Our second day on Amelia Island was spent relaxing at the hotel and being pampered in the spa. Following cocktails in the lobby, we decided to visit downtown Fernandina Beach for dinner. While driving around searching for an open parking spot we passed España. The restaurant is located at 22 S. 4th Street and was on our informal list of places we wanted to dine. We circled the one way streets leading from Centre Street until a spot opened. The walk to the restaurant was a short one, and I was excited to see what was inside the bright orange and yellow ivy covered restaurant.
We arrived outside España a few minutes before 5 p.m. and waited for the restaurant to open its door. We had read getting a table during the weekend can be difficult, but hoped the early dining time would make it workable.
Our fears about not finding an open table on a busy Saturday evening were well founded. The hostess told us they did not have any seating available inside for the entire night. There were several tables, however, available on the patio until 7 p.m. and we asked to be seated outside. We were led to a shaded table in an area lined with brick pavers, a small water fountain, and a pergola. It was a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.
Two menus were handed to us and our waiter immediately appeared. Our water glasses were filled and Becky ordered a glass of wine while I opted for a cold beer. We also ordered two chilled tapas selections, entremes (Spanish antipasto), and acetunas (marinated olives.) For our entree we selected the seafood and chicken paella.
The chilled tapas were quickly brought to our table and we enjoyed them with our drinks. The entremes included a selection of cured meats, cheese, and mixed olives. The Jamón serrano (cured ham) was the star of the plate, but I wished more than three thin slices of cheese had been included for the $11.95 price. The acetunas were marinated in olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. One can never have enough olives, and they were the perfect accompaniment to the pitcher of sangria we ordered after the glass of wine and beer.
The plates were cleared and the chicken and seafood paella arrived. Clams, mussels, shrimp, plump pieces of chicken, and white beans were mixed with rice cooked in a flavorful broth. Chopped cilantro and a lemon wedge completed the dish. The seafood was fresh and the rice was tender, and the dish was perfectly seasoned. We each enjoyed it and by the time we departed every last grain of rice had been scrapped from the cast iron dish. We also drained the pitcher of sangria.
Our meal at España was delicious. Service throughout the meal was attentive and friendly, and the restaurant was well kept. España is open seven days a week from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended during weekends and peak tourist season. For more information visit espanadowntown.com or call the restaurant directly at (904)261-7700.
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