DOS HERMANOS: SIMPLY SPANISH
In truth it’s probably not a good idea for me to visit Spain so often – it spoils me. After spending just a few days in whichever city or town is lucky enough to be graced by my presence, all the nonsense of the foodie world in the UK in general and London in particular seems very, very far away indeed.
No tedious over-hyping of duff concept restaurants or the next big thing, no use of food as a weapon in the class war, no endless role-call of TV shows where celebrity chefs patronise natives of countries with far older and more interesting food cultures than their own and, most importantly of all, no Nigel Slater.
No, in Spain all you get, if you ignore Mr Crisps (aka Ferran Adrià) and his acolytes is good food made with decent ingredients and maybe some bloke on TV making Tortilla or Empanada if you’re really lucky.
The idea of food as craft doesn’t really exist in the UK. Dos Hermanos last experienced it at Angel Mangal. Each time we had our Special Mixed Kebab with a side order of Sweetbreads it was that little bit better than the last. There was no need, thank God, to deconstruct or mess around with it. It was simply grilled meat, sure, but there was always a little extra care going into it.
I was reminded of this when I visited the local bar/restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean that I always venture to at least once during a stay Fuengirola. There’s probably hundreds of similar places along the Costa but what they do, they do very well. If my most recent visit was anyything to go by they may have a new chef in - their grilling of fish was always spot on but this time the cooking was just that little bit better. The fish comes from local fisherman and is caught that morning. You choose from whatever they have in the chilled display cabinet and once it’s gone that’s it. Today there was, Rodaballo, Lubina, and Besugo. They also had a big tray of Calamaritos.
After some Jamon that was cut so plenty of fat remained on the slices we got stuck into the seafood. Big plates of Boquerones and those Calarmaritos were followed by some fish simply grilled and dressed with oil and parsley. If you could eat like this every day of your life it wouldn’t be a hardship. The chips are usually a bit of an afterthought here but they were pretty good in the way that chips cooked in Olive Oil usually are.
The following night we ate even closer to home. The local restaurant is a big draw for the expat community and has simple dishes at reasonable prices. DH padre had asked the chef/owner to get some seafood in for us. My father does that because he loves me (well, as he says, somebody has to).
The shellfish was up there with some of the best I’d had in Spain. The freshness, the care in the preparation and presentation and the timing were all spot on and we enjoyed ourselves so much we were there for the best part of five hours.
In the Spanish way several courses were served to share. Concha Fina Natural – large clams – where the meat is removed and replaced back in the shells retaining all the juicy, saline goodness. Fresh and briny, they didn’t last too long. Likewise Mejillones al vapour and some of the freshest Gambas cooked on the plancha I’ve eaten anywhere.
Then a big plate of tiny, sweet Almejas cooked with plenty of olive oil, garlic and parsley with plenty of clam liquor to mop up afterwards.
Feeling a little bit stuffed I was worried that a plate of Rabo De Toro was going to be too much but it was excellent: clean tasting and not over rich as this dish can sometimes be. Baba had huevos estrellados a dish beloved of Spaniards everywhere and if you’re wondering, yes it is egg and chips but you break and mix up the egg with the potatoes. The night was finished off with far too many Anis Secos and Pacharans. On the casa, of course.
A visit to Malaga province is not complete, of course, without a visit to the city of Malaga itself. I’ve been visiting for a few years and the centre is always a bit of a building site which didn’t stop myself and the third Hermano doing a little tapas crawl (well, about three hours of crawling). Lots of highlights like Tortitas de Camarones and Berenjenas con miel and of course super fresh seafood.
On my return to London I found people very excited because a Pizza restaurant has opened and there’s a new Canteen in Canary Wharf. Spain in general and Malaga in particular suddenly seemed very, very far away indeed. Sigh.