Based on what you read in the brochures I assume that any good Benidorm holiday comprises; sitting in the sun, gently cooking in your choice of ‘tan enhancer’; drinking alcohol at every possible opportunity; and either eating, or working out where you are next going to eat.
As the largest tourist destination in Europe, Benidorm presents a cornucopia of opportunity for the peckish or downright ravenous. Amongst others you can choose from Spanish, Indian, Chinese, Thai, American hamburgers, Greek kebabs or if you are so inclined, English pub grub.
Unlike rural Spain there is no issue about what time you eat, not scowls from waiters when you pitch up at 6:30pm and ask for a table, no strange stares from the locals when they see you stuffing your face before dusk. Benidorm is truly cosmopolitan.
The choice is mind-boggling, and mouth-watering. Tripadvisor lists a mere four hundred and three restaurants but I’d guess that there are ten times that many. This did bode well for Amanda and I. Lovers of tapas and raciones, it gave us a chance to try both old favourites and new dishes, and broaden our experiences and palets.
We had just two nights to make the most of what Benidorm nightlife had to offer. On our first night we took control, and with the rest of Amandas family in tow we headed for the world famous ‘Tapas Alley’, or as it is formally known Calle Santa Domingo just off the main walking street.
The consensus, probably with some arm twisting, had been for tapas and after delaying as long as we could (until about 9pm) we found a menu we liked the look of, essentially one that had steak and chips on the menu for my Father-in-Law, and headed inside to be sat by the window on a long table, which seated the ten of us with ease.
We ordered plenty of beer and a dozen tapas dishes to share, and of course my Father-in-Laws steak and chips. In traditional tapas style we dived in as each dish arrived. Quite a few of the dishes were new to the majority of our entourage, but very familiar to Amanda and I; pimientos de padron, chipirones, tortilla espana, croquetas con cabrales, croquetas con morcilla, all consumed with gusto and wide delight.
Then the bombshell. My Father-in-Law didn’t think his steak was cooked right.
It wasn’t unexpected. Brian has a bit of a reputation where food, especially on holiday, is concerned. For as long as I can remember, before enquiring whether the in-laws have enjoyed any of their many holidays, the first question always asked is ‘did Dad like the food’. On the majority of occasions the answer is 'no'. Two others tasted his steak and judged it ‘very nice’ but it was too late, he would eat no more and retire to his hotel room for a bag of the crisps that he’d lovingly transported from England.
The following night, Thursday, was Brian’s birthday and we decided that we’d fall on our proverbial sword and allow him full control over the choice of restaurant for his birthday treat.
Amanda and I, without any discussion, hatched identical plans. We both ordered the child-size portion of fish & chips for 4,30€ knowing that the night was young and that if we could keep plenty of stomach capacity free, then we’d be able to top up on tasty tapas later in the evening.
Brian had the jumbo fish & oven chips washed down with a couple of pints of lager and followed with apple pie & custard. He was a happy birthday boy, wearing a massive grin, and gave no mention of the need for a midnight snack of crisps and pop. Mission had been accomplished, Brian was fed and watered and content.
Our devious unspoken plan now swung into full action, with almost military precision.
Having somehow lost four of our party to the supermarket (for reasons I still don’t fully understand) we headed back to tapas alley with parents-in-law, Amanda’s younger brother Luke, and Luke’s girlfriend Lisa.
Within a few minutes we found ourselves right in the middle of the bustle, sat outside a tapas bar on upturned barrels with beers in hand and awaiting the tapas dishes that we’d carefully selected from the menu. Four of us tucked in with relish, my parents-in-law being spectators. The food was delicious, the atmosphere very Spanish, and the beer cold.
Brian said little, pondering his response to being shanghaied into another tapas bar. When he did speak it was a corker, ‘I can’t believe you are all eating that, it looks like they’ve swept it up off the floor and put it on a plate’.
After the holiday we took reports from Amanda’s siblings.
Following our departure the ‘Duke of Wellington’ had been visited on two of the three remaining nights, the other being a night in the hotel restaurant. Of the seven nights that the family were in Benidorm, four were spent at the ‘Welly’. Incredibly, on one of the nights Luke reported that a Spanish family came in ‘for an English!’.
I guess that on that Thursday night we won the battle, but lost the war.