Spain: Sunday Lunch in Altea

It’s been a glorious day: the sun high in a clear blue sky, its heat made more comfortable by the strong breeze whipping up the water in the pool so there were almost waves at times; the large leaves of the Canary Island Date Palms – more commonly known as Pineapple palms as they look like huge pineapples – growing on the terrace, swaying heavily. It was decided we’d have a very Spanish Sunday lunch: paella. The Spanish only eat rice dishes – paella, arroz – at lunchtime as they believe they’re more difficult to digest in the evening. Linda and George suggested we went to Altea where there is a restaurant – more like huge beach shack – that specialises in paella. I remembered going once before, a few years ago and pre-blogging days. It gets very busy, especially at this time of year, so Linda rang them and booked a table for 1.30. This is early for the Spanish but we hoped it would give us a head start before the mad rush after 2.00-3.00.

It’s about half an hour away by car. We parked in the restaurant car park and went for a short walk along the promenade before eating. The sea was the most beautiful deep azure to turquoise colour. The promenade quite elegant with marble tiling marking out the walkway. When we went back to the restaurant it was still fairly empty. However nearly all the tables had reservation notes on them and it took a little time to find our name, even with help!

By the time we were leaving the place was full with queues outside. Our waiter told us the restaurant seated 900 diners! However, size didn’t affect cooking or service – both were excellent. Toast, fresh tomato and alioli came quickly, with a dish of grilled sweet peppers and onion.

George, driver for the outing, didn’t want alcohol. Linda and I asked for wine by the glass. The waiter explained he’d put a bottle of red for Linda, rose for me, on the table and we’d pay for what we drank. If we drank more than half we’d have to pay for the whole bottle. This seemed an excellent idea; you could take exactly what you wanted. There was only house wine, no choice, but it was good.

We ordered a couple of starters to share: a mixed salad (which came with tuna) and grilled mixed vegetables.

They were huge portions.

It was all delicious; very good. Then it was time for the paella. We’d ordered a seafood one with calamari, prawns, mussels and other fish.

It was really excellent. A wonderful flavour and not too dry – as sometimes paella are. We tucked into the large pan put before us and in the end couldn’t quite finish it, it was such a generous portion.

I could see their homemade desserts from where I sat and ordered what I thought was a Crema Catalana. They brought something that looked more like creme caramel; apparently what I’d thought was the crema was something else. I stuck with what they’d brought me; it looked good and it tasted delicious. We had coffee too.

It was a really great lunch and the atmosphere was great too. It was quite noisy by the end of our meal with large parties of families sitting round huge tables, a birthday party and a loud singing of Happy Birthday. But that made it all the more fun.

Back home it was still very hot; it was time to slow down, a siesta, a gentle swim, a few pages of a book read. A perfect Sunday.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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