Scallops in Vigo
I like Vigo a lot and would totally recommend it for a visit. The hilly urban landscape reminds me of my hometown, Sheffield, but the difference is that at the bottom of the slope there is a huge port on a wide river estuary, and consequently lots of good seafood. In fact it’s the biggest fishing port in Spain and incredibly, given its size, the second largest market for fish in the world after Tokyo. The Spanish consider Galician seafood to be the best and a lot of the good stuff is put on the overnight train to Madrid and other inland cities.
Whichever way you approach Vigo one of the first things you will notice are the lines of square rafts floating in the estuary. These are mussel platforms, called Bateas, where the mussels grow on strings suspended below the raft. The symbol of the city, and the whole of Galicia, is the scallop which features everywhere, from manhole covers to dinner plates.
The weather in this Atlantic coastal town is quite English with cloudy skies most of the time but luckily no rain at all during the four days I was there. In fact I timed it quite well and arrived on a sunny weekend when the temperature was only three degrees off the local record.
Making the most of our Sunday off, two of us decided to catch the catamaran ferry to the Islas de Cies.
These small islands are a nature reserve but there are several public beaches and a camping site if you want to stay a while.
The largest beach has been named as one of the top ten in the world which obviously you should take with a pinch of salt but it is certainly is a beautiful spot.
If sun worship is not your thing there are walks all over the island with some great views. Perhaps get your ticket the day before if it’s going to be a nice day as the 10.15 sailing was sold out when we went. There are a couple of companies who run ferries. our thirty-minute crossing cost us €16
Back in town, there is a long parade of bars and restaurants along the seafront on Montero Rios St. None of them are gourmet places but the key thing is you can sit outside and catch a cool breeze while watching the world go by.
The ‘old town’ on Teofilo Llorente with its recently modernised oyster bars with picture menus, is on a parallel street to the seafront. It all looked a bit cheap and nasty and there wasn’t any breeze so we gave it a miss. However there will always be something open down here on a Sunday in both these areas when the rest of town is closed.
La Comidilla, (Intermediate B+), 5 Rua Palma, Tel. 986 431143
This was my favourite eatery in Vigo due to the multi-cultural atmosphere , brightly coloured decor and very friendly service. The food is international with lots of world cuisine but they serve local dishes too and it’s all pretty good.
To start myself and my friend Bernard shared a starter of small local scallops which were very good (B+).
To follow the Albondigas with plain rice which looked bland but was just what I wanted (B+).
The dessert of local crepe with sugar and lemon was ok but nothing special (C).
The star (A) however was the Señorio de los Rubios Condado 2010 white wine, from bodegas Coto Redondo, a blend of four grapes (Treixdouro, Albarino, Godello and Loureiro), from the Rias Baixas DO (sadly sold out on the net, next year!).
I wouldn’t recommend the clear aguardente though which although complementary would have been better employed as paint stripper (D).
So, a reasonable place to come for warm service, a bright friendly atmosphere great wine and good food.
Acuario, (Intermediate B), 23 Rua Cervantes, Tel. 986 223015
A strange old-school little spot just around the corner from the hotel. It seems to be a one-man operation with the waiter doubling up as the cook. Dishes are either served cold or reheated in a microwave. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but the food is actually pretty ok tasting and very cheap. I had Mejillones (al Vapor) which were plump and juicy but served cold (C+).
These were followed by Vieiras, a grilled scallop served Galician style in a sauce of onions, garlic, onion, parsley and fine breadcrumbs.
Still feeling hungry I went for the Ternera Estofado, veal stew with chips on the side, which was excellent (A).
The house Albarino was also good. Total cost only €25.
El Mosquito (Advanced B-), 4 Praza de Pedra, Tel. 986 433570. Tel. 986 433570/224441, http://www.elmomosquitovigo.com
An old school place described by the Cadogan guide as “the people’s choice” but in reality the preserve of the besuited classes. It is indeed “classic” in that it serves good quality ingredients in a traditional way, but I found the food to be bland and nondescript. First off: Mejillones (al Vapor), twenty steamed local mussels, served naked but for a slice of lemon, for the princely sum of €13 (B-). A lot given the short distance they had to travel from the waterfront, but presumably you’re paying for the chef to go to the fish market at 5 a.m. to get the good stuff.
Next I ordered Calamares, dreaming perhaps of a lightly grilled squid drizzled in olive oil in the Italian style, but sadly I received the usual deep fried rubbery rings in batter that you can get in any bar, albeit better quality and for €12. There was a lot of them which, without the help of a fellow diner, started to make me feel slightly nauseous half way through.
Finally, a slice of Tarta de Almandreas (spelling?), which was the usual uninspiring dry slab of cake I’m used to in Spain (B-), but almond flavoured this time. To go with this, two chupitos of good quality (B+) Orujo des Hierbas, which in more customer-friendly places would have been free, but I was charged €3 each. The only saving grace was the preceding ‘Valtea’ Albarino, perhaps one of the best I have ever had (A).
The septuagenarian service was kind but a bit slow to give me any attention and I had to get the menu myself after a long wait while they chatted with other customers. I judge the attitude of a place a lot by the way they take your money and the teller (owner?) didn’t even look me in the eye while he parted €51 from me. I wouldn’t go again and I’d recommend you don’t either, unless there’s more of one of you and you both like bland seafood. Apparently the lamb is good though.
Hotel Zenit Vigo, 1 Gran Via, Tel. 986 417 255
This is a great hotel, located near the train station and just ten minutes walk from the waterfront. The rooms (€75 for a double) are modern and spacious and have free Wi-Fi, but no English channels on the TV. The breakfast is comprehensive and served to a subdued soundtrack of ambient Drum & Bass. The water out of the tap smells and tastes pretty horrible but I guess that’s not their fault. Lovely staff here as in their other branch in A Coruna. Overall it gets a like.
Get a room on one of the top floors facing the street for some stunning views of the estuary and surrounding hills, or get the key from reception and go to the top floor terrace for the same.