On occasions we need a break from our land and “huerta”. The only way to do this is to get in the car and drive a few kilometres in another direction. If we stay at home it would be impossible to not be lured into our veggie plot to do a spot of defoliating or the likes.
So on Wednesday, after doing a couple of jobs outside of course, we got in the car and winded our way up the Coll de Rates mountain. Always a lovely drive but even better in the summer with the windows wound down and enjoying (“disfrutando”) the warm breeze.
The views (“vistas”) are marvellous on the way up (although it was quite a humid day causing a spot of haziness) but once you pass the Coll de Rates restaurant and start the descent down towards Tàrbena, the views, in my opinion, are breathtaking.
The Serra del Ferrer has always been one of my favourite local mountains. It’s incredibly green and the way it slopes down into the valley is quite spectacular. I could stand there looking at it for hours. Last year we walked the crest (“cresta”), a great route to do although some parts are a bit tricky. We got lost on the way down the other side too, ending up between hundreds of pines, chest deep in brambles and two hours behind schedule. But that’s another story.
Fifteen minutes drive down the road and we arrived at our destination. Tàrbena is a quaint little town (“pueblo”), one we’d always drive to when I was a kid and we had family or friends over from the UK. It would be an obligatory stop before carrying on to Les Fonts d’Algar (what I always thought of as a natural water park) and gradually making our way down to Altea or Benidorm.
We rarely do the round journey now, often going up early in the morning to do one of the many hiking routes in the area, before having a wander round the town and finishing at our favourite paella restaurant (more on that in a few paragraphs). It was far too hot on Wednesday for a strenuous walk, especially at 1pm, so we had a gentle stroll through the streets to work up an appetite.
The past 3 years in July we’ve played here with our band “Georgie And The Firelights”, as part of the “Feria De Gastronomía Y Artesanía”. There is a great atmosphere and it’s always a pleasure to be part of it. Unfortunately, this year it was called off. Let’s hope things are back to normal next year and we get the chance to enjoy a summer evening playing in the square.
If you walk through the town you’ll come to the cemetery and also a couple of good spots to take photos of the views down the valley towards the coast. Better to do it when it’s not so hazy though.
The locals speak a slightly different dialect to the one we’re accustomed to in this area, “El Parlar Salat”. I won’t go into a lot of detail, mainly ’cause I don’t know enough about it (history has never been my forte), but the reason for this distinctive dialect is due to people from Mallorca coming to live in Tàrbena in the 17th century after the expulsion of the muslims (known as “Moriscos”). Here’s a couple of paragraphs (in Spanish) explaining a bit about it.
The “parlar salat” is unique to Tàrbena. You’ll notice they use the word “sa” a lot, which I think replaces “la” although they use it more often. I’m no expert though, far from it, so don’t want to put my foot in it and get it all wrong. They are quite proud of this way of communicating and you’ll notice stickers around town informing us that they talk differently to the rest of the poputlation. If you speak Valenciano though you should be able to understand them.
One thing I know a bit more about is veggie paella (food’s more my scene than history and dialects), and Tàrbena is home to the restaurant that, in my humble opinion, serves the best of all the ones we’ve tried.
Ca’s Pelut (link to their facebook page here) is a typical Spanish restaurant that hasn’t changed much since it was founded around 1980. Run now by Amparo and her brother Felipe, it was first opened by their grandparents and parents. The grandparents retired and Amparo and Felipe joined their parents in the business, until 2005 (approx) when their mum and dad retired and they took over completely.
The food is homemade and always good. The menu is 12€ and with that you get bread and all i oli, a small plate of peanuts, starter, main course, dessert and a drink. Starters can be mixed salad, croquettes, “embutido” (local sausages), “calamar” done on the “plancha” and various other different “tapa” style entrées. We chose the “calamar”, it’s always good and is a nice light starter to have before the main course. You can choose a selection of different tapas, you’ll just pay a bit more but they’re certainly not expensive.
For main course there are different rice dishes, although if you want one that isn’t the typical mixed paella it’s best to order previously. We always order our veggie one the day before. They also have different meat dishes and possibly fish (I’ve never looked at the menu), all served with homemade chips. They always look very good but we haven’t tried any of them. Our main reason for visiting is the paella.
For dessert there are various homemade options, from “flan de almendra” (almond creme caramel), “tarta de queso” (cheesecake”), “pan de calatrava” (a type of creme caramel with raisins and small pieces of cake in the mix). Also Tiramisú which is mostly Pep’s choice. I normally just have an ice lolly ’cause I’m a big kid and too stuffed to eat anything else.
The service is incredibly friendly, we always have a laugh with Amparo, she makes you feel like part of the family. We rarely see Felipe, he’s normally slaving away preparing far too many paellas. I really don’t know how he manages to make so many in so little time, you never have to wait long to be served and they’re always spot on.
The only not so good point about the restaurant is that it can get a tad noisy, we are in Spain after all. If you sit out on the terrace you’re fine but inside the sounds seems to reverberate off the walls and ceiling. This is why we normally try to go during the week when it’s not so busy, especially in the winter. But when you’re getting food this good, I don’t mind putting up with a bit of racket. This last visit everyone was out on the terrace so we had the inside of the restaurant to ourselves, it was quite peaceful.
Soon I will post my recipe and method of making veggie paella, although it often changes depending on what produce we have at the time. It’s very simple to make and one of my favourite ways to eat rice.
I think that’s about it for today. I shall be back on Valley FM this Saturday between 1pm and 2pm. You can listen live on 94.5FM or 102.6FM if you live locally or online here. If you missed last Saturday’s and would like to have a listen, here’s the link. My little bit starts around minute 15. Thanks for reading. See you very shortly. Love Georgie and Pep xxx