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Archive for June, 2012

Sharon and I have just returned from a short break in Spain. We were accompanied by my brother Andrew and his partner Debbie. We stayed in a small apartment about a mile inland from the Torreblanca coast, a little east of Fuengirola.

What a difference the three hour flight from Manchester to Malaga made!

Since they arrived from Australia, where they live, Andrew and Debbie have had to suffer one of the coldest, wettest springs we have experienced in the UK, so getting off the plane in Malaga to a pleasant 30°C was a real pleasure for them as well as for us.

We’d hired our car from Car Hire 3000, but the actual providers were Centauro who are based some way from the airport, so that necessitated a minibus ride to their depot. Everything went smoothly, so I’ve no complaint with their efficiency but I have to warn anyone who reads this about the fuel scam everyone over here seems to pull. Although we’d paid for everything else in the UK, we still had to pay for a full tank of petrol – €93! Now, that’s top price for fuel, and there’s no option to choose where you fill up, they do it before you pick up the car. I also doubted that the tank was really ‘full’. There’s also an ‘Excess Cover’ insurance to pay (optional), which is not part of the collision waiver (etc.) insurance you pay in the UK. My friend uses Malaga Car Hire when he comes here and they have a ‘full to full’ policy, which means you can refill at the best price you find (which for my friend will probably be Gibraltar @ 96p litre, with a small top up here in Torreblanca, which is only 15 miles from the airport).

We arrived at the apartment in good time to unpack and have a cup of tea before braving ‘the front’ to find a supermarket. The roads around here are narrow and winding, and there is something of a mañana feel to the local driving!We stocked up on basics and then came back to dump the car.

We walked back down to the seafront later for a walk and to find some food. We had had The Royal India restaurant recommended, so as we had no real preference that night, we ate there. It was dire! It seems to be one of those Indian restaurants where they use one base sauce for every dish. My Rogan Josh had very little meat in it and tasted like a red lamb korma – it was SO sweet (which a Rogan Josh shouldn’t be). Debbie’s ‘butter chicken’ and Andrews ‘madras’ seemed to come from the same pot with just a little flavour change en route (and no more meat than I had).

No one was impressed!

The walk back to the apartment was warm and pleasant enough, despite the steepness of the climb. That was day one.

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As some of you may have read, I’m not a fan of city centre food establishments. It’s not that there is anything wrong with them as such, it’s just that they are often careless and sloppy AND given the prices they charge, they shouldn’t be so careless and sloppy. See previous post: (b.t.w. Andrew was also ill in the night)

In counterpoint to, and following on from my previous post we ate in Glasgow again the following night. This time we chose a Wetherspoons pub opposite the Radisson Blu, alongside the Central Railway Station. It was heaving! (translation: full of customers, full of noise, full of life). We were hard pressed to find a table but we managed, even without the help of any charmless flunkies.

Now, I know that Wetherspoon food is not gourmet food, but then it doesn’t pretend to be. Wetherspoons manage to turn out edible food at sensible prices without any fancy flourish or fanfare*. Their food is nothing more than it says it will be on the (still plastic) menu. Just like I did in Wales, I tried the local specialities from what was otherwise a menu card that can be found in any Wetherspoons from Lands End to John o’Groats.

Cullen Skink and then Haggis with Neeps and Tatties.

They were fine, a bit heavy on the tatties but fine.  And tasty!

Now I know that the soup and the haggis was probably made many miles away in a central processing unit (CPU) somewhere and that there’s a good chance the tatties were ‘Smash’ (although I couldn’t be sure) but someone, somewhere had taken the care to make sure that the food was a) Hot, b) tasty (well done CPU) and c) brought to our table with a smile.

And, to cap all that; whereas the previous night’s disaster had cost almost £80 for the four of us, this night’s cost less than £30! Money isn’t always the point of my epicurean excursions and I’ll gladly pay £50-60 or more for the right food but paying £20 for carelessly prepared, sullenly served food really winds me up.

*footnote: We returned to the same Wetherspoons for breakfast. Bad mistake! They failed to match the product quality of any ‘Greasy Joes’ on this occasion. We still had good service and the coffee was lovely but everything else was sloppily prepared. The bacon was anaemic  and the fried eggs looked (I can’t say ‘tasted’ because I had lukewarm porridge) like they had been made last night and warmed up to order. Quite nasty reallyso take a gold star for last night and a sharp slapped wrist for this morning.

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I shouldn’t be writing this, after all I should know better, but why oh why can’t city centre food be better than it is? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it as such, it does what it says ‘on the tin’ – but it’s so … what’s the word? … sloppy!

To be fair we were wet and miserable after last night’s trek around a rain-soaked Glasgow but we did look forward to an Italian meal at Da Magggio’s. It had come recommended (as had La Parmigiano – thanks Lesley) and it did have that ‘New York Italian’ feel as we went in. It was bustling but not full and the service was attentive, even if somewhat surely and unsmiling.

I don’t usually have starters anymore as I just can’t take the volume of food, but I did fancy a Minestrone, one that purported to be ‘home made’. I wasn’t too disappointed to realise once I was eating it, that it probably was ‘home made’ but from a packet – and then doctored. No worries – I can live with that (unlike the bread, which I declined at up to £5 per portion). Sharon played safe with a rocket and parmesan salad that was tasty; garlicky but tasty. Andrew had Chilli Natchos which he said were mild and boring (which is again ok, the restaurant cannot account for all tastes and he does like fiery hot food).

The three of us then ordered pizza – no danger there is there? Debbie had a Salmon dish which she adored.

My pizza was a Margherita with anchovies – a favourite of mine. But it came swimming in oil. I’d eaten a good bit of it before I realised that it wasn’t just [cheap] cheese oil that had cooked out (although this was also evident on Sharon and Andrew’s pizzas), it was the anchovy oil that was also floating about. It took all of my napkin and all of my patience to dip up the fat and in the end I left a good third of the food. I was full, but it hadn’t been pleasant.

It doesn’t take much to drain the fish before use does it? It doesn’t take much to smile when serving folks either? And yet, everyone else in the restaurant seemed happy with their food. Is it just me? (us).

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