NOTHING shows a return to a much-needed normality in Spain than a well-organised Tapas Trail.
Over Hallowe’en weekend, the Vega Baja municipality of San Fulgencio strutted its gastronomic credentials, much as they did in the immediate wake of the floods in September 2019.
The town encompasses the traditional charm of San Fulgencio itself, nestled alongside the urbanisation of La Marina, renowned as the largest “Urb” in Spain.
Out of 15 bars and restaurants participating in the sixth ‘Ruta de la Tapa’, most were concentrated in La Marina, so with time limited to one barmy Bank Holiday afternoon, The Olive Press focused on reviewing those 11.
Em’s Dreams 3/5
Two wholesome halves of a Scotch Egg were served, with the lightest of side salads and slice of roasted pepper, alongside a flavoursome mayonnaise with a hint of mustard.
Extra kudos to this Brit bar for serving ‘proper’ drinks, a BOTTLE of lager and a CAN of soft drink for yours truly.
An absolute explosion of taste with their Mini Sarten (mini frying pan), consisting of a small but juicy rasher and crispy fried onion slivers served on a pasta-and-sauce combo that was inspiring.
All served with a freezing cold German beer, of course!
Fiestas Belga 3/5
Another delightful mix of flavours, this time from Belgium.
Black pudding, tomato, walnuts and caramelised onion were all in there, which was a wonderful surprise – given the ridiculously small thimble of water that was served as a soft drink.
Our Plaice 4/5
Five “Our Plaice Delights” were ordered and that’s just what we got.
Lovely fresh salmon on thin toasts with the cutest of lemon wedges, a couple of pomegranate seeds and a light cucumber vinaigrette.
Bar Santa Monica 3/5
Paella cooked to perfection, but when I wondered?
Although tasty and flavoursome with a token piece of fish and a roasted pepper, it could and should have been better.
Given that so many participating establishments go to the effort of making fresh tapas and focus on presentation, guests do feel a little let down when a dish is served up like this.
Still, we got a ‘proper’ beer.
Bar Teteina 5/5
This is more like it!
A warm welcome, charming decor, nice service and great food – the Teteina Pudding was a mix of light pastry with perfectly-seasoned black pudding, caramelised onion, salad and tiny crisp potato ‘chips’.
The small but perfectly-formed tapas were accompanied by generous-sized beers and soft drinks in quirky glasses that all contributed to a perfect score.
La Rosa Negra 1/5
“La Mar de Verduras”, allegedly a “Sea of Vegetables”.
The sea was a tasteless yellow liquid, audaciously decorated with blobs of balsamic.
The vegetables could have been potato, they could have been egg, they could have been both.
Wrapped in green pepper and topped with some of the burnt stuff you have at the bottom a paella, this was unseasoned, unhealthy and a wholly unnecessary stop-off on what was an otherwise brilliant Tapas Trail.
Even the “wine”, served in a plastic cup, was rotten.
The Chippy 4 /5
A short (free) bus ride from one focal point of La Marina took us to the other, ‘Consum Square’.
We had the fortune to visit The Chippy who, predictably, served fish & chips.
But by goodness, this mini-portion was perfectly-cooked in the crispiest of batter, served on a baby dollop of mushy peas and a flat round ‘chip’ that served as a base.
Hot, fresh, tasty and served with polite efficiency by the friendly and chatty staff.
Bar Cafeina 3/5
Another little Spanish lesson as we learned Barquitos de Mango translates to Mango Boats.
An unusual mix of mango, other fruits and onion served on a ‘barquito’ of crisp lettuce.
Not to everyone’s taste, but after so much other tapas that afternoon, maybe this was a time when we’d need a bigger boat (of our own), after all.
Nonetheless, an extra mark for the excellent wine that the hostess served and the friendly service, too.
The Lounge n/a
We’d been looking forward to the Piggy Pudding but The Lounge had commited to serving Friday, Saturday and Sunday only – which was mentioned on the complimentary “Tapaporte” maps that were given out.
The Final Whistle n/a
This Consum Square bar closed early, which is a let-down, considering the day represents 25% of the tapas weekend.
Bar Estacion n/a
Notably, Bar Estacion actually WON the Fifth Ruta de la Tapas in November 2019, but chose not to defend their crown.
Which, in my opinion, should go to Bar Teteina.
Costa Blanca Tapas Trail regulars, Catherine Buckley and Nicola Kennerley, agreed.
Buckley, a retail entrepreneur from La Herades, admitted the Trail was, “Great, but it would have been nice to support all the businesses, especially with the generally high standards.”
The 49-year-old from Liverpool, confirmed she is: “A big fan of the Tapas Trails, given that it gives us the perfect chance to visit places that would normally be off the radar.”
Kennerley, from Formentera del Segura, stated that: “La Marina has certainly set the bar high for Tapas Trails elsewhere.”
The 39-year-old lamented: “What a shame we didn’t have time to visit San Fulgencio village, that would have capped off a great afternoon.”
The duo of gastronomic gurus are now poring over council calendars, looking for the next step back to normality!
Darren Parmenter, Tourism Councillor at San Fulgencio, said: “The four days across San Fulgencio were a great success. I want to say a big thank you and send my appreciation to all the participating establishments for their hard work which contributed to the enjoyment of the weekend.”
Adding a note of gratitude to, “The many hundreds of people that supported the bars and restaurants enjoying the variety of Tapas – both new and traditional – and the cocktails available.”
Concluding: “One of the main aims of the Ruta de la Tapa is to promote these businesses (and what they have to offer) and to bring them to the attention of a new clientele that hadn’t perhaps visited them before. I think this has certainly been achieved.”
READ MORE: Tapas festivals get underway after Covid restrictions lifted on Spain’s Costa Blanca – mixed reviews