I wrote a short while ago about the backstreet method of finding good value eating in a tourist trap. On the same trip I also decided to use the TripAdvisor method of finding the best restaurant. In Tamariu the number one restaurant is Es Dofi with a 4/5 rating based on 269 reviews. The restaurant is one of the ones along the seafront with fantastic views over the bay. At night there is a lovely atmosphere along the front with live music to accompany the strolling.
The reviews themselves paint a slightly different picture. We visited in the second week in September just as the main tourist season is over. Tamariu is a small, pretty village with a good gritty beach and beautiful blue sea. I’d compare it to somewhere like Padstow in Cornwall. In Padstow during the Summer holidays it is rammed every day with tourists and you can’t get in any restaurants without bookings made weeks previously. Others have waiting times of a couple of hours. And so it seems to be in Tamariu. The recent reviews speak of the owners wanting to turn the tables around quickly, shortages of food, surly staff and opportunistic pricing with the catch of the day sold by weight.
I had to go and find out for myself.
The first thing that is pretty obvious is that this is a family fish restaurant that has been running for years. There are some pretty experienced faces here and some of them struggle to smile. After a long busy summer that maybe how I would feel too but it’s not as welcoming as it could be. The fish choice is fabulous with plenty of Dorada, Hake and Sole cooked on the grill, head and tail on. This is exactly the kind of place we enjoy.
We started with toast with anchovies. A friendly waiter told us that they prepare their own anchovies rather than buy them in – all locally caught. The toast was rubbed with oil and the flesh of the really great tomatoes they have here and then anchovies were just laid on top. This is a great combination. Just the tomato and oil is fabulous but the anchovies were large fillets and weren’t too salty. It’s a simple enough dish but it was good – it was also €7.50!
For my main course I went for Carril clams with beans. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get but effectively the beans were similar to a cassoulet – earthy and in a tomato and onion sauce – delicious on their own. I was slightly disappointed to get just four clams – in a main course where the clam is a key part of the dish it seemed a little disproportionate even if they are the best clams in the world. I did get five juicy prawns that I wasn’t expecting too which countered some of the shock at the €17.50 tag.
The best dish was the simplest – the sea bass was cooked fabulously and just laid on a plate with some potato and salad accompaniment. The TripAdvisor comments had expressed surprise at the lack of vegetables. This was unusual. The other main we had was prawns in garlic that just came in a small round bowl with not bread or anything at all – effectively a slightly larger tapas dish. This isn’t really a main course dish and there was no warning and no option to order side dishes or any advice to do so.
We did have desserts – a very good creme catalana with beautifully smooth rich custard and a thin bitter crunchy crust on the top, some flam – a creme caramel equivalent served with cream, and some fresh strawberries which were just served in Moscatel.
It was quite a confusing meal. TripAdvisor had hinted at the right sorts of things. Es Dofi is not brimming with bonhomie or compromise for the tourist. It is a serious eating place for the informed (and we aren’t). The highlights are the produce and the kitchen. Ingredients are fabulous and they know how to cook them here. It is very expensive. We paid €133 for our meal; significantly more expensive than anywhere else that we have eaten so far. With some better advice from the waiters or a few explanatory words on the menu it could have been better. I like that accompanying water is sold in sensible big plastic bottles rather than having to keep asking for topups. I don’t like having to ask three times for the bill.