Meson El Copo is hard to find, but the cars filling all the surrounding streets are a sign that you are close. Serious eaters come here, attracted by the fresh fish and seafood for which El Copo is renowned.
The owner is Manuel Moreno Rojas, and his family has run the place for 25 years. He has 10 fishermen working exclusively for him, providing El Copo with more than 50 species of fish caught fresh each day.
Algeciras is on the Straits of Gibraltar, the point where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean converge, and the area is rich in marine life. And Manuel is only to willing to show off the tanks where the day's catch is displayed.
The menu contains all things fishy, from an exquisite monkfish paté to crispy fritters, or tortillitas, made with tiny shrimp, with a few weird and wonderful dishes thrown in: ortigas del mar, soft, brown balls covered in a crust that melt in the mouth, turn out to be sea anemones. The main courses are either grilled, fried or gently simmered; the menu states that everything is cooked as simply as possible, and then lists the names of the dozens of types of seafood available.
Manuel Moreno Rojas is quick to admit that there are other good restaurants in Algeciras: Casa Montes, down by the port at Calle Juan Morrison 27 (00 34 956 65 42 07), is certainly worth checking out. But Manuel knows that his restaurant is hard to beat; and the would-be diners who spill out of the small bar on to the pavement as they wait for their tables would seem to agree with him.
Meso El Copo, Palmones-Los Barrios, Algeciras (00 34 956 677 710) opens 1.30pm-3.30pm and from 8pm until everyone is served, every day except SundayReuse content