Down in the Docks in Vigo
This is my second post on Vigo. For info on the Hotel Zenit and trips to Las Islas de Cies see the first post.
This is the Atlantic coast so don’t expect it to be as warm as other parts of Spain. I came from 41C in Andalucia to 14C in Vigo in June when it rained for most of the three days I was there. The hottest month is August when the average temperature is around 20C.
I was a little disappointed the first time I looked for seafood in Vigo. The old town (casco velho) has lots of places that could potentially be quite good but they are inevitably very touristy and expensive. By all means go and run the gauntlet of restaurant touts in the modernised fish market at C/de la Pescaderia, but it will never be an authentic experience.
You can get very cheap oysters here (€1 each) from the old ladies who stand at the stalls along the passageway. You can eat them standing at the counter or sitting down at one of the marisquerias that line the alley and have them with a glass of Albariño and other bits and pieces.
It must be a tough job standing all day selling oysters, probably enough for someone to lose their marbles. The old dear I bought mine off totally forgot I’d paid her and kept asking for her money while giving me a hard glare so it was a bit difficult to enjoy them. However my colleague Camino, who comments below, thinks she was trying to play me for more money!
I had a dessert of Queso de Pais (Tetilla)with Membrillo at Restaurante Bogavante and was given pleasant service.
They gave me a glass of Bandeira port with this which gave substance to the accusation by other Galicians that Vigo is more Portuguese than Galician (they are right on the border with Portugal).
I wasn’t too keen on trying anything else seafoody in the fish market as the prices are high and the quality indeterminate. For a proper Galician seafood experience you need to go here:
Nisio (Elementary A+), 42 Santa Tecla, Tel. 986 373 106. Sorry, forgot my camera.
This place is the real deal. A former workers bar in the port area that has garnered a reputation with the locals (thanks Monica) for some of the best mariscos in town. You need a taxi to get here (only €5 from the Zenit Hotel) as you’ll never find it otherwise (cultural generalisation: Spanish people aren’t great at giving directions, they’d rather guess than tell you they don’t know!). The taxi ride takes you in the opposite direction from the old town and circumnavigates several dodgy backstreets, daubed in graffiti and lined with shipping containers, before you arrive at a non-descript red shop front.
Inside there is a simple bar space with unadorned walls except for a couple of pictures of Vigo FC. If it’s warm enough you can sit outside in the backyard amidst the flowers under a beautiful trellis. They also have a back room for posher dining but the bar with the football on the telly was fine for me.
Also, don’t consider coming here unless you have a bit of Spanish seafood vocab as there is no written menu and no English is spoken, except by a very lovely but rather embarrassed lady they pulled out of the kitchen to talk to me. I know my mariscos so this wasn’t too much of a problem and they are really nice here so it was easy to build some rapport. I’m quite glad I forgot my camera though as this would probably have freaked them out a bit, although later they told me they were happy for me to advertise them, albeit with the language proviso above. I arrived at 8.30 and had the place virtually to myself until it suddenly filled up with dockers at 10pm.
I kicked off with a plate of tiny prawns Camarao (?) which were great (A). I made the mistake of asking for some Aioli to go with them and was told in a friendly way that they did not do that kind of thing here (although other Galician places will). I suppose it’s kind of like putting ketchup on your chips; it adds flavour but sometimes when the simple ingredients are this good, you should just taste them for what they are.
This was followed by grilled Navijas (razor clams) (A) and Almejas a la Marinera, a sauce I’d never appreciated before until I came here (A+) After this, Pulpo, I’m guessing in the Al Feira style (with paprika), which was some of the best I’ve ever tasted (A+) although the waxy boiled potatoes it came with were just ok (B). I desperately needed a fag break after this unrelenting assault of pure goodness but the message didn’t get through to the kitchen and I had to temporarily send the final Lenguado (sole), also with boiled spuds, back to the kitchen to keep warm and it suffered as result (B).
The drink to go with this feast could only be the local Albariño white, which comes served in chilled earthenware jugs, (B+).
This was one of the best seafood experiences I’ve ever had. Although I desperately wanted to do the full works it would take a couple of visits to try everything. Stupidly I turned down the Percebes, which can be hit or miss in my experience. However, thanks to my friendly neighbour on the next table (thanks Jose) I was treated to a couple of the best I’d ever had (A+); full flavoured and still warm from the kitchen.
By this time I’d befriended everyone in the bar and what I had for dessert was a bit hazy. I do remember having a few chupitos of homemade Orujo des Hierbas which of course was excellent (A+). After this I piled into a Jose’s car and went into town for more drinks, so my memory is a little misty after this point…
This is a great place, you really should go if you don’t mind rough back street joints and your Spanish is up to it. Also, don’t tell Trip Advisor whatever you do. It’s currently ranked the 57th best restaurant in Vigo and long may it stay that way.
The next day I was in need of a change from seafood so I went on the hunt for meat, no mean feat in seafood central. Galicia is known for its veal but Vigo probably isn’t the best place to have it. The place that was suggested to me (Siglio XXI) no longer seemed to exist so I prowled for a while and plumped for…
El Asador Secreto (Inermediate B) Rua Serafin Avandano, Tel. 986 124 813
This is a bright modern place, with friendly efficient staff and fairly good value for money. The soundtrack is muted but I picked out ‘It’s Raining Men’ by the Weather Girls amongst other disco slammers.
After a complimentary bowl of Guacamole with some nice bread and biscuits (B) I went straight to the main, Gallego Ternera, a slab of entrecote with an artistic slash of raspberry sauce and a solitary stem of green asparagus, both adding little to the dish (B) with this some fairly chunky chips (I like them skinny) which were fine (B).
However, the side plate of Pequillos (‘little beaks’, a variety of mild peppers from Northern Spain, grilled and skinned) were really salty for some reason and I had to send them back (D).
A few big tables of locals arrived at 10pm (but it was still only half full on a Saturday night) and proceeded to smoke the place out as they grilled their own steaks on the camping stoves placed on their tables. Maybe this is a selling point for some, but the aircon couldn’t cope and it was the one thing that put me off wanting to come back.
In recompense for the salty peppers I was given a plate of cheese to finish my wine (Mazerredo de Ostau Crianza 2008). Along with Manchego (A) and Dobeja (??) sheep’s cheese (A). I had the local Tetilla, a more matured version from that I’d had in the oyster market earlier in the day (B+).
So a nice place but very smoky, but then it is an Asador after all. And they have free wi-fi.
Don Quixote (Intermediate B), Calle Laxe 4, Tel.986 229 346 http://www.donquijoterestaurante.es
I’ve avoided this place in the past due to its name and the fact it has an English menu on the wall outside. On the other hand it’s in a very picturesque spot, at the top of an old slipway, where on a warm evening you can sit outside on wooden terraces. It was a bit chilly this evening so I opted for the rather gloomy interior with its faux medieval chandeliers and displays of swords and armour.
It’s also the only restaurant I found open on a Sunday evening and the staff are very pleasant. Oscar the English-speaking waiter had enough time to educate me a little (see below). The service from the old church was being broadcast onto the street over a tannoy system which clashed horribly with the folk music in the restaurant but I put up with it till the mass finished.
The Ensalada Mixta (B) I started with was a hefty affair with lettuce, carrot, beetroot, white asparagus, black olives, wedges of boiled egg, nicely ripe tomatoes, grilled red peppers and some good quality tuna but, as often is the case in Spain, the last bits were lost in a deep pool of water and Jerez vinegar at the bottom of the bowl. One dropped olive and I my white shirt was destined for the wash.
The best thing for me though was the unusual versions of Orujo they have here. Orujo Tostado is clear aguardente with added caramelised sugar which was excellent (A+) and I favoured it above the free chupito of Aguardente Vejo, (A), which had a more subtle flavour. The colour was the same but this was due to age rather than the addition of burnt sugar.
Oscar waiter instructed me that Orujo is actually an Asturian word and here in Galica, Aguadente is the popular way to describe it. I posited that this was of Roman origins but he said it was possibly Egyptian! He also gave me the tip that you can buy this, and much more at the wine store on the corner of nearby C/Victoria.
Total cost €39. I’d recommend just coming here at the end of the evening for a slice of homemade tart, and an Aguardente Tostado.
Acuario (Elementary B+), Rua Cervantes, Tel. 986 223 015
This was my second visit here (see previous Vigo post). I had the Ternera Estofado again which was very tasty if a bit salty (B+).
Pablo the owner is an interesting guy who has worked in a top restaurant in London (and hence speaks good English) and has sailed round the world a few times. He was happy to shoot the breeze for a while when all other customers have gone.
My new friend Jose from Nisio took me for a drink in bar of his hotel; Nagari Gran Hotel Boutique & Spa (Advanced A), 21 Plaza de Compostela 21 www.granhotelnagari.com I’m guessing it’s probably the best one in town. The rooftop bar has a great view of the estuary. I think you can go there just for a drink.
In September, Vigo hosts the Vigomar Shellfish Food Festival in the port of Berbes.
Another local delicacy are Zamuburinas, a local scallop that you won’t find elsewhere in Spain. I had a huge slab of Zamburina pie after work one day which was very good (B).
Next time I’d like to go to neighbouring Canido (€10 in a taxi?) which has a small port with lots of restaurants (recommended by Luis) and if the weather is nice (unlikely) maybe Samil (the largest and most popular beach), Playa del Vao (which has a Roman villa at one end) or Playa del Carril (near the fishing district of Bouzas. For more tourist info go to www.turismodevigo.es