Updated: Sep 16
Commercial Town Centre , La Torre Golf Resort , 30709
Date of Visit: 08/09/2023
For me, context has always played a part in my overall eating experiences. Think paella on the beach, a Sunday Roast next to a roaring open fire in an olde worlde country pub, or freshly made pasta served alfresco in an historic, Italian plaza. Fish and Chips? Well, they just somehow taste so much better being eaten out of newspaper on a windswept promenade whilst being chip-mugged by fat, kamikaze seagulls. Or maybe not. Let’s see.
Situated within the town centre of La Torre Golf Resort, Ciao Bacalao, a classically British Fish and Chip restaurant, is the latest eatery to join the culinary party, alongside an Indian, an Italian, an Irish bar, and an American sports bar. There’s certainly variety on La Tore. But does anyone else notice the elephant NOT in the room, in this lovely part of Spain…?
But in spite my efforts to fully embrace our Spanish life, particularly the food culture, I’m the first to admit that I still frequently crave a few traditions from good old Blighty. And it’s been a while since I’ve had really good Fish and Chips, so, I’m more than a little excited about our reservation tonight. My expectations are high.
Of course, I want great Fish and Chips. But I don’t want posh, messed about with, ‘elevated’, ‘fused’, ‘de-constructed’ or any other on-trend cooking word straight out of an episode of Master Chef, Fish and Chips. It’s traditional for a reason. Tartare sauce and perhaps a chunk of lemon on the side is about as fancy as it should be.
Myself, my wife, and teenage son arrive for our Friday 7pm reservation. The place is already full and diners arriving on spec are being shown the takeaway menu. Our attentive server directs us to our table. I immediately notice something that brings a smile to my face and a wistful, takes-me-right-back kind of feeling. A bottle of Sarsons malt vinegar. Relax familia. We are in safe, fishy hands.
Ciao Bacalao has taken up residence in what was formally the old Tapas Bar. Assimilation complete, perhaps? The décor is exactly what I’d hoped for, like the very best party dress code, smart but casual. A few black and white, retro Fish and Chip promo prints add some decoration to the walls, and despite the obvious lack of any screeching, dive-bombing seagulls, which I now conclude is a good thing, the place somehow still attains an air of seaside chic.
Predictably and perhaps boringly, we all order the same – small cod and chips. This comes with a choice of side (we all choose mushy peas and an extra curry sauce to share). The portion isn’t huge (well, we did order small), but those with a bigger appetite might wish to upgrade to large, but it’s more than adequate for us and at just €9,00 is fantastic value.
Regardless of quantity, there is no compromise on quality. Piping hot, battered fish, so crispy you can pick it up and eat with your fingers without risk of fish-flop (yes, I just made up that word; you’re welcome to use it). This in complete contrast to the beautifully flaky but meaty white fish that it encases. There are two ways to fry battered fish – either with the skin first removed, or the wrong way. Top marks to the fryer at Ciao Bacalao who surely must hail from somewhere north of Watford Gap services.
There’s no better way to describe the chips, other than ‘proper’. No flimsy French fries or uniformed sized, neatly sliced, Jenga-stacked chips here. Thank God. Instead, roughly cut, deep fried potatoes, unashamedly piled onto the plate, begging to be liberally bathed in the Sarsons.
The litmus test was always going to be the mushy peas. Since my wife first introduced me to the legendary Vic Market Mushy Pea stall in Nottingham, my standard for a simple pot of peas is absurdly high. Sadly, now closed, Vic Market Mushy Peas were ludicrously good. Soaked overnight and then simmered slow and low until they were, well, mushy. Quite literally the best in the world. The end. They remain the definitive yardstick by which all other mushy peas should be measured. These were clearly a shortcut version from a tin which was disappointing but nevertheless still pretty good and with a nice texture. Must have been a premium brand.
A jug of thick, gloopy chip shop curry sauce completes our meal. A perfect balance between not spicy and not blandly mild. My son orders a second jug all for himself. I need say no more.
I’m full, content and satisfied, but remain curious about a supposedly Scottish delicacy that’s being offered as dessert. With no idea what we’re about to let our stomachs in for, we order one deep-fried Mars Bar and three spoons. All for One and One for All, and all that. It’s served with a chocolate sauce. I’m not sure how you make a battered chocolate bar look any more appealing than it actually sounds, but at least I’m reminded that I need to walk the dog once I get home..
But it's surprisingly good! Sweetened batter cosseting a warm, gooey, caramel oozing centre. I was expecting some kind of battered-sausage vibe, but instead it’s very reminiscent of chocolate stuffed churros, if such a thing exists (if it doesn’t, then it should). It shouldn’t work. But it really, really does.
I’ll admit to being initially disappointed when I heard the old tapas bar on La Torre was being converted to a chippy. But with good, traditional food, attentive service, and brilliant value, we all leave Ciao Bacalao tonight happy. Very happy.
Small cod or haddock with chips and a choice of side costs €9,00. Large cod or haddock is €14,00. A battered Mars Bar is €4,50.
The menu also includes classics such as battered sausage, fishcakes and a selection of pies.