Oviedo – Casco Antiguo – eating at the high end

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , on October 18, 2017 by gannet39

Oviedo is the capital city of Asturias, a region famous throughout Spain for it’s food. Taking advantage of this, plus the fact that fine dining in Spain is generally much better value than at home in the UK, I visited three of the best places and had their tasting menus. You’ll find them all on this Google map along with the cheaper places in the next post.

Married (Advanced A), 19 Trascorrales, www.marriedcocina.eu

This was my favourite out of all the fine dining places I went to. The food is quite simply stunning, both in terms of flavour and presentation. It’s hard to imagine the huge hands of the big jovial chap in the kitchen making such beautifully delicate food but César Fernández Casado is an artist of the finest calibre. He has worked at some of the best restaurants in northern Spain, including El Bulli, Arzak, Mugaritz and Martín Berasategui, and it shows.

I had the tasting menu (€45) and wine pairing but was too busy enjoying myself and chatting to the friendly waitress to make notes or grade the food and drink, sorry! Suffice to say it was all wonderful. I’ll just let the photos do the talking.

The first drink was an Asturian cider, perhaps the best so far, called 1947 by Vilda de Angelón.

‘Bocarte Marinado sobre una Olivada con Matices de Ibéricos’ or a fried (?) and marinated anchovy on a tapenade with hints of Iberian ham.

Language note! Common Spanish words for anchovies include ‘anchoa’, ‘boquerón’ and ‘bocarte’. In Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria a fried anchovy is a ‘bocarte’ whereas in the whole of Spain a ‘boquerone’ is in vinegar and an ‘anchoa’ is a fillet from a tin.

‘Lámina Crujiente de Tinta de Calamar, Emulsión Tibia de su Guiso, Azafrán y Ajo Asado’ or a sheet of crispy squid ink with a warm (?) emulsion of its stew, saffron and roasted garlic.

With it, a glass of Estelado, a very pleasant Chilean sparkling Rosé.

It might not look like it but I think this was the ‘Carpaccio de Hueso de Jamón con Yogur, Cilantro, Regaliz y Remolacha’ or ham bone carpaccio with yogurt, coriander, licorice and beetroot.

To drink, another Asturian cider called Prau Monga which won the Pomme d’Or in 2014.

‘Vizcaína de Callos de Bacalao, Cremoso de su Pilpil, la Piel Crujiente y Tartar de Boletus al Ajo y Perejil’ aka cod ‘tripe’ with a vegetable ‘pulp’, cream of pilpil, crispy skin, tartar of Boletus mushrooms, garlic and parsley.

With this, a glass of 2014 Albarino called ‘Pazo das Bruxas’.

Cooking notes! ‘Vizcaína’ refers to a food (typically bacalao or chicken) prepared with a pulp of peppers, onion and, sometimes, tomato. ‘Pilpil’ is an emulsified Basque sauce served with Bacalao or prawns (usually) that’s made with olive oil, garlic and very small, hot peppers (guindillas).

‘Lomo de Cabracho Asado, Coca de Frutos del Mar y Caldo Ácido de Sus Espinas (Versión de una Sopa de Pescado)’ or baked fillet of scorpionfish with seafood Coca bread and an acidic soup made from the fish’s spines. The seafood included shelled langostines, Goose barnacles (percebes ) and a clam studded with fish roe that made it look like a piece of jewellery.

For the meat dish, a copa of 2007 Rioja called ‘Murua’.

‘Pieza de Ternera Cocida y Glaseada, Verdures Jóvenes de Temporada en Diferentes Cocciones y Texturas’, or glazed veal with seasonal young vegetables with different textures and cooking methods.

To drink with dessert a late harvest Txakoli di Bizkaia called ‘Urezti ‘ (honeyed water) from Bodegas Itsasmendi which I remember as being exceptional (A).

‘Soufflé Frío de Chocolate Blanco, Arenas de Caolín, Cítricos y Chocolate Negro’ translates as a cold soufflé of white chocolate, Kaolin sands (sic), citrus and black chocolate. My understanding is that the bushy ingredient is a local seaweed dipped in Chocolate. Que rico!

With coffee a 20-year-old brandy by Torres called Miguel Torres. It was decent, but I’ve had better.

I really enjoyed my meal here and would happily come again. It helps that they are nice people too, and that everything was good value. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in town.

Mestura (Advanced B+), first floor of Gran Hotel Espana, 2 Calle Jovellanos, www.mesturarestaurante.es

This is a modern, formal hotel restaurant but I didn’t find it at all stuffy. I got good friendly service from the waiter and sommelier and the Menu Fomento de la Cocina Asturiana was very reasonable at €39.

Rather than a wine pairing I went with the somelliers recommendation of a single bottle of a 2014 Verdejo Rueda called ‘Tramoya’ by Bodegas Don Diego. It gave me a lovely buzz (B+ flavour, nose A) and was only €12. I tracked it down for only £5 a bottle on the internet and I’m awaiting an order now.

Things began with a Horchata Amuse Bouche (B).

The following Anchovy on Focaccia was stunning (A). I need to try and make this at home!

The ‘Fried Octopus with Humus and Green Asparagus Sprouts’ that followed was also very good (B+).

I wasn’t so wowed by the ’65 degree cooked Egg, Porcini, Cheese Foam & Fresh Winter Truffle’ that followed (C+).

The Seabass in Cider was also wonderful (A).

I can’t remember what the dessert was so it can’t have made much of an impression. The photo doesn’t look great.

However, a glass of Taylor’s Late-Bottled Vintage Port is never going to be bad (B+).

The highlight was the fantastic (A-) glass of Gran Duque d’Alba XO brandy that I got with my coffee. I’d never had the XO before (I’m a big fan of the ordinary Gran Duque) and I was so impressed that I later bought a crate of six from Uvinium for about €50 a bottle.

The total bill was €53.80 which included the port and brandy for free, so good value was had. In conclusion this is a good place for food and a great place for drinks! A definite recommendation from me.

Fermin (Advanced B+), 8 Calle San Francisco, www.casafermin.com

A long standing institution (since 1924) considered by many (Guia Repsol, Frommer’s) to be the best place in town. It was very good, but I enjoyed myself more at Married above.

I had the €65 Menú Degusatción and a wine ‘maridaje’ once again.

Upon arrival I was given a freshly poured Villacubera cider which was sadly still and lifeless (C).

To begin, a quartet of starters. The ‘Melón Mojito’ was interesting (B) but the ‘Foie con Lenteja Negra Frita’, foie with fried black lentils, was tasteless (C). However I enjoyed the ‘Caramelo de Morcilla’, black pudding caramel (B+), and the ‘Croqueta Cremosa de Jamon Ibérico’ aka creamy Ibérian ham roquette, was always going to be a winner (A).

The ‘Ostra con Tocino y Caldo de Jamón’ or oyster with bacon and ham broth didn’t cut it (C).

I forgot to grade the ‘Tartar de Atún Rojo con Helado de Wasabi’ or Bluefin tuna tartar with wasabi ice cream, but I’m sure it was good.

Ditto the Gramona Cava but I know it’s good from past experience.

Also ungraded, the ‘Navaja, Alga Ramallo y Berza’ aka razor clam, Ramallo seaweed (from Galicia) and kale.

The ‘Cigala, Guisante y Tomate Asado’, or Norwegian lobster, peas and roasted tomato, was tops (A).

Then some bland Lubina (seabass) (B).

With the fish, an Albarino called ‘Terras Gauda’ which I’d had before in Gijon (B+).

‘Longaniza Ibérica, Yema y Patata Morada’ or Longaniza sausage with egg yolk and purple potato, according to the menu, although it looks like normal potato to me (B).

‘Tendón de Ternera, Bearnesa de Chocolate Blanco y su Jugo’ or veal tendon with its juices and a white chocolate Bearnaise (B+).

With the meat, a half decent Ribera del Duero called ‘Conde de San Cristobal’ (B).

‘Cochinillo Confiato, Tubérculos y Ras Al Hanut Crujiente’ confit of suckling pig, tubers and crispy Ras Al Hanut (B).

Feeling greedy I added a cheeseboard before dessert, all three of which were top notch (A+).

This necessitated a glass of Rioja Crianza called ‘Ostato’.

The ‘Sorbete de Gintonic, Sopa de Citricos y Enebro’ or a gin & tonic sorbet, with a soup of citrus juniper, was good but a bit too sweet for me (B+). It didn’t photograph well either.

‘Milhojas de Yogur y Chocolate Blanco y Helado de Frambuesa’ aka yogurt filled puff pastry with white chocolate and raspberry ice cream scored A and B+ individually but I don’t think they went so well together (B-).

Finally a PX called 1986 which was fantastic (A+) and a decent coffee (B+).

In conclusion this was a very good meal, and well worth the money, but not quite enough top marks to make it my favourite. It was a quiet night but I found the atmosphere to be a bit tame as well. I’d still go back though.

Except for maybe San Sebastian, I don’t think I’ve been to a small town with quite as many good restaurants. I heart Oviedo!

Oviedo – street sculpture in the Casco Antiguo

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2017 by gannet39

Another wonderful think about Oviedo is that the extent to which it has embraced street sculpture. There are statues everywhere in the Casco Antiguo (over one hundred in the city) and the ones in my post are just a fraction of what there is to see.

These are links to two maps (here and here) showing walking tours of the centre with an option for an audio guide via a downloadable app. And here’s my usual Google map.

My favourite is “La Maternidad” (Maternity) in Plaza de la Escandalera. It was sculpted by Fernando Botero in honour of mothers.

Botero is beloved by many, including myself, for his humourous, often political, over-sized sculptures. The only other one I’ve seen is “Woman with Mirror” in Madrid (see my Plaza de Colón post).

A short distance away, at the top of Calle Alonso de Quintanilla is what at first glance looks like more ‘Boterismo’ but is in fact a work by Eduardo Úrculo called “Culis Monumentalibus“. Any city that has a large bum on their main shopping street is alright by me!

El Diestro” (The Right-Handed) by Miguel Berrocal (1998) depicts the torso of a bullfighter with an exaggerated roundness. It’s located a stone’s throw away on Calle Palacio Valdés.

La Bailerina” (The Ballerina) by Santiago de Santiago (2011) is also close by, outside the Teatro Campoamor on Calle Diecienueve de Julio.

Another Santiago de Santiago called “Amigos“ (1993) can be seen in Plaza Juan XXIII.

Woody Allen is a big fan of Oviedo and they’ve repaid the complement by putting a statue of him on Calle Milicias Nacionales

Another nice statue is “Pescadera” (Fishwife) by Sebastian Miranda Ovetense in Plaza Trascorrales.

El Vendedor de Pescado” (The Fish Seller) by Jose Antonio Garcia Prieto is next to it.

La Lechera” (The Milklady) by Manuel García Linares is just a short distance away in Calle Adolfo Álvarez Folguer. It’s a tribute to the women who brought milk to the city.

A very popular sculpture is “El Viajero” (The Traveller) in Plaza Porlier. It’s actually called “The return of Williams B. Arrensberg” (1993), the subject being a friend of Eduardo Úrculo the sculptor.

“Las Alfareras” (The Potters) in Plaza de Daoíz y Velarde.

So that’s a small sample as I say. There are another ninety or so waiting to be found.

Oviedo – Modernista Architecture

Posted in Asturias, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by gannet39

Here’s a little Modernista architecture tour, coming from the Ayre Hotel Ramiro I where I was staying. I’ve marked them as stars on this Google map.

There are many more buildings, like Casa del Cuito, that I didn’t manage to include. There are some beauties here though!

Viviendas Marqués de Santa Cruz (1914), 11-12 Calle Marqués de Santa Cruz

Círculo Mercantil, 5 Calle Marqués de Santa Cruz

Casa Garcia Conde (Juan Miguel de la Guardia,1904), Plaza de La Escandalera

Junta General del Principado de Asturias (Nicolàs Garcìa Rivero, 1904), 13 Calle Fruela

Banco Herrero, 11 Calle Fruela (1911)

Calle Principaldo, on the corner of Calle Suarez de la Riva

Casa Simeon (Julio Galàn Carbajal, 1915), 4 Calle San Francisco

Casa del Arco Iris (Manuel del Busto, 1922), Plaza de la Constitución

Plaza de la Constitución

Basílica de San Juan El Real (Luis Bellido, 1902-09), Calle Dr. Casal

And several others I can’t remember the location of…

For older architecture please see my ‘Oviedo – walking around the Casco Antiguo’ post.

Oviedo – walking around the Casco Antiguo

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , , on October 15, 2017 by gannet39

I really like Oviedo. It has a fantastic food culture and lots of nice buildings to look at, so it’s the perfect place for me.

I’ve broken my posts down as follows:

Casco Antiguo Architecture (this post).
Modernista Architecture.
Street Sculpture.
Eating at the high end.
Cheap and mid-range dining.

You’ll find everywhere mentioned and more on this Google map.

The narrow streets of the Casco Antiguo are pedestrianised so you can wander around staring upwards, with no danger of being run over.

Notable buildings include the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) at Plaza de la Constitución.

Also in the square are a couple of nice Modernista buildings (see separate post) and the Iglesia de San Isidoro.

The Catedral de Oviedo, while not particularly a beauty, is very imposing.

The finest features to my eye were the heavily adorned archways and the doors themselves which are intricately carved with unusual characters. Click on the photos to see a full-screen slideshow.

Nearby, you’ll find these old relics on the corner of Calle Rua and Calle San Antonio.

There are a couple of bars here should you want a pit stop.

To the east of the cathedral, in Plaza Carrada del Obispo and along Calle San Vicente, there are several old quasi-governmental buildings with imposing doorways.

One of these is the Museo Arqueologico de Asturias museoarqueologicodeasturias.com. Entrance is free, and it’s very modern and plush inside but there are no explanations in English sadly. There are a few nice pieces but nothing that excited me particularly. Again, click on the photos to see them full-screen.

There are lots of little squares that are worth checking out. Plaza Daoiz y Velarde has some nice old buildings. Casa Ramón at 1 Plaza Daoiz y Velarde is a good place to eat tapas and drink cider.

Plaza de Trascorrales has some nice bars and street sculpture. Married, my favourite restaurant, is near here at 19 Plaza de Trascorrales. La Mezquita in the picture looks fun.

As usual one of my favourite places was the market (the low building on the left in the picture, Iglesia de San Isidoro is in the background). I didn’t get a chance to see it in action due to work getting in the way but on my last day I managed to catch the last stall to buy the ingredients for a Fabada, the famous Asturian stew. I also ate here at El Fontan, which overlooks the market (see my post on Mid-range and Cheap Eating).

Just opposite the market at 9 Calle Fierro is an excellent deli called Despensa de Asturias www.despensadeasturias.com It’s another good place to stock up on goodies to take home…

…or grab a snack.

Street sculpture in the Casco Antiguo next!

Gijón – Cimavilla – Eating & Drinking

Posted in Asturias, Cimavilla, Gijón, Spain with tags , on October 14, 2017 by gannet39

There are lots of great places to eat and drink in Cimavilla, these are just a couple I went to. They’re both on the map.

Auga (Advanced B+), Calle de Claudio Alvargonzález, www.restauranteauga.com

This is a high end restaurant, perhaps the best in town, located on a pier in the harbour. It used to be the fish market but the building has been given a modern makeover. It gets solid recommendations from Guida Repsol, Frommer’s and Fodor’s.

I had the tasting menu (73€) with wine matching. To save time I’ve just given marks in brackets. Some dishes have double marks to show flavour/presentation, or for wines, nose/palate. Some got past me without being marked, apologies.

To start, a glass of Manzanilla (B+).

Then an amuse bouche of anchovy and roe on a celery and turnip mousse (B/A).

After this a glass of champagne from Perrier-Jouet.

‘Manzana Caramelizada , Rey Silo y sardina Marinada’ or caramelized apple, Rey Silo cheese and marinated sardine (B+/A+).

Asparagus (B/B+).

Langoustine (A/A).

With the seafood, an excellent Albarino (A/B+) from Zarate.

‘Viera Gallega, Manzana Verde, Champinon y Placton’ or Galician scallops with green apple, mushroom and plankton (A/A+).

‘Huevo con Pies de Cerdo y Trufa’, or a slow-cooked egg, with pig trotters and truffle (A/A).

A boring Torres Riesling (B).

Can’t remember what this was sorry but I’m sure it tasted as good as it looks.

‘Carre de Cordero Asado en su Jugo con Orejones’, or lamb chops with their juices and a sauce of dried apricots (B+/B).

The ‘Celeste’ Ribera was another disappointment from Torres (B).

Chef Gonzalo Pañeda is famous for his desserts. This is ‘Sopa de Queso de Cabra con Avellanas y Miel’ or goat cheese ‘soup’ with hazelnuts and honey.

The ‘Yogur, Chocolate Blanco y Coco’ looked great but didn’t have the flavours for me (C).

Not sure what these were sorry, something chocolatey obviously.

Naturally a glass of Noe PX went well with the sweets (B+).

So overall a good experience and good value for money as I recall. It made for a nice treat on my last day in town.

On an earlier occasion I came here…

La Planeta (Intermediate B+), 4 Tránsito de las Ballenas, www.el-planeta.net

The teachers told me this down-to-earth Sideria is one of the best places to come for fish. It has a great view of the harbour, especially from the top floor.

The 2015 ‘Terras Gauda’ Albarino was pretty decent (B+). I found it for about £9 on the web.

The Sea Urchin Croquettas were a new one on me but didn’t really float my boat (B-).

The Almejas Plancha were more enjoyable (B+).

The best dish was the Lomos de Merluza garnished with fried garlic (B+), but it was a bit too oily and overcooked for my taste.

The Orujo de Manzana de Asutrias put hairs on my chest (B).

So a good spot for reasonably priced and cooked seafood. The bill came to €53.

And that was Gijón. Off to Oviedo next!

Gijón – Cimavilla – Walking Around

Posted in Asturias, Cimavilla, Gijón, Spain on October 13, 2017 by gannet39

Cimavilla (or Cimadevilla in Castellano) is Gijón’s old town which can trace it’s origin to Roman times. It corresponds to the area north of Calle Melquiades Alvarez; a small peninsula which separates San Lorenzo beach from the marina and port area.

It’s just a short distance from the Hotel Alcomar, so if you like bracing walks by the sea, this is the place to go. Map here.

First stop is the portico lined Plaza Major. There are a few nice bars on the square and on the side streets off it.

You’ll also find the Ayuntamiento de Gijón here.

Heading east you’ll come across the Iglesia de San Pedro.

It was built in 1945 in a pre-Romanesque style.

Behind the church is the yacht club, Real Club Astur de Regatas Gijón, located in a striking pre-war building with fantastic views of the bay. Shame it’s not open to the public.

Continuing along the coast to the headland you arrive at an old gun bastion which is now crowned with this brutalist sculpture by Eduardo Chillada.

Elogio del Horizonte’ (Eulogy to the Horizon) celebrates the wonderful panoramic views you get from this high point.

This lovely mid-1930s Rationalist building near the bastion caught my eye.

Fundacion Honesto Batalon was a charitable foundation set up by a rich philanthropist to provide free primary education for poor girls and this building was part of the school.

Continuing along the west side of the peninsula you soon come to the ‘Puerto Deportivo‘ (leisure harbour). There are some good bars and restaurants here too, some of which I mention in my next post, ‘Eating in Cimavilla’.

There’s an impressive sculpture on the quayside; ‘Árbol de la Sidra‘ (The Cider Tree) made of hundreds of empty cider bottles.

You’ll pass by the neo-Renaissance Casa Paquet on Calle de Claudio Alvargonzález.

In Plazuela del Marques (just to the west of Plaza Mayor where we started) you’ll find Palacio Revillagigedo, built in the Baroque style with medieval features.

The palace has a couple of nice old neighbours.

From here you could explore the narrow streets of the interior of Cimavilla.

This former fisherman’s district suffered a lot of damage in the civil war but there are still some nice old buildings to be seen.

Right, time to eat methinks!

Gijón – Centro – Architecture

Posted in Asturias, Centro, Gijón, Spain with tags on October 12, 2017 by gannet39

Gijón is a paradise for architecture buffs like me. There are heaps of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernista masterpieces dotted around.

I’ve indicated them as best I can with the yellow stars on this Google map.

My favourite building is Chalet de Ladislao Menendez in Plaza Europa.

It was designed in Modernista style by Manuel del Busto, a famous local architect.

Built in 1907 it could do with a bit of TLC.

If I had the money I’d love to buy it and do it myself.

 

Another favourite is at 43 Calle Cabrales.

It was designed in 1901 by Mariano Marin in an Art Nouveau style.

The ‘rejeria’, wrought iron work, is one of it’s finest features.

Marin was responsible for many other buildings in the town, all in a variety of styles.

Further down the same street at 43 Calle Cabrales is a nice Modernista number…

… which also houses the Tourist Information.

More beautiful iron work.

Nearby Plaza San Miguel has a few impressive piles.

As does Calle Jovellanos

Although I’m not that keen on Basílica-Santuario del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús at 6D Calle Jovellanos, although I haven’t been inside yet.

There are many other fine buildings dotted around town.

 

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