L’Estartit Eats- Restaurant Camelot

As we hunker down for winter I’m noticing that quite a few cafes and restaurants that were open in November, are closing as we enter into December.

I guess that economically things don’t stack up for them to remain open. I know from personal experience how expensive it is to run a business here, or to be self-employed.

However, others remain open but restricted, perhaps to only from Friday to Sunday. The meagre influx of weekend visitors helps to remind us we’re not totally cut off.

With time on our hands we boldly venture out to continue ticking off those lunchtime menus. This time we drove into the nearby inland town of Torroella de Montgri, on the back of a recommendation.

There’s a bit more life here with plenty of little alleyways, squares and side streets to wander around. It’s better known for the Castell Montgri atop a hill. Visible from miles around, it was never finished and there are walking trails up to it-but not today.

From the outside, Restaurant Camelot doesn’t invoke much of an impression. Located within a largely residential area you’d be hard pressed to chance upon it by accident. Entering was much better, with rustic bare stone walls and a large dining area, divided by a glass partition.

Because, as in most outings we had our two dogs, I made sure I’d perfected the Catalan for ‘are dogs permitted?’ That out of the way we were offered a table within its first section. 

At least we had a patio heater near our table. Whilst we weren’t alone most new arrivals would go into the more warmer, cosier-looking second section.

Still, not feeling we’d been hard done by, I must remember that it’s the food that’s under scrutiny. We must be giving something away as we’re handed the menu in English. Their ‘a la carte’ section looked solidly interesting, and there’s a choice of set-lunch weekday menus at 22€ and 17€. 

We opted for the latter, choosing starters of carpaccio, and I had asparagus with shavings of cured ham in a romesco sauce, plus goats cheese caramelised top.

This was an untried combination for me, simple but satisfying, unlike the wife’s carpaccio, which though visually creative, failed to impress. A nice bottle of house white wine duly appeared and the place was filling up.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Monkfish as one of the main dishes. It’s more usual on higher priced menus, so a no-brainer choice for us both. Happily the pieces of fish were large and like most other places there’s little else added. No heavy sauces, just the main ingredient and a gentle nod to the veg department.

My dessert was a baked apple, adequately done, and now I’m full.

Verdict. Polite and efficient service, I’m sure the legendary English knights would fit in quite nicely here (sadly, no round tables!. 

Vfm (value for money) rating, a solid 9/10.

Final bill, 2 lunch menus (17€ ea.) and an extra drink, 40€

Beaches Girona

Spending winter on the Costa Brava

(part 3) We’re fast approaching the xmas festive season (late in publishing) and I’m trying not to resort to those expressions we use when places are so quiet, like ‘would the last person turn off the lights’.

Solitude sucks for some, others lap it up, I may be somewhere in the middle for now. At least there’s us two and the two dogs, a reason to go out. Sure, the long morning beach walks are uplifting, especially when the sun’s out. 

The sea view here in L’Estartit is dominated by the Isles Medes, a series of rocky outcrops a mere few hundred meters out. Now a nature reserve and popular diving spot. To my left the coastline disappears, slithering its way to the next resort, L’Escala. To the right there are distant views of inland Pals, the jutting headland of Begur and those upmarket beach resorts like Sa Riera .   

Much longer beach walks are possible in a southerly direction, about 45 mins will take you to the mouth of the river Ter (la gola de ter). That’s about as far can go, as there’s no bridge across here, as the soft sandy banks shift too much.  During the summer you’d just wade across or for fun walk up river a bit, jump in and drift slowly down with the current.

However, this is winter and there’s no ferryman.

Life in L’Estartit slowly develops at its own pace, our daily beach walk encounters may include other dog walkers and even the odd metal detectorist. I’ve heard they’re illegal to use on a beach here but then this is Spain. People’s attitude to rules are different-seen more as guidelines and not to be strictly adhered to.

On windy days when the sea is rough you see small groups of surfers, but this isn’t exactly dramatic ‘wipeout’ territory. Even when wearing wetsuits it looks too cold. As I traverse the vast expanse of sand I still continue with my ‘good dead for the day’ by picking up rubbish whenever I see some.

On days when the wind really whips up the sand to sandpaper proportions you appreciate the might of nature. I’m starting to realize what it feels like inside a wind tunnel.


L’Estartit eats- Don Quijote restaurant

The winters here can still remind you of what it was like back in England, shortened constant rainy days with little to do. It’s late November and colder, we’re on the low side of double digits. 

The recent downpours have left a lot of surface water making navigating pavements trickier. Gutters have become like tributaries, but not for too long.

We’ve decided it’s time to try Don Quijote for the simple reason it’s just around the corner. We’re surrounded by a wilderness of empty tourist apartment blocks. They seem well serviced with cafes and restaurants but understandably shut until people return next season.

Perhaps Don Quijote is the last culinary outpost open in this part of town, stubbornly refusing defeat, or maybe they have nowhere else to go. I’ve walked past its low white unassuming facade a few times, noting their black A-board advertising their weekday set lunch menu, at 13€. 

It’s an uncomplicated run-of-the mill offering, unfussy home-cooked fare, keep your expectations to a minimum. Like I’ve said before, no one’s expecting to be bowled over or wowed at these prices. 

I’m as happy with a paper napkin as the next man, just don’t give me plastic cutlery please. However, we’re still mindful of the other elements that go into a visit. Things like service, the ambience, who knows we may return to try the a la carte options.

Our Thursday visit means paella dominates, as it’s a dish traditionally served on this day. I vow to find out why one day. Variations generally fall into two camps, meat or seafood, rice of course and bulked out with some veg. Quite how much meat or seafood you get is down to the chefs generosity.

For me, I like it not too liquidy and with a crusty base. Truthfully speaking paella nirvana elsewhere will cost you in the region of 30€ + per couple.

We entered and asked if our dogs were welcome, yes no problem, and were led through to their rear. My first reaction was that it felt a bit cold, though enclosed it felt more suitable in warmer times. The interior has a fireplace and I tried asking again, when they gave us a table by the front door. 

No sooner than sitting here we were then ushered to a larger table further inside, which was a bit warmer. The initial indifference had changed to a more friendlier welcome.

Given its location the place was busier than I’d imagined. No paper menu, our waiter reeled off the options, good job we’d already read their board outside. We both went for the fish soup for starters followed by the paella. 

A large bowl of piping hot fish soup duly arrived, with submerged pieces of fish, prawns and mussels. The addition of a tiny bowl of croutons was a nice touch, altogether a perfect antidote to a cold November day.

The elderly man who’d tried to relegate us to their rear cold dining area came by a few times fishing for feedback. 

Our seafood-packed paella appeared and was kindly served onto our plates. There was plenty for us two, flavoursome and filling. What with a small side salad and bread, the need or wish for a dessert became immaterial. Still, in pursuit of research we had a flan and the chocolate cake with the usual squirty cream. Nothing to write home about there.

Verdict. It’s fictional namesake would surely approve.

VFM rating 9/10

Final bill, 30€ we often go over the standard price as we have extra drinks or coffees.

Beaches Restaurants

L’’Estartit Eats-Irreverent

We’re on a mission, at least while we’re here until next June, to slowly discover what the remaining open eateries here have to offer. A good many have shut up shop until the tourists return next summer. Have we been left with the dregs?

Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh, I’m sure that’s not the case as every sunny weekend or national holiday brings in extra clients eager to eat and drink. I quickly notice a fair amount of French visitors from the conversations I hear as I walk around.

I’m slightly curious as to why they venture down here, and I’m aware the border is less than an hour away. I’ve always thought the French med coastline has a plentiful supply of pretty looking resorts. Maybe their euros go a lot further here, especially when eating out.

I’m trying to keep the criteria to only lunch menus as they’re keenly priced and we love finding good food at good prices. Of course one line of enquiry is trawling the online restaurant review sites to check on what is good or bad. One bad review is often followed by a good review, where does that leave you?

Still, there’s no better way than first hand experience to fill in the blanks, and taking onboard other users comments is part of the picture. 

Just to clarify matters, we’re not just after the tastiest, cheapest food available. We’ve been here long enough to recognise that the price versus quality ratio is a fine balance. Get it right and you’re on to a winner. Word of mouth, they say, is the best form of advertising.

Next on our haphazard hit list is a bar/restaurant called Irreverent, situated on the long straight road that links Estartit with Torroella de Montgrí. Word has it that it’s under new ownership and even the Google reviews section gives it a hefty 4.8.

I went the day before to book a table for 4 just in case there’s a rush. I needn’t have worried, the one solitary diner had the place to herself. Oh, and they accept dogs inside, a big bonus for us.

From the outside it looks ordinary enough, I’m thinking of those transport cafes in the UK that used to hug the ‘A’ roads, popular hangouts for motorbike riders. 

Still, don’t judge a book by its cover they say. The interior space is a mix of exposed beamed ceilings and warm yellow coloured walls. I look around in vain for the usual wall-tv in a corner blaring out the latest celeb gossip.

Our large, solid looking, tiled-topped table was roomy enough, and we were offered menus in the usual 3 languages. Sometimes the short and sweet workman-like translation into English doesn’t quite do it justice.

The weekday lunch menu is 13.50€, with bread and a drink included. 

I chose a lentil based dish for starters, others had mussels in a garlic sauce and battered brie in a pineapple and ginger sauce. It’s nice to see a bit of originality, a lot of places seem to adhere to a universal format. Salad, pasta or soup starters and ‘a la brasa’(grilled) meat offerings like pork, chicken or beef.

Thursday is traditionally paella day, which I chose, a bit like fish and chips on Fridays in the UK. Not bad, not over seasoned with a token gesture to seafood being a single prawn. Friends had the rabbit stew, and the sea-bass, both well received.

As an aside I remarked on the colourful Mexican themed plates, not something I usually notice. Eager to please they even provided a floor blanket for the dogs, with the water bowl being by the outdoor terrace.

Back to the dessert choices which included mango sorbet, caramelised orange with Cointreau and the inevitably predictable crema catalana. I went for the ‘pera al vino’, a baked pear in red wine.

At weekends they only offer an a la carte menu, plus tapas and music on Friday and Saturday nights. Closed Wednesdays.

Verdict. Given its name it’s far from disdainful. A bit of ‘a diamond in the rough’.

VFM (value for money) 9/10


Old Ambient bar and restaurant, L’Estartit

Migratory birds fly south for winter, however we’ve relocated eastwards, a mere 40 km drive away from Girona.

We’re wintering in L’Estartit, and the remaining number of watering and eating holes is slowly dwindling. If solitude and peace is your thing, this might be the place. Seagulls circle our apartment, their whining is the only thing we hear sometimes. 

It’s a Saturday, early evening, so we head towards the only Irish bar in town O’Malleys. We’ve got the dogs so choose a table on their front terrace with a fine sea view-well the ‘club nautic’ which we’d call a marina.

The view is mostly small boats and yachts but there’s little activity. It’s not exactly Monaco but it suffices.

We ordered drinks, I asked for a Guinness, ‘we don’t have any’ was the reply. It’s a bit like an English tea-room running out of tea. I hadn’t allowed for an alternative so I’m stumped. 

Bottled Guinness? Same reply. The reason we’re given is that the bar is closing soon, until the following March or April.  A bit of a moving target it seems. I look around and there’s only one other client watching the rugby on their tv, they might have trouble covering the electric bill for today.

Drinks consumed we moved on closer to home, to the bar/restaurant Old Ambient. Its long street terrace has been enveloped with a clear protective side covering. It’s surprisingly cosy looking and the patio heaters make a difference. Dogs and smoking are permitted within this section, so we’re happy to stay.

The owners appear to be Dutch by my reckoning, and for late November it’s bordering on mildly buzzing with locals and visiting weekenders. The beer list is mighty long with some nice Belgian craft beers. Still, they have draught Guinness, so I finally got what I wanted albeit in a non-Irish bar. 

The good wife had the same, strangely hers was warmer than mine, I’m less bothered so accept a swap. Time to peruse the food menu, a mix of tapas dishes and mains. 

Their burger list stands out for me, so I chose one with goat cheese. She orders the locally sourced steak, which the small print advises there’ll be a 30 minute wait.

No problem as we’re busy chatting, but the wait time can reach a point that for me becomes an irritation. It’s one of those alcohol induced tipping points which is hard to judge.

I’m mindful that we all want to eat together but the 30 minutes is starting to irk me a bit and feels longer.

It allows me to peek inside the slightly overdone dark wood and soft red interior, with large oval tables for groups, and wooden booths lining the walls. It even has a back room with a rickety looking pool table. The decorative and eclectic wall adornments add a homely touch too

Our two attentive young servers eventually bring us our food order. My meager portion of fries are cold and the other groan is sachets of ketchup. The steak however proves to be a big hit.

Verdict. This could be the only place in town with a pulse on a dark winter’s night, we’re pleasantly impressed to promise ourselves a return visit.

Final bill for three, 88€ (3 pints, 2 burgers, a steak, 2 desserts, 2 bottles of Mon Perdut red wine at 11.95€ ea.).


Living in Girona-looking back

Okay we’ve been living here in Girona for fifteen years and I’ve never done a looking back type of blog post before, so here goes. It may well even stretch to a second part.

When people say time flies it’s true, as it doesn’t feel like that long. I’m even mildly surprised to be honest. 

Where do I start I ask myself. In general terms I think that Girona’s charms have been noticed by more outsiders who’ve made this place their new home. We’ve been lucky to have met a wide range of people, not just other Brits.

One such story comes to mind. In the early days having very young kids meant you often bumped into other parents with similar aged kids of their own. Especially in kids playgrounds. On one such occasion we found ourselves in the tiny Catalan village of Monells. By the way, if you’ve never been there do yourself a favour and put it on your list.

Our kids could never pass a playground without stopping and trying out the slides and swings. It was here that we struck up a conversation with a young German couple with their baby. It turned out they were living nearby in a converted farmhouse that was split into smaller apartments. A friendship kind of developed and we’d meet for a coffee whenever they came into Girona.

He was quite jovial and entertaining, ruining my preconceived stereotype that Germans lack a sense of humour. They too were here in Catalonia, Spain living the good life. Curious as we always are as to what people do to survive here, he told me he was working for an American company. 

The twist was that the US bosses always believed he was working from his home town in Koln, Germany. To mask this charade everytime he had to speak to them, he’d have to check what the weather was like in his supposed hometown, just in case they’d ask. If memory serves me right they went back to Germany to have their second child, and we lost contact.

The losing contact with good friends we made here who returned to the UK was a recurring theme amongst the many British expats we knew. Their reasons were many. Family, friends, frustration with the education system here, health are all part and parcel of the why’s. 

Another common thread we found was that once they’d left, future contact was minimal or non-existent. People who we’d got to know very well, mixed socially many times at each other’s places and then nothing.

Maybe I’m being too sentimental but life moves on and many other long term resident friends are still here. They include Americans, Dutch, French, Ukrainian, Italian with a sprinkling of Catalans and Spanish too. 

I even met an elderly Dutch lady who had read my blog and decided to move to Girona. A lot of the bonhomme involves long liquid lunches, sharing stories of what made us move here, and how much better it is for the kids.

Ours were quite young when we arrived in 2006 at 6 and 8. They deserve some credit as far as what we’ve made them endure. Jumping from a small quaint village primary school in the English countryside to a foreign land where they understood zilch.

Kids are quite resilient though, and get on with it. We didn’t have the funds to place them into an international school, so the local state school would have to suffice. The rarity of being the only English kids in class soon wore off too. However, their ability to pick up the language meant that nowadays their Catalan is indiscernible from local natives.

They’ve also grown to appreciate the many plus points of living here, including being fluent in 3 languages (English, Catalan and Spanish). As parents we fare less better in the language stakes, calling them into service when needed. 

I even get a bit cagey when Catalans ask me how long I’ve been here. I think they expect me to be a fluent speaker by now, more forgiving if I’d only chalked up a few years. I can’t deny that I find it harder to learn than Spanish, and that Catalan is so dominant in Girona. I keep telling myself that I must try to improve.

The other big story over the last decade has been the surge in popularity of all things cycling. Though popular long before we arrived it’s been boom time for property rentals, and even ‘cycle-themed’ cafes and coffee shops. Those international cyclists are big fans of not only the surrounding topography, but also the climate and cuisine.

The restaurant scene within Girona’s old town area has certainly edged slowly towards the more expensive end. The culinary kings of Girona, the Roca brothers have added to this exclusivity be extending their empire with a hotel, ice cream parlour and a rather oddly named restaurant, Normal.

That new normal is if you can wait a few months and prices are anything but normal.

Beaches Girona

Renting a flat on the Costa Brava in winter-part 2

As our adventure in L’Estartit enters into early November the recent winter time change has meant it’s dark by about 6pm. As long term residents we know the score, begrudgingly accepting this annual change. 

It always feel like a major step change, a cut down version from balmy long summer days. There’s the reassuring compensation that sunny days can still hit 20C by about lunchtime, enabling outdoor pastimes. 

In our Girona apartment it was always a running joke that we didn’t turn on the central heating until November. A red line not to be crossed. 

Cooler days and nights have meant digging out warmer clothing, a gentle but firm reminder of seasonal change. Jumpers, scarves and hats that haven’t seen the light of day for several months are resurrected.

We’ve replaced urban living for big skies and XXL wind, boy does it blow up here. Not all the time mind you, and if I’m honest friends had mentioned it before in passing. Night time requires lowering the persianes as howling gusts of wind rattle them, reminding me of the film ‘The Shining’. I’ve heard Catalans mention that the Tramuntana winds here do affect some people’s psyche. 

We’re surrounded by a sea of boarded up holiday apartment blocks. A few show signs of year-long residency, as window and balcony shutters stay up. Visually there are a few parked cars, and a passing car is evidence that we’re not completely alone.

At long last we get to try the heating options here. Remember these places are mainly summer residences and heat insulation is largely an afterthought. Bedrooms have an electric wall-mounted radiator, and the living room’s AC unit pumps out toasty levels of hot air.

The missing link is the bathroom with its stone floor tiles and large window. We’ll just have to wait and see what can be done. The other bugbear is the limited amount of kitchen worktop space, and dim lighting. We’re reaching the minimum requirements for the formation of a to-do-list.

The daily morning walk to the beach with our two dogs continues regardless of the weather. One visibly loves it, tumbling in the sand, while the other gives the impression of do I really need to be here. Occasionally we stumble across a dead fish or seagull, why do they always want to rub their faces in such dead detritus.

As I walk along the windswept pristine shoreline I can’t help picking up rubbish, mostly the odd tin can and bits of plastic. On one outing some kids saw what I was doing and added to my bounty, well done to them. 

Thursday is Estartit’s market day which stretches out along a handful of streets a few blocks back from its seafront. I’ve been twice and there’s little to get excited about, a lot of clothes, bric-a-brac and bags, with a sprinkling of fruit and vegetable stalls opposite the church. I spot red chillies so grab a few, plus some red peppers and a dozen figs, all for less than 2€.

I keep hearing a lot of French spoken so it’s no surprise that I come across a French bakery in town. El Pa de l’Anna is small with an adjoining workspace where two bakers were hard at work. I managed to buy two small tarts, one chocolate, one lemon, two croissants and two small filled baguettes, one with chorizo, one with blue cheese and walnuts.

I walked out a mere 10€ lighter but was pleased with my choices, let’s hope they don’t close for winter.

I have to remind myself that this is a small town with equally small expectations given the time of year. Its ‘life and soul’ has retrenched until at least the spring, or a little later.

My next foolish quest is to find somewhere that offers an all day English breakfast.


L’Estartit Eats – Masala

I’ve mentioned before that we’re ‘wintering’ on the coast in Estartit and part of the fun of discovering a new location is trying local restaurants. Especially those that offer a set lunch menu or ‘menu del dia’.

Being late October invariably means a lot are closed for the season. It still leaves a decent amount that remain open and a cursory walk about town identified them. The set lunches here are priced less on weekdays, ranging from 12€ to 22€. Good value when you get 3 courses, bread and one drink. Weekend visitors can expect to pay a few euros more.

Of course we’ll be keeping an eye on value for money (VFM), as a higher priced menu doesn’t always equate to better quality food.

As big curry fans, Estartit has two to choose from, this time we chose Masala, whose weekday set menu is 11.95€. We appear to be the only customers. As it’s a sunny day we choose an outdoor table under a large canopy.  We’re given what appears to be the usual menu, economically arranged as a jumble of loose leaf plastic wallets. No expense spared there then.

I had to ask for the set lunch menu, another 1 page effort that is a dramatic cut down version of the normal menu. There’s a choice of 4 starters, we chose the onion bhaji and shish kebab. The main course choices were limited to chicken, available in 3 different sauces. I asked for my dansak to be extra spicy.

I tend to find most of the Indian food I’ve eaten here in Spain is still not hot enough for my tastes, even when menus have it as very spicy. I have it on good authority that Catalans even find  a mild sauce like Korma too spicy.

My partner was curious to know if she could have the tandoori mix grill instead, and pay the extra. Not possible was the reply, as the till is programmed a certain way. What happened to keeping the customers happy, and a chance to make a bit extra. 

This could get interesting, a red rag to a bull scenario with flailing arms. I begin to argue the point and notice a dissaproving look on my wife’s face. The mountain, or the till in this case will not be moved, and I dutifully comply. She chose a normal chicken curry.

We added a portion of rice and a garlic nan to share and two beers. The waiter appeared to be on his own, so I guessed he’d be doing the cooking too. Still, we’re in no rush, he was cordial, pleasant and the wait time between starters and mains was fine.

We ordered another beer, could he use the same glasses he asked. Mmm, I suppose so but not what we’re used to. Fresh glasses in any bar or cafe are de rigueur.

Rate the plate. Good effort all round, well spiced and left me wanting a bit more. Top marks for the garlic naan. Portion sizes are always going to be a contentious issue where a set menu is offered.

I take a peek inside before we leave, the stuck-in-the 90’s decor with lime green tablecloths leaves a neutral feeling. There’s a pool table at the back and a slightly tatty kids playground area out front. 

I will return to try the normal priced menu, and to do battle again with the tyrannical till.

VFM score. 8/10. Final bill 2 lunch menus plus 2 extra small beers, 28.30€

 Masala, C/ Eivissa 21, L’Estartit 17258

Beaches Girona

Renting a flat on the Costa Brava-in winter (part one)

A lot of people from Girona ship out to the coast at the height of summer. This familiar annual migration creates sparsely populated neighbourhoods that are eerily quiet.

Some of the lucky few are fortunate to be able to make use of a property bought by their parents, or shared between the families.

Prices were so much cheaper and affordable back when the Peseta ruled. The unlucky ones make do with renting for a week or two. Holiday rentals generate a substantial income for owners, albeit for a short period, chiefly July and August.

Canny regulars are known to book the same place year after year to ensure they get their slice of the sun. Those of us looking for something last minute are often disappointed with what’s left.

We’ve done it in the past, and you can expect to pay 700 to 800€ for a 2-bed flat for 1 week. That’s not even on the seafront, those frontline properties are naturally the first to go.

The other great bugbear is car parking, which can be extra or as happened to us one year, meant parking a 5-10 minute walk away. If you’ve got pets like us then that narrows the field even more.

The vacation agony is also compounded by long traffic queues waiting to get into resorts too. The summer of 2021 may have seen less Brits but a large influx of Northern Europeans made the season a much better turnout than the year before.

Kids decamp to the coast when the summer term ends in late June, with mum and dad commuting into Girona daily. Places like St Antoni de Calonge are like Giron-by-the-sea as we always bump into someone we know 90% of the time when we just go there for a day.

A good many 2nd residence owners are stuck in their ways, and tend not to visit their places out of season, even when it’s fine weather. In the thick of winter, coastal towns are so quiet you begin to feel like the last person on Earth.

So, being British and used to cold, windswept, barren, grey-skied seaside places we decided on a bit of reverse psychology. Let’s rent a seaside flat or apartment for the winter period and see if we like it. 

The good wife was also keen on living a more relaxed lifestyle, and as long as the internet connection was good enough, she could still work remotely. Oh, and we also needed a place which accepted dogs, as we have two.

Recovering economies seem to focus people’s minds on ways to earn extra money, especially after the Covid experiences of early 2020. Trawling the popular Spanish property websites like Idealista, or checking local Facebook groups yielded a few results. Our net was cast wide and we didn’t have a firm favourite location.

Anywhere like St Feliu de Guixols, L’Escala or Platja d’Aro would be okay. We also started asking people and friends we already knew, and we were offered a flat in L’Estartit. 

I’d always admired the wide expanse of beach here and the ease of free parking just next to the beach itself. True, it doesn’t feel as posh as somewhere such as S’Agaró or Calella de Palafrugell, more like a poor relation.

L’Estartit is a little grittier, with few hairs and graces, happy to have sand kicked into its face.

So what did we get? 

A cosy sunny 2nd floor flat with 2 bedrooms, 2 balconies, a 10 minute walk to the beach. The front balcony looks out onto a large campsite, closed for the season. It catches the sun for most of the day, has ample seating, a top spot for a morning coffee.

Being late October the walk into town is a largely lonely outing. We’re near a motorhome site so bump into the occasional winter tourist. I see a few French cars in town and hear a lot of French spoken. Hardly surprising as we’re so near the border, even restaurant menus have French translations-at the expense of English ones. 

Walking haphazardly around it’s no surprise seeing so many shops and restaurants closed for the winter. But, a good few are still hawking their menu del dia which I’ll be reporting upon more. The town even has two Indian restaurants open all year-if you’re not from the UK this fact is a reassuring slice of home.

This solitude thing may take a while getting used to after having lived in a bustling, noisy Girona ‘barri’ (neighbourhood). 

On the other hand the fun part of any new location is checking it out. Not just where to eat or shop, but good places for a coffee, or a sunset drink. 

We’re here until June 2022 so I’ll be adding to the winter rental story periodically.


Mooma restaurant and cider house

The Costa Brava isn’t the only place to find good restaurants, hidden gems can also be found inland. The countryside is littered with many fine farmhouse or ‘masia’ type restaurants offering traditional Catalan cuisine.

Serious foodies are flocking to the region which boasts many Michelin starred places like Girona’s Celler Can Roca and Massana. For my not deep pockets they’re still on my bucket list.

The ongoing quest for somewhere fresh and different led us to Mooma, a cider house and restaurant. I’d googled the place beforehand and read some good reviews. How did I not know about it? Are people keeping it a secret?

You enter along a long dirt track flanked by extensive apple groves, arriving at a mix of commercial looking warehouses and buildings. It is after all a place where they make cider, as evidenced by the sheer number of large wooden crates containing green apples.

Car parking is plentiful and dotted with a mish-mash of wooden sign posts and information panels, spouting sustainable agriculture. Are they trying to set the tone of what to expect?

Turning a corner brought us to its large stone built restaurant building. We were meeting friends who’d already arrived. We followed the young server through a mix of well appointed interior and exterior dining spaces. For a Friday lunchtime the place looked busy. Not a bad sign.

Maybe because we had our dogs, we got given a large wooden table within a marquee populated with patio heaters. It is late October and the clear plastic sides means we’re protected against the wind.

Our friends have already sampled the house cider (1 litre 6.90€), curious to try it all we ordered a further 3 bottles of the other types on offer. The menu can be viewed via their QR code or on paper. Rarely does a menu excite or cause doubt about what to have, but this one is fresh and intriguing.

We shared the following dishes as starters: 

Assortit de croquetas, 8.20€ (assortment of different croquettes), Amanida brie de fruits, 8.70€ (green salad with brie cheese and a mix of red berries). 

Calamars Andalusa, 10.90€ (squid, Andalusian style) and Xistorra a la sidra, 7.90€ (very small sausages in cider). All eagerly consumed and their own brand cider is going down well too.

For mains two of us had the slow cooked lamb (Espatlla de xai) 18,50€, which came on the bone with diced fried chips, some cooked tomatoes covered with fried onions. I begin to regret what I’ve chosen.

A tuna dish, 17€ (Tataki de tonyina), and I had a sweet sausage with braised apple pieces in a cider broth 11.50€ (Botifarra dolca poma).

Thumbs up all around, and someone commented on my dish looking slightly phallic. I liked it but felt there were too many apple pieces, and wondered whether a dollop of mash and some gravy would have been better for my Anglo Saxon tastes.

Still, we’re not finished yet and the next hurdle was deciding on which desserts to have. Are these their achilles heal or a cut above the rest? 

I needn’t have worried. We chose: pastis formatge, 6.50€ (cheesecake), xuixo de poma, 5,90€ and a crumble de poma, 5.90€ (apple crumble with condensed milk). 

I think I’ve had my apple-fix today. I tried a piece of the cheesecake- it was sublime. I’ve had my fill and I’m ready for a siesta, but it’s a 15 minute drive away!

Mooma or shooma? Oh definitely a Mooma moment.

Final bill. 

Okay some of us got carried away with one too many of their top notch versions of Calvados (spirit de Mooma). At 6.50€ the generous measure would make any Frenchman smile-if that’s possible.

Add our shared starters, 4 main courses, 4 desserts, ciders, coffees it all came to 187,80€

Sidreria Mooma, Ctra de Fontanilles, Mas  Saulot, s/n Palau-Sator 17256