La Finca restaurant in Loja, Andalucia
My first ever restaurant review. Lord help me.
I've no idea how to review restaurants, or food. I don't even know where to start. To begin with I wouldn't call myself a foodie, more like a "drinkee", is that even a word? Anyway, I guess I have to start somewhere so let's start with the location.
La Finca, Spanish for country estate, is a restaurant located at La Bobadilla Hotel in Andalucia. The hotel, which is more like a private resort, is located in the middle of nowhere in Loja, a small town at the western limit of the province of Granada. This is a dry and warm part of the world, beer is cheap and so is food, and plenty. Well, this restaurant wasn't cheap, but the rest of Andalucia sort of is.
I'm no big fan of classic design when it comes to restaurants, having a trillion different knives to choose from sort of clashes with my Tuscan upbringing, which is made of simple stuff and down-to-earth attitude to the whole concept of eating and drinking. The hotel itself is astounding, it really is. It was first opened in the 90s by a wealthy Swiss lawyer with a vision for a place where people could enjoy some off time, away from the world. This 350-hectare resort basically lives and breathes on its own. Located in the middle of a forest with oak, almond and olive trees. It even has its own church*.
*it is actually referred to as a "meditation place" because it is an unconsecrated church.
The restaurant is in the hotel and the menu is varied. I had a three-course meal with appetizer, main course and dessert, plus la Montesa D.O. Rioja red wine and Martivilli D.O. Rued white wine.
The menu says this is, and I'm quoting, a "courgette carpaccio of pine nuts, cheese perfumed with rosemary and thyme, Sichuan pepper and citric vinaigrette."
I'm always wary whenever somebody presents me with something that isn't local. Sichuan surely isn't Andalucian but they do say that everything else comes from the surrounding area. But whatever, this is great. This is the sort of light meal you can have 12 times a day and still be hungry after eating. What I really like about it is the fact that it isn't subtle. It's not like the chef is trying to hide any of the flavours here, it's like being punched in the face by millions of spicy suggestions, in a good way. It's a combination that works. Well, it does for me.
Loja style gilthead
Loja is situated in the province of Granada, around 50 miles from the sea. The nearest reasonably relevant body of water is Iznájar reservoir, artificially built in the late 60s. I think you can see where this is going.
The gilt-head bream is, well, a fish. I wasn't expecting to find fish in this part of Spain, I was sort of banking on some sort of jamón (ham), but this was a pleasant surprise. I was told that yes, this is fish, but they also say they have their own way of preparing gilt-head bream. I'll be brutally honest, the bream is very, very good. Pretty mellow at the mouth and the dressing worked, too. Bad news is the vegetable side-dish it came with was merely decorative, especially broccoli which was, err, a bit tasteless.
I met my ex girlfriend at Porsche Festival in Italy and the first thing she said to me was, 'if you want me, you're gonna take the whole package'. When she said "the package", she meant a small Maltese dog named "Meringa", which is Italian for meringue, because, well, the dog was the whitest of white.
I digress. Now Wiki will tell you that Meringue is a type of dessert traditionally made from whipped egg whites and sugar. What I can tell you is that Meringue is very, very, very sweet and definitely not part of Spanish traditional cuisine. More like French, or Italian. Specifically, this is a Pavlova meringue, which was actually originally conceived in Germany, with bitter orange sauce and strawberries. Left to its own devices, this meringue would've been too much to take, but it sort of worked with the other things I ate. So bien hecho, yo.