Fried food has had a bad rap, but we just can't resist a plate of fried squid rings ('calamars'), battered cuttlefish ('chocos') or fried sand eels ('sonsos') - they all make for ideal snacks when sitting in front of the sea. We've chosen various restaurants on the Costa Brava where you'll get to try lip-smackingly good fried seafood. Bon appétit!
In our opinion the xiringuito of Cala Jóncols (see below) is one of the best spots on the Costa Brava. Well, the former owners of that lovely place, the Gómez-Alvaz family, have, since 2005, been running La Pelosa. This restaurant-beach bar is found in the cove ('cala') of the same name (close to the Natural Park of Cap de Creus and the now-closed El Bulli restaurant), and in no time it's become one of the best on the Girona coast. Traditional home cooking where real love for the ingredients is clear: that's what you'll find there. Even though the menu is pretty long, their main specialities are rice dishes and, obviously, fish from the nearby Bay of Roses. Two unmissable options: the rice stew with lobster (you'll probably want to find out the recipe, but no matter how hard you try, they're never going to reveal it), and the 'fideuà' noodles. If you don't fancy either of those, whatever fish you order will definitely be delicious.
For great fish, head to this restaurant that's situated just by the city wall in Tossa de Mar. Can Carlus is ideal for groups who want to share various dishes, with numerous fish-based starters, including prawns, squid, fried fish, 'marinera' clams and Orly monkfish. They're specialists in cooking sea bass and bream in the oven, in salt or on the grill, while respecting the natural flavours of the fish. You should also try the hot shellfish dishes such as lobster, Tossa 'cim i tomba' (fish and vegetable stew), and stew of 'bestina' (Tossa skate). Equally tempting is the black 'fideuà' (noodle dish) with turbot. Bear in mind that they have 40 years of knowledge and experience when it comes to getting the best out of the local seafood.
Palamós is full of restaurants but one of the names that regularly comes up in discussions about places for good fish and rice dishes is La Selvatana. For years customers have gone there to eat the seafood rice, which is made with only fish and shellfish. An excellent option, particularly if your budget is restricted, is to choose the special set menu that includes this dish. They're also experts at preparing fish in the oven and on the grill, using fish that's always fresh and arrives straight from the market. They also serve a stew that will have you licking your lips – it includes prawns and crayfish, while other options include fried whitebait, grilled shellfish, and more. From Monday to Friday, they have a set lunch menu featuring home cooking.
Leave your stress at home and relax in front of the sea. La Calma, situated on the beachfront, is a chill-out restaurant, with a tranquil, relaxed ambience. It offers a lunchtime set menu, but is also a great place to go with family or friends for a long, lazy meal. The menu isn't huge but it is varied and innovative, with dishes such as chilled orange and carrot soup, which is revitalising on a sunny day, and fried cod with cream of 'morcilla' (black sausage) and lettuce vinaigrette. They have Oriental touches such as the yakisoba noodles with vegetables and langoustines, and tuna sashimi. You'll also find classics like steak tartare, fried squid rings, 'patates braves' (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce) and croquettes. The wine cellar is extensive and largely features Empordà varieties. Accompany your moment of calm with a house cocktail (made using a secret formula) or one of their gin and tonics, that are served into the early hours.
Shellfish and sea views - what more could you ask for? The shellfish platters served on the terrace of Sodemar in summer are as renowned as their lobster and langoustine casseroles. The seafood options are never-ending at this restaurant. They have tanks with crabs, langoustine, oysters, clams, sea urchins, etc. They also offer all kinds of fish from the Roses fish market, cooked however customers want it: in salt, in the oven, San Sebastian-style, or grilled. It's also an excellent place for enjoying a rice dish close to the sea. They make stew with langoustine, paella with red prawns from Roses, and black 'fideuà' (noodles) with garlic mousseline, while the menu also features traditional fish stew. For dessert, there are Cadaqués 'taps' - small sponge cakes in the form of wine corks, which are a local speciality and definitely worth trying. And if you're interested in making a real night of it, check out the menu of mojitos and gin and tonics.
Rice dishes, Mediterranean cooking and, as its name suggests, a lot of fish. That's what you can enjoy at Fish!, a seafood taverna in the centre of the Passeig del Mar in Palamós, overlooking the sea. Three must-trys: cod fritters ('bunyols de bacallà'), fried sand eels ('sonsos fregits') and Pals rice with mousse of foie, artichokes and caramelised onion. Well, alright, one more: 'salmorejo' (a cold tomato soup similar to gazpacho but of a thicker consistency). Absolutely delicious. And more good news: the set lunch menu is just €10.85.
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.