Further south of Calella de Palafrugell on the Costa Brava is the town of Blanes, perhaps best known for hosting a spectacular fireworks competition during the Santa Anna festival in late July. I’ve heard there are also some neat botanical gardens there to visit and, of course, beaches that stretch far and wide. We didn’t see too much of the town, since we rolled in quite late in the evening, looking for a more creative alternative to the dinner buffet at our hotel in Lloret de Mar. We drove slowly up along the coastline, my man looking for parking while I surveyed dining options. The spread looked bleak at first glance: a promenade spotted with plastic-tented pizza joints, chain ice cream parlors and tiki-themed beach bars. In the center of it all, a La Tagliatella, the shining beacon of fake-ass Italian food, coupled with that good ole’ no-tip-no-smile Catalan service. As we were quite hungry and it was already too late to go walking through the town or seek out that perfectly friendly, authentic and family-run hole-in-the-wall, I had resigned myself to a fettucini al whatever or a Caesar salad with a cold bottle of beer. I didn’t care too much; after all, we would be having a damn good arròs negre for lunch the next day. I was hungry and he was ravenous; we both just needed a quick fix. After stopping in a parking lot next to the port and starting to walk back towards the neon glow of restaurants, we passed a place that seemed to have something real to say. It was an eatery with character, spunk and old-timey charm.
The restaurant was a bit too close to the parking lot for us to really consider it at first, but after searching a few of Blanes’s top dining recommendations we came across the name over and over again. Can Flores. Fresh, no-fuss seafood. Been there since 1958. We swerved right around and headed back towards it, leaving pasta-pizza-pane behind us. Can Flores is a laid-back and very familiar, white light lit watering-hole. It’s likely the best place along the promenade to get a fresh filet of fish baked or grilled and served simply with a wedge of lemon and a glass of chilled Verdejo.
To share we ordered a dose of buñuelos de bacalao, airy clouds of flaked salt cod mixed with an eggy batter and fried until golden brown and crunchy outside. As the brittle shell cracks open, it reveals a fluffy soft filling spotted with flakes of fish and the bright green herbs used to season them. Aside from the obligatory tower of pan con tomate (bread rubbed with tomato, drizzled with oil), this dish is, when done right, a great snack to hold one over before the mains arrive at the table.
We ordered some langoustines done on the grill with oil, a pleasantly simple preparation of the very fresh and buxom creature. We twisted each tail off the upper body and cracked a straight fault in the underside of the shell. The brittle exoskeleton yielded forth a wonderfully juicy, firm yet smooth log of delicious marine meat. I devoured these plump lumps in two bites each, savoring the moist fibers of clean, creamy flesh. Sweet, white tail meat licked lightly with char from the grill was followed by a luxurious shot of briny, smoky head juice squeezed and sucked directly from the thorax. We devoured the tasty crustaceans in silence and kept the shrimp stink on our fingertips as welcome souvenirs of the meal.
Next came the monkfish tail, also cooked on the grill and seasoned with only some parsley, lemon and perhaps a tad too much salt. Generally not a huge fan of fish, unless it’s served raw and sashimi style or bite-sized and deep-fried whole, I wasn’t too enthused when my boyfriend suggested splitting a filet. Grilled fish rarely excites me as much as meat can. Steamed or baked, even less. It’s something about the texture of those silken flakes, slimy and smooth without the crunch, lean without the fat that makes things interesting. But monkfish is hardly that type of fish. The flesh is plump, dense and firm with a tightness that almost mimics a crunch. The texture reminds me more of shellfish, like scallop or lobster tail, with the same tight sausage casing snap when bitten into. There’s just the right amount of oil to pick up the flavors of the fish and help each bite go down easy.
We wandered out comfortably satiated, very happy with the dishes we had selected and with the restaurant at which we had, by chance, come to eat. When in Blanes, look no further than Can Flores for the perfect seafood dinner.