Spain: Morning and Lunch in Denia
Denia is the capital of the Marina Alta, which lies between Valencia to the north and Alicante to the south. It was one of the first towns to attract English tourists although today it seems very unspoiled compared to many of the other nearby towns like Calpe and Benidorm, with their huge monstrosities of tall, ugly buildings. It still retains a very pretty historic centre and there is a port from which daily ferries run to the Balearic islands.
I was dropped off at around 10 a.m. with a map and pointers to where I should head. I walked for a little way and stopped in a pretty square, Glorieta del Pais from which a main road, Marques De Campo runs down to the sea. Here I found a bar/restaurant Ca Rafa which served a breakfast special – desayuno basico – for only €2. After a good coffee and tomato tostada and taking time to check the map and get my bearings, I decided to head back a little way to the main market on the edge of town. It’s held in a huge square – so large and open with mountains in the background, it always makes me – for I’ve been here before – think a little of the main square in Marrakesh, Jemma el-Fnaa. It was very crowded and selling mainly clothes and leather goods and of little interest to me so I soon made my way back to the historic centre where I spent the next couple of hours exploring all its little roads and pedestrian streets.
There are a number of cafes and bars and restaurants in Carrer Loreto, one of the main streets in the old part of the town. I had a list of recommendations for lunch, culled from magazines and guides, but decided to ignore this and just opt for the one I most liked the look of – els Tomassets.
It turned out to be a great choice. I was a bit undecided whether to just have a few tapas but while trying to choose, suddenly opted for the menu del dia, at €16. There was a list of six starters on the blackboard outside and the main course was Arroz Meloso de Calamar y verdua. There was a little bit of confusion as I ordered as they spoke no English and my Spanish doesn’t stretch far past hola! I was therefore surprised when it turned out that the menu included all six starters, which began to arrive one by one at my table. A half loaf of good bread with the usual fresh tomato and some alioli was soon followed by a gorgeous salad that looked as if each bit of greenery had been freshly picked from a selection in the garden. It also had tomato, olives and walnuts. As I started on this, two large grilled prawns arrived – Denia prawns are famous and these two – even if not the expensive locals ones – were sublime. Then a selection of meats, stewed red peppers and onions (the peppers having a slight charcoal flavour), a plate of tellinas, that look like tiny clams and tasted of the sea and sweetness and were wonderful. Finally, some fried small fish.
I was getting pretty full … but delightfully so. However, I had the main attraction still to come, the arroz – similar to a paella but much wetter, almost a soup, and cooked in a deep casserole rather than a shallow paella pan. This one had squid, fresh asparagus and artichokes in it and was delicious.
There was dessert included in the menu but I had neither room nor time for it but at €16 this was an excellent value lunch given the quality of the food. The house wine at only €2 a glass was also very good. This restaurant will definitely be on my list next time I’m here. It was also a great location, sitting outside in the pretty pedestrian road – although the inside was also nice for a cooler time of year. And a bonus was free Wifi too.