2 Dec, 2011 @ 19:48
2 mins read

Fancy an English?

“Get lost gazpacho!” Craig Scott investigates Spain’s growing love affair with good, old British grub

THE Spanish have always scoffed our “stodgy” home cooking. Tell them that you’re cooking a nice British meal, and they’ll laugh so hard – cerveza will spurt from their nostrils.

In Catalonia, they joke about gut-wrenching UK grub, while here in Andalucia, they assume we have chips with everything… including our cornflakes!

While teaching in Cordoba, I innocently asked why there were no British dishes on the school menu (after all, it was supposed to be a “British” school). Honestly, this tickled the Spanish “profesoras” so much, one nearly choked on her churro!

But, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, the an*s-faced, rock fossil, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin.’ Spain’s negative views on British nosh are slowly evaporating – and it’s all down to one supermarket.

Since opening in 2007, Fuengirola’s Iceland store has become a mecca for Costa-based Brits. Every weekend, thousands of expats flock to the coast to stock-up on pork pies and piccalilli.

Flat-nosed, celebrity chef – Anthony Worrell Thompson buys his baked beans here, and ’80s pop star Yazz, frequently nips in for hair dye and HobNobs. It’s even rumoured that Simon Cowell fed his X Factor lemmings on Iceland ready-meals, while hosting them at his nearby villa.

Spaniards too are increasingly taking to Kerry Katona’s favourite titbits. Ian Walker, who manages the Fuengirola branch, says: “Our Spanish clientele has grown significantly over the past four years. We have also seen an increase of customers from other European countries – from the Ukraine to the United States.”

Asked which British foods are most-popular with foreign pallettes, Walker added: “Our Spanish customers can’t get enough of strawberry cheesecake, deep-pan pizzas, and Jam Roly Poly.”

It’s amazing to think that Iceland, a “low-end” supermarket in Britain, associated with toothless, dinnerladies and teenage pram-pushers, has become an exotic and thriving enterprise on Spanish shores. Sure, it’s cheaper than Mercadona, and we can’t exactly claim curries and chinese as our own, but still – I’d take a Ginsters pasty over a grotty tin of garbanzos any day of the week! In fact, apart from patatas bravas and paella, I’d struggle to name a single ‘great’ Spanish dish.

Also, before the try-hards start accusing me of sticking to my comfort zone, tell me, are my chosen eating habits any different to any other immigrant? Do Indians stop eating biryanis when they move to Birmingham. Are Polish mini-marts not cropping up everywhere in the UK? And if you can find me an Italian in Ipswich who’d choose Kingsmill over pannettone – then I’ll eat my own boots!

After years of sniggery jibes, surely all expats must secretly relish the fact that there’s an Iceland in Puerto Banus – flogging Fray Bentos pies to the filthy-rich and famous. Who knows… one day, we might even see that tacky, orange-and-red sign in Madrid’s Plaza de España. On this day, the “chip-lovers” will rejoice and Spanish tears will seep into a million gazpachos (adding much-needed flavour to the watery mush).

At the end of the day, rejection is one thing – but rejection from a country that lists bull testicles and land snails as culinary classics… give me a chuffing break.


  1. So much stereo typing in that report, I wish bloggers could write without tainting reports with their bias and untruths. I am also glad I live nowhere near an ex pat community. I find plenty spanish dishes that I enjoy and to me not much of it is tasteless, I guess it depends where you live and how you eat. I like my tostada and manchada/cafe con leche, a full cooked breakfast is not something I want,might have once or twice a year.

  2. I agree with David , to call Bob Dylan an an*s-faced rock fossel is really a reflection of your ignorance also gaspacho being a watery mess , where did you get it ?¿ in one of those x pat English refugee pubs along the coast ?¿ i detect a nasty cynical undercurrent in your drivel , the wonderful English food etc baked beans and terrible bangers , give me a break Craig Scott , great Scott

  3. What a fantastic blog – certainly brightened up my Saturday morning! I think it’s called ‘satire’ Val – a very funny tongue in cheek report! If you don’t get the English, sardonic, sense of humour , then you’re best off ‘nowhere near an ex pat community.’ Look at the picture, it’s a spoof. Doh!

  4. Hi Val. A fully cooked breakfast – only once or twice a year? Goodness me – do you never wake up in the night, dreaming of a juicy, fat banger? Ecky thump, if you find this post ‘unsavory’, its a ruddy good job we don’t have Jeremy Clarkson writing for us. Then you would choke on your tostada. One of the local waiters would have to give you the heimlich maneuver : )

  5. “English REFUGEE pubs’ – wowsers Donanello. Who rattled your SEAT? I thought I was the ignorant one!!!! Now I’m being out-stereotyped by a Spaniard (do you see the irony developing here?). Tell me cheeky chops – como se dice ‘racist’ in Español?

    “An*s-face”, you do ‘crack’ me up with your misspellings. But, while we’re on the subject, any ideas why the lady who serves me in Mercadona is so cheerless? Every day, I pop my baked beans on the conveyer belt and say: “Hola. Que Tal.” Honestly, the look she gives me – you’d think I’d just murdered her mother. Her eyebrows slant inwards and her face shrivels up – like, well….. like an anus. And she’s not even 106 like Dylan.

    Anyway, thanks for the ‘Great Scott’ comment, I think I’ll use it as a testimony on my new website. As for the stud in the picture – it’s certainly NOT me. I think it’s either Madonna’s Spanish guitarist or the bloke from the “Juan Sheet” bog roll commercials. Either way – you should be proud, he’s ravishing! :)

  6. Thanks Craig for a tasty little morsel to brighten up our morning. It has to said that surely no-one with a functioning palate would come to Spain for the cuisine. Basic ingredients , badly prepared sums it up for me .. good enough to sustain life just about but – unlike in France or Italy – eating out here is rarely a pleasure and the best testimony I can give to the food in Andalucia is that it is generally a great aid to weight loss ! I don’t know whether to admire or pity those Brits who claim to prefer their tostadas and garbanzas etc and I wouldn’t normally seek out Iceland back home in the UK but here the old saying ” Any port in a storm ” comes to mind …

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