Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Cheese and Biscuits on tour - Els Pescadors, L'Escala

You can do very well and very badly in the Costa Brava with regards to eating out. There's certainly no shortage of choice in most of the coastal resorts, but separating the good from the ok from the very very poor is a full-time job. And what makes this job more frustrating is that between the always good and the always crap are a huge amount of places which depending on the season, availability of fresh fish and the whims and fads of the management can sometimes be excellent and sometimes shocking. This makes recommending anywhere unreservedly a bit of a minefield - however, I suppose there's always a certain amount of luck involved with a good meal, so I shouldn't get too depressed about it.

Family-run restaurant Els Pescadors has been a feature of the seafront at L'Escala certainly since I've been visiting in the mid-80s, but it seems that I only have a good meal there every other visit. Fortunately this time, on an occasion where I'd brought two friends and my restaurant-finding reputation was on the line, we just about managed to get away with an enjoyable evening. On arrival we were presented with a small plate of bread and anchovies - the local speciality, quite different from the horrible salty little things you get in Pizza Express. These are larger, oily rather than salty, and very very nice. The best way I've had them is on top of slightly toasted stale baguette, rubbed with garlic and tomato, but weirdly you hardly ever get them like that in the restaurants - usually, as here, it's just tomato.

As a shared starter we ordered the "recommended" sampler of four different types of seafood and a glass of house cava. This one dish saved the whole meal from being a disappointment. Calamari were nice and fluffy, the clams had a great garlic-wine aroma, the little croquettes were very well made and were a good example of this local speciality, and the spectacular spiney sea snails tasted as good as they looked.

The mains were nearly as good. Mussels were nice and fresh but lacking a bit in the flavour of the sauce. The less said about my veal the better (clearly straight out of the freezer, pretty horrible), but the paella was a hit. Huge langoustines, as well as octopus, clams and mussels were found in amongst the gooey rice - a good paella is a voyage of discovery, and this was no exception.

So not a bad evening out, a good seafood dinner let down only by a plate of inedible veal and a few sloppy mistakes here and there. Els Pescadors is actually in the Michelin with a two knife and fork rating - I'm not sure this is entirely justified based on my visits, but perhaps the Michelin guys are just a bit cleverer with their ordering. The tank of live lobster and crab in the window of the restaurant demonstrates that it is possible to have a very decadent meal here if you want to splash out, but for mere mortals the chances are success are a bit thinner. Still, if it's true that you're only as good as your last meal, then I can't be too hard on Els Pescadors.


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