Our caravan of cars led by Dani Garcia (the Spanish chef I told you about in earlier posts) turned off the main road, and the first thing I notice is that according to an advertisement for the Playboy Club, we’re heading in the right direction. I glance at The Boyfriend. He shrugs innocently. The tree-lined road is unkempt, and our little mini cooper swerves to avoid the enormous puddles that are forming due to what is another epic rainstorm in a winter that has apparently left the Costa del Sol, well, with no sol.
We pull up to what logically appears to be a little restaurant or hotel that has closed down for the season. The parking lot is flooded with rain and the swimming pool is empty (which is why this must be a hotel, I think). We dutifully follow Dani and his family into the courtyard, where a door opens and a young smiling man beckons. I am now half-soaked and go running in, thinking this is a little spooky and am I about to a part of some Spanish seafood sacrifice? But there are the requisite Spaniards standing at the bar, smoking and drinking cañas (oh more later on my favorite bebida ever) and we are ushered into a large windowed room with a few families and couples. Outside, literally just outside the windows, the ocean roils.
Dish after dish gets laid down, all traditional southern Spanish seafood dishes. We start with raw clams, served only with slices of lemon. Nadia tells me they are served so fresh you squeeze them with lemon and they will still move. Having said that, if you were a four-year old, would you go near something like this? Garcia’s daughter enthusiastically slurps them down, first sprinkling them with a little sal. Below are the conchas finas.
We follow with soup, one is a hearty, warming stew of squid, garbanzo beans and vegetables and some garlicky gambas.
Then came along one of my favorite dishes, a sweet little thing called coquinas. They are baby clams, set in delicate purple-hued shells. You slurp them down, eating them easy as potato chips, reveling in the play of salty sweetness (clams) and the always satisfying garlic and olive oil treatment. My plate looked like this after:
Now I bet you have been on the edge of your seat wondering what happened to this guy (who is a turbot, by the way):
He turned out handsomely, like this:
And he was promptly treated by our server:
And here is where he finished, on my plate:
I ate him with a side of, you guessed it, patatas. They were served with a yummy romesco sauce:
And in a throwback to my initial dread that I might be entering into some strange Spanish seafood sacrificial ceremony, I was the only one at the table given the turbot eggs, which looked like this. Were they wishing me a lifetime of fertility? I tried a bite, it tasted like stuffing without the yumminess of stuffing.
After the plates were finally cleared we all acknowledged complete over-indulgence. It was 4pm, we had been eating for two hours.
And it was time to jump in the car and head to Ronda, a small, completely ancient village set in the mountains of Andalucia.
“Cuidado,” Garcia’s wife warned us. The rain had been falling so hard, so incessantly, that there were landslides along the road to Ronda (which as you guess, took us through mountains). Parts of the road might be closed. Cuidado.
Off we went.
El Ancla, Avda Carmen Sevilla s/n, Urbanizacion Linda Vista Playa, San Pedro del Alcantara 29670 Marbella
Visit the website at elanclarestaurante.com, and please be prepared to be pleasantly shocked at what the restaurant is supposed to look like when it’s actually sunny and warm.