While in Lloret de Mar we went in search of the traditional workers lunch, menu de dia. We wanted to go ‘local’ as we didn’t have high expectations of this resort, described by some as the Benidorm of Costa Brava – big hotels, all inclusive packages, not a Spaniard in sight. We were expecting brassy and trashy, just all-day English breakfasts, burgers and fish and chips, and we found all this, but being the eternal foodie optimists we followed our noses.
We were lucky to be staying near the ‘old-town’. It may not be quaint, historic or romantic, and perhaps that’s why tourists and travel guides over look it, but it’s all the better for that. This is the area uphill behind the main shopping street and sea front.
So, on our first lunchtime foray we followed our instincts and wandered around checking out the lunchtime boards. El Jardin, on C.Areny, 19 – Conill i Sala, became our favourite place for lunch. The daily changing menu of meat, fish and a vaguely vegetarian option was 3 courses including fresh bread and a bottle of good quality Rioja – white, red or rose wine, for only 9.90 Euro each – an absolute bargain, not just the price but the quality of the food.
On our first visit we chose two starters; a large bowl of lentils stewed with chorizo and a meat filled cannelloni oozing with cheese sauce, followed by pink lamb chops with sauté potatoes and grilled peppers and Bacalao (salt cod) with a boiled egg and vegetables in a rich tomato sauce. For desserts we finished off with a baked apple and a slice of homemade tiramisu.
We were the only tourists in the place, and even on return visits we were the only English-speaking table, occasionally some Germans and French tourists found it too. It has a lovely covered terrace as well as a large air-conditioned indoor restaurant including a waterfall. Every table was taken with local workers enjoying their siesta. How they go back to work after a lunch like this I’ve no idea as we could only manage a slow stroll uphill back to the hotel, a swim and a lie down in the shade.
We changed tactic on return visits and started to order Spanish style, copying our neighbouring tables who all had enormous tuna salads to start which seemed to be a daily staple on the menu, then shared Arros Negre – a Catalan rich dark rice dish cooked with black cuttlefish ink and seafood including squid and mussels. On another day we has a great mixed paella which included rabbit, lamb, langostines, prawns and shrimps, squid and mussels . This food was incredible value – even with an additional coffee at the end we were spending only about £10 per person and leaving full and happy.
It just goes to show that there is good food in most places if you are prepared to put in the leg effort and look beyond the obvious seafront tourist places to find the hidden gems that the locals want to keep for themselves.