Day 1 – Coastal Drive from Malaga to Estepona and onwards to Gaucin
Finally back from my wonderfully relaxing but maddeningly frustrating food week in Gaucin. I would love to be able to entertain you with stories of eating in local, out of the way places, frequented by Spaniards enjoying simple regional food. Alas this was not the case, instead I felt like I had stumbled onto the long lost set of Eldorado (a dreadful soap opera about a bunch of British expats in Spain)
Anywhere, within reasonable driving distance of the Costa Del Sol or Malaga, it pains me to say, is unashamedly overrun with Brits. On the coastal drive from the airport I took in one tragic sight after the other – high rise timeshares, fish and chippies, fast food outlets. It wasn’t until we’d reached Estepona, a small seaside resort, that I finally felt like we were in foreign country. Famished we parked the hire car and strolled along the seafront in search of somewhere to eat. Unfortunately our random restaurant choice was a bit of a shocker, frozen vegetables, gritty prawns and leathery pork didn’t endear us to the place and we made a hasty retreat to the Carrefour, the local supermarket, in order to stock up with same basic provisions for the week. Pictured below is the quite astounding selection of ham on offer.
The Spaniards must have a real love of pork because half the supermarket was devoted to it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different types of chorizo or pork products.
Onwards to Gaucin the scenery dramatically changed and with it my spirits were lifted. Undulating green countryside, windy roads with steep drops were a welcome contrast to the tacky sights witnessed along the coast. Climbing further and further up steep hills I secretly prayed that the remoteness would deter only the most foolhardy tourists and as a consequence we might after all sample an authentic taste of Spanish life. Finally we reached our destination, Gaucin, a gleaming white village, with our cottage situated a couple of hundred metres down a dirt track.
This pictures, taken from our balcony, gives you some indication of how beautiful the surrounding countryside is. It provided the perfect spot for a week of relaxation.
Escape from London
Sorry everyone for my absence over the past week, however sometimes in life there are even more important matters than food, hard to imagine I know. With my mind preoccupied house-hunting, I have rarely felt like cooking and have satiated my appetite on a variety of take-outs and other joyless meals that I will refrain from boring you with.
On Saturday however I am jetting off to Southern Spain, to a little village called Gaucin, where I am bound to find inspiration once again. I visited northern Spain earlier in the year, indulging in a gastronomic frenzy around the coastal town of San Sebastian. Whilst Gaucin won’t be able to compete with San Sebastian in terms of haute cuisine, I am hoping that it will possess a unique charm and cuisine of it’s own.
Most of all however I am looking forward to escaping the miserable weather in London, lying in the sun, and sipping sangria. Adios.
KAIA - Getaria
Kaia was to be the last stop on our gastronomic tour. The out of the ordinary experience at Mugaritz had induced a craving for simple, uncomplicated, regional fare. So rather than being guided by the mighty Michelin we put our faith in the hotel concierge who enthusiastically recommends Kaia – a modest establishment renowned for its fish and seafood situated in a small fishing village named Getaria about an hour by winding coastal road from San Sebastian. A white knuckle ride later and we’re parking the car by the working harbour, climbing a hill and being seduced by fish being grilled over hot charcoals.
Soon after being seated my eyes alight upon a man guzzling down what appear to be little worms. On closer inspection they’re the famous Elvers (baby eels), a Basque speciality and as an intrepid eater something I am determined to try. They arrive in a small clay pot infused with a pungent garlic sauce. I can only assume the taste of the elvers is mild yet the texture is truly distinctive and unique - they have a silky consistency on the tongue and float down the throat with ease. The fish soup elicits equally rapturous applause from my fellow diners who allow me a few mouthfuls of their heavenly broth.
It is the wild turbot, grilled outside over charcoal, for which this restaurant is famed. The waitress proudly shows us the luscious creature sprawled across a silver platter. There is nothing complicated about the preparation, however the freshness and quality of the fish straight from the ocean is almost indescribable in its goodness. We wash it down with some Txakoli, a popular Basque wine which is actually produced in Getaria. It is light and zippy, and has slightly effervescent quality which is ideally matched to the delicate nature of the fish.
Despite the simplicity of the meal it is equally as enjoyable as anything we’d sampled over the last couple of evenings. This is made even sweeter by virtue of the fact that we feel like we have discovered a hidden gem, not yet overrun with tourists. The only other surprising discovery we uncover is when I casually glance at the check and find that the unassuming baby eels cost a mighty 80 Euros. Worth every cent.