Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Nice Rice

Paella marisco, according to Elche. Note the high seafood-to-rice ratio, & the fantastic colour.

After a rather depressing last post, here's another restaurant review.

This was to be the third time in a week that we were to eat paella, so it had to be good, and as soon as we walked through the door to be greeted by a smart, friendly besuited waiter and had a quick look around, Mrs HD, her mum and I had high hopes that it would be.

Elche was established in 1959 on this site, and now has another branch, which you can explore at your leisure if you follow the link to their website, below. The Poble Sec HQ is certainly a cut above most restaurants we'd dined at in the barri, with attentive service to match, extending to an English-speaking wine waiter. We arrived at about 1.30 on Sunday afternoon, and obtained one of the last available tables, so it's probably best not to chance it as we did, and book. 

The interior is welcoming and even a little snug - ideal for the colder months, which are fast approaching. The menu specialises in rice dishes of various content and consistencies, and we were very tempted by the paella with bacalao and ceps (around €13), as well as fideu (€12-ish) which substitutes rice for inch-long pasta noodles.

For starters we enjoyed a selection of escalivada - roasted vegetables - with tiny broad beans, chipirones - baby squid, fried; and fried vegetables, as shown. All three dishes were excellent, flavourful examples of local classics. 

Most starters are available as a full-size dish, half-size or as a tapa, depending on the size of your appetite, with prices to match. Those pictured are half-sized portions - media raciones.

In the end, we decided to plump for the seafood paella as a main course - and were not disappointed. There was a good mixture of shellfish, including Dublin Bay prawns (cigallas), squid (sepia) cockles (berberchos) prawns (gambas) and muscles (mejiones) - and plenty of it, as you can see from the main picture in this post. 

The colour was a good rich saffron, and the flavour had a lot of depth. Although not completely dry, the dish was far from sloppy, with a thick, rich, liquor-like stock. In short it was one of the best paellas - of many - I'd tasted for a long time. There was a good selection of wines, ranging from a €9 house white to €20-plus vintages. We went for a decently priced, safe supermarket favourite, Viña Sol.

In summary, I'd say this is a great place to bring parents on a Sunday - a cut above most restaurants in the area, friendly, great food and service and reasonably priced.

Tel 934 413 089

3 Covers - €3.90
Viña Sol Torres - €12.30
Litre water - €2.80
Escalivada w. beans - €4.50
Fried baby squid - €7.00
Fried artichokes, aubergines, courgettes - €6.00
3 Paella marisco - €48.30

Total, incl. IVA - €84.80

How to pronounce paella

It's a problem that bedevils all non-Spanish speakers. The double 'l' sounds quite similar to an English 'y', making the the word a little like 'pie-YE-yah'. For a much more amusing explanation - plus an interesting recipe to boot, take a look at the video. Bon profit!

How NOT to pronounce "paella", according to Richard E. Grant and Arabella Weir.

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