It’s every critics dream to stumble across a diamond in the rough of the culinary world. We all try and locate the next big sensation or discover a superstar chef in the making, probably to enjoy the selfish euphoria of the words ‘I told you so”. Yet from time to time it’s possible to just stumble upon a venue with no real expectations, only to be bowled over by the no frills attitude with taste sensations.
This is the case with Alibi, a small Italian restaurant located on the beach strip of Mojacar in Almeria, Spain. A few years ago I had been to this restaurant, but then it was an Irish boozer called Shenanigans serving ice-cold pintas and showing English football. The inside décor has changed from the days of sporting memorabilia on the walls to the owner’s very own artwork. The layout is now that of a pleasant Mediterranean restaurant than an ex-pat pub. So what about the food?
Having spent a full day up a ladder painting with my co-worker, Mud, we deserved a meal out as a reward. A couple of swift mojitos at our favourite bar, Don Mojito, fuelled our hunger to find a decent meal at a restaurant not owned by an ex-pat. Mud took the lead and as we walked down the beachfront we came across some bars we had visited in previous years, but there was a new restaurant, Alibi, which Mud chose as our destination.
It was near to closing time, with nobody else in the restaurant apart from the owner smiling and talking to us in a broken mix of Spanish, English and French, whilst the chef watched Italian rugby on the television. I felt a bit guilty for interrupting his viewing, but he didn’t mind whatsoever, I guess there’s just a cultural difference in the way Europeans look at each other and the body language they adopt, but I was quite sure he wanted me to sleep with the fishes. My mistake, he was more than happy to cook for us.
Mud and I both knew that pasta was on the cards, you can’t go to an Italian without having some sort of pasta, so the hardest choice was going to be the starter. Salvation arrived in a recommendation by the owner to share a plate of veal carpaccio. I’d only eaten carpaccio a few times before, the last time being at a certain Channel 4 tv chef’s restaurant in Canary Wharf – an occasion that left me completely unmoved by a bland, tasteless dish. Alibi, however, knocked the lisping Englishman for six with their version of the dish, the meat melting in your mouth and a citrus dressing that sparked the flavours and left your mouth feeling fresh.
As we drank our house bottle of red wine, which was fantastic, myself being a white wine over red wine man, we talked about what a great find this restaurant had been. Before our first glass was finished our main courses arrived, the pasta having been freshly made on the day and our meals cooked from scratch. Mud had penne with bacon, onions, vodka and cream; I opted for the pumpkin and ham ravioli. Again, and do not think that the mojitos or 26 degree November weather had anything to do with this judgement, this was the best pasta I had eaten in a restaurant. Served al dente, and I mean absolutely precise al dente, the ravioli had bite but didn’t stick to your teeth. I reluctantly agreed to swap a piece with Mud, although that left me wanting to order another portion of his dish too. Had it not been for ruining the rugby match, I might well have done.
I don’t have a bad thing to say about Alibi. The owners are friendly, the food is excellent, the décor is no frills without being canteen-like. I will be returning next year, hoping the business survives the hard times in Spain. Ignore what you might read on other sites, as I have come across a bad review on tripadvisor. You can’t trust a site where competition can post whatever they want about other restaurants. If you’re in the region, treat yourself and call in for a meal that costs next to nothing.