Mojacar’s beach bars are an institution with which I have a love hate relationship.
On the one hand, I love visiting them, eating there, having a few drinks, maybe bopping to the live music and in general having a great afternoon.
On the other, it’s a long way to get there (from Turre) when the traffic is heavy, there is always a large police presence making their greasy little fingers felt on your wallet (via the state mechanism of fines, I should add) and there is always the fear that your car will be broken into whilst you are off enjoying a brief few minutes of bliss away from work. The cops being too busy fining tourists to actually bother catching the crooks with crowbars.
Last year, the family made Neptuno’s beach bar a habitual stop. Easy to get to (turn left at the Parque Comercial, second place on the beach), with many easy access routes over the fields back to Turre and Los Gallardos, with excellent food, few riff raff and attentive service, it ticked all the boxes.
And to top it all off, the large, clean and safe beach in front of the restaurant allowed my many nieces and nephews free reign to indulge themselves making sandcastles on the high tide mark whilst indulgent parents beamed with approval from the terrace.
Assuming we spent an average of between 100€ and 200€ a visit…. let’s say we dropped a couple of grand there last year. Infrequent visits, but every one was pleasant.
So, when the clouds over Mojacar finally lifted, we restarted out visits to the beach there. I’ve been there twice this year. The clouds may have lifted from Mojacar, but not from my heart after going there.
Neptuno is a main building, enclosed with large plate glass windows, which allows for easy indoor eating when the wind is strong. On the beach.
Should the breeze be lighter, you can sit outside on the many enjoyable shady tables. Larger parties out front, smaller tables on the boardwalk around the main building. Comfy chairs, large tables, and lots of sparrows to feed while waiting for the food. Or you can watch the elderly chef cook sardines on the sand filled boat, and feel your mouth water with anticipation at the sight. It should be paradaise.
Of course, it isn’t.
The last time we went there, with a cousin from the UK, we found ourselves relegated to the beach front patio, in full blast of the wind. We complained, but were told that there were no tables in the lull of the wind. The waitress was right. Not because they were full – because they hadn’t bothered to set them up. So I had to sit there, and fill my teeth with sand from the wind every time I smiled.
The sardines were cooked on the plancha that time (no fire, we were told). The salad was indifferent. The paella was full of tomato, tasted frozen and was unappetising.
We left, feeling sad, but determined to give it another go, on the understanding that they had just opened and weren’t up to speed for the summer season.
Anyway, ’twas Maters birthday. I have made jokes about this in the past, and been threatened. I pass over the jokes. The family was there, along with two little ones. We were sited in a nice table. It was cloudy, but not cold, and not windy. The sea was calm. The fire in the boat was roaring.
For starters, we ordered a salad, chipirones and two plates of fire cooked sardines.
Now, the Neptuno, in case you didn’t know, has an old fishing boat outside where they cook the fish. It’s full of sand, and fish are speared on spikes before being roasted over the flames.
The sardines were delicious. Perfectly cooked. Five to a plate, as always, and fresh, with rock salt. The salad was also wonderful. The chipirones were frozen and deep fried. Heh ho.
For main course, we had ordered a number of fish (I forget which types), a steak and two BBQ grilled chicken breasts.
The fish turned up in a timely fashion. We watched them being cooked on the open fire. One of them was badly undercooked and was sent back. It was returned, and was reported as being lovely.
Meanwhile, the meat eaters wondered where our food was.
When the fish eaters had half finished their dishes, we asked where the meat was. The waiter looked surprised, and fled to the kitchen. We later realised, from the length of time it took for the meat to arrive, that someone had forgotten to put the order in, and they started cooking it the moment we complained.
The fish were eventually finished. The fish eaters took it slowly, but still finished before our meat turned up. This gives you an idea of how long it took.
The meat turned up. I dug my fork into the meaty chicken thigh, and a spurt of blood hit my sun glasses. The chicken was returned to the kitchen for a “repaso”.
Meanwhile, to hide my fury at the chicken episode, I took the two young ones to the sea. We had a paddle with grandma (she had finished her fish ages ago and was now on the coffee). A lovely time was had by all until grandma discovered quite a lot of broken glass scattered amongst the beach chairs. Bottles and glasses, we agreed. The children were scooped up and returned to the boardwalk.
Now, who leaves broken glass on a beach, when you’re selling deck chairs there? Words fail me. We scooped up some of the glass and gave it to a waiter with a stern word, but I doubt anything was done.
Eventually, the chicken was returned. It had been ripped apart by the chef, burnt on the outside and flipped several times in the flames. The chips and the vegetables were the same as before, only now cold and greasy. The chicken was not much edible.
Nothing wrong with the meat, I hasten to add. It was a fine chicken thigh, firm and meaty. But it was far too large to be cooked on a BBQ. It should have been done in an oven before being finished off over the flame. And by the time the amateur in the kitchen had finished with it, it was basically chicken strips burnt over a flame.
To cut a long story short (I could go on) this used to be a fine restaurant, in a wonderful location. But the maitré d has gone.
He now runs Finca La Parata, and I have yet to go (I will).
But I blame the collapse of this once fine restaurant on him.
Take away the firm hand and watchful eye, and you get what I’ve had this month – an amateurish, sloppish mess of a restaurant, where the waiters don’t talk to the kitchen, the kitchen doesn’t know what’s happening with the open fire and the staff couldn’t care less.
Previous review of Neptuno beach bar, Mojacar here.
Neptuno Beach Bar.
Playa del Descargador s/n, Mojacar Playa.
Mojácar Playa. Turn left at the Parque Commercial towards Garrucha, about 600m along on the beachside. You can’t miss it.