Lunch in Spain is always a joy. For me it involves a lot of sharing – yes, I love tapas-style eating – it means you get to sample more dishes on the menu. And of course it’s usually al fresco and often with a great view! Simply perfect.
There are plenty of villages and even larger towns a short drive from the La Manga resort and we love exploring them and finding somewhere new to sit down for a bottle of chilled rose (rosada) and some tasty local dishes.
First stop is always the fishing village of Cabo de Palos, home to my favourite market, the amazing Mercadona supermarket and a host of wonderful restaurants. We head straight for Miramar which sits overlooking the harbour. The diving and fishing boats come and go and the sun sparkles on the azure blue sea as you tuck into a tasty lunch.
The trimarino was first recommended by a Spanish friend of ours and now we order it every time. Fresh prawns, clams and baby whitebait quickly fried in olive oil, garlic and a touch of chilli. Honestly, dishes don’t get better than this, it’s so good you have to wipe the bowl clean with plenty of fresh, crusty bread.
Lamb chops were served with perfect fries, grilled corn and tomatoes and some little green peppers. Yummy.
From Cabo de Palos you’ll find the 24km strip that is La Manga Mar Menor (La Manga means the sleeve in Spanish). This long piece of land with water on both sides is holiday heaven with plenty of bars and restaurants, some lovely beaches and a chilled-out feel to it. It’s sometimes hard to spot the restaurants from the road, my advice is to park somewhere that looks lively and walk around. Which is how we found Los Caballos. It’s in a square with restaurants around the edge, all facing into the large car park…a bit strange with the sea only a minute’s walk away and bordered by…another car park!
Anyway the food was great (and great value). First off, the local Ensalada Murciano…if you check back to British Tomato Week, I posted my recipe for this and I’m happy to say that my version looked pretty much like theirs! I have to admit theirs tasted better but that’s because they’d marinated the tomatoes for longer (I think). A bowl of fresh deliciousness.
The owner was very proud that the clams had been caught (very) locally. Sweet and plump, you could totally taste their freshness.
Croquettas have to be on the cards in Spain. These were oozing sauce and flavour and clearly just made and stuffed with a combination of chicken and ham (pollo y jamon).
Opposite the sleeve you’ll find more little holiday towns enjoyed mainly by Spanish holidaymakers. Los Nietos is one of them with a palm-tree lined promenade and this little cafe overlooking the yacht club.
Time for more garlic prawns!
A simple salad with the freshest of ingredients tasted wonderful. Nice salty anchovies!
Mar de Cristal has a lovely, long beach to chill out on and you can paddle in the (not very deep) and warm lagoon that is the Mar Menor. Arena sits overlooking the beach and offers a lovely selection of tapas.
I’m always keen to order patatas bravas. I love potatoes (and Spanish ones seem somehow sweeter) and the sauce they’re served with seems to vary widely depending on where you are in the country. So you never quite know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be delicious. This was one of the best with crispy potatoes that were soft inside and a lovely, creamy sauce. Heavenly.
The lamb skewers was cooked medium rare and threaded with crunchy peppers and onions.
Fantastic fresh cod fritters were our final choice.
Escuela del Pieter is one of our favourite restaurants on the Strip. I’ve blogged about it before but as we return every year, here it is again. It’s set near the 17km marker on the Strip – the markers are the best way to navigate this long piece of land. Set right on the beach it has great views across the Mar Menor and great sunsets…oh and truly lovely food. I never want to leave!
Garlic chicken was flavoursome and tender and served with beautifully cooked potatoes.
I can’t not order the baby lamb chops. I love this dish for its simplicity and its flavours. In fact, this year I was inspired to cook my own version of the potatoes – recipe to come soon on my blog.
Escuela del Pieter is set under palm trees on the beach overlooking the sparkling Mar Menor.
This year we ventured a bit more inland and discovered a larger-than-expected town called La Union. We are so going back…they have a fantastic market and loads of restaurants to chose from. We settled in at Bar Minero on the edge of the said bustling market for a light lunch and the chance to practise my needs-to-be-improved Spanish!
Every year we discover new towns, new restaurants, new experiences…and even have a list of places to try next year on our annual La Manga odyssey. Can’t wait.