Monday, 17 October 2016

"El Classico" Tapas Restaurant, Tickhill: a Review

[Image descriptions: mural of the windmills of La Mancha, Spain, in the main dining area]

I reside in Cheshire and have some friends in Grimsby, Doncaster and Scunthorpe, none of which are places that might be termed trendy or even touristy. Normally my carer takes the motorways and we get there as quickly as possible. For my last visit across the Pennines on a lovely autumnal Saturday, we decided to take the scenic route to Sheffield and then onwards to Grimsby for a long weekend. The chosen route was expected to add an extra one to two hours, but we enjoyed the bucolic countryside between towns.

[Image descriptions: "El Classico" signage above the bar]

Hunger meant that we glanced at the atlas and decided to break for luncheon in Maltby. The latter was so dishevelled we did not even stop the car and continued on to the next town, Tickhill. And so glad we did so. Seeing a pub-sign ahead I advised my driver to pull in. There is ample parking to the rear of the pub cum tapas restaurant, El Classico. The name is Spanglish for the classic/el clásico.

[Image descriptions: left, drinks menu; right, tapas menu]

Inside are nooks & crannies, as in most traditional English pubs, but here filled with assorted dining furniture. However, after walking past the grand mock-Tudor bar, one enters a wide dining-hall prepared for large to intimate dining parties (see top image).

Our young waiter was immaculately attired in black shirt & slacks, Spanish waiter style, but soon gave the game away with his broad brogue that he was a local Yorkshireman. At all times throughout our meal, he was attentive, professional and personable. A genuine credit to the restaurant. The youngster explained how the eat-as-much-as-you-want system worked all for a fixed price. Drinks cost extra.

[Image descriptions: our first selection of tapas with beers]

Many of the tapas were comparatively small, more like the portion size of those served gratis in Spanish bars with one's drinks. However, the advantage is that one has space to sample other dishes - or more of the same if one so wishes.

Here I should note that the chef was more than happy to prepare dishes without garlic - to which I am seriously allergic. This is exactly what I find in Spain, where in some fourteen/fifteen years of visits, I have not once had an allergic reaction in eateries. Being a huge fish fan, I was absolutely delighted that chef was able to cook several fish dishes for me. All the delicious food served to my companion and myself was totally authentic, despite no actual Hispanics toiling in the kitchen. The tapas served are not haute cuisine - as found in many a Barcelona tapería, but the kind of healthy & tasty tapas found throughout Iberia.

I cannot say whether there is a disabled-accessible w.c., as on this occasion I was mobile and able to use the ordinary gents toilet. This was scrupulously clean and very spacious.

We intend to revisit El Classico, as it is in a good location, a sort of half-way house between chums, so friends can meet us there. Oh yummy!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Nacalú Restaurant, Málaga: a Review

During my recent visit to the city of Málaga, after dining elsewhere I was fortunate to be stopped by Toni outside Nacalú restaurant. His welcoming smile & gentle manner encouraged my carer & myself to return on another occasion to the eatery at which he works. We were not in the least disappointed. The food, service & ambience were so satisfying, we returned for a second repast!

 [Image description: the writer seated on the terrace in front of the front façade]

 [Image description: my carer seated on the terrace with a Nacalú fan]

On our first visit, after watching the Pasarela Larios, we arrived at eleven-twenty in the evening. Dining at that time on a Friday - no problem. We were served by the delightfully ebullient, helpful & professional Catana. The dry white wine she recommended to accompany our respective meals was just spot-on.

I chose a ración - a full dish (image below) - of rosado (kingklip) with gambas (shrimp), peas and a creamy cheese sauce. So light & tasty and yet at the same time it had the quality of comfort food. Yummy!

My companion decided upon a trio of tapas (image below): morcillo (black pudding/blood sausage); baked potato bravas; and, tortilla española (potato omelette). He wolfed the lot.

We did try a dessert apiece, but were a tad disappointed. The 'buckets' of digestifs (image below) followed by gratis shots, however, ensured we left fully contented.

We visited again on a Sunday. After an afternoon of sunbathing on the beach, we were delighted to be the sole diners inside, as opposed to the terrace, cooling under zephyrs from the air-conditioning.

On this occasion I again selected a full fish dish (upper image below), swordfish this time. Carer opted for tuna tartare (lower image below). I sampled - it was superb!

We again tried two different desserts, and once again were disappointed. From the images below one can perceive that presentation is not the issue; but texture and excessive sweetness let down the dishes.

The w.c. is disabled-accessible and was spotless when I paid a visit.

Service on both occasions we visited was perfect: neither distant nor prying.

I would heartily recommend this restaurant; but should suggest that one takes dessert elsewhere unless once has a particularly sweet-tooth. We shall be returning when next we are in Málaga.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Novotel Suites Hotel Málaga: a Review

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Pasarela Larios, the highlight of Málaga Fashion Week. I had plenty of notice, so was able to shop around for accommodation. Rather than stay for a long weekend, I decided that I would visit the Costa del Sol for seven nights. I have several friends in the area, so wanted an opportunity to catch up.

I selected Novotel Suites, an Accor group hotel. Situated on Calle San Jacinto, the building has an open aspect towards ecclesiastical buildings and a pedestrianised plaza. It is approximately ten minutes walking to the nearest commuter-train station and some fifteen minutes to Maria Zambrano, Málaga's main train-station. For shoppers, this is probably the nearest hotel to the famous El Corte Inglés department stores, which is spread over two interconnected buildings. Additionally, one is also just as close to Centro Comercial Málaga Plaza.

Many reviews on Tripadvisor suggest avoiding the hotel's expensive breakfast and heading for one of the local eateries. Having visited Málaga on many occasions, I did likewise. La Canasta is a favourite of mine - as I am extremely fond of cakes and pastries - and they also have an outside terrace where one can watch the world go by. (Be warned, though, that there is a surcharge on all prices for using it!)

During our stay, the old city - casco - was extremely humid, due to the closeness of its narrow streets. My carer and I were thus very grateful for the gentle breezes in the more open aspects around the hotel. Within five minutes, one can be in the old city; within fifteen one is on the Calle Marqués de Larios, the third most expensive street by rents in all of Spain.

On entering the hotel foyer, one is grateful for the coolness of air-conditioning. We were greeted cordially, as we were on every occasion we entered and departed. Due to my weird circulatory system I was worried that the air-conditioning in our room might not be functioning, after reading so many complaints on-line. However, I was advised to just let reception know and it would be sorted immediately. However, during the whole of our stay the air-con worked perfectly.

The hotel is listed as four-star. However, in our experience of travelling through Spain, we have found a great deal of variability and do not tend to trust the star ratings. In this instance, having discussed with my ever-faithful carer, we do consider it to be roughly equivalent to a UK four-star hotel minus a restaurant.

The most important aspect were the rooms and ours definitely warranted its four stars. Hopefully the photos (above) give some sense of the room, but unfortunately not of how spacious it felt.

The bathroom (image above) was spotless. It included a full-size bath-tub and a separate shower that could have fitted four. The only problem during our stay was the shower-tray blocking. It was dealt with immediately by the very efficient & professional manager.

Normally I do not stay in Málaga itself, but now I have found Novotel Suites, I shall be inclined to use it as a base for future visits and at the very least overnight stays when visiting chums in the city.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

La Despensa Del Mar Restaurant, Benalmádena: a Review

Meeting up with Spanish chums in the commercial district of Benalmádena, called Arroyo de la Miel, we needed a restaurant that could cater for a large electric wheelchair. Despensa was perfect. A waiter willingly re-arranged furniture so that the wheelchair could fit at table.
La Despensa del Mar literally translates as the pantry of the sea, an appropriate nomenclature for an eatery specialising in fish and seafood, but as it is attached to a sister restaurant meat-eaters are permitted to select from its menu too.

Between six of us we shared: two house salads; mixed, deep-fried fish & seafood (top image below); lamb meatballs (bottom image); stewed lamb; cheese; and jamón. Almost everything was consumed, but what was not eaten was left only due to each & everyone of us feeling totally stuffed.
Various drinks were consumed, but I personally heartily recommend the draft beer, una caña, which was malt-flavoured and refreshing, served ice-cold.

We did not have dessert as one of the party was celebrating a birthday. We took along our own cake which the staff were happy to bring out after our repast.

Staff were friendly, polite and efficient; well, until it came to paying the bill - apparently, a common issue across Spain!

We all shall be returning.

Okami, a Japanese's Japanese Restaurant: a Review

Anyone who has eaten Japanese cuisine in the UK knows how expensive it can be. Okami, situated very close to the cathedral in Málaga city, serves up excellent value for money dishes. As we were not paying such high prices, we felt comfortable trying dishes unknown to ourselves.

 [Image descriptions: top, the external façade; bottom left, from our table looking towards the restaurant window; bottom right, our table looking towards the prep area]

This restaurant was established and is owned by a genuine Japanese. The dishes are completely authentic, other than where they specifically state in the menu that they are fusion - such as hamburgers Japanese style.

[Image description: our waitress & chef in the prep area]

Anyone who has followed my reviews over the years probably knows that I love my fish. (The only fish I refuse to eat - having tried it once - is pike!) Having sampled quite a lot of deep-fried fish and fish cooked a la plancha (grilled or braised) over the past week in Málaga, I was ready to experience raw fish. I selected chirashi [big bowl - for those who like large portions] (sashimi [thin-sliced, raw meat or fish] e ikura [salmon roe] con arroz sushi [rice]) - see the image below. I had not realised, but due to lunching on a weekday, I was given a bowl of miso soup and a bowl of edaname beans as a surprise. I shared the latter amongst my dining companions. The soup contained small pieces of tofu and seaweed and was the best Miso I personally have ever consumed. The beans were perfectly cooked and sweet to taste. My main came with wasabi, sweet-pickled ginger slices and soy-sauce. I demolished the lot as it was absolutely delicious. At €16 for two courses I am not complaining one iota: real value for money for such high-quality cuisine.

Other dishes selected by my chums included: fideos yakisoba con ibérico - slightly spicy noodles with Iberian ham & vegetables; and a mixed sushi platter (bottom image below). My carer found his large noodle-dish to be very satisfying and filling. My other two companions took their time, but did manage to finish off their shared platter after a starter of tuna tartare with avocado (top image below).

A mixed plate of desserts were not to my taste as they were too sweet, but for those with a sweet-tooth (i.e. the other three) something different to sample.

The total bill for four adults with drinks came to €81.70. Shared out that works out at a very reasonable price to pay for a substantial luncheon. 

Okami is wheelchair accessible and one of my companions was able to use the WC without difficulties.

I can hardly wait to return! %PPP