When the going gets tough, the girls go to Spain!

When I told my octogenarian neighbour that 32 ladies went to Spain to play golf, his first comment was ” what a nightmare” and the second was the old cliché ” that isn’t a lady, it is my wife!

But yes 32 ( ranging in age 40 to 87 years) of us headed off to La Cala resort, which is halfway between Malaga and Marbella, set in the hillside. How they created  a golf course in what appears to be inhospitable countryside, beats me, but they did it three times, as there are three 18 hole courses there along with a rustic looking but very comfortable hotel, who know who their guests are – golfers! The rooms were spacious and generally came with a small kitchen, perfect for that morning cup of tea!

We ate well in Spain, firstly at the hotel, on our first night. We had Tapas galore followed by dinner, all very good, but most of us had eaten far too many Tapas, to really appreciate our dinner, but both the food and the service were excellent.

golf
One of the three very hilly golf courses, a buggy an essential!

The next night, after a day of golf,me de-camped to  Mijas Peublo, a really pretty mountainside town, complete with its still functioning Bull Ring and magnificent mountain to sea views. Here we ate at a small restaurant, taking over the complete terrace, I pitied anyone living near by! Our dinner  consisted of, cheese croquettes, chorizo sausages, Andalucian Gazpacho,  and either fish or roast baby lamb, followed by a soufflé of Grand Marnier. This was very proudly presented by the head chef. It was a family run business , and good honest food, all of which was very good, but for me the soufflé was perhaps a bit ambitious for such a large group, some of it was not really cooked and for my taste way too sweet. 

girls at the Bull Ring
girls at the Bull Ring
chef
the Proud Chefs with the flaming souffles

   

terrace restaurant
The Terrace Restaurant

So onto our third night. We went to Da Bruno, which I have mentioned before and really liked, and again the service and the food were really good, the only down side was fresh mint tea at the end of dinner, a language problem maybe,but we ended up with a table full of little teapots, and not enough cups!

Too many tea pots and not enough cups!
Too many tea pots and not enough cups!
IMG_3408
an assortment of Tapas at Da Bruno

We were served an assortment of Tapas to start with which included Pizza, Vitello Tonnato, Iberian ham with manchego cheese and Prawns Pil-Pil, main courses were a choice of Rigatone, Sea Bass or Escalope in Lemon Sauce and for dessert, either Tiramisu or Fruit salad. General consensus was all was good, I did not see many empty plates! 

Day four, saw us visiting La Jinete, this is a restaurant not far from the resort of La Cala, but appears to be in the middle of nowhere, but do not be fooled, it was packed!

an Empty La Jinete
an Empty La Jinete
View from the Terrace
View from the Terrace

Partly due to the fact that Wednesday night is music night and partly due to the fact that it is extremely good value. On Music nights the three course menu costs €22 ! One had a choice of 7 different starters ranging from soup of the day to an Argentinian Empanada with grilled chorizo and black pudding.  And for the Main courses, there were an impressive 9  to choose from , with Steak, Lamb, Pork and Pasta all on the menu. For dessert there were 6 to choose from, and weirdly amongst them was Mississippi Mud Pie and Banoffee cheesecake.All the tables were full and despite the guitarist not being the most enthusiastic in his playing, the atmosphere was one of everyone having fun.The food was, considering the sheer number of diners was very good and the service likewise.

Our final night was spent in much more sophisticated surroundings at  a restaurant called Avanto, in Mijas Playa. Overlooking the sea with clean crisp table cloths and napkins, it has all the makings of a good restaurant. However I am afraid it did not live up to expectations, it ha recently changed its name, maybe the chef/owner has changed as well. Looking on Trip Advisor , has confirmed my opinion, as the majority of reviews are not very positive. We had a set menu, understandably given our number, with a choice of two on each one. I chose the Beetroot carpaccio with roasted scallops, but flavoursome it was not, the Sea Bream with Wok vegetables was fine, just not very exciting, and the desserts were a real disappointment.

The Menu at Avanto
The Menu at Avanto
Banoffee Pie
Banoffee Pie
The soft and sloppy mousse
The soft and sloppy mousse

The mousse was not a mousse at all but more likely melted Ice Cream and for those who chose the Banoffee pie ( weirdly again) said it too did not live up to their expectations. Service was fine but zero for atmosphere, ( we were the only ones there, did we scare everyone else away?) However, a huge thank you goes to our Lady Captain who took on the task of organising this trip, which I have to say went really well, I wish the same to next years captain. Where are we going??? watch this space.

Am I stalking Giles Coren, or is he stalking me?

Last week, as I mentioned, I read Giles Coren’s review in the Times on La Blanchette in Soho, dashed off there for lunch and was suitably impressed. However this week, he is writing from the Algarve.

Funny , he was staying at the Conrad , which is a short hop from Faro airport. I was there with a bunch of lady golfers. At my club, we are truly spoilt, the ladies have a “tour” just like the men, and this is duly organised by the noble soul who is Lady captain at the time. So far we have been to Northern France, Brazil, Rome, Switzerland, Normandy,  Florence, Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Austria and this year to Portugal.

We too stayed at the Conrad, which was perfect for us, placed as it is amidst a bunch of top golf courses. I agree with him, insomuch as, it is a modern hotel, beautifully landscaped, with lots of pools,I could not fault the rooms, beautiful and functional. He went there with  children, which I am not sure I would do, true they have kids clubs etc, and apparently great kids food, but for me this is an adult type of place. It is a couple of miles from the beach , which is beautiful, but the only way to get there ( if you do not have a car) is on the hotel shuttle bus, which runs hourly from 10 am until 4 pm. To my mind Kids need beaches.

Breakfast was the highlight of the day at the Conrad. We sat outside, we could have the buffet ( hotel buffets usually fill me with horror, ) this was amazing and something for everyone, and Nothing there you fancy, well then a la carte was also available. Attentive service, great staff. We too ate in the GUSTO restaurant, “cheffed” by Heinz Beck. Fo us it was a superb meal, and we were the only diners there. However, for me the only complaint about the hotel were the stairs, or rather the lack of them. Our room was at the end of the first floor, but the only way to get up or own was via the elevator. My room-mate and I tried every which way Not to use the elevator, all to no avail, we found routes to the rear of the bar, to an office and outside but to the lobby, No! there were stairs leading from the lobby down, but not up and where there should have been stairs, there was a weird art installation. check out the picture and judge for yourself.

art installation, where the staircase should be
art installation, where the staircase should be
the pool at the Algarve Conrad
the pool at the Algarve Conrad

 

 

 

 

Lady Captain with Matt and Steve
Lady Captain with Matt and Steve

 

 

 

 

 

View of the beach from t a Golf course
View of the beach from a Golf course
28 lady golfers on tour
28 lady golfers on tour

 

 

 

 

However we were there for golf. The highlight of our golf experience was a day at Monte rei, about an hours drive from the resort. This was Millionaires golf, the service was impeccable,as was the course. Clubs were cleaned for us, loaded onto carts for us, course Marshall duly kept the four grumpy men following 28 ladies, at bay and the sun shone. After golf we had a drink on the terrace, and had our daily prize giving. This was done in style as Matt Pinsent and Steve Redgrave did the honours for us. Grumpy men beware, when following 28 ladies, is all I can say!

 

 

 

What Giles Coren, also said on Saturday, was “Don’t go to the Algarve for Tapas, go to Wapping”. Well he was correct in the Don’t go to the Algarve bit for Tapas, as Tapas, are as we all know ( but not Giles Coren, or so it would seem), are Spanish and not Portuguese. Petiscos are the Portuguese equivalent of Tapas .There  are Tapas bars in Portugal, but they’re an adaptation of the Spanish fare and not interchangeable with Petiscos. Petiscos, like Tapas, aren’t easy to define. A good example would be bifanas (thin pork sandwiches)  or snail soup, the difference between a Tapa and Petisco is also  in the seasoning of the dishes. Spain colonised mainly in the West, Central and South America whereas Portugal went east to Goa, to China and to Africa.However the one spice that really distinguishes Portuguese food from its Spain is their use of Piri-Piri, made from African Bird’s Eye Chili Peppers. So Chicken Piri Piri, is a real Portuguese dish and not just something that Nando’s or Marks and Spencers ready meals have decided to call their own.

The BIG dining out experience that Mr. Coren missed out was a trip to  Sr. Frango. Cheap and Cheerful with the best chicken in town. Kid friendly and lady golfer friendly to boot. ( his kids would have loved it,So eat your heart out Mr. Coren, you had better get over to Wapping to eat your Tapas, whilst enjoyed Portuguese chicken. Oh I forgot, he gets paid to write his reviews, Ah well never mind!

at. Sr. Frango's
at. Sr. Frango’s
Sr. Frango
Sr. Frango