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Photo by Tara Stevens
Hostal Sa TunaBay of Sa Tuna at Dusk
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Photo by Tara Stevens
Hostal Sa TunaChar-grilled Squid at the Hostal Sa Tuna
I’ll start with an apology for going off-piste somewhat by writing about a place that, with the best will in the world, is unlikely to cost you less than €25 unless you’re extremely disciplined. I’m not unfortunately, but I’m pushing it through because it’s a chance to show you somewhere truly special for summer.
The Hostal Sa Tuna (€130 a double, a night, min 4 night stay in high season) opened in 1944, back in the day when the Costa Brava was still peopled by Hollywood starlets and young artists like Picasso, Man Ray and Dalì. It still exudes a certain aura: small put perfectly formed with the kind of décor you might expect to find in Maine: sisal matting on the floor, white and blue paintwork, a large balcony looking out to sea.
The beach is rammed like a can of sardines, but the grot of developments like Lloret del Mar further down the coast has been avoided, and for the most part the little shingle bay is lined by pretty fisherman’s houses turned upmarket holiday homes and the water is as clear as a glass of gin. The scent of umbrella pines still perfume the air despite major forest fires at the start of the season. No doubt about it, Sa Tuna’s got class. It’s also got fantastic fish and seafood.
If some of the mains seem a bit overblown for the place, like monkfish gratin with honey alioli, or a pea stew with blood sausage and cod tripe, the fish of the day simply grilled, or baked Costa Brava style on a bed of potatoes, onions and tomatoes are done to perfection. On our first visit we had boat-fresh sole and pearly John Dory, both grilled and pleasingly unembellished, and served with a choice of chips or steamed vegetables. I had the vegetables, but probably wouldn’t again. The chips looked better.
Thus inspired, our second visit called for a full blow-out on “pica-pica” dishes. Mostly it's fish and seafood with a token plate of jamón Iberico tagged on at the end. Portions are easily enough to satisfy two. We have a pile of Galician clams a la plancha, barely cooked through and bursting with brine and minerals; sweet fleshed langostinos en tempura are hot, crisp and crunchy and come in a paper cone; chubby scallops seared on a hellish hot grill reveal rich, buttery meat; and squid are char-grilled just long enough to turn the flesh pink, while the tentacles emerge blackened and delicious.
A tomato salad with Figueres onions is so good I have it again for lunch the next day, along with cold, steamed mussels topped with a dollop of romesco sauce. There’s nothing dainty about it, more the kind of salad a fisherman might chop out on a boat before forgetting about them in a basic dressing of oil and vinegar for a couple of hours. In so doing he mellows the sting from the onion and reveals a distinctive fennel taste. A sprig of freshly chopped tarragon from the tubs overflowing with fresh herbs around the dining room, finishes it off.
Even desserts here have the hallmark of an operation that really cares. There are homemade sorbets, drunken plum cake stuffed with calvados and almonds, and a coconut soup with pineapple cannelloni. But what does it for me is the violet ice-cream scattered with deep-purple crystallised petals that somehow transports me to another era.
So what’s it gonna cost you? Well, if you really go for it with vast platters of fish and seafood and a bottle of wine, don’t expect much change from €100 for two. With careful ordering you could do it on considerably less, but when a place is this special, why would you want to?
My question is: how many more Hostal Sa Tuna’s are there out there?