Monday 23 March 2015

Maracas 3: Food Review (inglés)

This is part three of my triptych on Maracas café-bar on Playa Bil-Bil: here I review the food offerings. Part one consists of a photographic homage and a humorous vignette. Part two is a paean to all waiters everywhere by way of portraying my regular.

I have been frequenting Maracas for thirteen years now - my, how time flies! I have many, many happy memories, including of the meals I have eaten here. I am a foodie after all! I have brought all my friends (who visit me in Benalmádena) to sample the simple joys of sun, sand and the calming susurrus of the sea in the comfort of one of Maracas’ rattan lounge-chairs, whilst sipping on a cooling beverage and, more often than not, indulging in a snack or even full meal.

As I have been visiting Maracas for so many years, I am unlikely in this article to be castigating the food; quite the opposite, for the price and quality, eating here is to be recommended. Of course, we are not talking haute cuisine. However, having eaten at several of the sea-front restaurants on the popular Playa Santa Ana, I have felt completely short-changed by expensive, and, from my perspective of knowing better, poor quality cuisine. As an example, last year I paid €6 just for a green salad of some roughly chopped lettuce and sliced cucumber. Pretty outrageous in my opinion. I know businesses have to make a living: Maracas, therefore, should serve as an exemplar. Last year Maracas’ house salad of green lettuce, sweetcorn, tomato, onion, white asparagus, boiled egg and tuna was priced at €7. It says it all, does it not? Of course, with inflation etc., prices have to go up from time to time. At the beginning of this month, prices did indeed rise. So the house salad (along with their others) now costs €8. And anyone thinking, salad will not sate one, I ought to point out that the salads are served in large bowls and come with a small basket of fresh bread.

For those just wanting a quick snack, I recommend the sandwich mixto, boiled ham, sliced cheese on buttered and toasted bread. At €3 this has not become more expensive. With a glass of chilled red wine (if you have not tried this, it is quite refreshing - even the French do it!) the total cost is €5. One cannot complain at that!

If the diner is especially hungry, the campero is for you; but better to order it to share. That is, after all, the Spanish way.

Due to the price increases, the menus have been reprinted. The chef at Maracas has taken the opportunity to add new dishes. Always willing to sample something new, I opted for the ensalada pasta tricolor (tricolour pasta salad - bet you worked that one out for yourself!). The photograph below gives an impression of the bowl, but does not quite show the full 3-D mound of comestibles. As can be seen, a glass of rosé (copa de rosado frío) accompanied the repast.

[Image description: ensalada pasta tricolor in situ at table]

Commencing at seven o’clock, finely diced cubes of a lightly smoked, firm ham (a tastier version of luncheon meat!) awoke the palate. At twelve, roughly sliced, juicy, tangy, with a strong-tea-taste black olives quite happily challenged the ham. I am no fan of black olives; but if I could obtain a ready supply of these, I would be a convert. At three o’clock dice-sized cubes of firm, creamy (both in taste and texture), ever so slightly salted “queso fresco” cheese with the tang of goats cheese. There was also a sweetness to the cheese, which contrasted superbly against the saltiness of the olives. At five o’clock sweetcorn shone forth all its brilliant, perfect yellowness. It was so very juicy and, although it was not barbecued it had that selfsame concentrated, intense sweetness and flavour. In the clock’s centre were chicken pieces - morsels really - with the appearance of crumbled white-yellow cheese or white-bread breadcrumbs. Incredibly moist and with actual chicken flavour (how much chicken does one encounter that is completely flavourless, after all?). And behind the clock-face, the pasta, cooked and served al dente so did not collapse or go all soggy. Colours of green (sage) and red (peach) reminiscent of sepia tones. A stunning palette for the palate.

There is a choice of salad dressings, including: rosa/marie rose; francesa/French; cesa/cæsar; yogur/yoghourt; I opted for salsa de albahaca/basil sauce. Even in so-called ‘good’ restaurants salad can be over-dressed; this salsa however had a very light touch and thus perfectly pulled together all the other ingredients.

My only negative criticisms of the dish are in respect to the pasta: the texture was slightly too starchy; and, there were no discernible flavours of tomato or basil in their respective pastas. This may be accounted for by it having been chilled; but in a hot climate, this is rather a necessity. Nonetheless, over all, the salad is a definite success and I shall be ordering it again. It is also suitable for sharing - the Spanish way is for everyone to just tuck in. Enjoy!

[Image description: sandwich beach club in situ at table]

I could not end my review without referencing my favourite Maracas plate (see image above), their sandwich beach club, consisting of salad, ham, cheese, egg, chicken and bacon. At €7 it represents a filling meal for one. And it is de-lic-ious!!! %P

[¡Una versión española hará pronto!]

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