When our trip to Vegas was cancelled in December (because of the biometric passport mess), we also had to cancel several dinners we had scheduled. One of those dinners was with E & E who we promised to take to our favorite Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas, Raku. (They both went anyway and had a fantastic meal.) Since we still owed them dinner, we agreed to meet last Friday at El Higueron (a well-known restaurant on a hill with fantastic views over the Mediterranean) but later changed plans and met up at Sidreria Manolo instead.
Sidreria Manolo is one of Marbella's best-kept secrets and one that is known only by word of mouth. It's a tiny, nondescript and non-fancy restaurant which has, since 1984, been serving classic Spanish cuisine from Asturias along with cider from the North to locals and a few others who know about this place. We arrived at 9 p.m. to find E & E already seated at a table near the entrance. The restaurant is simple with paper-topped tables and wooden chairs. Decor is really non-existent with just a few framed photos of the mountains of Asturias. Here, it's all about the food and not the atmosphere.
The menu was a piece of paper with handwritten specials, just like a notepad where you scribble a shopping list. The cuisine and ingredients come from the north of Spain along with the cider while the fresh fish and seafood are sourced locally. Manolo (hence the restaurant's name) is the person in-charge and the one who takes the orders and tells you about the daily specials. Since we were new to the place, we left E to make the choices and waited to see what gastronomic surprises we would try that evening.
We started with a glass of cider (the sweet one rather than the dry) along with a bottle of house red. This was served with some olives and a few slices of dried chorizo which were delicious - slightly spicy and not too garlicky. This was followed by a house special - pulpo (octopus) served with the traditional sliced boiled potatoes and sprinkled with smoky pimenton (paprika). The octopus which most people hate is easy to like here as it is tender rather than rubbery and tastes of the sea with the paprika giving it the slight kick it needs. Next up was a large platter of gambas sprinkled with sea salt which complemented the sweetness of the shrimps. At the same time, we also had two other starter dishes to share - their home-made duck liver and the caviar de erizo (sea urchin caviar). Both were served simply with slices of toasted white bread. The foie was creamy and rich while the sea urchin (an acquired taste which I have to admit I love) was simple the sea urchin all chopped up like tartar which you spread onto the toast and spritz with some lemon juice - a true slightly slimy and salty flavor that is reminiscent of the sea.
If you think we stopped eating then, we still had two dishes to go. First up was the famous alubias rojas (red beans) that is like a Spanish cassoulet. It came in a large bowl filled to the brim with chunks of ham, chorizo, morcilla, lots of red beans and topped with some shredded cabbage. Along with this came a tiny plate of finger-sized aji verde (green chilis) in olive oil. The beans are eaten with the chunks of meat but after every mouthful, you also bite off some of the green chili - the combination of flavors and the addition of the slightly spicy vinegary chili makes this dish unique. For our last course, we shared a rodaballo (turbot) roasted in the oven just with olive oil, white wine and slivers of crispy garlic.
To complete our Asturias-themed evening, we finished with two traditional desserts the torta de Santiago (almond cake) and the cuajada (yogurt with honey and walnuts) which were both were home-made and delicious. Sidreria Manolo is a gastronomic discovery hidden away in the back streets of La Campana. Thanks E & E for showing us another "new" restaurant to add to our list.
Tirso de Molina 25, La Campana
Nueva Andalucia, Marbella
Tel: +34 952 81 41 81
*Open for lunch and dinner (lunch is when it's packed, especially in the summer).