The Many Pleasures of Restaurante La Parrilla

I wonder how many times you have travelled past Restaurante La Parrilla on Bulevar Alfonso von Hohenlohe (more or less opposite the Marbella Club) and thought, “That looks like an interesting place, but I’ve never heard of anyone going here and it looks kind of old-fashioned as well.” I’ve certainly had all those thoughts, so it was a fabulous surprise to discover that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

La Parrilla has been on this spot for 26 years, so yes, it is a mature restaurant, but that certainly doesn’t make it old-fashioned, although its owner would admit that for many years it had a classic approach to Spanish cuisine and that contemporary diners may have felt put off by its style. But, it’s 2016 and owner, Jesus is bringing his restaurant into the 21st century and is taking great strides forward in turning La Parrilla into a more casual and modern dining experience that fits with the times. Take a look at the restaurant’s new website www.laparrillagourmet.com for an impression of the interior design and the quality of the food and wine.

As the restaurant’s home page announces, the mission of La Parrilla is to offer “Meat and fish from the grill with good wines and excellent service.” The understated simplicity of that statement captures the owner’s drive to provide food that is filled with class and quality and which doesn’t require a lot of loud shouting about because it speaks for itself in a quietly authoritative manner. For example, Jesus explained to us that only fresh food is prepared and served at the restaurant, plus all the white fish is sourced from the best Spanish waters and it is all marinated before cooking. This attention to detail and the search for top quality suppliers ensures an exceptional eating experience, as the Society team discovered.

Wise wine choices

Before I start to describe the food and relive the moments of heaven that will undoubtedly set me off salivating again, let me tell you a little about the excellent wine choices at La Parrilla. The restaurant has always made its wine list a cornerstone of its offering and the wine cellar is constantly updated by experts. The choice ranges over hundreds of Denominación de Origen and the sommeliers here are delighted to help you find a wine that suits your taste preferences.

With help we chose a bright and refreshing Albariño. This is a white wine that hails from the Rías Baixas region of Galicia in the northwest of Spain. It’s a distinctly Spanish white that is fast finding fans among white wine drinkers. If you’re more familiar with Spanish Rueda and Verdejo, then do try the sophisticated fruitiness of an Albariño, especially if you’re eating fish.

Amazing appetisers

The Society team love appetisers, partly because we love large selections of small platters so that we can all share. The appetiser menu at La Parrilla is extensive and it took some quite extensive debate to come to a final decision about what to order. In the end we decided on Crujentes con Panceta, because a little bacon always brings a heart-warming aroma with it. Some ‘famous’ Patatas Bravas accompanied these, and perhaps they do indeed deserve celebrity status. Then we launched into the fish. The marinated boquerones from Málaga and the cod fish salad were the epitome of freshness and certainly couldn’t have been very long out of the sea. We also enjoyed the salmon marinated in dill – very Scandinavian and modern – and our photographer Julia swore that the earth moved when she ate the grilled baby cuttlefish. So, that’s definitely a dish to try!
The wood oven roasted red pepper salad finished with olive oil, salt and spring onion was a wonderful accompaniment to the fish and for me, and all mussel lovers, the small wild mussels from Cataluña cooked in cherry wine, olive oil and garlic made me want to return for more…and more. Of course, we had to have some meat as well and the Confit of Crunchy Suckling Pig with apple puree and a reduction of balsamic vinegar syrup won over the “Irresistible Steak Tartar,” but I shall come back for that one. I have long been a fan of this dish, and after it went out of fashion in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find it on a menu, but it seems to be making a comeback and I’ve spotted it on a small selection of classy restaurant menus around Marbella.

Divine desserts

We were feeling pleasantly full and reluctant to leave the tastes of the wonderful appetisers behind, but it would not be a complete food review if there were no ‘postres’. We plumped (and by this time I’m definitely feeling plumper) for the Warm Apple Pie in Pastry. As you may know, the British, Irish and Americans have an exceptional fondness for apple pie, so we’re pretty hard to please. So, the fact that this was a success with me says a lot for the quality of the dessert and the pastry chef. The rest of the Society team were impressed with it as well, so top marks for the warm apple pie. We also ordered a dessert that I personally haven’t seen anywhere else; a Spanish French Toast with Raspberry Sauce. Well, who doesn’t love French toast and with the fresh raspberry sauce, it was extremely comforting on a wet and windy day. Other temptations included sorbets made with vodka and a Crème Brûlée that I have no doubt would have been perfection if I had still had anywhere left to fit it in. Still, it is best to leave some things for another time!

So, next time you’re looking for somewhere modern and sophisticated with top quality fresh food and an intelligent wine list, don’t drive past La Parrilla – book a table!

 
Lingon Berry Cheese Cake

I made this recipe especially for Finnberry, a Finnish company that sells amazing Scandinavian wild berry powders. I have become totally smitten with their products and find myself using them on all sorts of things. I just love the sweet, sour tangy taste of lingon berries! This recipe is also especially nice with a side of sunshine!

Ingredients:

Bottom layer
 
1/2 cup of almonds
 
1 tbs of cacao nibs
 
1 tbs of agave syrup
 
pinch of vanilla
 
tiny pinch of himalayan salt
 
Cheese Cake 
 
1 cup of soaked cashews (2-6 hours)
 
1/2 cup of water or nut milk for creamier consistency (you might need to add more to get it going)
 
2 tbs of Lingon berry powder (Finnberry)
 
2 tbs of agave syrup
 
1 vanilla pod scraped
 
Rasberries for garnish and some more Lingon Berry powder!

Method:

Blend all until a crunchy "biscuit base" consistency and slightly sticky.
 
In small cupcake moulds or in the smallest size cake form (10-15 cm) press the base until firm and you have a "Cheese cake base”.
 
In a blender mix all the “cake" ingredients except the raspberries, save those for garnish. When you have a smooth consistency, you're done! You might need to add extra liquid to get it going.
 
Fill your mould or moulds and put in the freezer until set and firm. This shouldn’t take more than an hour considering it is a small sized cake. For a bigger cake, double the recipe. 
 
Take out of the mould, garnish with berries and enjoy!

 
Costa Cuisine- Top Table at Top Thai Restaurant

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A trip to Thailand is always a popular choice at the start of the New Year for those seeking to escape the cooler Andalusian days and get a fix of winter sun. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to spend the money or time away from our daily business. So what better way to transport you to the exotic pastures of South East Asia than a top Thai meal? And we kid you not, the food at new restaurant Top Thai in Centro Plaza is so authentic that if you close your eyes, you can almost imagine yourself sitting on a busy street in Bangkok or at a beach bar in Koh Phi Phi, looking out on an expanse of glistening aquamarine water. So on a miserable January day in Marbella we headed into Top Thai to indulge in some delectable foreign delights. As is always the way when eating in a group, the best way to proceed is with a sharing platter starter and Top Thai’s version, which included Prawn Toast, Spring Roll with Chicken, Beef and Chicken Satay Skewers and Prawn Spring Rolls did not disappoint. The assortment of dips accompanying the platter perfectly complimented the crispy starter bites, the chicken spring roll served with a honey dip was particularly popular and caused a bit of a ruckus when it came down to deciding who deserved the last one.

Dishes cleared and the chicken spring roll dispute settled, we moved on eagerly to the main event. I opted for a Red Thai Curry with Prawns, which was served with Sticky Rice. With every mouthful I was treated to a large juicy prawn, sweet cherry tomato and fragrant lychee, all soaked in the exquisite red curry soup. Another Thai classic – Tom Kha Gai - was ordered by one of my dining partners; bathed in a creamy coconut sauce, the chicken in this dish was deliciously tender. Others in the group decided on Grilled King Prawns with Thai Sauce, which was a delicious blend of chili and lime and made the perfect partner for the tasty prawns. But ultimate food envy was granted to one lucky individual on the table when his main course arrived – Ped Top Thai. This roasted duck option was a mouth-watering combination of soft meat and crispy skin, dished up with a honey and tamarind sauce. And finally (we couldn’t resist) we ordered the staple dish, Pad Thai to share among us. Rich in ingredients, the egg noodles, crunchy vegetables, prawns, crushed peanuts and lime were coated in a sweet tamarind sauce.

Main courses finished and with just enough room for a sweet, we thought it wrong not to go for at least a couple of desserts. The Mango and Sticky Rice was splendid, while the Cold Fruit Platter was refreshing and thirst quenching. Then the godfather of all desserts – Banana Fritters coated in honey and served with creamy vanilla ice cream provided the perfect finish. The crispy fritter encasing the soft banana was a match made in heaven.

So with the final slurp of Strawberry Daiquiri – yes, Top Thai also serves up exotic cocktails with the most flamboyant of fruit decorations - we had to be reminded that we were, in fact, still in Southern Spain. We did not need a tuk tuk to get home nor was a deep-sea dive planned for the following morning, but our meal at least was the closest we had come to being on the Asian continent this year, so for that we congratulate you Top Thai.

Top Thai Restaurant
Centro Plaza 64, Av. Manolete 1
Nueva Anadalucía, Marbella
Tel. 951 319 778 / 672 028 210

 
The Utterly Urban Bistro

The Utterly Urban BistroThe opening of the fabulous and long awaited boulevard in San Pedro de Alcántara has paved the way for the establishment of a new “Food Quarter” on the beach side of the town. Only a matter of yards from the wonderful wavy bridge you’ll find a strip of restaurants, each with something so different to offer that it really doesn’t matter that they are sitting side by side.

It has certainly added a new vibrancy to the usually quiet beachside residential area that for so long had a limited choice of places to eat and drink. Residents and guests either had to cross the N340 (before the tunnel and boulevard were completed) and head into the main part of the town, or walk down to the paseo maritímo. There are many lovely places there, but most of them are better suited to light evenings and sunny weather; they are less appealing in the dark days of winter. Plus, none of them has a pool table.

And the pool table is one of the main attractions that draws people to this rather funky, and yes, ‘urbane’ restaurant. Sunday afternoons seems to be especially popular with groups of lads of all ages, enjoying a game and watching football at the same time. Meanwhile, if wives and girlfriends have been brought along, they can enjoy a drink in the soft-seated lounge area that surrounds the pool table.

It has to be said that one of Urban’s great advantages is that it can be both bar and restaurant. You can come here just for a drink and feel comfortable, unlike those restaurants that would prefer it if you didn’t put a foot through the door unless you’re going to eat. You can choose to order a drink and a bar-style snack – I’ll get to the food in a moment – or you can sit down in the dining area and have a meal. There is a feeling of sufficient separation between the different functions that Urban wants to cater for to make each customer feel that they’ve come to the right place.

Urban’s other great strength is its friendly staff who are attentive without being in your face all the time, and as most of them are young, the whole place has the energy of youth.  This youthfulness is reflected in a menu that, whilst not being intentionally age specific, has an array of dishes that may appeal more to a younger clientele looking for some ‘informal’ food to eat. Actually, the key here is the informality, so whatever age you are, if you’re looking for something satisfying, uncomplicated and nicely presented but without all the frills of a more formal restaurant, then, if you’re in San Pedro, Urban is the perfect choice.

I’d suggest that if you’re simply looking for a snack to accompany a couple of glasses of wine then the appetizers on the menu would tick the box nicely. There’s an excellent choice, including quesadillas, which have been a long time favourite of mine. Another favourite is Chicken Satay and yummy Tempura Prawns, which make for some very tasty morsels with a nice bottle of white. Crispy Camembert with a cranberry dip is a must for the cheese lover and if you’re as devoted to Gambas Pil-Pil as one member of my family is, then it’s a relief to see that this Spanish staple is on the menu.

I will admit that my eyes tend to glaze over when I see the word ‘Salad’ on a menu. However, on our visit to Urban I decided to be brave and try the Thai Beef Salad. This turned out to be a very tasty combo of beef sirloin strips with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber, carrots, mint and a delicious homemade Thai dressing. It’s a testament to the chef that I enjoyed the lettuce, which has never been one of my favourite bits of greenery.

And, if you are a salad fan then you can go retro with Prawn Cocktail (OK, I confess to loving this) a Goat’s Cheese salad with lots of yummy bacon and crouton crunchy bits.  There is also a Chicken Caesar salad and a Caprese, which is mozzarella with vine tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and honey dressing. At around the 10€ mark, the salads are excellent value, and indeed, the menu is well-priced all round with no item more than 20€, and it’s only the steaks that get close to this price point, everything else is less than 12€. Even the mighty beef burgers!

The reputation of Urban’s beef burgers had preceded our visit since a friendly teenager had assured me they were “awesome” and “the best ever!” Although the Society office is body conscious, an awesome beef burger cannot be ignored. And really, it was very good. From a snack perspective, the sandwich is always something handy to order, so we tried the Club Sandwich. Succulent sliced chicken with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise served with fries. Those fries are good and we’d already had another helping with the beef burger.

The menu also includes an excellent Pad Thai and Thai Green curry - one of the best things about going out with a crowd is that you can order what you like and then sample everyone else’s dish. At least, that’s my view!

No meal in my opinion is complete without something sweet to finish it off and there was a big show of hands for the sumptuous Cheesecake. Tiramisu, Crème Brulée and Apple Tart were also on offer. Overall, it’s a shortish menu that has a wide enough variety to please most people, and I haven’t even mentioned the wraps and the Chilli con Carne!

Urban is a great place to drop into for a light snack or something more substantial, and it’s a great venue for meeting mates for a drink and a game of pool after work. It’s a destination you can make your local, and you may save yourself a lot of cooking at the same time.

 
HEALTHY EATING on a Budget

Our resident health and nutrition expert, Bettina gives us some top tips on how to eat healthily on a budget Photo: Raphael Tecksten

Novemberissue FInalIssuuHE-249

MAKE YOUR OWN MILK!

Nut milk can be expensive to buy fresh (or impossible, if you don't have anywhere locally that buys and sells their own). Even the long life variety in cartons and cans is expensive and often contains nasty additives and preservatives. Making your own is a far cheaper option. Coconut milk can be cheap to make, and of the nut and seed varieties almond, cashew and sunflower seed are usually the most economical.

BUY IN BULK!

Nuts, seeds and specialised flours are usually expensive when bought in small amounts. Find a wholeseller that sells in bigger quantities. In the Marbella area check out La Campana, the Marbella poligono and as far as Malaga industrial area for companies that sell in bulk.

EAT MORE VEGGIES!

Eating more vegetables is not only good for your health, it's great for your wallet too. Look for in-season vegetables that will be cheaper than buying imported vegetables and/or vegetables not in season (and they will taste better too!)

BUY SEASONAL, LOCAL AND PREFERABLY ORGANIC!

We are so, so very lucky to live in the garden of Europe. We are surrounded by amazing produce and farmers who take great pride in their craft. Every weekend there is an organic market on the Costa Del Sol - so make the effort and go and buy what is in season. Most often it will also be the most reasonably priced produce. If you buy a larger amount of say tomatoes, make a sauce and freeze. Strawberry season? Freeze and use for smoothies. You get the gist.

USE DRY BEANS AND PULSES! –INSTEAD OF USING CANNED VARIETIES.

You'll need to soak and cook them first, but the flavour is far superior and you'll end up with more, which will last longer. Turn these into bean casseroles, salads, soups, stews or bean dips or accompaniments to meals. I actually like to bulk boil two to three different varieties and freeze in portion sizes so that I always have pulses at hand.

WHERE I LOVE TO EAT?

My most memorable Healthy Meal out this month was Tomate Fresco's Oat Pancakes! Drizzled with maple and sliced bananas. If you are looking to eat healthy on a budget Tomate, in San Pedro de Alcántara, is a great option. Lots of juices (Mean Green is my personal favourite) salads with gluten free options and much more!

COOK MEALS IN BULK - AND FREEZE SMALL PORTIONS.

That way if you get home late from work and can't be bothered to cook, you'll have a meal ready to go rather than having to get a takeaway. Great when you also have hungry kids that want food "NOW".



KEEP THINGS SIMPLE

Don't go overboard with toppings, extra ingredients or crazy specialised ingredients in the health shops. I know meals with only a few basic ingredients. I go through many of these practical tips on my monthly workshops. Eating healthily is easy when you know how!

 
Costa Cuisine- New Look for el Rincón de la Sala

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Last month El Rincón de la Sala reopened its doors following a fresh, new redesign. Despite only being closed for a few days, the changes are incredibly distinct.

We decided to level out the restaurant to create a more united experience for our diners and to ensure that the live music and atmosphere could be enjoyed by every customer, whether eating in the restaurant or drinking at the bar,” explained Howard Holland, General Manager of El Rincón de la Sala.

Despite no increase in size, the restaurant appears much more spacious and inviting. “The changes have enabled the musicians to interact with the clients and create a vivacious ambiance allowing guests to go from dinner, through to drinks and dancing,” continued Howard.

In addition to the changes within the restaurant, the bar has also been moved offering a much more expansive area to enjoy El Rincón de la Sala’s fantastic value cocktails. Every evening from 9pm until midnight, customers can select any cocktail for just 5€. Alternatively the broad gin and tonic menu offers everything from Gin Mare with Rosemary, Pink 47 with Raspberries and Strawberries and Tanqueray Ten with Lime and Cardamom, all served with your preferred tonic.

As well as fashioning an enhanced area for drinkers, the new bar will become the platform for El Rincón de la Sala’s fantastic new offering. From this month, a delicious selection of ‘pintxos’ will be available every day featuring everything from traditional Spanish omelette and Serrano Ham with ‘Pimientos del Padron’ to further unique creations. As well as the new pintxos, the daytime menu offers all the Andalucian favourites including Prawn Pil Pil, Clams in Garlic, Parsley and Wine Sauce and Fried Calamari El Rincón style. If you prefer an international choice the Chicken Peri Peri Pita and the Mini Burger Trio never fail to disappoint.

During the evening El Rincón de la Sala’s a la carte menu boasts a delicious selection of meats cooked on the exclusive Charcoal Grill which utilises a variety of wood chips such as Pecan, Apple, Maple and Oak. Charcoal grilling is the oldest method of cooking, a process that not only adds flavour but due to the intensity of the heat, seals the food quickly and keeps the moisture in, allowing the fat to melt away slowly. The fish selection is also worth crediting with Baked Whole Fish of the Day in Salt and Sala’s famous Spaghetti Vongole proving exceptionally popular.

With breakfast starting from 1.50€ and specials including a Full English with coffee, tea or orange juice for just 5.95€ on Saturdays and Sundays, El Rincón de la Sala is the ideal spot for breakfast. Relax in the sunshine on the al fresco terrace amidst the quaint atmosphere of the San Pedro town and enjoy fresh croissants, light omelettes or a hearty grilled English sausage baguette.

Every weekend El Rincón de la Sala comes alive with the sounds of the some of the coast’s finest musicians. Masquerade start the weekend in style with a vibrant set on Friday nights, followed by Gemma and Vicky and Ernesto continuing the weekend’s celebrations.

On Sundays a children’s entertainer is on hand to keep the little ones content, providing an ideal setting to enjoy a Sunday roast with all the family. Once a month Paul Maxwel, The Piano Man, takes to the stage creating an ambiance like no other, performing the greatest tracks from across the ages.

Whether you are looking for a light lunch, a tapa or two or you want to party into the early hours, El Rincón de la Sala offers an incredible atmosphere with a touch of Spanish tradition and flavour.

EL Rincón de la Sala
Tel: 951 506 249
Calle Marqués del Duero,
San Pedro de Alcántara
lasalasanpedro.com

 
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