PEARL OF THE QUARTER
Fuengirola was always a sleepy little Andalusian town – the shy retiring one to Marbella’s brasher big sister – but as a consequence of the input of mucho dinero courtesey of the EU it has grown enormously in the last ten years. Or rather it has been caught up in the sprawl along the Costa Del Sol and now boasts all manner of malls, hypermarkets, retail parks, cinemas, conference hotels and of course the inevitable El Corte Ingles.
The dining options although varied have proved pretty resistant to change over the twenty-five or so years I've been visiting. So there are International syle restaurants (think Parma Ham and Melon, Pastas, Steak Diane, Lobster Thermidor), Indian, Chinese, Moroccan, Spanish and of course English pubs for the homesick. No sign of say Gastropubs or Heston Blumenthal style experiments. The upside to this is that you know exactly what you are going to get and the food is generally of a good quality and reasonably priced.
An early flight from Heathrow, thankfully not on red alert, and a short ride from Malaga airport found me sitting overlooking the Med in a small restaurant near my father's apparment just outside Fuengirola. The waiter told us there was Lubina (Sea Bass), Pargo (Sea Bream), Lenguado (Sole) and whole Calamar (Squid) caught that morning. I decided to go with the Sole although all looked fantastic.
First a few starters of Jamon, Calamaritos and Boquerones fritos which I believe you are required by law to include in every meal in the Malaga province. The lenguado was just brilliant: sparkingly fresh and cooked perfectly on the plancha. I'm not sure I can think of too many places in London that would: a) be able to get such fresh fish and b) cook it so well - the tendency for non-Spanish chefs is to overcook fish. This being Spain there was the obviously non-necessary chips and salad on the plate but hey, that's part of the charm.
Comped Pacharan and Cafe Solo were enough to send me to the balcony with a copy of William Darymple's latest and a tub of factor 15 (apologies if that puts you off your pain au chocolat).
I like Spain.