Salamanca is a university town, the Spanish equivalent to Oxford or Cambridge. The university was founded in 1218, making it the fourth oldest in Europe after Bologna and Oxbridge.
In the summer the city has a really international flavour as students pour in from around the world. Many come to attend short courses in Spanish, something I’ve been very tempted to do myself as it’s ground zero for Castellano.
Salamanca is known as ‘La Dorada’ or ‘the Golden City’ due to the glow of the sandstone used in the construction its old beautiful buildings, which led to it being designated a UNESCO world heritage site (video here).
The stone carvings above the doorways of many buildings are simply stunning.
I particularly like the carvings on the tower of the Palacio de Monterrey...
…and the shell-studded walls of the Casa de las Conchas.
In 2013 feeling the need to treat myself for working hard, I decided to try out two of the best formal places in town. The first problem you face is that both of them have tables outside and are both opposite each other, so whichever terrace you choose, you will end up looking at the other place and wishing you were there!
Casa Paco (Advanced A-), 10 Plaza del Peso, www.casapaca.com
The bigger and more famous of the two, service was efficient but not likable. I began with Setas de Cardo Salteadas or ‘thistle’ (perhaps oyster?) mushrooms sautéed with cured ham (A).
For the main, Rodaballo Salvje a la Plancha or grilled wild turbot (B+).
To drink, Marques de Riscal, a famous brand of Verdejo (B+).
To finish, Sorbete de Limon al Cava, a favourite dessert (A) which I have yet to master at home.
Total cost €61.70. Fair enough for such top quality food. They also have a separate tapas bar that I’d like to try.
Rio de la Plata (Advanced A), 1 Plaza del Peso, Tel. 923 219 005, www.restauranteriodelaplata.es
Revuelto Sesos aka scrambled egg and brains! It had to be done and they weren’t too bad at all (B). Apparently Cervantes liked to have them for breakfast.
Cabrito Guisado Almendras, or grilled goat stewed with almonds, was accompanied by some excellent potatoes (A).
‘Prado Rey’, a 2010 Ribeira del Duero crianza (A).
Tarta de Helado, an ice cream cake topped with cream, was even nicer than I’d hoped (A), especially with a glass of PX.
Total cost €59, good value I felt.
Of the two restaurants, I think I preferred the food and more friendly service in the smaller Rio de la Plata. Both places are a bit expensive but then they are formal places in quite a posh town.
There’s also a Michelin starred place called Victor Gutierrez but I left that for another time.
For wine etc, Palacio de los Licores at 8 Calle Portales de Camiñas, palaciolicores.com had the biggest selection in town. I got a bottle of Luis Felipe, my favourite Spanish brandy, at a cheaper price than usual.
I stayed at the Catalonia Plaza Mayor at 23 Calle Espoz y Mina, which was extremely well located next to Plaza Mayor, had a good breakfast and very helpful staff. The rooms are a bit poky though and there’s no gym. On my second visit they must have been full as I was put at the more opulent but slightly less central Abba Fonseca.