A Catalan break

I’ve been away all week in Catalunya, staying in Sant Feliu de Guixols on the Costa Brava near Girona. We like Sant Feliu because it’s a proper all-year-round town as well as a seaside resort in summer. Although some of the more touristy shops and restaurants were closed for the winter there were a lot open for the local people….and for us. The town is full of modernista (Catalan art nouveau) architecture dating from the end of the nineteenth century: the Casino, now a café that was expensive for coffee but more reasonable for a beer in the sun outside on the pavement tables.

The buildings in the two Ramblas, this one in the Rambla del Portalet:

some more contemporary buildings

and a renovated 1920s market hall with a daily fruit and vegetable market outside:

The next bay, Sant Pol, is where some of the more spectacular modernista houses were built by Sant Feliu people who had left to work in central and south America and returned, rich and wanting to show it. Sadly, this turreted building is now neglected, some of its shutters and windows open to the weather:

We ate some very good food in Sant Feliu de Guixols, following the local habit of having a menu del dia of three courses with wine and coffee at lunchtime and then eating tapas in a friendly bar in the evenings. The best lunches we had were at L’Infern (yes, it means Hell!) next door to our hotel. I don’t often review restaurants on this blog, but this one certainly deserves it. There’s no choice, you simply eat what is being cooked on the day and the menu del dia cost 12€ for tapas, paella marinera, dessert, a bottle of very good local rosat – rosé – wine and coffee. All served in a beautifully tiled dining room with Latin American jazz piano music on the CD player:

Each table’s paella was cooked individually to order and while we waited we were served a succession of delicious tapas including a wonderfully smooth tapenade

Anchovies and red peppers on toasted bread

and red peppers stuffed with salt cod

Then came the paella marinera, rice cooked in a rich fish stock with squid, small prawns, mussels, large gambas and langoustines:

And for dessert, crema catalana:

A very good small cup of cafe solo was a perfect end to our lunch. We intended to come back here during our stay. Next day we were walking back to our hotel and the patron of L’Infern stopped us in the street to tell us that he would be making arroz negre – black rice cooked with squid ink – the following day. We’ll be there, we said!  Friends were visiting us for the day and they came too. This time for the tapas course we had the tapenade and the anchovies with red peppers as before, but we were also served sautéed mixed mushrooms and steamed mussels. The arroz negre was a tasty mix of rice, squid, prawns and artichokes that we all enjoyed very much.

I didn’t take so many photos this time, but my dessert, a slice of pastel de santiago – almond tart – with a glass of the local herb-flavoured liqueur Ratafia, was the perfect ending to a wonderful lunch.

This restaurant was a real bonus for us in a quiet street and next door to our hotel, so not very far to go for that much-needed siesta! I can highly recommend it – Hotel del Mar – a very welcoming simple hotel just 100 metres from the sea with a friendly owner who speaks several languages including English, French and Spanish and provides the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten in a hotel. If you’re on the Costa Brava it’s a great place to stay!

11 thoughts on “A Catalan break

  1. Well, I have just lifted some of that seafood paella onto a plate and am busy rescrolling the fascinating photos from a place I have yet to visit 🙂 ! Thanks for both!!

  2. Such beautiful photography in this post! Very nicely done and presented. Your lunch looked delicious but, I must admit, the anchovies and red peppers on toast really caught my eye. Odd as it may sound, when I’m near the Mediterranean, I seek out dishes with anchovies. We’ve nothing to compare with them over here and I make a point to take advantage of them wherever I can.

  3. Lovely photos, and I can heartily concur with you about l’Infern — one of those lovely traditional family restaurants which are getting so much harder to find now, in both France and Spain. We’ll be back!

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