19 years ago, Hatim Khaled began his career in the restaurant business working at Restaurante Masena in Javea. For the last 12 years, he’s been working at Restaurante Vall de Cavall, Gata de Gorgos, but he’s never seen an Easter like 2020, when the whole of Spain was in lock-down. There were none of the parades we normally associate with Easter in Spain – and ironically, none of the rain that usually ruins at least one day of Semana Santa! (Holy Week)
For Hatim and the restaurant staff, it’s been difficult to close the doors, especially for Vall de Cavall’s regular customers – some of whom come to enjoy the excellent value €25 Menu del Dia several times a week. In fact, one of the regulars doesn’t even have a kitchen in his home, so he’s probably even more keen for the restaurant to open again than the staff are!
When Hatim’s been out to source ingredients to trial new dishes for the menu when the lock-down is over, he sometimes sees one or two regulars. We asked how they are coping with feeding themselves, and the answer, it seems, is that many are not! As Hatim told us:
Some of our customers are telling me they are fed up of scrambled eggs, salads and spaghetti, because that’s the limit of their culinary skills!
However, it’s not just the fabulous food that brings so many people back to Vall de Cavall time after time. The setting, inland from the coast in the beautiful Marina Alta region of the Costa Blanca, is stunning. Vall de Cavall means ‘Valley of the Horses,’ and there is an equestrian centre and livery yard, as well as a hotel, on the site, which nestles in the shade of the famous Montgo Mountain.
The equestrian centre is the brainchild of Peter Batijns, a well-know Belgian Endurance Riding champion, and his wife, Ines, who keeps all aspects of the business running smoothly. Their daughter Evelien is due to get married at Vall de Cavall in September, so the whole enterprise is a real family affair, in all senses of the word. Look out for more on the equestrian side in another feature. Ines told Spain Life Exclusive the family felt very fortunate:
We have a fantastic team of chefs, waiters and other staff, all doing their jobs at Vall de Cavall with great enthusiasm and experise.
Vall de Cavall is close to several of the Northern Costa Blanca’s towns and resorts, such as Benissa, Teulada, Denia and Javia. That said, it’s not easy to find, so if you’re booked in for an evening meal, check out the route in daylight first, as the business is not allowed to have a signpost on the road. There is, however, a strategically placed van near the turning for Vall de Cavall, and a quick call or message to the staff for directions is probably a good idea.
Once you do find your way to this little piece of paradise, you can be sure the journey will be well worth the trouble. For Hatim, managing the restaurant aspect of Vall de Cavall isn’t merely a job, it’s his passion. As well as working on new dishes for the menu, he’s also been making YouTube videos to help his hungry clients to feed themselves. His passion for fine food is palpable – and it may even persuade some of his regulars to step out of their comfort zone and try an alternative to scrambled eggs, salads and spaghetti!
It’s clear that the team are keen to get back to feeding their regulars, and everyone is cautiously optimistic that things can soon start up again. That said, there are some logistical concerns.
There is no way of knowing how people will behave when this is all over. Some may still be scared of infection, and it’s possible the restaurant will not open at full capacity straight away. There may still be a need for some form of social distancing, and this is new territory for everyone. Until Spain is safe again, we’re showing some images of Vall de Cavall’s new creations to whet your appetite! In the meantime, stay safe and well at home everyone.
Carretera N 332- partida Benisaina 3 -Gata de Gorgos
Telephone: (0034) 965 058 475