We first visited Jose Maria Los Churrascos in the little town of El Algar over 15 years ago. It was an exciting event for the large group of us who hadn’t yet ventured out of our beautiful La Manga resort. A chance to sample some proper, local Spanish cuisine in a somewhat unknown world!
Our friend Miguel, who’s Spanish and owns a restaurant, was with us and couldn’t wait to get there! We had a wonderful dinner and the owner Jose Maria came to say hello. A frantic and highly excitable conversation ensued between him and Miguel, resulting in the entire table of people being marched down to the wine cellar to inspect some treasures. Jose Maria lovingly cradled bottle after bottle of wine like new-born babies while Miguel translated the history of a wine collection that had been amassed by the family over generations. It was all very magical.
The restaurant has been open over 30 years and hasn’t changed much in that time. Its home, the small, rural town of El Algar has changed a little, with bright new houses popping up. The first time we went it felt a bit like somewhere in the wild west (complete with tumbleweed). Now it’s a bit more developed but just as quaint.
The menu has also developed, offering “classic cuisine, adapted slowly to the new times with imagination” to quote from their website. It’s comprehensive to say the least, with lots of fantastic fish and meat dishes to choose from. Quite a mission to decide!
The choice of the evening! Described on the menu as savoury pastries filled with Mallorcan sausage with broad beans, it arrived looking like this! Crispy pastry, chorizo-like sausage, delicate baby broad beans, a centrepiece of potato all topped with a fried egg. How I love it when your plate of food turns out to be a masterpiece, and also one you totally weren’t expecting.
This cheesy aubergine and prawn dish was on the vegetable section of the menu but the kitchen was happy for it to be served as a starter. Soft food oozing with flavour.
And for me?? Gosh, I have serious menu indecision at the best of times. I eventually went for something truly exotic sounding – scrambled egg with morcilla (Spanish black pudding), wild asparagus and pine nuts. Again, all great Spanish ingredients. And it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Everything was mixed up together into an explosion of flavour. Okay, not the best-looking dish I’ve ever eaten, but don’t judge a book…as they say. It was simply wonderful.
On to mains, and another whole range of amazing choices. There’s a whole page on the menu (well, more of a book, really) dedicated to cod. And then there’s shellfish galore and the most amazing meat, all sourced locally.
The Murcian pork chops were as tasty as pork chops get, simply griddled and beautifully tender. The little straw chips were crispy and salty and incredibly more-ish.
One of the restaurants long-time specials is their suckling pig. On another visit our whole table of 10 ordered it. When in Spain, eat pig…they know how to raise them and cook them. This falls off the bone and the crackling is beautifully thin, tasty and crackly.
The one fish dish of the day, a lovely fillet of cod cooked with onions and pine nuts.
Wow! Even better than we remembered…oh and Jose Maria still comes around to shake your hand and make sure you enjoyed your food. It’s open for lunch and dinner and does a great-looking degustacian menu for 40 euros. Put it on your list, got to be the best in the region.