Salamanca – meat eating around Plaza Mayor

20130628_222339I’ve been to Salamanca three times, this post is the latest one for March 2014. For my July 2006 and June 2013 experiences (architecture shots and reviews of formal restaurants) please click here. For my Google map please click here.

The heart of the city is the impressive and always busy Plaza Mayor. The square was the blueprint for squares all over the Spanish speaking world.

20130627_141251Sculpted heads of famous scholarly Spaniards can be seen beside all the portico arches all around the square and the main gate with its bells and statues is a spectacle in itself (please click to expand the photo).

20130627_234733Meats of many kinds are the things to eat in Salamanca, but in particular the region’s cured ham which is some of the best in Spain.

For tidbits to take home I definitely recommend you visit the carnecerias and charcuterias in the Mercado Central (just over the road from the east exit of the square).

It’s probably cheaper to shop in the market than in the delis on Calle Rua Mayor but the delis do have larger selections that have been vaccuum packed. Look for jamon from Guijuelo, a small town near Salamanca which is the best stuff apparently.

Sorry about this next bleached out photo but I love the facade of the market’s main entrance and wanted you to see it.

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I avoided the restaurants in Plaza Mayor last time as I thought they’d be tourist traps but when a couple of teachers I was working with told me that there were actually some good places for eating meat, I decided to give them a go.

All the following three restaurants were recommended by meat loving locals. The first was my favourite for the quality of the food, the second was good for its atmosphere and the third for a mixture of both.

Bambu (Interemediate A), 4 Calle Prior (next to Burger King, on the street leading from the south west corner of Placa Major), Tel. 923 260 092, www.cafeteriabambu.com

This restaurant and tapas bar is very handy for my colleagues staying just around the corner at the Hotel Catalonia. It’s still a little hard to find due to its unimposing sign and the fact it’s located in a cellar but don’t let these things put you off, the food is very good.

The décor is bright, white and modern with a trendy green wall in one corner of the dining area. The tapas bar side seems to attract a lot of students which might indicate good value for money. However when I went, there was only one other occupied table in the restaurant besides myself which meant the service was very attentive.

To begin with I had the Torrija de Foie con Cebolla Caramelizade y Jamon Iberico which looked terrible but tasted great (A-), although I would regret using up stomach space for it later.

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Torrija is a traditional local dessert made for Lent; bread soaked in a mixture of sugar, spices and wine or milk, then dipped in egg and fried in olive oil, and here topped with pate, caramelized onion and cured ham, a great combo that I’d never experienced before.

For the main, Chuleton Ternera Charra, a large char-grilled veal chop, which was excellent as were the fries it came with, although I could have done with a few more of them (A-). A chuleton chop is a pretty hefty slab of meat, and I struggled to finish it due to my novice error of having a starter.

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The bottle of Ribera ‘Valdeuro’ Crianza (2009) went nicely (B+). The total cost was €46.20 which was good value I thought.

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I moved on to the bar which had an extensive selection of international spirits, including several Spanish cognacs, of which I’m a keen aficionado. I’m always keen to try new ones, in this case the Terry 1900, a solera reserva. The normal Terry is one of my least favourites but this reserva was pretty good (B) and a steal at €3.50.

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The waiter didn’t know how to serve it though. When I asked for a saucer he put it under the hot glass instead of on top. The idea being to trap the delicious fumes so you can savour them before taking a sip.

He did tempt me into trying a new ponche (a brandy based liqueur) called Soto. Although better (C+) than the ubiquitous Caballero (C), I remain unimpressed by this liqueur.

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Bambu is a good place to go, especially if you like meat. The tapas are probably pretty good too. On the list for next time.

Meson Cervantes (Interemediate B), 15 Placa Major (on the east side, up some stairs to the second floor)

In terms of décor and ambience, this busy place with its olde worlde feel, is the exact opposite of Bambu above. It’s all dark wood with shelves and walls heaving with semi-interesting junk like flintlock rifles and old coffee machines. If you’re lucky you can avoid looking at it all by bagging a table with a window looking out over the square which is much more atmospheric.

The service here was better than at Bambu, and I was well taken care of by the friendly old chap waiting on my table.

On the downside the food wasn’t as good. The Chuleton here (essentially a large chop) was one of the biggest hunks of meat I’ve ever been served, it must have weighed a kilo!

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Size was not an indication of quality however and I could only score it a B- due to the lack of flavour. The fries with it were a bit brown  overcooked brown but edible (C) and I got a lot more of them than last time, but still less can be more.

The 2011 ‘Senorio de Nava’ Ribera roble I had to go with it was a good match (B+).

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I should have had one of the homemade (casersas) desserts offered but wanting something to go with the last of my wine, I had the Tarta de Tres Chocolates, which was bog standard out of a packet fare (C).

They know how to serve their brandy here though and the Carlos I (for €6.60) transported me to heaven (A). Total cost €51.60 which was fair enough for the amountI had. The quality wasn’t good enough for me though so I don’t think I’d go back.

Don Mauro (Advanced B+), 19  Placa Major, Tel. 9233 281 487, www.restaurantedonmauro.es

I came to this big popular place on the west side of the square on my last night. The spacious tapas bar was heaving with locals and the menu looked very tempting, but I went instead to the formal restaurant at the back to rest my weary bones.

I got good service from the slightly severe waiters although I wasn’t too keen on the crappy table they gave me by the kitchen door.
On the plus side I did get an unordered sample of Jamon Curado, which of course was fantastic (A).

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Wanting a big beef hit I had the stewed oxtail aka Rabo de Toro. It’s one of my most favourite Spanish dishes, and although this one was ok (B), I’ve had more flavoursome and better presented versions. The unattractive chunks of potato (C) strewn across it didn’t do much to help the appearance of this ugly but very tasty dish.

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It’s hard to go wrong with red wine in Spain, and the 2009 Marquis de Caceres Rioja crianza I had here did the business (B+).

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The final glass of Magno cognac finished things nicely. It’s a good third tier brandy I usually get in bars, but at €5 it was a bit pricey here, although it probably would have been cheaper in the tapas bar.

Total cost €36.30, pretty good value again. I’d come back.

I really wanted to go to the art deco museum Casa Lis on this trip but was thwarted by their opening times. The earliest visitors can enter is at 11am every day which sadly was when I had to start work. The pictures I found on the net are beautiful.

It’s always good to leave something for next time…

 

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