I first read about Arroyo Hondo from Cache magazine a while back. The restaurant got glowing reviews about its’ Sunday roast lunch. Months passed and I kept hearing people mention this little gourmet hideaway in Casares. Somehow we never made it there although it was always on my list of restaurants to try and I’m glad we finally made it this evening.
The windy mountain road to Casares is picturesque and surprisingly beautiful. After driving a mere ten kilometers inland, it was such a relief to see green tree-filled valleys and hills and escape the over-construction on the coastline.
We booked a table at 8:00 p.m. which is early for Spain so we were the first to be seated but we didn’t mind since it gave us a chance to appreciate the lovely view. Several other guests were having drnks at the bar before sitting to dinner.
Arroyo Hondo is the kind of place that works equally for a quiet diner a deux and for a family lunch when the parents are visiting. The country house atmosphere is simple and warm and the one-page menu appropriately lists comfort food alongside a few Asian-influenced dishes. There are twelve starters, ten main courses and nine desserts with the options so interesting that that we had a difficult time deciding what to order. While we were perusing the menus, a basket of warm bread was served with butter.
Alex had the fresh sage tartlet and I chose the duck spring rolls. (I wanted to erase the bad memory of the other evening’s duck.) The delicious tartlet was filled with melted Feta cheese flavored with honey and balsamic vinegar over wilted spinach and cherry tomatoes. The spring roll was a crispy filo pastry roll stuffed with shredded duck, slivers of cucumber and green onions and served with a Hoisin dip on the side. I ate my spring rolls so quickly that I forgot to take a photo.
Our main courses soon followed – Pan seared sea bass over a timbale of caramelized red onions and cilantro mixed with chipirones (baby squid) and croutons for me and the salmon risotto with broad beans, asparagus and roasted lemon oil for Alex. The lemon-infused risotto was a perfect foil to the fatty salmon chunks. My sea bass was crispy-skinned, well-cooked and excellent with the sweet onion marmalade and crunchy garlic-flavored croutons. It was an interesting and novel combination for fish and something I have never tried before.
We decided to share the carrot cake for dessert – a large square slice topped with lime frosting and served with a strawberry coulis. (I had my eye on the banana Tarte Tatin but will save that for next time.) Mint tea and espresso finished off our meal.
On our way out, we stopped and complimented the owner, Noriko, on the wonderful food. She and her husband Christian, own and run Arroyo Hondo together where she greets the guests while he is in-charge of the kitchen. They must be doing something right since the restaurant has been open for five years now and the food is very good. She mentioned that they were also open for lunch and showed us their menu of sandwiches, salads and simple grill items while on Sundays, they have a typical roast.
We told her that we would be back soon and we will.
Carretera de Casares KM. 12
Tel: +34 952 895 152
Open for lunch and dinner although summer and winter opening times vary so please check before.
Closed for the whole month of January and on Mondays.
***** Food (The menu makes sense and the food is so good.)
*** Service (Swift and efficient but could be better. When I asked what accompanied my sea bass, I was told it was potato confit while the menu listed that the fish came with a Provencale salad. I got neither but it was delicious nevertheless.)
*** Atmosphere (Rustic but cozy. Don’t expect modern design.)
My advice: Lunch is better if you want to enjoy the view. Dinner is great for when you’re on a date.