surinenglish

The carnivore way

Southern Spain has never been a carnivores' paradise. While from Madrid northwards meat has always formed a substantial part of the diet, nearer to the Mediterranean the sparser water supply has dictated that animal protein demands are met by chicken, pigs, sheep and cattle in that order.

Indeed, a Spanish friend told me once that his grandfather had never tasted what we now refer to as beef, the closest he ever got being young beef calves slaughtered at a few months' and eaten the same day. Tough is probably a kind description.

As Andalusians got richer and more bored with the staple fare of fish and pork, the demand for quality beef has exploded. Fortunately restaurant suppliers and supermarkets have been up to the task, and in even the most modest eatery these days the steak will at least taste of beef rather than cardboard.

It seems there have never been so many specialist meat restaurants opened on the Coast as in the last 24 months, but finding them is challenging. If you ask guides like TripAdvisor about 'best meat restaurants' you will get everything from hamburger joints to Turkish kebab houses.

Word of mouth still seems to be the best guide in every sense of the phrase. If there have to be categories, then the obvious chapter headings must be Asador and Steak House.

The asador

The asador was originally the Basque name for a restaurant where the meat is cooked in full view on a red-hot grill. Apart from a supervising chef, the guys who do the hard work usually have their own bottle-green-aproned uniform. On the other hand, in a steak house everything happens in the kitchen and all you see is what turns up on your plate.

Full marks therefore for the new Erre Grill at Marbella's Melia Don Pepe Hotel. Taking over from where the T-Bone Grill left off, Iñigo Urrechu is the Basque chef, and, with his correctly-attired assistants, offers a huge choice of variously aged meat cuts from Friesian to Wagyu, cooked over oak wood; orange wood is used for grilling the vegetables.

There is also an excellent fish choice, and this also gets its own combustion - olive wood.