"We were counting the days until we could eat at La Cónsula again"

The dining room at La Cónsula with the first few diners.
The dining room at La Cónsula with the first few diners. / SALVADOR SALAS
  • The restaurants of the prestigious La Cónsula catering school in Malaga and La Fonda in Benalmádena have reopened to the public

After nearly three years closed to the public, there was impatience for La Cónsula to reopen its restaurant. Miguel Delgado and Mari Carmen García were among those affected by the closure of the catering school in Churriana, near Malaga; they had planned to celebrate their wedding on December 4, 2015 and had booked the whole premises for the event. Just a week before the wedding they were notified that it would be impossible to hold the event there because the teachers were on strike, protesting because they had not been paid for months. However Miguel and Mari Carmen held no grudge; as soon as they saw in the press that La Cónsula was reopening, they made reservations.

“We are in love with La Cónsula,” Miguel acknowledged. His was the second table to be occupied on the day the restaurant opened for the public. Before them were Hélene Arnoux and Michelle Bolliriviere, two French friends who have lived in Alhaurín de la Torre for 15 years and who used to have lunch together once a month in this restaurant. “We were sad to hear about the situation, we saw the news about the problems and we could not believe that this could happen to a restaurant of this category,” commented Hélene.

More than forty people went to La Cónsula on the reopening and tried the tasting menu which consisted of octopus carpaccio with seasoned spider crab and pine nut vinaigrette; baked hake with white asparagus sauce and Iberian pork shoulder marinated with fines herbes. The wines were a white Rueda Verdejo and a red Ribera del Duero Tempranillo. The dessert, a lemon mouse with basil, was paired with a muscatel wine from Malaga and Pedro Ximénez.

La Fonda

In La Fonda, a few kilometres away in Benalmádena Pueblo, the same thing was happening. Here they served Andalusian gazpacho with olive oil ice cream and lime foam, turbot supreme over sweet tomato with saffron and Iberian grilled pork steak with wrinkled potatoes and coriander. The dessert was profiteroles with three chocolate sauce.

After the meal, both students and teachers were satisfied that everything went according to plan and they received numerous compliments from the diners.

In both schools, the menu, which changes every week, costs 20 euros, and does not have VAT. They quickly get booked up, with reservations coming in by email or by phone.

Isabel García, one of the teachers, says she answers many calls and has to tell the callers that there is no availability. “In October we will be reopening,” she says.

It seems that normality has permanently returned to La Cónsula and La Fonda, confirmed by the Junta de Andalucía's local delegate for Employ, Mariano Ruiz, who occupied one of the tables on the opening day. “We are entering a period of total normality, of theoretical and practical education and of service to the public as a complement to the quality training that is being given in the catering schools in the province,” he said. Ruiz Araújo highlighted that the schools in Malaga have been the first to open to the public in this new period. Until now the Junta has been arranging approval to reopen the restaurants in these schools which it now runs.

In a separate area were three reserved tables. Second-year students Alejandro Pérez, José María Fernández and Mai Aguado were nervously awaiting their guests.

“It is not the same serving colleagues as serving real clients, we want them to see everything they have taught us here and what we have learned,” said Alejandro. The first to sit in the reserved area were friends from Malaga and Madrid, also regulars of La Cónsula. “We live in Madrid, but we often come to Torremolinos. And whenever we return we ask about La Cónsula,” said Julio Merino, accompanied by his wife, Mariví Echevarría. “We used to come frequently, and we have very good memories,” they said. The other couple, Manuel Fernández and Carmen González, invited the American musician Martha High, singer for the great James Brown for three decades, to join them for lunch so that she could get to know the La Cónsula restaurant and the area loved by Hemmingway.

Hard work

The nerves were evident in the kitchen. Miguel Núñez and his students prepared the starter, a dish that was offered on previous menus and that had always received a good review, the octopus carpaccio.

“They have worked hard, preparing menus daily; now it's different, with the added pressure of customers,” he acknowledged. New orders were announced over the loudspeaker, and Laida Lara and her colleagues from Group B were preparing to give the last touches to the hake with the teacher, Alejandro Zamora placing the foam around the fillet while Laida garnished the dish.

It is precisely this dish that Hélene and Michelle liked the most and they were the first to finish.

“It was all very good, very well presented and the sauce was spectacular! We will definitely be coming back,” promised Hélene.