We met up at El Sur at the Westin Mina Seyahi for a Spanish brunch. El Sur, meaning “The South” is beautifully overlooking the garden and the ocean and you really get that southern vibe that we northern people love. With a backdrop of palmtrees and blue ocean you get a tapas brunch which is a set menu of selected small dishes, a chioce of seefood or chicken paella and dessert.
Have you ever heard of TAPAS? Who hasn’t right? Nobody ever thinks of Spanish food without tapas, but what are they really?
Traditionally they are small dishes served hot or cold and made to eat with your hands while you sip on a glass of wine. It can be as easy as a piece of bread smeared with tomatoes, a bunch of olives, fried potatoes, a slice of cheese or slices of spanish cured ham or small fried peppers.
At El Sur you get it all served up on a board and in small dishes for you to sample and share. The most important thing about tapas is to eat a bunch of different dishes, socialise and drink your wine. I think the concept includes a lot of talk too because in the mediterranean countries you just don’t eat in silence. If you want your dinner party to be lively and fun and full of conversation the best way to do it is to put a big plate of small dishes, cold cuts and finger food in front of the guests and you are done. The concept is easy and practised all over the world, but the mediterranean people have made an artform out of it, tapas, meze and anti pasti beeing the famous ones.
Papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) are originally from the Canary Islands. They are basically small or medium sized potatoes boiled in very salty water and left to boil until the skin is all wrinkly and salty. They are said to be boiled in seawater originally because both fresh water and salt were scarce, so if you can imagine how salty seawater is then you know how salty your boiling water should be. They are served with a red sauce called mojo rojo and a green sauce called mojo verde. The red sauce is made from red peppers and the green is made from green peppers. The best way to eat them is to dip (dunk) your potatoe in the sauce and take big bites and enjoy. Or you can serve the potates and sauce with meat (mojo rojo) or fish (mojo verde). I think that this must be the origin of chips and dip for sure. Salty potatoes and something to dip it in!
One of the tapas you will always find in Spain is Croquetas, that is a ball of dough with ham or cheese that is deep fried. It’s origin is actually in France, but the Spanish have really taken it over. It is a savory simple little treat and everyone loves it. Almost like a tater tot. They should be small, savory and really crispy, but at El Sur they were huge balls and surprisingly sweet. It was so sweet that it didn’t fit in with the rest, but if you like sweet fritters then you’re good of course.
At El Sur you get a choice of paella with chicken or seafood. Paella is simply described as rice cooked with vegetables, meat and saffron. The word paella is thought to come from the word used for ”pan”, that is the pan that it is cooked in. Paella can be cooked with chicken, seafood or a mix of it. It was the arabic Moors that introduced rice to Spain and the custom of eating rice as a family meal with vegetables and/or meat. But then the Spanish developed that into the paella many centruries later by adding saffron, rabbit, duck, snails and all kinds of seafood. Just as any Arabic or Iranian person knows, the best bit of rice is always the burnt crispy bit at the bottom. A really good paella should have a nice crispy crust of rice with saffron on the bottom of the pan, which means the paella has been properly cooked in the pan that it is served in. At El Sur they kind of forgot that, there was no crust at the bottom I am sad to say.
If you want to experience a bit of Spain you can go to El Sur and try their dishes. The setting on the terrace is excellent for that medditerrainean vibe and the sangria is cold and easy to sip on hot days. Sangria is also a genious invention from Spain by the way. If you take wine that is not good to drink as it is, mix it with fruit, sugar, orange juice, water and ice, you will get a really nice summer drink. A drink that goes well with your tapas or just on it’s own and gives you the key to open the conversation.
I had a great time at El Sur. It was ofcourse due to the great company, the sunshine and the location but I have had better paella in Dubai. I still recommend that you go there because of the gorgeous view, Croquetas, wrinkly potatoes and free flowing sangria!