Andorra le Valle

Welcome to shopping heaven, or hell depending on your point of view. Rolex and Dior outlets abound and there’s a Cuban cigar shop that looks like a small library with boxes of smokes stacked to the ceiling and accessed by ladder.

However there are walks along both sides of the valley above the town where you can escape the town and get a bit closer to nature. I walked the Passeig del Rec del Sol, on the sunny side of the valley, in about 2 hours. Once you get up there the walking is pretty easy as the path is paved and flat. At the western end however there is a short official path that allows you to walk across one of the screes. You will need strong footwear to do this though, and a big bottle of water is a good idea. It was a lovely warm Sunday when I went, although there was still snow on some of the peaks. The views were wonderful.

Good luck finding good food at a reasonable price. There are cheap places to eat but if you want the good stuff you have to pay for it, no bargains here.  The local meat is very good quality whereas the seafood has had to come a fair way. Andorran wine is very expensive due to the cost of the limited amount of land available for vineyards.

Can Manel, (Advanced Grade 10, A), 6 C/ Mestre Xavier Plana, Tel. 822 397

Bit of a trek from the hotel but worth it, as it was the best evening meal I had in Andorra. Discovered it by accident, attracted by all the Gourmet Tour stickers on the door (since ’93) as well as the fact it was buzzing with locals at Sunday lunch time. Like most of the best places in Andorra the cooking is French (despite the Catalan name) and Carles the friendly chef came out to explain the specials. (By the end of the night I was speaking a personal Esperanto of French, Italian, Spanish and Catalan, pity the waiter!) To start a big plate of Girole (Oyster?) mushrooms grilled with garlic and parsley (A), followed by perhaps the most comprehensive mixed grill I have ever had!

mixed grill
Three types of sausage (spicy, plain, blood), speck, chicken breast, quail, sirloin, lamb chop, pork chop, spare rib, and a couple of other things I couldn’t place, as well as grilled aubergine, red pepper, tomato with a few chunky chips and alioli. Phew! Couldn’t quite finish it even though I had skipped lunch. The Rioja ‘Antano’ (Cosceha /Garcia Carrion ’08) (B-) had hints of spice and forest fruits so went well with my strawberries at the end. The bill came to €55 with bread, two bottles of water and a couple of orujos, very good value for Andorra. Well placed at the western end of the Rec del Sol (see below) so a good place for lunch after a long walk, reserve first.

Versailles, (High Intermediate, B+), 1 Cap del Carrer, Tel. 821 331, Versailles@andorra.ad

A Cadogan guide recommend with lots of Gourmet Tour stickers in the window, the prices on the menu outside look a little daunting but I managed to eat well for €44 by choosing dishes from the lower end. Run by a nice old guy called Eric Marty, it’s old school French but informal with all the staff in jeans. The decor involves lots of wood, warm reds on the walls and a collection of liqueurs and spirits running the length of the room.
To start I had wild asparagus (in season) with puff pastry and a béarnaise sauce with added tomato (B) and followed this with a confit of duck leg and mushrooms in a cream sauce (A) and Tart Tatin with calvados to finish (A).

asparagus

I had a glass each of the house red and white, from the proprietor’s hometown in the south of France which was a drinkable table wine but nothing special (C). There are other restaurants nearby if you don’t fancy this one.

L’Abadia Cervesaria, (Elementary, B), Cap del Carrer 2

Very near Versailles above, this is a plain but friendly and popular pub. I just had tomato bread and patatas bravas which were fine but I wasn’t keen on the selection of Andorran salami type sausages. Very busy by 11pm on Friday.

La Boheme (High Intermediate, B), 3rd Floor, Pyrenees Shopping Centre, 11 Avinguda Meritxell

Not a particularly nice location in the food court of a department store but recommended by Cadogan so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Kept lunch cheap by going for the €17 menu del dia for which I got a salad of potatoes, green beans, mixed leaves and tinned tuna in an arty stack (B-) and bacalao with samfaina (ratatouille) which was pretty good (B+) and a slice of melon to finish.

bacalao
The price included two glasses of the nice (B) house rose (Bach from San Estreve). The decor is faux art-nouveau with lots of mirrors with the wavy wood motif and plenty of lace. Thought Pedro the waiter to be rather sullen at first but he’s just introverted and doesn’t know anything about the food and drink he’s serving. Given the name badge I think he’s usually on the fast food counter over the way. Pleasant enough food but there are better locations.

Restaurant Font Vert (Elementary, C), C/. Callaueta ( on the corner)

If you’re working near here, don’t go to this place, there are lots of other cheap lunch places nearby that are probably better. The menu del dia is €9.50 for which I got a huge pile of lettuce with a scattering of other salad veg followed by a grilled leg of chicken swimming in oil and a pile of anaemic French fries. Blurrgh!

L’Altra Grandalla (Elementary B+), C/.Joan Margall (next corner on from the above, opposite the post office)

This place is much better for lunch. I had the menu del dia for €8.35 which got me a nice salad of green leaves, tomatoes, olives and slices of cheese and ham. Nice bit of veal, ok French fries and really good alioli. Fresh fruit or pud included but drinks extra.

Sagardi (Intermediate, C), 11 Pau Casals (right out of the Husa hotel and first right again)

Finished work at 10pm and this tapas bar/grill house was the nearest decent looking place. It’s like All Bar One with big Habitat lampshades and a clientele of young professionals. The waiters, dressed in all black suits, were very efficient, if a bit poncey. I have never seen a G&T made with such attention to detail, with the lemon being carved on a trolley, at the table. The €7 green salad was pre-dressed (a pet hate of mine) and was soggy and limp by the end of the meal (C). The short ribs were very enjoyable (B) but extortionate at €18. The Rioja ‘Etxeita’ (Cosceha ’08) was only drinkable (C). They did however pass out some complementary tapas. The morcilla sausage tapa was nice (B) but the baccala was awful (C-). One to avoid.

Mama Maria (Intermediate, C?), 25 Avinguda Meritxell

Bright, modern tapas place that’s part of a chain of four around town. My night cap orujo des hierbas for €3.40 hadn’t been chilled which didn’t impress me too much. Didn’t eat but I’m sure the food will be fine given that it was fairly busy.

Buda (High Intermediate, C), Avinguda de Salou (main road coming into town so it’s a bit of a walk, located next to the communal sports stadium).

Part of a trendy nightclub/bar/restaurant complex that has received good reviews on Trip Advisor and some guides. The decor is Swiss meets Thai with lots of stone and wood punctuated by seated stone Bhuddas and wall paintings of serving nymphs. It has a modern bright feel and a not-so-ambient soundtrack that attracts lots of young people. I went on the night of San Jordi when girls give flowers and boys give books to each other, which I guess is the closest equivalent to Valentine’s day. I was lucky to get in without a reservation when it opened at 9. Again prices are high so I went for the €30 set menu. The impressive sounding Amanida de Bolets de Temporada amb Vinagreta d’Alfaberga i Fruits Vermells turned out to be a salad of mixed leaves with tomatoes, strawberries and mushrooms (C), however none of the individual ingredients were that nice and they certainly didn’t work together. The following Vedella del Pais a la Brasa was an excellent steak (A) but the accompanying samfaina and half a baked potato did nothing for me (C). To finish the Pomes Caramel Litzades amb Iogurt sounded nice as I love baked apples but the bright blue sauce around it totally put me off and I couldn’t eat it (D). The Gran Fuedo ’08 rose was the saving grace (B). The manager was pleasant but the service was very weak, it took three conversations with different waiters till I eventually got my wine, by which time they had got a bit mardy. Maybe I caught them on a bad day and they deserve another chance but I’m not sure if the combined club and restaurant thing really works. You get a complimentary cava when you arrive though.

Just up the road from Buda, on the same side of Avinguda de Salou but nearer town, is a place called Borda Estevet which gets great reviews on Trip Advisor. It looks very nice but I couldn’t justify spending the money they were asking. The money saving option would be the €40 tasting menu but you need a minimum of two people to order it.

3 Temps (Elementary, B), 32 Baixata del Moli

A lad’s pub with darts and an electronic scoreboard. I got a double brandy for €2 from the friendly but inexperienced female bar tender. They do food too (sausages, cannelloni etc) but I had just eaten at the nearby Buda and only wanted a brandy night cap.

Bodega Poblet, 6 Carrer de l’Alzinaret, (High Intermediate), Tel. 862 722

Really wanted to go to this place but it was too busy when I went at about 9pm. It serves tapas and wines.

Avinguda Meritxell is the main shopping street that runs through town. Options, next to the hotel at 87 Avinguda Meritxell has a huge selection of casual menswear, probably the best in town. Women’s clothes too on the second floor.You will find the tourist information on the bridge where it crosses over the river.

The Husa Hotel at 87-89 Avinguda Meritxell had rooms for €80-90. There is free wi-fi in the spacious rooms and an extensive breakfast buffet.

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