Michelin-starred restaurant Monastrell serves unpretentious cuisine using fresh-from-the-sea fish

FOOD • February 2020

Monika Linton’s foodie guide to Alicante

Monika Linton
Monika Linton

@MonikaBrindisa

Founder of Brindisa - one of London’s best-loved Spanish food shops - and cookbook author Monika Linton knows Spain’s culinary scene better than most. A regular to Alicante, here she reveals her very own insider guide to Costa Blanca’s most delicious city

Breakfast spot worth getting up early for 
Peret Terraza is a beautiful art nouveau-style kiosk on the promenade with a terrace that overlooks the water. Order a cafe con leche and a horchata – a traditional local ‘milk’ made from tiger nuts – to drink. Then to eat add in an ensaimada, a pastry shaped like a snail’s shell, made with lard instead of butter.



Must-try savoury dish
Spain might be synonymous with paella, but my favourite rice dish is arroz a banda, or ‘rice on the side’. Fish such as monkfish and cuttlefish are poached to create a rich stock, then the fish is removed so rice can be cooked in the stock. At the table, the rice is served with the fish literally on the side. The stock is so flavoursome you could eat the rice without anything at all really. Try it at La Taberna del Gourmet (pictured below), a popular place run by a family who have been serving it for years.

Arroz a banda

Must-try dessert
María José San Román – whose daughter Deni Perramon runs La Taberna del Gourmet - is a fantastic chef with a Michelin-starred restaurant Monastrell (pictured top of page). Rice pudding is a national dessert in Spain, typically made with milk. Maria’s take is an incredible vegan orange rice pudding with a zingy citrus flavour. The restaurant is tranquil with contemporary decor and gauzy drapes inside. Outside tables overlook the rowing club so it’s a great spot to watch people glide by on their boats.

A hangout where children are welcome 
El Capricho de Raquel 
is a comfortable, homely place to stop in for a decent meal on your way home, as it’s about ten minutes from the airport. The salads and rice dishes are divine, and it’s close to the Paseo Tomás y Durá beach, meaning kids can have a swim before a bite to eat.

The foodie souvenir to take home
It sounds a bit obvious but a paella pan is a must-buy. Opt for a classic cast iron pan with red handles. They require looking after – washing with water and coating with olive oil between uses – but they get properly hot, meaning plenty of el socarrat – the crispy bits which caramelise on the bottom. Find them in a kitchen equipment stall at the markets.

Nou Manolin

Lunch spot to take care of business
Somewhere fun and unstuffy is Nou Manolin (pictured above) in central Alicante. Downstairs is a horseshoe-shaped bar with a jolly atmosphere – great for ice-breaker beers – while upstairs there are more formal dining tables suited to more in-depth conversations. Expect amazing tapas, grilled meats and fresh salads.

A favourite food market
Mercado Central is the one I know best. Downstairs are the fruit and vegetable stands, packed with incredible fresh fruit and nuts and dried peppers strung together bunting-like. There are also excellent fish stalls; I always pop to Salazones Vicente Leal to pick up the best salazones (salt-cured fish).

Bodegas Gutierrez

Best spot for wine?
A great wine shop is Bodega Bernardino in the city centre. Stock up on wines made in La Marina Alta, just north of Alicante, where Moscatel de Alexandria grapes (for whites) and Monastrell grapes (for reds) are used to create moreish, fruity wines. Those made by Bodegas Gutierrez (pictured above) are magical, as are bold reds by Bodegas el Seque.

Foodie spot worth leaving town for
Restaurante Paco Gandía in Pinoso is a completely unpretentious, traditional restaurant. Here, husband and wife Paco Gandia and Josefa Navarra (he front of house, she the chef) have a menu with just one main. Their rabbit rice – cooked on an open fire and served either with or without snails – is exceptional, probably the best rice I’ve ever eaten. The snails are herby, the rabbit succulent and the rice a deep, golden colour. I’ve visited three times already.

Interview by Ianthe Butt

Brindisa Kitchen Bar is now open at Borough Market 

This article has been tagged Food + Drink, Destination