We made our way through lush sub-tropical trees and bushes to the clearing.
There was a large glittering pool of cooling water. “It’s the sea”, said Hassan. It certainly looked blue and clear but it couldn’t be the sea because we were half way up the limestone rock that towered green and splendid above us.
A loud raucous noise broke out to our right. Ahmed calmed us, apes he said – but we weren’t sure if they were roaming free or caged.
At that moment the governor of these parts strode past and made his way to under a giant awning.
A large pride of lions came in to view, all dressed to kill, they left us unharmed.
Ahmed waved us to a table by the glittering pool. We had come to eat and a plate of five Spanish tapas was placed before us. In the centre was a small shot glass of gazpacho with a crouton stick surrounded by a chicken thigh, a cheese tartlet and other delights.
Toby broke cover to ensure all was well before returning to his beloved lions.
A sorbet followed to cleanse the palate then a barbecue but not as we know it. No drunken sweaty men surrounding hot coals here. The plate was laid out in the style of the finest restaurants with a delicious mix of delicate vegetables surrounding a generous steak. Opposite me sat a mound of mushrooms as large and tender as meat with asparagus that melted in the mouth. All was washed down by a wine that whispered it was a well-heeled chardonnay, the tongue believed it but the price tag tempted you to order a second bottle.
As the night closed in on the rock above, the birds circled. A small boat made to the exact scale of the traditional local fishing vessels, bedecked in candles, set sail on the water and a plate of tapas desserts arrived in front of us that were to die for.
Hassan brought us coffee, a light for the table lamp and a generous smile.
Toby appeared through the bushes one last time to ensure we had enjoyed our evening and to see us safely on our way.
If you would like to share the Rock Hotel’s Al Fresco dining experience - every summer night - at its beautiful poolside restaurant click here for the link to Gibraltar’s oasis in a busy world.
(By the by the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Adrian Johns, is president of the Gibraltar Lions who that same night were entertaining their Spanish counterparts but not a roar was heard).