A good time in Badajoz
corvinaThis trip in Autumn 2013 was my first time in Extremadura and I was very excited to be visiting this culinarily famous region. I spent my first three nights in Badajoz and in that short time I got a very positive impression of the place and its friendly people, and I ate pretty well too.
Located on the border with Portugal, the city has been fought over on several occasions by the two countries. Nowadays it’s a very peaceful town, and although Spanish in name, many of the inhabitants have Portuguese relatives or speak the language.
I stayed at the bright, modern and comfortable Hotel Badajoz Center which was well located for the bus station and not too far from the old town.
The centre of the old town is Plaza de España which has a few nice old buildings located around the Gothic cathedral.
The plain exterior of the cathedral didn’t do much for me though. It was built with defence in mind and has thick walls and a square tower rather like a fortress, so not exactly a beauty.
There is one window with a nicely carved surround for the bishop to wave out of.
The front entrance is quite nice too. Apparently the windows are quite unusual but it was closed when I went so I can’ t comment on the interior. The organ looks amazing though in these pictures.
I loved these weather vanes on the building next to the cathedral too.
This is stork territory, so every tall tower or chimney round here has a nest on its summit.
It was the first time I’d heard the sound the storks make with their beaks when they communicate with each other, kind of like the hollow sound of two coconut shells imitating horses hooves by rapidly clopping together. There are lots of better photos of them here.
My favourite place in the old town is the pretty Plaza Alta with its long porticos and brightly patterned walls. Again, please click on the photo to see it better.
Despite being recently renovated it still retains an atmosphere of medieval times when it hosted markets and bullfights. There are a couple of bars at one end where you can sit and watch the tourists go by.
Nearby is the Alcazaba, the Moorish citadel, which is apparently the largest one still intact in Spain.
There’s a couple of museums in here, and you can walk along the walls and get some good views of the town. More info about its history here.
It was also nice just wandering around the narrow streets getting lost.
Extremaduran cuisine has a very good rep, so I was really looking forward to eating out here. I didn’t find get any info about the restaurant scene from my usual sources, except for the 2011 edition of La Seleccion del Gourmet which lists the first two places mentioned below.
El Sigar (Advanced B+), 12 Avenida Luis Movilla, www.elsigar.es
This bright, modern, fairly posh place is about a 15 minute walk from the hotel, in the opposite direction from the old town. You can stand in the rowdy tapas bar or dine in the quieter restaurant as I did. The decor is bright and modern in both.
I had the set menu for €33 which was fine (B+) and very good value, about £3.70 for each of the seven plates which were:
Foie Marinado, foie ‘marinated’ with oil and black pepper (B).
Cebiche de Corvina, marinated in citrus (B). The name Corvina is used for different fish around the world, but here it’s most likely a large sea bass.
The Lasana de Morcilla, black pudding lasagna, particularly impressed me (B+). I would love to make this at home but I don’t think our black pudding is moist enough.
Langosta con Tallarines, lobster with tagliatelle=like noodles in a creamy sauce (A).
Pollito Relleno, ‘stuffed’ chicken wasn’t much to look at but was ok (B). Not really sure what the sauce was or why they describe it as stuffed.
With these courses I tried a couple of glasses of local reds. The first was a crianza called ‘Basangus’ 2011, from the Badajoz DO Ribera de Guadiana, which was very good (B).
The second glass of ‘Valudeza’ from Tierra de Extremadura was pretty decent too (B) but I think this was the beginning of a slippery slope!
Degustcaion de Quesos; a selection of cheeses with honey, jam, figs and reduced vinegar. Some nicer than others (B). All of the cheeses were local I think.
A glass of Noval 2007 port from over the border went well with this (A).
Sopa de Almendra con Helado de Higos, almond soup with fig ice cream was interesting although it didn’t look great despite the decorative physalis trying to make it look better (B).
Service was nice but dim. I decamped to the restaurant bar after the meal in search of a night cap and got more than I bargained for!
I got chatting with the very dour but hospitable chef/owner who plied me with this Extremaduran aguardiente made of green apples and a couple of his more unusual Jerez brandies. Uh oh!
Interestingly he considers Luis Felipe, my favourite and the most expensive Spanish brandy, to be a sweet wine rather than a true cognac, which when I tasted it again, does seem to be true.
It was here that I also got chatting with Macarena (an English teacher) and Javi who, although they didn’ t know me from Adam, invited me to come out with them on their first date! Now that’s friendliness for you.
They took me to a Cuban ‘local’ in the old town (Bar Malecon at 5 Calle San Blas) which is reputed for its Mojitos. As it was a lock-in I soon made more acquaintances, including friendly, English-speaking Ana who introduced me to her pals. I had a great time and I was one of the last ones to leave! Thanks for being so welcoming guys; I have such a good impression of the local people now.
The next day, Sunday, wasn’ t so good though as I awoke with the biggest hangover in living memory! I had intended to eat a big Sunday lunch at Restaurante Marchivirito but spent the whole day in the hotel recovering instead. I even ate in the hotel restaurant in the evening which is very unlike me, and not an experience I’d recommend foodwise, at least not on a Sunday.
The next day, with my spirits restored, I faced the eternal Spanish problem of finding somewhere open on a Monday evening and had to resort to asking the receptionist for help (usually a bad idea). He sent me to this place which he said has a good rep locally:
Restaurante Galaxia (High Intermediate B), 6 Avenida Villanueva, Tel. 924 258 211
Everything I had here was fine. I quite liked the unusual porthole door and windows which give it a nautical look. It is apparently a seafood restaurant but I was in the mood for meat and lots of it.
You can’t come to Extremadura and not have the famous Jamon Iberico. It was of course very good (B+).
For the main, Solomillo de Ternera de Ritonto a la Plancha, a grilled veal sirloin steak which pressed the right buttons (B), even if the accompanying Pringles didn’t (C).
To drink, ‘Huno’ a full-bodied 14.8% 2008 crianza from the local Ribera del Guadiana DO wasn’t really to my taste (C).
And finally a slice of Tarta de Almendra, almond tart, which as usual was very dry but tasted okay (B). I don’t think moistness is a criteria in Spanish baking.
Fortunately a strategic glass of Gonzalez Byass ‘Solera 1847’ cream sherry helped it down nicely (B+).
So a good time was had! Even if I didn’t get to do (eat) as much as I’d have liked to, I still really enjoyed myself. Here are links to my Google map with the places mentioned above and also the local tourism website.