Valencia – Ciutat Vella – Horchata in Plaza Santa Catalina

Posted in Ciutat Vella, La Seu, Plaza Santa Catalina, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , on October 8, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza Santa Catalina is a small square in the Ciutat Vella adjoining the larger Plaza de la Reina, at the opposite end from the Cathedral. When you’re in the area you should try the famous Valencian drink Horchata.

Horchata, or Orxata in Valceniano, is made from Chufas, know in English as Tiger Nuts, which in fact aren’t nuts at all but the edible tubers of a plant. Originally from Egypt, brought to the area by the Moors in the thirteenth century. The beverage even has its own local DOC with the best stuff coming from Alboraya, a nearby village.

The tiger nuts are mixed with water and sugar to create a sweet, almondy flavour which is very pleasant and refreshing. The two most famous horchaterias in Valencia are both immediately opposite each other in Plaza Santa Catalina:

Santa Catalina Horchateria, 6 Plaza Santa Catalina

Built 200 years ago, this is the older of the two and the more beautiful with it’s lovely tiled interior. It’s a cool, peaceful place to escape the heat and bustle outside.

I had my horchata (B+) with a Farton, a kind of lightly sweetened bread specially made for soaking up the horchata, which it did very well (B).

El Siglo, 11 Plaza Santa Catalina.

A mere 175 years old and not quite as attractive as its neighbour over the way, but still nicely decorated with ceramics and Art Deco lettering.

Apparently locals consider the horchata to be better here, at least according to this blogger. My tastings were a year apart so I wouldn’t like to call it. Both were very refreshing (B+).

The blog also has an interesting post on how horchata is made and where to get it from.

Just at the end of the square is the Iglesia de Santa Catalina which has a nice tower. I think you can climb to the top for a small fee. Personally I prefer to save my money for food…Iglesia de Santa Catalina

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – Street Art

Posted in Ciutat Vella, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Click on an image to go to full screen slide show

Valencia – Extramurs – La Roqueta

Posted in Extramurs, La Roqueta, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Extramurs is ‘the poor widening’ to the west of the old train station, El Estacion del Norte Valencia, as opposed to Eixample which was ‘the rich widening’ to the east. Its subdistricts are El Botànic, La Petxina, Arrancapins and La Roqueta.

The train station itself is in La Roqueta, next to the city bullring. Built between 1906 and 1917 a stunning example of Modernism bearing many Valencian motifs such as oranges, La Albufera (the lake), barracas (traditional houses) and women wearing traditional costume. I love the mosaics in the ticket hall and waiting room inside.

There’s talk of turning it into a museum but I think it would be a shame as it’s such a nice place to arrive in the city.

Bar Los Caracoles (Elementary B) at Calle Convento Jerusalem (as you’re facing the main station it’s the third parallel street to the right)

I came to this place in 2008. It’s a neighbourhood bar with excellent tapas that are cheaper than most other places. I had a doble and a plate of tellines (tiny angel-winged clams) for 5.20. The name would imply the snails are good too.

Valencia – Eixample – Ruzafa

Posted in Eixample, Ruzafa, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Ruzafa, or Russafa, is the part of the Eixample to the east of the railway station. It’s very much an up and coming area with many new and trendy businesses locating here and in the evenings the night life is buzzing.

It has its own market, Mercat de Russafa, which while not as attractive as Mercat Central, has pretty much everything you would want. I noticed grilled pumpkin (sugared or unsugered) here for the first time.

My favourite chef in Valencia, Ricard Camarena, has two of his eateries located in the area, both just around the corner from each other.

Ricard Camarena Restaurant (Advanced A), 4 Carrer del Dr. Sumsi,

Three of us came here to celebrate my best friend Luke’s birthday by having the six dish tasting menu with wine matching (they also do nine and eleven dish menus).

I didn’t take any notes as I was too busy having fun but everything was A or A+, both visually and in terms of flavour. Below is what I think we had, but there’s a couple of photos I can’t remember. I’ll leave it to you to match the names to the pictures.

Juve & Camps Millesime Reserva Brut Cava 2010
Valencian Oyster in a “Horchata” of Galangal
Menestra of Bobby Beans (fat string beans)
Hake Cocochas (cheeks, tongues or barbels depending on who you talk to) in Coconut Milk
Marinated Sea Bass with Parsley and Tamarillo (a South American fruit)
Pie Franco Verdejo Blanco Nieva 2013
Roasted Kid in Coconut Milk
Furtiva Lagrima’ Moscatel Coshecha 2014

With a glass of champagne, two Negronis to start and three coffees, a glass of Luis Felipe Gran Reserva and two Fernando de Castilla Sol (all brandies) the bill came to €345, less than £100 each, which was great value.

And on another night I went with four friends to Camarena’s bistro just around the corner…

Canalla Bistro (Intermediate A), 5 Carrer del Mestre Josep Serrano,

We had…

Croquetas de Pollo d’Ast (roast chicken croquettes)
Patatas con Salsa de Chorizo Tomate Valenciano y Hierbabuena (spearmint)
2013 Verdejo called ‘Quinta Apolonia’ from Belondrade
Bocata al Vapor con Cerdo Pekin (steamed bun with Beijing pork)
Tempura Melosa de Verduras Ligeramente Picante (slightly spicy mixed veg tempura)
‘Les Alcusses’ 2010, a red from Celler del Roure in the Valencia D.O.

And a creamy thing I don’t recall as I didn’t take notes again. However everything was very good if more down to earth than Camarena’s restaurant around the corner. The bistro has a very cozy atmosphere due to warm lighting and lots of wood. I’d definitely go again.

Afterwards we went for a drink to Ubik Café Cafeteria Libreria a 13 Calle del Literato Azorin, which is what’s known as a ‘bookshop bar’ although we didn’t do much reading! Café Tocado, at 44 Carrer de Cadis, is also an excellent cocktail bar with a Parisian feel.

Valencia – Eixample – Gran Via

Posted in Eixample, Gran Via, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

Gran Via is the subdistrict of the Eixample that lies to the south of Gran Via del Marques de Turia. There are heaps of restaurants around here, particularly along Carrer del Comte d’Altea.

Mercatbar (High Intermediate B), 27 Carrer de Joaquin Costa,

This is the flagship tapas bar of Quique Dacosta, a famous local chef who was the talk of the town when I was there. The idea is to reinvent traditional classics in a modern style. Visually and conceptually the food is wonderful but sadly the flavours just weren’t there for me. A chef I met told me that the food is prepared in a central kitchen and then sent out to the restaurants in the chain (including Vuelva Catalina and El Poblet) where it’s heated up, which can’t be good for how it tastes when it finally reaches your plate.

The famous Souffle de Patata y Yema de Huevo, appears to be an egg ‘yolk’ in little mouth sized parcel. I now know that restaurants in Spain are not allowed to sell dishes made with fresh eggs and instead they use reconstituted powder to simulate egg dishes, which might explain how it’s possible to make this seemingly complex tapa. It was an interesting concept but not much more (B).

The Langostinos Crujientes Fritos were okay (B) but the Romescu sauce it served with was pretty horrible (D). I was intrigued by the Cubalibre de Foie Gras con Escarcha de Limon, or foie coated with a kind of coca cola jelly and lemon sorbet, It was an interesting combo that worked pretty well (B+) but there was too much of it. The potato crisps were fine (B) but the local wine left a bit to be desired (C).

To finish the Milojas Clasico de Crema Pastelera Caramelizada (millefoille) were good (B) and I loved the homemade no label muscatel (A+).
I was served by a very nice lady who if anything was a bit too attentive. The décor is modern and bright with a TV showing how their dishes are made, which makes for addictive viewing. It’s an experience so go by all means but Camarena’s places are better. Arrive early or reserve.


Casa Vela (Intermediate A), Carrer D’Isabel la Catolica,, Closed Sundays

A small but high quality tapas bar and deli, since 1908. They can seat about twenty at tables in the back. I came at lunchtime for a mixed tuna salad which I couldn’t fault (A). Big wine selection available.

Valencia – Eixample – El Pla del Remei

Posted in Eixample, El Pla del Remei, Spain, Valenciana Comunidad with tags on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

The Eixample and Extramurs are residential areas organised on a grid system which lie respectively to the south and west of the medieval old town and its winding streets. Eixample is known as ‘the rich widening’ as opposed to Extramurs which is ‘the poor widening’.

The Eixample is the area to the east of the train station, running along either side of Gran Via de los Germaines and its extension Gran Via del Marques de Turia. It has three sub-districts, Gran Via, El Pla del Remei and Ruzafa.

In El Pla del Remei, the subdistrict north of Gran Via, you can find the stunningly beautiful Mercado de Colon on Calle Jorge de Juan. It was designed by Francisco Mora Berenguer who studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture and you can see the influences of Catalan architects such as Gaudi and Montaner in the structure.

It’s no longer a fully functioning market but was restored in 2003 to house a cafe, a Camarena restaurant in the basement (now closed) and a few small businesses.

Valencia – Benimaclet

Posted in Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

One Sunday I took a walk over the river to Benimaclet to see the ‘Cases de Trencadis’ which translates badly as ‘The Tiled Houses’. Actually Trencadis refers to a type of mosaic made of broken pieces of ceramic tile. This technique was used by Catalan modernism architects, most famously by Gaudi and Jujol in Parc Guell in Barcelona.

These houses were built in the 1930s by Jose Sanmartin Zarzo, an uneducated bricklayer with no formal training in architecture, in tribute to Gaudi.

Zarzo collected leftover tiles from the building sites he worked on to create the façades. The corner building is now a fruit and veg shop but it was closed on the day I went.

You can read more about the houses and other places in Benimaclet on this website.


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