BarSpy

pub spy

Buddha Bar Benidorm

The Dog and Duck  

El Pantano Orcheta

The Courtyard Polop

Oceana Club

Buddha Bar 

This week I wandered into the old town Benidorm, the evening was drawing in, hot and bothered I filtered through the throng and soon became sick of being pushed around by out-of-work seventy-somethings, temperatures were rising, and I was gagging for a cold cider. I swung a left and came across a curious looking place.ffdder.jpg

The Buddha Bar is situated in the heart of the old town Benidorm – tucked away from the bustle of the walking street, turn left up Calle Santa Fac, number 10. Shortly after I arrived, the friendly staff invited me to a sit at the bar. This space was busy but had a relaxed feel, with the sound of background music and light chatter filling the room.

As I looked around at the cool and quirky interior; think gold, purple and plenty of sparkle, Buddha paraphernalia and a mirrored wall. I copped several smiles from ensconced punters chirping away merrily, the place promising a mixture of  ‘spirited sophistication and friendly banter.’

I picked up and thumbed through a lengthy cocktail menu. Clearly, there was only one thing for it; I had to try several of these bespoke flavours – all in the name of research – starting with a Frozen Terry’s Chocolate Orange Martini followed by a Turkish Delight Gin.

If you are partial to a great cocktail this spot knocks up a mean one in more ways than one. In fact, they boast over a hundred all made by mixologist, owner and partner, Toby who also hosts cocktail making parties for people who would like to learn how to make their favourites.

Even though it was shortly after 9pm on a Monday, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was much later on a Saturday night. I look forward to my next visit.  The Opening hours are from 7pm until 2am.

“When you realise how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”  — Buddha

How it rated:

Atmosphere **** Friendly, relaxed

Décor ***** Tasteful

Drink **** Great Collection of Cocktails

Staff **** Lovely

Price *** Middling

 

El Pantano Orcheta

The location, well the clue is in the title. Getting lost on a mildly terrifying country lane somewhere inland from Villajoyosa, the blue reservoir on your left meant we landed at the Pantano entirely by accident. This was a few years ago when the place was run by Argentinians. I heard it had been taken over some years back by a Brit couple so recently I took to the road with a designated driver.

Parking up in the car park, it looked just the kind of place you might take your parents for a weekend lunch. The first impression is how big the place was with large archways and plenty of tables on either a closed terrace or open large terrace. The inside was looking tired and dated the same as it was years ago albeit a splash of paint here and there, but the main focus was alfresco dining surrounded by mountainous views, oh and unfortunately the road.

The tables were full and listening to the accents this was truly a euro bar with Belgium, Dutch, Norwegian, Brits and Spanish. They have several secret weapons in their arsenal, the owners, conjuring up quality food and always consistent, the multilingual staff serving food and drinks swiftly stopping to laugh at a comment always with a respectful retort. People take selfies with their food here especially when you order the house burger it’s massive.

After a noisy soothing lunch, I felt a little unaffected by what was ostensibly a decent place. Does it lack that spark of charm? Perhaps. Pitty the tables and chairs outside are those free from the brewery types – no comfy sofas here and you get the impression they would rather you didn’t sit at the bar this is more of an eatery than somewhere to while away the hours. Or possibly it is just the sort of place where you need some good company to really make the most of it. I would need another visit to confirm this which I plan to do.

Where this place really scores is its food. A quality burger is one thing but there was no chance BarSpy was missing out on huge battered fish hanging over the plate it’s not something you tend to get down but I had a good go. Paying three quid for a can of Strongbow stung a bit but at least it was ice cold.

My initial feeling that the Pantano was exactly the kind of place to bring your parents was only strengthened the longer I remained. But it is also a place to come with visiting friends.

How it rated:

Atmosphere **** Friendly, relaxed

Décor *** Spanish dated

Food ***** Splendid

Drink **** Great collection of wines and spirits Cider on draught would be nice

Staff **** Lovely

Price *** Middling

The Courtyard Polop

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With the sweltering weather BarSpy decided to pull up a pew outside the courtyard on the edge of Polop with a pint of cider in hand I soon engaged in conversation with some of the locals.

I always like to form my own opinion but being in Spain amongst expats there is always someone willing to give their unsolicited advice and these people couldn’t say enough positive things about the new owners of this place and the chef too.

The grub is unapologetically British with a full-English, meat pie, mash and gravy and fish and chips Friday. I opted for a crispy chicken in orange sauce a special due to the fact that Emma, the chief, used to work in a Chinese kitchen. It was very tasty, a real highlight. The mains are generally €7-8 and burgers start at €5.65, which is very reasonable.

An added bonus was the football world cup watching England win on penalties. The locals, prominently Brits with a splash of Belgium, Dutch and Spanish had an emotional roller coaster ride never having to leave their seats as the owners kept the flavours coming to our tables outside.

I think this bar is marvellous simply for its consistency. The regulars here clearly appreciate what they are familiar with, and that is something to be commended. The only complaints are that the kitchen closes late afternoon so they turn away a lot of hungry newbies and the owners close the bar on Wednesday. So all the complaints are about their regulars not being able to visit even more – what does that tell you!?

Decor *** – Typical Spanglish with a great covered terrace.

Atmosphere ***** – cosy and chatty Euro’s frequent

Staff **** – friendly

Price ***** – good value

Drink **** – good selection and Cider on draft

 

 

 

Dog and Duck Benidorm

Well, I had a bit of an unplanned review this week and popped back into an old favourite of mine – the Dog and Duck Benidorm.

After a blustery stroll along the Poniente beach, my stomach was rumbling and my taste-buds cried out for a sip of fermented apples. And you know what they say: When in Benidorm, do what the tourists do – so I went to the Dog. Nothing much had changed the décor smacked of traditional boozer wooden panelling and football paraphernalia.

There were also a lot of Brits packed into this boozer (a lot of people in general, really) but its location right next to the Old Town makes it a prime pit stop for exhausted tourists just gasping for a pint.

It was a little short-staffed. Which is perhaps what prompted the aloof bartender to ask customers to form an orderly queue at the bar. A silence fell upon those waiting for a flavour.

It was strange and bizarre. Customers looked curiously at each other for answers while remaining in their positions because these were English and, although we politely queue for many things in our lives, beer is not one of them.

I stubbornly held my position and was seen to eventually. I don’t mind waiting a bit longer than usual for a pint, as it gives me a chance to peruse the collection.

The DD had all the crowd-pleasers – Guinness, Strongbow, and locally brewed lagers and then some.

In the end, I played it safe with a Strongbow. Refreshing and bubbly, it did not disappoint. Price was as expected in a prime tourist spot – you would be hard-pressed to find a pint for less than four quid somewhere like that.

I took a seat – which I was lucky to find – outside and ordered a burger as the sun broke through the clouds and warmed. Last time I ordered a burger It was supposed to be a homemade burger, but it was more a meatloaf tribute act. The latest one arrived within 15 minutes, despite how busy the kitchen must have been, and tasted surprisingly delicious; those burgers from euro foods are a favourite.

The atmosphere in the Dog and Duck is often the same – busy but with a positive buzz. As long as I can have a space to sit by myself, I’m well happy.

All in all, my return trip to the Dog and Duck was enjoyable. But it was clear the huge demand on a weekend was having an effect on the staff, who ended up making downright ridicules requests.

How it rated:

Atmosphere: **** A nice place to spend an afternoon, for its location alone if nothing else

Décor: **** Dark interior and a grand wooden bar – proper boozer

Staff: ** Although I appreciate it was busy, I hope I am never asked to form an orderly queue at a bar ever again.

Drink: **** No complaints at all from me

Food: *** Euro foods Burger with all the trimmings.

Price: *** Expected on the beachfront

Overall: ***

 

 

Oceana Club

I was burning daylight the sun was dropping over the horizon, so I ducked down a road leading to the sea and to my delight came out into a sort of hidden cove that was a marina with a huge building at the far end. The building was the Oceana Club. I stretched up the stair and walked in the main doors. When you enter the place you are welcomed by a magnificent setting, a delightful marriage of Objet d’art and the luxuries of modernity. 

Sitting at any table you have a wonderful view of the Mediterranean and the harbour. Walk into the bar area and the view is of the workshop-like kitchen where you can see the chefs crafting their dishes. Out on the long terrace you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped on to the deck of a pleasure cruiser and especially at night when the lights are on. The ambient of the twinkling sky and the vast open sea hits a nostalgic note.

The menu on this day was a buffet which offered a wide variety of mouth-watering canopies, slithers of beef and skewered peppers with tomato and mozzarella balls to start. Huge paellas with mussels, platters of salads, calamari, BBQ ribs and the most amazing Scotch eggs that made sure you were going to have an epiphany of the taste buds: they were exquisite. Edible bowls of condensed salad and prawns, and burger sliders which really thrilled most. It all was followed by a delicious chocolate and cream festival of various desserts. The dishes just kept coming you got the feeling the kitchen wanted you to know you’d been fed.

All the products were fresh and the dishes home-made. The chefs take great care in selecting the best quality ingredients. The restaurant also caters for all tastes by providing a large selection of the best wines of the region, selection of draft beers and great Cava.

Do you have a birthday coming up that needs celebrating? No? How about a wedding anniversary? Or your parents’ wedding anniversary? Doesn’t matter if they’re not here. An anniversary is an anniversary. It needs marking. You don’t have one of those? Perhaps a pet’s birthday? Or, I dunno, it’s happy Wednesday. Just find something worth celebrating, even if it’s merely the gruelling business of being alive and use it as the excuse to go and dine at the Oceana Club. You’ll thank me. More to the point you’ll thank head chef Hassan Fezzaga.

How it rated:

Atmosphere: **** The Staff and the location made it perfect.

Décor: **** Nautical theme open and contemporary.

Staff: **** Spot on friendly and fun.

Drink: **** No complaints at all from me

Food: **** Real chef cooking great food

Price: **** Reasonable to great value

Overall: **** Great experienced totally recommend