some Sardinas a la Plancha which were edible but soggy and without the crispy skin I was craving (C-). And yes, they were very salty again.

Feeling frustrated, I had a carajillo to prepare myself for the bill (€50) and decided never to come here again.

It can be difficult to get back to town from here in the evening so it might be an idea to have the first taxi to come back at an arranged time.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Barrio San Garcia

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, San Garcia, Spain with tags , on March 25, 2017 by gannet39

San Garcia is the southernmost barrio before Getares which I mention in my ‘Algecirsas – going to the beach post’. The posh private school I was working at was in this residential area so you can guess the kind of demographic that lives here.

The neighbourhood played host to two good restaurants in 2012 but when I returned, post crisis, in 2016, one had shut and the other seemed on its last legs.

Las Barcas (Advanced B-), Urbanizacion Villa Rosa Carretera a Getares

I quite liked ‘The Boats’ when I first came in 2012 but I have downgraded it after my 2016 visit.

I don’t honestly know how it has stayed open through the recession when so many more popular places have closed, including La Sal its neighbour over the road which was generally considered to be ‘the best place in town’ when I was last here.

I counted five staff members and two customers including myself on a Friday night. Either they make all their money on Saturday and Sunday or it’s a money laundering operation.

The food is still very good, especially the seafood (they are going for the Galician angle), so I’d still recommend it for that but the décor is horrible, naff aquamarine blue and bright white, and as it was only April I couldn’t escape it by sitting outside as I did last time.

The service is much less fun than it was. I think the guys who served me last time have left and been replaced by a small chubby old boy and a tall, thin, slightly younger chap who seems to call the shots. It was rather like being waited on by Mr. Magoo and a very severe SS officer. The Oberführer barks at you in a mixture of Spanish, French and English and is probably the reason why not many people come here.

Anyway, the food is still very good, I had half portions of the Almejas de Carril which got a B as opposed to B+ last time…

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…and Tataki Atun in a coat of sesame seeds (A) served with a pot of soya sauce mixed with Dijon mustard that worked quite well (B+). This came with a rocket salad with grated Parmesan which was very good (A) but I’m not a fan of mixing rocket with tuna.

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After this a dozen Gambas de Huelva (A) which was an expensive treat at €20. I didn’t mind though as this was my last night before going home.

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With these an excellent Albarino (A) that was ‘sin marca’ (unlabelled) from Martin Codax, a famous bodega in Galica which the waiters were at pains to tell me was exclusive to the restaurant and was a snip at only €9. I know Codax make a top quality Orujo des Hierbas as well so it was a pleasant surprise that their wine is good too.

Clear Orujo is set aflame in a pot and doused with coffee at the end of a meal in Galacia which is called a ‘Quemada’ (burning). I love the look of the Quemada cauldron and set of cups they have here.

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To finish a homemade flan (caramel pudding), and a glass of good PX (B+)…

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…and also a glass of Duque de Alba brandy which was a snip at €6.50, although it’s shelf mate Cardenal Menoza, also now €6.50, had been free on my last visit.

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In total the bill came to €68 which is fair enough given the quality of the seafood.

Reviews of two meals at the same place from 2012:

I love a good waiter and the old boys here are funny, friendly and very attentive. I went with all their suggestions without looking at the menu. I also learned a bit of Andalusian when I explained the fish knife was pointless as I eat right handedly. Apparently I’m ‘segato’ which I think means I’m a leftie.

To drink, the local (Cadiz) dry white Barradillo again (B) to go with my pescados. The complimentary starter was a delicious (B+) Ensalada de Bacalau, with chunks of potatoes and codfish, prawns, sliced onion and squid, as well as codfish, all dressed with some great olive oil and a bit of parsley.

For my primero, the Almejas al Ajillo were great (A); about twenty clams steamed in their own juices with what must have been a whole head of thinly sliced garlic, perhaps with a little bit of wine or stock. The broth was so good I was spooning it out of the dish with the huge serving spoon when the waiters weren’t looking.

The fish for my segundo was Lubina (sea bass), which had been perfectly grilled with olive oil, and came with a tiny portion of nicely sautéed veg on the side again (A) although I wasn’t sure about the combination of fish with diced jamon (C+). It could have done with a couple of the lovely spuds they have over the road at La Sal too.

I couldn’t make out the name of the dessert but I’d describe it as a semifreddo with squirty cream and a sprig of mint, made great by the waiter pouring several globs of Pedro Ximenez raisin wine over everything (A).

I asked for a local liqueur but apparently Andalusia doesn’t have one, so I went for the usual Orujo des Hierbas (B). For all this, the bill came to €50.

I liked the service and relaxed atmosphere so much here that I came back the next night (my plan A was closed), even though I could probably have eaten better over the road at La Sal.

This time I was here to try the meat, so I had a solid 2008 Rioja Crianza called Azpilicueta to go with my Entrecote, which was served sizzling on an earthenware platter with some seared slices of courgette, potato and cherry tomatoes on the side. It was fine (B) but I’d been fairly recently spoiled in Argentina, so it was hard to give the local sirloin a top rating.

Also from 2012, closed now but I wanted to preserve the memory of a good meal:

La Sal (Advanced A), C/Rosa de Los Vientos, Tel. 956 572 818 NOW CLOSED!

This name came up at two of the schools I worked at so I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did because I had my best meal here after spending a week in the city.

At La Sal you can sit out on the terrace and if you screen out the oil storage tanks in the middle of the picture, you have a nice view of the boat marina and the mountains beyond, albeit with the odd sniff of sulphurous compounds wafting past from the chemical factories.

Cune with a view

After a complimentary canape of cured duck meat on a tiny piece of toasted bread (tostado)…

Duck canape

…I went for the Salmarejo Cordobes, a cold soup similar to gazpacho but with bread and garlic added to the mix and, perhaps in the style of Cordoba, diced Jamon and egg and a splash of olive oil, which was fantastic (A+).

Salmorejo

Next I went with my waiter’s suggestion of Lenguado (Sole) for the main and was rewarded with a perfectly grilled fish (A), some of the nicest waxy and best cooked spuds I’ve ever had in Spain (A+) as well as a small portion of sautéed peppers and courgette (B+).

Lenguado

Finally a chocolate truffle with chocolate ice (A) and a large chupito of Orujo des Hierbas, chilled to perfection (A).

Choc Truffle

Total cost €41.70, very good value given that it included a half bottle of Cune Crianza Rioja for €9 and two chupitos which weren’t charged. Contentment was mine…

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – around Plaza Puerto

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Puerto, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags on March 24, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Puerto is actually just a roundabout in a bleak industrial part of town, rather than a pedestrian square. One of the old dock cranes is on display in the middle of the rotunda with Gibraltar, as ever, dominating the horizon in the background.

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The area used to be a beautiful beach called El Chorruelo back in Victorian times until Franco later had it developed into the port in order to compete with Gibraltar. El Chorruelo was immortalised in music by Paco de Lucia the famous Flamenco guitarist whose brother was a bell boy at the hotel below.

The Autoridad Portuaria Bahía de Algeciras, the port authority for the bay, have their rather ominous looking building here which monitors naval traffic in the Straits of Gibraltar.

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In a town virtually bereft of anything old, I was quite interested to visit this historical building…

Hotel Reina Cristina (Advanced A), Calle Paseo de la Conferencia, www.hotelesglobales.com

The construction of the original Victorian hotel was financed in the 1890s by Alexander Henderson who also built the famous railway between Ronda and Algeciras.

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People of means would arrive on the steamer from Gibraltar to relax on the beautiful beach in front of the hotel, or rest up before taking the train onwards to Ronda for a spot of sightseeing. At the time it was the most expensive hotel in Spain.

The original colonial building burned down in a fire and the current eclectic Andalusian-style construction replaced it in 1930.

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I love these mosaics behind the outdoor bar near the Salon Principe which must date from that period.

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During WW2 the terrace was used by spies to watch the ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. It has hosted important conferences and such notables as Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and Orson Welles have all stayed here.

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In the landscaped grounds there are the remains of an 8th century mosque and an old Arab well that still functions.

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I came to have a G&T on the terrace (there are at least a dozen international gins on the menu) and imagine what it was like staying here during the Belle Époque.

The salon still seems to be a Saturday night meeting place for the older Spanish generation who have a bit of money. Not exactly my kind of people but it was interesting to experience a side of local society that I didn’t know existed.

The restaurant is supposed to be quite good and the buffet did look quite impressive when I went in for a nosey. I might come back for a meal some evening…

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – the market and around

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Nostra Senora de la Palma, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 23, 2017 by gannet39

The Mercado de Abastos de Algeciras in Plaza Nostra Senora de la Palma in the centre of town is worth checking out. Built in 1935, the domed roof was once the largest in the world until the Houston Astro Dome stole the title in 1965.

Google map here.

There’s a stall on the inner circle where I go to get paprika, cured meats and dried beans to take home.

A couple of the stalls specialise in bull meat, and probably other parts of El Toro as well. They have large photographic displays showing the provenance of their wares.

Bull meat merchant

You can get tapas and drinks from a couple of places inside but I prefer to go to La Casita below.

Around the permanent market in the market square there are lots of fruit & veg stalls. Other than the huge white salad onions and beef tomatoes, most of it was unremarkable but there are a couple of snail vendors.

Bags o Snails

Snails

Calle Tarifa leads out of the west side of the market square. There’s a great little tapas bar along here that I recommend for lunch…

La Casita (Elementary A+), 16 Calle Tarifa

It’s not often I agree with Trip Advisor but in my, and many other people’s view, ‘The Little House’ is the best eating out experience in Algeciras. Not because of the food, the tapas are just okay (all B/C), but it’s the frenetic atmosphere and the hilarious bartenders that make this a great experience.

The place is always packed but the stocky tattooed chaps on the bar get your order as soon as you come through the door and bellow it in the direction of the kitchen serving hatch with a Gregorian chant-like inflection at the end of the sentence.

They do this while pouring drinks at top speed interspersed with cracking uproarious jokes with the clientele. If you’re female, you’ll be called ‘guapito’ or if you’re English you become ‘my friend’.

God knows how but your food is in front of you within seconds. And how they keep tabs on who has what I have no idea. But it all works, and I love it.
The tapas, or more correctly tapitas, are all around €1.30 each and they have a deal where you get two tapitas and a cerveza for €3.20. I had…

Paella de Pollo.

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Tapas de Plancha (Rosada, Lomo Fresco).

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Tapas de Frita (Calamares, Pollo).

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And the unexciting Salchicha Rojo.

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And their homemade Pacharán, a Basque liqueur made from soaking sloes (endrinas) in anisette.

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In total I had five tapitas, a pot of allioli, four cervezas and two doubles of Pacharán for just over €10. You can’t argue with that.

This next place is located in the run down area south of the market which I call ‘Little Morocco’. I was warned not to walk around here at night (although I did) but it’s fine in the day time.

Alkazar (Elementary B), 2 Calle Juan de la Cierva, next to the Tourist Information office

My friend Nicky loves North African food so I came here on her recommendation. It’s handy for the port if you’re waiting for a ferry and has veggie options if you fancy a change. The train and bus stations are nearby too.

There are several places around that serve similar food, including Casablanca next door but this one has lots of tables out on the street.

Their marinated olives are excellent (A).

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And their veggie tajine is fine (B).

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I upgraded with their Parrilada which involved five spits of meat; two of marinated lamb which were lovely (B+), two of chicken which were meh (C) and one of beef koftas which I left (C-).

With a couple of beers the bill came to a miserly €23.

See my ‘Villa Vieja – things to see’ post for some pics of the architecture around here.

From 2012:

Montes (Intermediate B), 27 Juan Morrison, Tel. 956 654 207

One of only two recommendations I considered from Trip Advisor at the time, and also the only restaurant to feature in the Rough Guide. I came for lunch and had the €9 menu-del-dia.

To start, El Cocido del Dia, or the ‘stew of the day’ (B), a typical lentil soup with the usual chunks of chorizo and morcilla. Saffron gave the murkiness a yellowish tinge.

Lentil soup

The next dish, two kinds of fried fish, was a mis-order on my part. Unboned and tasteless I could only give them a C.

For dessert Natillas (custard) which inexplicably came with a soggy digestive biscuit in the middle. It was a first for me, but I have learned since that this is a thing in Spain. It tasted amazing; especially with the liberal sprinkling of cinnamon it had received (B+).

Natillas

This is a bit gloomy place favoured by an older clientele but you could probably eat well here if you make the right choices.

It was once one of the best places in town but I have read a few comments that say it has changed hands and isn’t as good as it was.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – things to see

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 22, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Alta is the central square in the old town of Algeciras. It’s the town’s central hub for social activity in the evenings.

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In the centre of the square is a monumental fountain dating from 1930. It’s decorated with Seville ceramics, including ornamental frogs around the perimeter.

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A balustrade runs around the square which is also decorated with ceramic tiles.

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As are the benches, although they aren’t quite as old as the fountain.

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The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Palma stands on the west side of the square.

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In the southeast corner is a small chapel, the Capilla de Europa.

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At the end of Calle Alfonos XI, on Avenida Blas Infante, you’ll find the highly uninimpressive Parque Arqueológico de las Murallas Meriníes de Algeciras, the only uncovered archaeological remains in Algeciras.

Remnants of the old city wall, and a surrounding moat (ditch?) can be seen which caused the intended extension of Avenida Blas Infante to the waterfront to be diverted around it.

The walls were built by the Marinids in the 14th century when Algeciras was a Moorish town. They were destroyed during the Castillian reconquest of 1344.

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Personally I’d have just bulldozed through it (and that’s coming from the son of an archaeologist) after fully excavating and recording it first of course. Still I guess the local folks feel they need at least some connection with the past as there is precious little else.

I had to search hard for some modern architecture that I liked and eventually found Edificio Kursaal on Avenida Villanueva behind Restaurante El Alkazar which I will review in a coming post.

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It’s a Modernist conference centre built quite recently in 2007 I believe and designed by the artist Guillermo Pérez Villalta who is from nearby Tarifa. I understand preparations are under way to use the building to display his work.

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The most decorative aspects of the exterior are the wrought iron window grilles.

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There are more features inside I’d love to see. The slideshow here shows some of them.

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I quite like the Deco style building next to it as well although I don’t know anything about it.

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Over the road from El Alkazar is this old veteran which doesn’t seem to be getting much use.

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And that’s about it in terms of interesting architecture, although the market building is quite famous as well (see the next post on ‘Villa Vieja – the market and around’).

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – tapas around Plaza Alta

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Alta, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 21, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Alta and the streets off it, particularly Calle Alfonso XI, constitute the main area for tapas bars in Algeciras. Please also see my next post on things to see in the Villa Vieja, which includes photos of Plaza Alta. My Google map is here.

La Querido (Low Intermediate B+), 2B Calle Alfonso XI, the street leading north out of Plaza Alta

I really like this little place and so do a lot of other people as it was always crowded on both my visits; once for lunch and another time for dinner.

The guys who run it are friendly and very hardworking; constantly running up and down a ladder into the store room in the loft space.

The simple and very short menu has lots of international influences and there seems to be an emphasis on organic products. There’s a good choice of veggie options as well.

For lunch I had a cheese Empanada (B) followed by the Entrana which was sliced rare sirloin served with Foccacia (B) and Chimichurri (A), an Argentinian salsa the name of which has an interesting history (click on the link).

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The Banoffee pudding is a decadent delight (A).

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A glass of Gloria Sanatorio, a sweet wine from Cadiz, went really well with this (B+).Their other dessert wine is a cream sherry called Canasta which I’m not too bothered about (B-). With a couple of beers the bill came to €21.40.

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The next day I came for dinner and had the Hummus with Pita to start which was okay but rather unexciting (C+).

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I followed up their very filling Parmagiana (B+), the Sicilian ‘aubergine lasagna’ served here with a dollop of pesto.

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I finished with some excellent artisanal cheese. I think all three slices were Payoyo (a favourite cheese of mine from Cadiz) in various stages of ageing; fresh, semi-curado and curado (all A).

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I had a couple of glasses of their best wine, a Rioja Crianza called Pinturas which was great (B+) and a Rioja Roble called Lagrimas de Maria which wasn’t all that (C).

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One of my favourite places in Algeciras with good food and a good attitude.

Recoveco (High Intermediate B+), 16 Avenida Blas Infante

I quite liked the atmosphere in this modern Guia Repsol recommended place so I hung out for the evening using their free Wi-Fi. There’s a nice courtyard terrace out back but no one seemed to be using it when I went in April so I stayed inside.

The food is very tasty and reasonably priced but I wish they didn’t chill their red wines as I like to be able to smell what I’m drinking. The staff aren’t particularly friendly but they’re okay.

The Carrillera tapa, beef cheeks with mashed potato, is excellent (A).

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The Mini Burger de Trufa y Parmesan is also good (B+) but I wasn’t particularly blown away (B-) by their gimmicky Yakitori; a skewer of pork marinated in a sweet sauce and served on a tiny grill.

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With a tapa of Manchego cheese, four glasses of red and a Cardenal Mendoza brandy the bill came to a very reasonable €25.

From 2012:

La Carboneria (Intermediate C), Edificio Europa, on the corner of Calle Muro and Calle Murillo

This is an asador (grill house) so good for meat. They also have a lively tapas bar at the front a with waiter who is a bit of a character.

I disturbed the kitchen staff from having their pre-service meal at 9.15, so you may want to come a little later. I wasn’t too impressed by the complimentary starter of what seemed to be Kraft cheese between to crackers on a bed off browning sliced red cabbage. Also, I already knew that the bread in Spain generally leaves a lot to be desired, but the anaemic roll on my side plate took things to another sub level.

Things got better with the Ensalada de la Casa (A), a huge bowl of mixed salad, some deep fried balls of cheese and great belly tuna, all nicely dressed. I’d suggest coming here just for this.

The Solomillo Iberico was ok (B) as was the Ribera (Marques de Caceras) I had with it (B). To finish the Tarta Fina de Mazana (B). Total spend €47. Might come back for tapas.

This next place is closed now, a victim of the economic crisis no doubt. I’ve not deleted it though as some of the things I had here were quite nice and I’d like to remember them.

Marea Baja (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Trafalgar, NOW CLOSED

A teacher-recommended fish specialist that looks traditional which, along with the price of their brandy, put me off on my initial recce. In fact though, they are quite experimental, for example, they use soya sauce and wasabi in some dishes. I was pretty happy with the attentive owner’s recommendations.

He has a good range of wines too and I enjoyed a nice 2011 Verdejo (B+) from Palacio de Bornos in Rueda which was put in an ice bucket without me having to ask.

The complimentary apertivo was a couple of whitebait dressed in a soya sauce with a chive and olive oil dressing which was great (A). I wasn’t so sure about the green olives with cumin that came with it though (D). The following Boquerones Rellenos (stuffed anchovies) and mashed potato croquettes were sadly tasteless, even with energetic salting (C).

Boquerones Rellenos

After this, Guiso Marinero, a fish stew with potatoes featuring heavily (B).

Guiso Marinero

Then a main of Corvina in a sauce with a small portion of nicely cooked veg on the side (A). The name Corvina is used for different fish around the world, but here it was most likely a large sea bass.

Corvina

Finally, on the portly waiter’s say so, an almond-flavoured panna cotta (A).

Pannacotta

And a chupito of Coriander liqueur (‘Cilantro’ from Galician distiller Valdomino Manor) (A).

Cilantro liquer

Both were totally new, but delicious concepts to me.
What completely won me over was the free (usually €10) brandy balloon of Cardinal Mendoza (A) that I received with the bill (€55.50).

I like this place. The owner is passionate, his staff less so but they were still friendly and attentive. Satisfaction and value-for-money criteria were all met.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Staying in barrio El Mirador

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, El Mirador, Spain with tags , , , on March 20, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve been to Algeciras twice for work, in May 2012 and April 2016, staying for a total of about two weeks. 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.

Here’s a map of the barrios, and my Google map.

On both 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 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.

Meson La Posada de Millan (Intermediate C), 47 Maestro Millan Picazo, mesonlaposadademillan.com

This was a recommendation from the hotel receptionist. 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.

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