Delicious drives in Spain: The Michelin Star Triangle and a special gem



 



I was delighted to team up with Hertz recently to introduce you to some wonderful Delicious Drives in this relatively undiscovered part of Spain. Our first route covered Belle Epoque by the beach and the spectacular Desierto de las Palmas. The second route included a fun boat trip, meeting the Mussel Professor, and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Our third route focused on three of Spain’s most beautiful towns.

Peniscola delicious drives Spain Hertz

All of our trips brought you some great foodie finds. We also had some fun adventures along the way, like our special police escort through the old quarter of Morella.

This next road trip is easy to do and is very close to my heart, as I know how much this area has to offer in terms of gastronomy and nature. I also realise that many others are unaware of this part of Spain.

Spain Michelin Star Triangle

As of November 2016, this small area which flows between Catalonia and the Valencian Community, has three Michelin starred restaurants, located within a 25 mile radius of each other. I have called this the Michelin Triangle.

Musclarium Delta de l'Ebre boat trips

There’s also a special gem that deserves to be included in this feature, which is Restaurant Carmen Guillemot. The food in this restaurant is of Michelin star quality without a doubt. However the owners offer a personal, intimate experience and don’t wish to expand their infrastructure to the point where they would qualify for a Michelin Star.

One common thread between all four restaurants is that they all use the incredible wealth of natural ingredients available in the area.

Restaurante Raul Resin: Chef of the Year Spain 2016 & One Michelin Star

It was a real pleasure to interview Raul Resino, Chef of the Year Spain 2016, in his restaurant close to the beach in Benicarlo. Located on Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast, Restaurante Raul Resino was awarded a Spain Michelin Star Triangle-Michelin Star Raul Resino on 23rd November 2016.

Raul Resino Chef of the Year Spain 2016

Superb imagination

Raul, who started his career aged 16, is a chef with a superb imagination, creating dishes from locally sourced products from the Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar), the region of the Maestrazgo and the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park. Working with local orchards and providers, Raul has a unique style, which blends cutting edge methods, with traditional cuisine. However the ingredients are always the stars of all his dishes.

Oyster from the Delta crionised in lime and Cava

Packed with creative touches

Packed with creative touches, Raul’s gastronomic menus frequently change in order to offer only the best seasonal seafood and vegetables of the area. Presentation is absolutely stunning and service is wonderful, equal to a restaurant with even more Michelin stars. His restaurant accepts only 30 people for each meal, and he has a team of 15 highly trained waiters who ensure a seamless experience for patrons, who speak a selection of languages.

Raul Resino in the kitchen

Raul has worked his way through both humble and world-famous restaurants, perfecting his art. He worked at the Martín Berasategui restaurant in Lasarte (three Michelin stars), El Celler in Can Roca in Gerona (three Michelin stars), El Raco in Can Fabes (three Michelin stars) and under Japan Prestigious master Yoshikawa Takamasa at the Suzaku Restaurant in Tokyo, among a number of others. He frequently appears in the media, collaborating on television programmes and cookery books.

Vital statistics

Gastronomic tasting dinner menu 19 dishes: €65.00 (Tuesday to Saturday)*
3-course lunch menu: €40.00 (Tuesday to Friday)

Address: C/ d’Alacant nº2, Esquina con l’Avinguda Catalunya, Benicarló 12580 Castellón

Phone: +34-964 86 55 05

Opening hours: Lunch: 1.30 pm a 3.30pm– Dinner 9pm to 11pm (Closed Sunday night and all of Monday)

L’Antic Molí Restaurant – Chef of the Year for La Vanguardia and Catalonia Gastronomic Forum – One Michelin Star

The name of this restaurant translates into The Old Mill, and as the name suggests L’Antic Molí is a beautifully converted old mill, on its own lovely grounds. The restoration work has been carried out seamlessly to blend the old mill’s features with a striking, clean modern look.

L'Antic Moli Michelin Triangle Vicent Guimera

Third generation chef

Owner Chef Vicent Guimerà started his career, aged 12, making his the third generation in his family to be talented chefs. In fact L’Antic Molí is very much a family affair, with Vicent’s wife, Maria Pilar, working alongside him, and the last time we ate there, his aunt served us.

Awards are for all the family

Vicent is a lovely guy, who was aged only 36 when he was awarded his first Michelin Star on 23rd November 2016. He also won the prestigious La Vanguardia (one of Spain’s most important newspapers) and Catalonia Gastronomic Forum Chef of the Year Award.

Prawns of tarragona with fiduea

Although these awards are officially received by Vicent, he acknowledges that they are the result of many years of hard work, carried out by him and his super team of chefs and waiters. Some of which are blood family members, but the rest of all part of the L’Antic Molí family. You can feel this is the atmosphere of the restaurant; that perfect balance between the utmost professionalism and friendliness.

Immaculately-presented foodie offerings

Vicent and his team create immaculately presented foodie offerings, designed from locally sourced and organic ingredients. Vicent is a leader in the Slow Food movement here and also fondly known as the Galera Chef. Galera is Spanish for the seafood that is mantis shrimp in English.

For around seven years now, Vicent and his team, have been working hard to elevate the status of what was previously considered a second-class crustacean. They are successfully doing this with delicious innovative recipes, which apply the latest culinary techniques.

Vicent Guimera Spain Michelin Star Triangle

I have dined a number of times in the L’Antic Molí and each time has been wonderful. As a lover of duck, I often sample duck dishes when out at a restaurant. The best duck at a restaurant that I have had to date was in L’Antic Molí, served with a sumptuous fruit of the forest sauce.

Vital statistics

– El Tour de l’Antic Molí (22 dishes): Tuesday to Sunday €75 – without drinks
– Le Petit Tour: (13 dishes) €45 from Tuesday to Sunday – without drinks
– Daily menu: appetisers, first course, second course and dessert €13.50 – Tuesday to Friday
– Saturdays: three starters, second choice, dessert and drink €20

Address: Carretera Ulldecona- La Sénia, Km. 10, 43550 Ulldecona, Tarragona

Phone: +34-977 57 08 93 – +34-663 96 49 83

Opening hours

Tuesday to Saturday 1pm to 4pm
Friday and Saturday 8.30pm a 11pm
Closed Sunday nights and all Monday

If you are a group of 8+ people they may be able to facilitate you on a Thursday night, by opening the restaurant specially for you.

Les Moles, Catalan Olive Oil Award, One Repsol Star, One Michelin Star

Open since 1992, Les Moles was the first restaurant in this Michelin Triangle to be awarded a Michelin Star. Also in a charming setting, Les Moles is also run by a husband and wife team, Jeroni and Carmen.

Spain Michelin Star Triangle Les Moles Jeroni

It’s all about proximity

One of the restaurant’s big themes is what they call Proximity, which is basically locally sourced but even closer to home when possible. The restaurant has its own orchard, makes their own bread and everything else is locally sourced.

Out of the restaurants featured, I can’t personally review this one, as we haven’t been there for many years, but we will go back soon and then update this article for you.

Spain Michelin Star Triangle Les Moles green salad

Vital statistics

Historic tasting menu “El Camino Recorrido” – €75
Gastronomic tasting menu – €72
Les Moles Traditional menu -€32.90 – available Tuesday to Saturday- starters, first course, second course and desert – includes some wine, water and bread
Mola menu Gastrobar – €18 – available daytimes Tuesday to Friday – starters, first course, second course and desert – includes some wine, water and bread

Address: Ctra. Sénia, Km. 2, 43550 Ulldecona, Tarragona, Spain

Phone: +34-977 573 224

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 1–4pm
Thursday to Saturday 1–4pm, 8:30–11pm
Monday Closed

Special gem: Restaurant Carmen Guillemot – Sunday Times Recommended & Game of Thrones Wrap Dinner

Based in Peñiscola, which was featured in our Delicious Drive Route 3, Restaurant Carmen Guillemot is also a family affair. Both Mamen and Philippe are culinary geniuses, but Mamen is responsible for the majority of the food creation. Philippe does a spectacular job at front of house. He is genuinely warm, friendly, charming and efficient.

Restaurant Carmen Guillemot Peniscola

The Game of Thrones actors and crew chose this restaurant to have their all important wrap dinner – the meal to celebrate the end of filming. In an interview with Mamen and Philippe, they explained to us that they are delighted about the Michelin Star Triangle, which they acknowledge is wonderful for the area. However their establishment is too small and intimate to qualify for some of the aspects of achieving a Michelin Star.

We originally discovered the restaurant when it was located in Alcanar. I remember the experience as if it were yesterday. All of us were rather quiet during the meal, purely as we were savouring and contemplating the delicious taste explosions. It was as if an atmosphere of awe had enveloped our table.

Restaurant Carmen Guillemot Version of Pulpo a la Gallega

Both Mamen and Philippe are also artists: a painter and sculptor. It seems as if their boundless creativity permeates through all areas of their life. It’s in the restaurant’s decor, ambience, their personalities and of course the foodie offerings.

Inventive, perfectly balanced, delicious dishes are presented throughout the meal. One perfect surprise after another. I would highly recommend the tasting menu, but you can also go a la carte if you wish. Mamen makes her own wonderful bread, and all ingredients are organic and locally sourced.

Restaurant Carmen Guillemot is an experience to delight all of your senses. You’ll find them in a little street in the old town, full of character.

Game of Thrones on Sofa Carmen Guillemot Wrap Dinner

Vital statistics

Gastronomic tasting menu – 7 courses – €42
A la carte menu which changes to incorporate seasonal ingredients each month

Address: Juan José Fulladosa, 27, Casco Antiguo, 12598 Peñíscola

Phone: +34-964 481 381

Opening hours: Friday to Sunday: 1.30pm to 4.30pm – Friday & Saturday night: 8.30pm to 11pm

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hertz.



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A Luxury Travel Blog – For those who enjoy the finer things in life…



 



Recently I teamed up with Hertz to explore some of Spain’s most beautiful towns, as part of the Delicious Drives series. This remarkable route includes a town where Game of Thrones was filmed, which also used to be a Papal Residence, an inland town with stunning views that was re-constructed by artists and an incredibly striking historic town, with breathtaking views.

In each of these beautiful towns we discovered some great foodie finds along the way.

1. Magnificent Morella: an incredibly striking historic town with breathtaking views

We had Morella mapped out as our first port of call. The route from Els Ports Natural Park to Morella is filled with beautiful scenery, and although we didn’t have time, I would highly recommend stopping off at Horta de Sant Joan. This is where Picasso said he discovered nature. The village itself is gorgeous, includes a Picasso Museum and has wonderful views over the nature that was so inspirational for Picasso.

Morella Castellon

The drive up towards Morella is absolutely spectacular. Verdant scenery embraces a road that is steep, narrow and curved in parts as it winds its way up to magnificent Morella. We were very happy to be navigating the road smoothly and comfortably in our Hertz Opel Mokka 4×4.

Morella Spain view with car and town in background

Buzzing on market day

As you approach Morella, it’s hard not to be impressed with the spectacular ancient stone that climbs up above the terracotta and white washed houses. Morella pulsates with history, culture, beauty, folklore, tradition and gastronomy. We were lucky enough to choose market day to visit, as it was Sunday.

Morella buzzing on market day

The ancient stone streets were buzzing with traders, gorgeous stalls, shops and visitors. We were able to enjoy this even more than on a normal visit, as we were given a police escort to let us drive through, so that we could show it to you!

Morella market stall

An explosion of taste sensations

I had been to Morella quite a few times before. It never ceases to amaze me and I never bore of its sprawling stone streets, the Roman aqueduct and its endless amount of fine foodie offerings. Up to now I have never been to a disappointing restaurant in Morella. This visit was no different.

We went to Da Luan, which is an absolute gem hidden in a side street of the old town. Every dish was an explosion of taste sensations. The atmosphere was fantastic, and both the staff and owners were really friendly and professional. Below you can eat one of their truffle dishes with your eyes! Truffles are a huge speciality around Morella.

Da Luan Morella truffles-1

Discover Morella with us in this video:

2. Vineyards in Vilafamés: a town with stunning views, which was re-constructed by artists

Vilafames one of Spain's most beautiful towns

From Morella we took the N-232 to Vilafamés, another one of Spain’s officially most beautiful towns. There’s nothing like a peculiarity when you’re on a road trip, and on the road to Vilafamés there’s one. You will pass the Greenwich Meridian sign, believe or not. So even though we are one hour ahead of the United Kingdom, the Greenwich Meridian runs by Vilafamés.

The old quarter of Vilafames dates back to the 11th century and is of Muslim origin. These remains are the foundations of the charming urban layout and the castle. Explore narrow winding streets, dotted with whitewashed and terracotta buildings, which are often enhanced with vibrant, pretty plant pots. The views over the countryside are spectacular, and Vilafamés has a boutique town feel about it, with around 2000 inhabitants.

Vilafames Spain car outside town hall

Artists & vineyards

However I often wonder how it would be today, if it’s destiny hadn’t been changed by a simple turn of fate. Sadly a lot of its old town was destroyed in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War, but a few decades later something special happened. An architect who had an uncle living there came to the town on a visit, and fell in love with it. This architect told other creative people about it, and during the 1970s a number of artists relocated there and started to refurbish it.

Vilafames Spain car outside town hall

Today apart from enjoying the beautiful town and its spectacular surroundings, you can also sample some of the local wines there. The Mayo Garcia Vineyard is a family affair who have been harvesting grapes and making wine since 1945. In fact now they even produce an ecological Reserve Brut. Make your way to Vilafamés on a Saturday or Sunday, and for €12 you can enjoy a tour of the vineyards, a tasting and take a bottle of their signature wine away with you. It’s a wonderful experience in a gorgeous location.

Explore Vilafamés further in this video:

3. Postcard pretty Peñiscola: where Game of Thrones was filmed, also a former Papal Residence

Peniscola Spain

We decided to go back to the coast, to visit Peñiscola where El Cid and Game of Thrones were filmed. Peñiscola has a very modern side to it, but it also has its gorgeous old town, that overlooks the sea along with great beaches. In fact the nickname for Peñiscola is the City in the Sea. The little streets are overflowing with cute shops, cafés and restaurants. And all of this in a Templar Castle where a Pope used to live!! In fact now you can buy a tea there, called Tissana Papa Luna which legend says was the tea that saved his life.

Peniscola Spain beach and castle

Condé Naste featured Peñiscola in one of their top towns features, which really doesn’t surprise me. It rises 64 metres above the azure Mediterranean sea, with sturdy city walls which envelope cobbled stone, windy streets. The old quarter of Peñiscola is simply special.

Sunday Times recommended

Peniscola delicious drives Spain Hertz

And as you can see from the photo above, the beaches are also lovely. Yes our car is on the beach, but we did have special permission from the police, so this isn’t something that we recommend that you to try in Peñiscola.

Funnily enough, during the same weekend as we were experiencing this route in order to be able to write about it, the Sunday Times featured Peñiscola in Spain’s Secret Weekends. You can see the article by subscribing, without paying, as they let readers have 2 articles free per week.

Peniscola Spain old quarter colourful cobbled streets

Sunday Times recommended restaurant

We do however highly recommend that you go to one of our all-time favourite restaurants – Restaurant Carmen Guillemot, located in the old quarter of Peñiscola. This is where the crew from Game of Thrones went for their celebration meal when they had finished filming in Peñiscola.

The owners Mamen and Philippe, are both artists, as well as being culinary artists. The foodie experience in Restaurant Carmen Guillemot is sumptuous and Philippe is the perfect host. You can choose from a seasonal tasting menu for €42, which is what we always have, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Alternatively there is also an a la carte menu.

Restaurant Carmen Guillemot Dessert to Die For

I had already written this before seeing the Sunday Times article. So I was delighted to see Restaurant Carmen Guillemot also recommended by Chris Haslam. To learn more about this restaurant and three more, which make up the Spain Michelin Star Triangle, follow us on our final Delicious Drive with Hertz. All of these restaurants are located within around a 25 mile radius from each other, making this area not only tempting for its diverse scenery and experiences, but a must for enthusiastic foodies.

Discover Peñiscola more in this video:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hertz.



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Delicious drives in Spain: The Delta de l’Ebre to Els Ports Natural Park



 



After our first Delicious Drive with Hertz, we continued north, heading into the south of Catalonia, to discover the magical landscape of the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park. The setting has attracted film crews, including Sahara and U2 for Vertigo.

Catalonia’s second largest wetlands has been a protected space since 1983. Driving down its narrow roads, that are embraced by paddy fields, you may spot flamingos flying or just relaxing in the marshes.

Sant Carles de la Rapita boat trip Delta de l'Ebre

Famous for its food, natural beauty and ornithology

The Delta de l’Ebre is famous for its food, natural beauty and ornithology. It is one of most important places here for bird-watching. But even if twitching isn’t your thing, the unique landscape, unspoilt beaches, sand dunes, kitesurfing and great food make it well worth the trip.

For years I have eaten mussels from the Delta, and up to now they are the best I have tasted. The reason for this, the experts have told me, is because the River Ebro flows into the sea in the area, giving the mussels extra flavour and nutrition.

Delta Ebro beaches

So I decided to learn more about this by taking one of the boat trips that takes you around the Delta and goes to Musclarium, where you can learn about the mussel and oyster farming processes, along with a tasting.

The mussel professor

Cisco, who gives the talk there, is obviously both passionate and very knowledgeable about his subject. So we nicknamed him the Mussel Professor! He spoke in Spanish, but no doubt the local tourist office offer English speaking tours.

Cisco the Mussel Professor Musclarium Delta de l'Ebre

The process that the mussels and oysters go through, before they reach our table is absolutely fascinating. The mussels take over two years before they are ready for us to sample. After hearing all of this, the tasting which included mussels, oysters and Cava was even more enjoyable.

A must-have experience….

To go out on this boat trip, you need to head to the port of Sant Carles de la Rapita. Go past the Yacht Club (Club Nautica) and continue along to a small hut which has a yellow flag – this is Embaraciones Badia Alfacs. We found them relaxed, very knowledgeable and friendly, making the trip all the more enjoyable.

boat trip Delta de l'Ebre Catalonia

Boat trips take around one and a half hours, with departures at 10am, 11.30am. 1.30pm and 4pm. The trip costs €12 for an adult and €8 for a child. Please note that this doesn’t include the tasting, which costs €15 for a two-hour tasting session, which includes mussels, oysters, wine and Cava. The Sant Carles de la Rapita Tourist Office also organise trips which include both the boat and the tasting, priced at €25, but they have tours from €16 also.

I have to admit that I came off the boat on a bit of a high! Between the exhilarating sea air, the charming, informative guide, the remarkable scenery and of course my memorable tasting and education session – it was a great few hours out. You also get to see the Delta de l’Ebre from a wonderful perspective.

Musclarium Delta de l'Ebre boat trips

Tasty local ingredients in a paella

Back on dry land again, we drove down the amazing, narrow roads of the Delta, where from time to time you can see houses that seem to be stranded in the middle of the paddy fields. We headed down to Eucalpytus Beach to take in more of Delta, which is a superb spot for those of you who enjoy kite-surfing.

After immersing ourselves in Spain’s second largest rice producing area, it seemed rude not to find a good place to have paella. There are a number of great restaurants dotted around the towns of the Delta de l’Ebre, so it’s a hard choice.

We opted for Lo Patí d’Agust, because of its reputation for paellas that are made on an open wood fire. And we certainly weren’t disappointed with their delicious seafood paella, packed with locally sourced ingredients and that slightly smokey, woody taste.

lo pati d'agust poble nou delta de l'Ebre

Variety is the spice of life…

Time for some exercise, after so many foodie treats! Staying in Catalonia, but heading inland and past Tortosa, you’ll find one of the many natural parks that this country has – Els Ports. From time to time driving or hiking through this dramatic scenery, you may be lucky enough to spot some local goats.

Els Ports is a huge favourite with those who love nature, hiking and great, locally sourced food. Driving to Els Ports from the Delta de l’Ebre takes around 1 hour and 10 minutes. I often do this trip in the same day, as I adore the contrast between the two different landscapes, and they’re only a little over one hour apart.

Mountain goats Els Ports Natural Park

We parked the car near a restaurant that has both lovely food and gorgeous views from certain tables over the sparkling turquoise rock pools below.

Food with a view

Font de Sant Pere offers a three-course lunch (Menu del Dia), during the week with some wine for €13.00 or choose from the a la carte menu. In case you didn’t know the Menu del Día was created by Franco for the workers.

Also very close by is another favourite, which has both a restaurant and a tourist and camping complex, called Molí l’Abad. This is another spectacular spot to have a drink or eat a meal. We haven’t slept over night there, but the complex set up looks idyllic.

Ulldecona dam Els Ports natural park

We enjoyed a good long walk in Els Ports Natural Park, breathing in the beautiful scenery and incredibly fresh air. It had been a fantastic day! Between the boat trip, meeting the Mussel Professor and spending time in those two natural beauties – Els Ports and the Delta de L’Ebre, we needed a good night’s sleep. We wanted to be ready for our next adventure on our third Delicious Drive with Hertz.

Discover this route and area a little further in this video:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hertz.



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Delicious drives in Spain: Valencia to Desierto de las Palmas, via Benicassim



 



I teamed up with Hertz recently to explore some stunning routes that are off the typical tourist trail here in Spain. These special experiences capture the essence of the gastronomy of the areas featured, all embraced by spectacular surroundings.

Breathtaking views, fun adventures and delicious foodie offerings were thoroughly enjoyed on this road trip. Our Opel Mokka 4×4 was perfect for a smooth, relaxing drive across some challenging terrain.

Delicious drives Spain Benicassim

Belle Epoque by the beach

This first Delicious Drive takes you to the beautiful Belle Epoque Villa Route by the beach in Benicassim, and then up to enjoy the most amazing views in the Desierto de las Palmas. The route was made even more delicious by a tipple of Carmelitano Liqueur and a light, tasty lunch with absolutely spectacular views.

Having picked up our car in Valencia, we headed straight for Benicassim on Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast. Although best known for its music festivals, Benicassim has beautiful beaches, great food and famous Belle Epoque villas, which overlook the beach.
Benicassim Belle Epoque by the beach
Known as the Biarritz of the Levante, Benicassim is also home to Carmelitano, which is one of the oldest distilleries in Spain. Head there to meet the Barefoot Caremelites, who have been making their Carmelitano liqueur since 1896.

A delicious liqueur that deserves to be tasted

It’s a delicious liqueur that deserves to be tasted. It certainly set us up for the day! The Carmelitano brand has won a number of awards for their liqueurs and also for their gin. The most recent was a bronze medal for their 119 Gin, which the monks won in London at the International Spirits Challenge.

Their tasting tours cost only €3.00 for those over 18. Under 18s are free, but obviously can’t sample the liqueurs! You can tour between 9am to 1.30pm and from 3.30pm to 7pm. The Carmelitano distillery is open also during weekends and holidays.

Carmelitano liqueur Benicassim

After take the short drive to Voramar Beach, which is where you can explore the Villa Route. These Belle Epoque villas were designed in the late 19th to early 20th century, by some of the top architects of their day, who were employed by rich Valencian families.

To date 51 villas have been catalogued, and the route has two distinct faces. One is the Celestial Court, which is the group of villas known for their tranquility and the other is the collection of properties known as the Hell Route.

As you can guess by the name, these splendid villas were renowned for their scandalous parties in the Roaring Twenties. The route is filled with beautiful architecture and all of it overlooking a lovely Mediterranean beach.

Benicassim Spain villa route Voramar beach

Awe-inspiring views

To understand the Barefoot Carmelites a little better, we headed up into the Desierto de las Palmas (Desert of the Palms), where they constructed their monastery in 1697. As you’ll observe from the photo below, it’s certainly not a desert. That aspect of the name was connected to the peacefulness of the area, rather than its geology. It is said that they were deeply moved by the scenery and solitude.

You don’t need to be religious to do this part of the route, as the views are absolutely awe-inspiring and you can see why the Carmelites were moved by it. The original monastery was destroyed in an earthquake, but you can see the ruins.

delicious drives spain desierto de las palmas views

A delicious discovery

However you need to continue up to the top, where you’ll find a good restaurant with incredible views, back down over the landscape. The Desierto de las Palmas restaurant has been serving good food since 1967.

We were lucky to get one of the best tables, right at the window. I chose the imaginative, delicious salad which had a selection of leaves, prawns, crabstick, pineapple, raisins and apple, with a very tasty dressing. I followed this with one of my favourite dishes – Gambas Pil Pil (Prawns in a slightly spicy garlic oil).

Desierto de las Palmas views and food

Between the breathtaking views and great food, all of my senses were satiated before it was time to get back on the road again.

Explore the route and area further in this video:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hertz.



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Delicious drives in the UK: Cartmel Peninsula to the Lake District, via Furness



 



On the second day of my ‘delicious drive’ with Hertz, I drove further along the A590 to the market town of Ulverston – the birthplace of Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy fame and home to a Laurel & Hardy Museum – before before bearing left and following the coast road in the direction of Barrow-in-Furness.

Passing through Bardsea, Baycliff and Aldingham, my next stop was Piel Island but first I had to catch the ferry from Roa Island on the southern tip of the Furness Peninsula. I say ‘ferry’ but it’s a very modest boat that can hold just a handful of foot passengers for the short crossing to the island of around around 10 minutes.

Piel Island ferry

Piel Island is rich in history and intrigue and is today owned by the people of Barrow and administrated by Barrow Borough Council. Despite a population of just four people currently, it has its own English Heritage-owned castle and its own pub – The Ship Inn. The landlord of the pub is the King of Piel – a position that is currently selected by the Council yet a tradition that dates back as long ago as 1487 when Lambert Simnel and his army landed on Piel with the intention of overthrowing King Henry VII – an attempt that failed. Interest in Piel still thrives to this day and, at the time of the current king’s coronation, it was estimated that there were as many as 2,500 people present on this tiny island.

As little as 150 years or so ago, Piel Island didn’t have just a king but even its own parliament with a Prime Minister, Chancellor and more. Even today, the current king has the power to ‘knight’ people – an honour that will cost you the princely sum of a round of drinks for everyone present at the pub at the time; on the plus side, tradition also dictates that knights do then have the right to free board and lodging should they ever find themselves shipwrecked on the island.

At present there is both a king and a queen, and Steve and Sheila Chattaway are warm and generous with their welcome. Whilst Sheila appears to predominantly deal with ‘front of house’ at The Ship Inn, taking orders at the bar, Steve on the other hand, himself a trained chef, works behind-the-scenes in the kitchen. But don’t worry – there’s still a good chance of meeting the king, too, as he turns his hand to clearing tables and helping with other chores. Do speak to them both if you get the chance as you will be sure to glean some interesting insights into life on the island; from talking to Steve, I learnt that, despite only being on the island for a decade, they were already on their 28th vehicle – such are the effects of the sand and salt that they are lucky if a vehicle lasts them 6 months, and so they only ever tend to use MOT write-offs.

The king and queen of Piel Island

Do time your visit to co-incide with lunch if you get chance. For an island pub with a captive market and little in the way of competition, the food is still actually surprisingly good. I sampled the ‘bucket of mussels’ from the menu but was equally tempted by ‘King Steve’s steak pudding’.

Bucket of mussels at The Ship Inn on Piel Island

After my time on Piel, I drove northwards passing Dalton-in-Furness (here you might be surprised to see rhinos and giraffes grazing the fields, as well as the more usual cows and sheep, due to the presence of a local – and somewhat controversial – zoo) and Broughton-in-Furness, on my way to the tiny village of Waberthwaite, home to RB Woodall Ltd.. At these modest premises, the famous Waberthwaite traditional Cumberland sausage is made, using the same recipe and techniques that their ancestors have used for the past 180 years. There’s a shop on site which doubles as the local Post Office and the product range extends beyond just Cumberland sausage but also includes Cumbria air dried ham, smoked pancetta and country cured gammon to name a few.

RB Woodall

In the interests of health and safety, I was donned in suitable overalls in order to go behind the scenes and see the sausage-making process for myself. A mix of pork shoulder and back fat is minced and combined with spices before being placed into a machine…

Cumberland sausage mince

…from which it is extruded into a casing and made into Cumberland sausage as we know it – much longer and wider than typical sausages. I purchased a couple of kilos to take home but, if you can’t visit in person, don’t worry… they also sell online.

RB Woodall Cumberland sausage

After Waberthwaite, I drove to the heart of the Lake District National Park. There are a number of ways you can do this, the fastest being back to Broughton-in-Furness and then up the western side of Coniston Water, but instead I took the slightly slower option of travelling via Birker Fell and Wrynose Pass since I knew this would picturesque and provide me with some potential drone footage.

Wrynose Pass with Hertz

Wrynose Pass is one of the Lake District’s famous passes – a winding but beautiful road that eventually brings you out at Ambleside. From there, I journeyed a few miles north to The Forest Side in Grasmere: a hotel and restaurant that has really upped its game in recent years. Here Head Chef Kevin Tickle leads a Michelin-starred restaurant where I had heard that squirrel was on the menu. Grasmere is home to one of the UK’s best locations for red squirrels, but the reds are threatened by the invasive, non-native grey squirrels. The culling of grey squirrels goes a small way towards helping the reds survive.

If they have time, they catch the squirrels themselves but more usually nowadays, they source it from local supplier, Cartmel Valley Game. Kevin kindly showed me how their squirrel dish is prepared, stopping short of the skinning of the squirrel itself which is apparently no easy task.

Squirrel preparation

The squirrel is cooked and coated in a pan – a mixture of breadcrumbs that have been dyed black and white. The upshot of this is a speckled – and, dare I say it, squirrel-like – appearance to the dish. It’s a bit of fun and the chef had even toyed with the idea of adding a ‘tail’ to his creation before concluding that may be just a little too much.

Squirrel fresh from the kitchen

Instead, this canape is accompanied by a pine mayonnaise and garnished with a wood sorrel flower and matching leaf, as well as Herb Robert (an edible member of the geranium family).

Squirrel at Forest Side

I always enjoy trying different dishes so naturally jumped at the chance to sample squirrel which I found to be full of flavour: quite gamey and with a hint of sweetness. If you wanted to liken it to something else, it would perhaps be rabbit. The strong flavours of the squirrel went beautifully with the mayonnaise which itself packed quite a punch (it seemed almost garlicky to me but Kevin assured me that was just the flavour from the pine needles).

Plans are potentially in the pipeline to make a small donation to a red squirrel charity with each squirrel dish served at The Forest Side which would be a lovely, fitting gesture if it is able to come to fruition.

We hope you enjoy the video from day 2 of the trip:

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hertz.



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