Think of Spain and the three S’s instantly spring to mind - Sun, Sea and Sangria! But food wise, certainly in Benidorm you’d be led to believe that it is all typically British fare. Fish and chips, pie and chips, English fry-up's… the renowned greedy mans breakfast has been well documented here and Sunday roasts are not the only things on offer.
Certainly down in the Rincon area, where the majority of British holidaymakers go it may be. When it comes to food, countries are automatically associated with a certain dish: Italy - pasta and pizza; the UK once upon a time it was fish & chips, now it’s more than likely to be curry; Austria – schnitzel; Hungary – goulash; Greece - moussaka and here in Spain, tapas and paella. Now ask anyone for the best place to try tapas and you will undoubtedly hear two words – Tapas Alley.
Tapas Alley - the official name is Calle Santo Domingo, although you’ll hardly ever hear anyone calling it that, is located off the walking street, Passeig de la Carretera leading down to Dove Park. The entire street is lined with tapas bars, hence the name and you can sample some fantastic top quality Spanish gastronomy here.
There is a constant stream of visitors, both locals and holidaymakers throughout the day – and especially at night, when it gets particularly busy. Tapas has certainly evolved over the years and now resembles a work of art, beautifully presented it almost seems a shame to eat it!
The Brits normally associate the word tapas with all the little snacks on offer, but officially they are categorized as either tapas or pinchos. Traditionally pinchos are slices of bread with things on top whereas Tapas come in little terracotta dishes, which can be hot or cold but need to be eaten with a folk.
Ina from the Aurrera Group has nine restaurants in Tapas Alley and one on the Levante seafront and this year will be celebrating 25 years in the industry. But his background is not in catering - by profession he is a hairdresser and he had a chain of salons in San Sebastian up in the North. With the economic crisis 30 odd years ago he moved down to Benidorm, where he had family and continued cutting and styling – he still keeps his fingers in and cuts his children’s hair.
An opportunity arose in 1991 and together with his brother invested in part of a unit on Tapas Alley - Pintxos Aurerra - his first restaurant which initially offered 3 bits of tapas – very basic by today’s standards. But he found that each day he had to add yet another it was so popular – now they have around 100 barra loaves delivered daily to keep up with demand!
The two most popular pinchos are goat’s cheese with caramelized apples - eaten warm and the smoked salmon and crab roll - eaten cold. Every year the Aurerra Group take part in and support the gastronomy events, organised by the town hall… and won quite a few of the titles.
He has just finished renovating his latest restaurant – La Antigua Sidería which offers a slightly more upmarket and modern twist to gastronomy, specializing in high quality chuleton, which is cooked over very hot charcoal to preserve the flavor. However, they also offer a daily 3 course Menu del Dia with a choice of imaginative rice mains created by a specialist award-winning rice chef – certainly one to try.
For those that have never been to Tapas Alley,you are definitely missing out. Everything is labeled in both Spanish and English so you can see exactly what you are ordering and the waiters all speak English. Most pieces cost between €1.80 - €3 and I find that three are more than adequate for lunch… go on, give it a go.