A stunning seaside restaurant attracting locals and tourists alike, its magic lies in an unpretentious but delicious menu, overflowing with food made with love. Back when the restaurant originally opened, this was partly thanks to owner, Dani Gonzalez’s mother, who fresh from running a restaurant in Barcelona was the resident genius in the kitchen. Now an octogenarian, she’s passed the baton of responsibility to a new generation, albeit one with which she’s lovingly shared her culinary secrets. The result is a restaurant with ties to the traditional and simultaneously one foot in the future, offering the best of both worlds to present diners.
Found overlooking the vast strip of golden sand at Es Cavallet, La Escollera is set in a 150-year old building once used by Salinera Española, the same company that to this day, harvests salt from the salt flats you drive past en route to the restaurant. With an expansive interior space plus a capacious alfresco terrace, the stylish beach restaurant is the perfect spot for whiling away a long, lazy afternoon with good company, great food and an unbeatable view. Indeed, it’s this winning combination that’s made the restaurant a firm favourite with residents, some of whom have been visiting since it first opened in 1994.
“We have lots of regulars,” explains Dani’s stepdaughter, Andrea, who now takes care of events at the venue. “We’ve seen people come with their kids, who then get married here, who then come back with their own kids! And of course, everyone wants the same table,” she smiles. Herein lies the charm of La Escollera – it’s a place where, courtesy of its familial roots and laidback ambience, everyone is welcomed with open arms. This is felt as much in the impeccable, attentive service as it is in the food delivered to each table. “We want people to feel at home,” reiterates Andrea, a palpable sentiment indeed.
Never is this more prominent than on the menu, which is brimming with classic favourites, particularly of the seafood variety – a La Escollera speciality. For die-hard traditionalists there are options like Yaya’s (Catalan for Grandmother, aka, the original queen of the La Escollera kitchen!) lobster paella, a dish embodying generations of Gonzalez history. Full of succulent chunks of shellfish, the rice is perfectly cooked – giving just the right amount of bite while remaining juicy. Then there’s the gloriously exhibitionist sea bass cooked in local salt (kindly donated by Salinera Espiñola, of course), which is brought to your table whole and deconstructed at the table.
The cooking method of this dish is simple – fresh sea bass is covered in salt, sprinkled with water and baked in the oven – but the result is outstanding; truly a must-taste experience for all fish lovers. Elsewhere, the menu is adorned with simple but explosive flavours in the form king prawns, locally-caught Gallo San Pedro (John Dory), and calamari – their binding common theme, unquestionable freshness. “There are so many great dishes on the menu,” explains current head chef, Tino Brasoveanu. “The key to it becoming a favourite is working with really, good fresh fish.”
New dishes are available for the more culinary curious, too – Tino has implemented a modern twist to some sections of the more traditional Mediterranean menu. For this reason, it’s well worth trying the restaurant’s range of sushi, of which the standout option is surely ‘King of the Beach’. A traditional California roll made with salmon or tuna then lightly wrapped in a layer of crispy tempura, each bite is a textural sensation for the tastebuds. The tuna sashimi and Salmon Salinas sushi are also divine, especially when you factor in those dazzling sea-facing vistas and the sound of the waves crashing nearby.
The menu offers plenty of good news for vegetarians and vegans too, as the warm welcome at La Escollera extends to clients with more specific dietary requirements. Vegetarian sushi is available, plus salads chock full of hearty avocado or Burratina, which here, is lightly smoked, creating an unexpected but really remarkable flavour. The star of this section of the menu is definitely the delicious vegan paella, made using Yaya’s famous recipe but substituting seafood with black trumpet mushrooms and rosemary, and adding Tino’s own personal spin. “I’m from Valencia so I’m fairly skilled when it comes to making paella,” he explains emphatically. “People come here especially for it!”
With over 20 years of dining experience behind them, the family and team behind La Escollera have discovered quality food and an authentic experience is what keeps diners coming back year after year. In fact, even Yaya can’t keep away – she still visits the restaurant every Sunday, presumably to ensure her paella is still as tasty as it always was. Remaining true to their past is easy, but what does the future hold for this family enterprise? “My teenage brothers will probably take over at some point,” says Andrea. “They’re only 18 and 16 at the moment but they’re really interested in the hospitality business and they’re great in the kitchen.” And so this culinary story continues…