Who says beachside dining is strictly for summertime? From calamari to mussels to clams, these are our top beachy stops after a long day at the beach or even on a sunny winter afternoon.
The last big cove ('cala') in Lloret de Mar before you get into Tossa de Mar terriority is also one of the most chic beaches in the town, and the 'xiringuito' that opens there in the summer more than rises to the level of its surroundings. A small nautical port full of lesiure and boats sets the atmosphere, and the large houses that surround the beach (bought in large part by Russian tourists) have raised the caché of this mini Saint-Tropez even further. In the port you'll find a limited range of places to eat that are open year-round, but it's from Sant Joan (Jun 23) that this particular beach bar opens. They excel in fresh salads, smoothies and fresh fruit juices. As you might imagine in a place full of beautiful people, they make excellent café frappés.
The favourite bar of Sant Feliu de Guíxols residents to gather for an aperitif is built into a rock – it is, in fact, a cave. Don't worry if you're not a fan of enclosed spaces, though, as the terrace is wide and welcoming, furnished with plastic walls and heaters in the winter (they close for November), and protection from the sun in the summer. The clientele, a happy mix of locals and visitors albeit with a clear preponderance of the former, is staffed by waiters with a proven professionalism and humour in the face of questions such as 'are the 'braves' spicy?'. By the way, the 'patates braves' (fried potatoes with, yes, spicy sauce) at El Corsari is a dish that all locals miss in the event that they move away from the town. You shouldn't miss them, or the US-style sandwiches and fried squid rings. In contrast, it has to be said that the coffee could be better. But we'll forgive them for that.
Yes, it's really good to eat tapas for just a few euros, but, undoubtedly, there are times in your lives when you want to treat yourself to a bit of luxury. And, perhaps, that luxury could take the form of lunch or dinner at the Hostal Sa Tuna. This small hotel (it has just five bedrooms) has a restaurant that opens towards the middle of April and is an absolute treasure. To the joy of eating with your feet practically in the sea and of being on the edge of a cove that's so perfect it almost looks like a film set, the place adds haute cuisine dishes. And what dishes they are: they combine, in perfectly measured and balanced quantities, traditional fishermen's cooking (which has such strong links with the coves in this area) and avant-garde gastronomic techniques. On the menu you'll find dishes suitable for coeliacs and vegetarians, and they also have gluten-free bread. It's expensive, let's be honest, but it's also unique.
This is a place that looks like exactly what it is: an authentic xiringuito with its plastic awnings and metal chairs, all housed in a former fishermen's hut. It's located on the beach of Aiguablava, which is very pretty but also very crowded in the summer, not just for the quality of its waters but also because people are drawn by what the beach restaurant has to offer: the aroma of oak burning in the oven used to grill fish caught that day by the boats of Begur, and to cook rice dishes made for traditional recipes while making no concessions to modernity. It's not cheap, and you have to be careful if you order the fish because the price is determined by weight; don't hesitate to ask them to weigh the piece you're interested in and then decide. What we really love is that, if you arrive on your own boat, they'll bring you your pan full of rice to the small leisure port of Aiguablava so you can enjoy it without having to touch dry land.
If there was a world ranking of xiringuitos, this would certainly be close to the top. And that's because it's in front of possibly the most perfect beach hotel ever (without wanting to offend anyone). The hotel is a modest house that hardly stands out among the lunar landscape of Cap de Creus, surrounded by pine and olive trees, cut off from the rest of the world, and without coverage for your mobile. To complete the image of perfection, three generations of one family run the place and if there's nothing you fancy on the set menu of the day, they will rustle something up for you (of course – there's a grandma in residence). But let's focus on the xiringuito: it was inaugurated in 1981, is open between approximately June and September, and is chic without going over the top, groovy without being a hive of modernity. On Fridays and Saturdays in the summer, there are DJs and live music. You have to drive along a track to get there, and you shouldn't use GPS because you'll get lost. But it's all worth it. Really worth it.
This is a necessary recommendation because to the end of the world, and especially if you can get there in less than two hours by car, you absolutely have to go at least once in your life. Twenty-five years ago, a British biologist fell in love with this former Civil Guard barrack, and set up a restaurant with a few bedrooms that were available to rent; and over the years, it's gained a rather mythical standing, especially its New Year's Eve patios and because you go there at the height of winter to battle it out with the westerly 'tramuntana' wind. Some people say that the premises, which has a clear bohemian vibe, needs to be done up and that in high season the queues to get served are long. Although that's not really a problem because just by getting there, sitting down and looking into the far-off distance makes it worth taking a day off one Tuesday in February. Although don't forget to wrap up warm.