Following last week’s “Eating Miami” piece, I thought I’d provide some insight on your catering options at Alicante Airport.
Now, I know that “Airport Food” immediately conjurs up images of revolting shrunk-wrapped teflón sandwiches and the like, but things are looking up on the gastronomic front, at Alicante Airport at least, where Michelin star chefs now hang out...
Eating at Aire Restaurant is a great experience, fantastic food from a Michelin starred Chef
New Terminal : New Food
The new airport terminal opened almost a year ago in March 2011. Before this, Alicante was one of Spain’s most profitable airports : that was because it’s 9 million passengers/year were squeezed into a pint-sized airport with only limited catering and car hire. Alicante Airport, the new terminal building, designed by Bruce Fairbanks offers an almost limitless floorspace, with more than 27km sq. in the departures area alone.
Before Security Screening
In common with most new airports, there is in fact very little to do prior to security : at Alicante, there are three eateries located in the departures hall and a snack bar located downstairs in arrivals.
Aire's cool white exterior works perfectly in the natural daylight of the new terminal.
Aire is a concept being trialled by AENA (the Spanish Airports Authority) in some of it’s newer airports. The idea was to create a focal point : a restaurant so good that it would draw people who weren’t flying into the airport. Sounds ambitious huh? – Aire (it means “air” in Spanish) brings Costa Blanca’s Celebrity Chef Quique Dacosta (2 michelin stars for his Denia restaurant) comes down the coast into the airport with a menú comprising fresh seafood and rice dishes.
The restaurant is located close to the windows of the terminal building and has a light and pleasant feel. As a starter, try a salad of atlantic tuna and heritage tomatoes (“tomates Raff”) served with raw olive oil and crunchy bread. The main course rice dishes (think “paella”) are cooked freshly to order and cleverly, their cooking time (around 8 minutes on average) is shown alongside the prices on the menú.
Particularly if you are arriving into Alicante on a daytime flight, Aire can provide a healthy tasty 3 course lunchtime menu for just €25,00 per head including water or a glass of wine. Many of the flights I use here arrive around 2pm, so before I collect my car hire at Alicante Airport, and if my fridge at home is empty, I sometimes pop along for a pit-stop before continuing,
Although frequented by some us regular travellers “in the know”, it hasn’t had a great impact in the airport, despite an excellent write-up in The Times and “El Pais” newspapers last year. Annoyingly, it also opens ONLY for lunch, with last orders being taken at 3pm. It’s probably unlikely to remain in the airport for too long, but while it’s there it’s definitely worth checking out.
It’s none of my business of course, but I’d like to see Aire doing a nice breakfast and an evening meal, it seems too much of a restaurant to only be open 3 hours a day.
No descriptions needed here. The American hamburger chain has two outlets in Alicante Airport, a small one outside security and another olympic-sized restaurant inside the departures area in the main food court área (described below).
This popular coffee shop is located immediately adjacent to security, perfect for a shot of expresso on those early morning check-ins : but remember you can’t take liquids through the security channel, so that cappo will have to be gulped down!
After Security : all you can eat.
If the choices outside the departure lounge are limited (but high-quality) there’s literally all you can eat inside the departures hall. I’ll try and cover most of the important ones, let’s hope you’re hungry!
Starbucks is located just inside the departure hall.
In prime position (who else could afford this location!) just after the “Duty Free Shop” (don’t get me started on that subject…), is the local branch of the Starbucks empire. In addition to those oh-so-complex coffee orders, they offer a range of pre-packed sándwiches and salads which are ideal for taking onboard your flight.
The place is decorated in the now universal Starbuck’s style , but for my taste the "outdoor" seating area is too exposed and it lack’s the true “coffee shop feel” I associate with this chain.
Subway / Rodilla
Sub Rolls or Rodilla wrapped sandwiches, all in one place.
Immediately behind Starbucks, is a combo unit housing Subway and Rodilla.
Rodilla may not be so well known to you. The chain started in Madrid in 1939 and is famous throughout Spain for it’s crustless soft bread sándwiches which come wrapped in white wax paper. It’s probably a Madrid thing, but they are definitely worth checking out and again, ideal for taking onboard if you’re planning to avoid those nasty “cooked in the bag sándwiches” which are becoming so popular on low-cost airlines into Alicante.
Subway of course, are best-known for their freshly made “sub” rolls where customer’s can choose their favourite fillings from a refrigerated cabinet. Amazingly, this restaurant smells exactly like every other Subway .. how do you do that?
The Sibarium store
Sibarium sells wines and Spanish charcuterie to take away, as part of it’s concept there is also a small bar área where light snacks and wine can be tasted. Sibarium is run by the airport Duty Free operator.
Ok, now we’re motoring! Scrumptious Spanish hot chocolate from the Valor Factory (located a few miles up the coast in Villajoyosa). Think “chocolate custard” for the consistency.
churros con chocolate
“How am I supposed to drink this?”, you’re thinking! Well, the traditional Spanish way is with “churros”, crispy deep-fried sweet batter sticks that you dunk in the thick hot chocolate and eat. Any remaining chocolate is spooned out of the cup. Then you lick the spoon. Really. It’s really delicious and churros are available at a moments notice all day long. A perfect mid-afternoon snack or a hearty breakfast.
The interior of Valor's store is nicely isolated from the airport outside.
This unit is nicely decorated in Valor’s dark-green colours and there is a small seating área inside the café which is a little separated from the rest of the airport and feels cosy. I’m proably biased, at home in Campello I regularly visit the local branch of Chocolates Valor, on the sea-front, for a cup of hot chocolate on a Sundaymorning after my run, before I go back to Alicante airport car hire and fly to London. Boy does that taste good after a long run!
Cañas y Tapas
Freezing cold beer and a selection of tapas
Next door to Chocolates Valor, you’ll find “Cañas y Tapas”, a traditional Spanish “cañas” bar offering ice cold beers on draught, thinly cut Jamón Serrano and many “tapas” kept on the bar top to enjoy with your tipple. The decor is typically Spanish with tiled walls and a large brass beer tap covered in condensation from the chilly beer inside.
La Pausa : good freshly cooked hot food
Since one does not live by sandwiches, or churros, alone, try “La Pausa” for good ol’fashioned hot food, freshly made. “La Pausa” (it means “the pause” … no, I don’t get it either!)
Regular dishes here include a skewer of grilled chicken, a “parillada” of grilled vegetables (yummy), individual portions of sticky paella rice, a self-service salad bar, rolls filled with Iberico ham and a good range of drinks and snacks
I’ve eaten here a few times and it’s pretty good , actually.
Farggi's ice cream
Farggi’s Catalan Ice Cream has a stall directly opposite Chocolates Valor and facing the food court área, in addition to Ice Cream, you can get Expresso coffee here as well as a range of sweet pastries including crepes and waffles coated in thick chocolate sauce..
There is a second “pop-up” Farggi’s close to gate B33, where my Monarch flight to Gatwick regularly leaves from. Lately it appears covered in a shroud, so I guess that it’s probably already fallen foul to the drop in passenger numbers.
The Food Court
One very nice feature of the new departures área is a large, well decorated food court in the centre of the restaurants. This means you can collect your favourite food offerings from the nearby restaurants and then all sit down together. As you can see from the picture above, although it's in a raised area, there is ramp access for wheelchairs and indeed pushchairs.
Mercifully, the area is regularly cleaned by oh-so-efficient Spanish cleaners so there's rarely a dirty plate in sight : something I find so frequently in Food Court formats normally.
BK for whoppers
Burger King : departures hall
If you missed out on your Whopper before security, now is your chance to continue decimating the world’s cow population. The sheer size of this Burger restaurant at Alicante Airport is a clue to it’s stellar success : this is definitely top seller to the lads and lasses returning from Benidorm on their way home. Burger King also sells draught beer in Spain by the way.
The Carling Pub
Exterior of the Carling pub : Sorry it's so blurry, nothing to do with the beer!
And of course, eating all those grilled cows can be thirsty work!
Fear not, the Carling Pub is directly opposite. What better way to refresh the parts that other bars do not reach with a freshly pulled pint or two (yes, they actually serve it in pint glasses, in Spain!!) and catch up on the latest football match back home. If all that beer makes you hungry again, The Carling has a limited food menú (baguettes, sándwiches and nachos for example)
As you can imagine, the Carling is packed to the rafters, dawn to dusk.
Time to get your skates on!
As you’re probably beginning to realise there’s not room in this article to include all the eateries in the airport. There are a couple more units down by gates B27 – B29 but since these are so damn far from the main area (you probably wouldn’t walk to them unless you had a bicyle or roller skates) you’re probably better off staying close to your gate area.
It's a long way back if you forget the sugar..
There’s little doubt that the new Alicante Airport was developed and provisioned for far more traffic than it’s current 10 million passengers a year.
Unfortunately, the Airport Director has managed to upset Ryanair (by far Alicante’s largest airline moving roughly 4 million passengers /year). Ryanair have now cut flights at Alicante by about 25% (remember, we’re talking about more than 1 million passengers), so there seems every likelihood that not all the restaurants will survive both the current recession and the substantial cut in Ryanair’s traffic.
My personal recommendations are Aire (pre-security) Chocolates Valor and La Pausa. Here’s hoping they’re not the victims of the downsizing. I hope all this has been some help in knowing what’s around the airport. I’m getting quite hungry writing this piece! Churros anyone?