YOU are looking down onto ‘Andalucia’s prettiest village’. And to the sound of a tinkling fountain, the walled garden redoubt offers the most delightful townscape fusing with terraces of avocados and the distant coastline far off in the distance.
This is El Jardin, in Frigiliana, one of the true dining secrets of Andalucia, where the food very much matches the views.
You get here, on foot, via a series of alleyways, arches and arrows, which children will enjoy following and arrive to attractive mosaic tables, heavy wrought iron chairs and natural wooden sunshades which complete the scene.
It’s authentic and organic in the max and, best of all, its owner Robert Grimmond is a veritable spice junkie, loving to experiment with new tastes and flavours.
Having trained at award-winning London cookery school Leiths – whose former alumni include the Duchess of Cambridge – he got a good start in the kitchen, before moving around the capital and finally landing in the Axarquia, where his parents had a holiday home.
Since opening 11 years ago he has consistently honed and improved his menu, bringing in specials by the day, based around the seasons.
While Robert insists there are ‘no tricks, just great fresh, local produce’, there is actually a lot more going on with his dishes, which are light and original and, almost without exception, come with interesting spices.
Take his Shawarma spiced salmon salad, which is really more of a soup, comprising a base of delicious almond ajo blanco, cucumber, celery and grapes, plus tahini sauce, fennel oil and pomegranate molasses. It’s a massive winner and a dish I would eat every lunch if I could.
And then came the original Thai-green curried clams, sitting in coconut milk and chili and the fabulous courgette and onion fritters (bunuelos), which were a proper stuff-your-face number.
Yes, el Jardin is very different, not least that it has a salad menu almost as big as its main courses, but also as you will be hard pressed to find anywhere in Andalucia serving up black pudding with baba ganoush… oh, and ‘spicy popcorn’!
For mains I was steered off the menu to the special of the day which was pluma Iberica from Aracena with crisp jasmine basmati rice and a delicious dhal source. I can still taste it a week later.
Yes, this is one place you need to visit soon, before a trade blockade stops Robert getting his hands on such spicy chestnuts as ‘urfa biber’ and ‘za’atar’.
Even his coffee is darn good, fair trade, coming from Ethiopia, via a supplier in Alicante. I didn’t even mention the wines, which are almost to a tee, varied and interesting, or his puddings, which included a barbecued banana with vanilla marshmallow.