El Recreo de Las Caldas

Last night it was our last night in Las Caldas and we found a fantastic typical restaurant in a little back street with a sweet but slightly crazy owner and an unruly son!

recreo de las caldas

Surprisingly we had not enjoyed the hotel restaurant the previous night (surprising because everything else about the hotel is faultless) so we decided to try to find somewhere in the tiny village to eat. We were in luck because El Recreo de Las Caldas was just in a nearby street.

As we’d gone straight to the Aquaxana spa after breakfast and stayed there until early evening, we were starving so we arrived early at the restaurant just as the doors were opening at 8pm. As we were the only people in and the owner’s son, aka the chef, had not arrived yet, the owner decided to speak to us.

It turned out that as business was slow the chef sometimes turned up and sometimes did not! My stomach grumbled angrily as we politely listened to the man and crossed our fingers.

As the owner was enthusiastically telling us all about the local beef, local wine and fresh produce that they use in the restaurant, he kept topping our glasses up while at the same time looking anxiously towards the door and while Toni and I kept glancing at each other wondering if we would eat!

As it happened, the son walked through the door at ten minutes past eight, laden with shopping bags full of the fresh produce and the local beef that we had heard all about, much to the apparent relief of his father. The son almost stopped in his tracks when he saw us sitting at the table – customers! This was clearly a novelty. Our apprehension returned.

After greeting us in just as friendly a manner as his father, the chef took his groceries to the kitchen and came back out after having put on his chefs whites.

He gave us the same speech as his father had about the great local beef and was extremely pleased to see that we were already halfway through a bottle of the local wine.

He gently removed the menus that his father had optimistically given us and told us what he was cooking for us. He asked if we were okay with that and went off to prepare it. Guess what we were having… yep, the local beef (imagine if after all that he had served us pork!). Toni was to have a fillet of the famous steak and I was having the chef’s homemade beef burger.

We were just pleased that we were going to be eating but we were still a little unsure about what to expect because of the strangeness of the place and the people.

2012_11 nov rte recreo de las caldas (5)

We needn’t have worried; after five minutes a huge plate came out piled high with “embutidos” comprising different local cheeses, serrano ham, salchichón and some delicious beef carpaccio, all served with real, rustic country bread that was soft enough and tasty enough to have been able to eat it on its own.

The steak that Toni had for the main course was absolutely cooked to perfection: very tender and just under medium cooked. The owner and the chef had been right: everything was great, everything was fresh and the two of them beamed with satisfaction as we devoured every bite. My beef burger was every bit as good as it looks.

2012_11 nov rte recreo de las caldas (2) 2012_11 nov rte recreo de las caldas (1)

When we finished our meal, the charismatic owner came to chat to us and plied us with his homemade liqueurs. The owner told us that it wasn’t just his restaurant that was struggling to get customers in, but that all the surrounding villages were in the same situation. In fact, the place we were staying, the Gran Hotel Las Caldas was another testament to this; it wasn’t even half full.

Despite the lack of life, El Recreo de Las Caldas was cosy and familiar with all kinds of framed photos adorning the walls and a large fireplace in the corner.

When I return to Las Caldas this will be my first dining option without a doubt and I highly recommend it to you. It’s a shame that unspoilt villages like this one that have so much to offer to visitors looking for great scenery and peace and quiet are having a hard time. Sooner or later they will figure out how to market themselves to tourists though (whether or not it will be too late I don’t know) so I recommend you take the opportunity and visit Las Caldas now while it is still unspoilt.

Read more about Las Caldas


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