Plaza Arenal is the central square in Jerez. There’s not much to see, other than this statue, but there are plenty of good places to eat and drink on the streets off it.
This is my favourite place in Jerez, I came here three times in two days in April 2016.
Albores (High Intermediate B+), 12 Calle Consistorio, www.restaurantealbores.com
Alba, a popular female name, means the first light of day. The equivalent in English would be Dawn.
It can also mean the principle or origin of a concept. For chef Julian Olivares the concept is about blending seasonal, traditional and international cuisine, and he does it very well. Click on the menus to enlarge.
This isn’t just my favourite place, hordes of locals seem to like it too, so it might be an idea to reserve at busy times, such as Sunday lunch, or arrive early. They’re open all day every day so you just have to get there before the Spanish do.
You can sit outside on their street terrace under the orange trees or in the bright modern interior. On my first two visits I sat outside for tapas and once inside for Sunday lunch.
On the first occasion I had the Barriga de Atun (A), a seared tuna steak served with jam and grilled veg and a small baked potato with salmorejo (a gazpacho made with bread), served with a salsa of cream and soya sauce. (A).
Also a half portion of grilled squid (B+).
On my next visit with my buddy John we had a half portion (media racion) of the Croquetas de Gambas, Espincas y Pistachos (A).
Also a media of the Salmon Marinado; smoked salmon marinated with lime and vanilla which sounds wrong but was actually very good (A).
We also shared a media of the Carrillada Iberica al Oloroso con Puré de Calabaza, beef cheeks in aged Sherry with a puree of pumpkin (A).
This all went well with a couple of glasses of ‘Barbazul’, a decent local red (B). The bill came to a good value €32.
On the third visit I came by myself for a blowout Sunday lunch having missed breakfast due to partying with John till 6am. I kicked things off with some decent Jamon Iberico de Bellota (B) that came with some slightly soggy Pan con Tomate toasted bread with tomato pulp (B-).
I followed up with their great croquetas again, served slightly differently this time with some mayo (A).
For the main, one of my favourite meat dishes, the hearty Rabo de Toro Estofado con Vino Tinto (B+).
I splashed out €25 on a bottle of ‘Taberner’ (B+) a 2011 Syrah from Bodega Huerta de Albala in the Tierra de Cadiz DO. They also make the afore-mentioned Barbazul but this is higher up their range.
Next some sheep’s cheese with almonds; Queso Manchego de Oveja y Almendras (B+).
Profiteroles con Salsa de Chocolate y Pistachos (B).
Of the many PX’s on offer Daniel my waiter recommended the Oxford 1.970 Pedro Ximenez Solera from Bodega Dios Baco (B+). Later I picked up bottle to take home for €16.
To finish things off it would have been rude not to have one of their selection of fine brandies. I began with one I hadn’t had before; the Renacimiento Solera Gran Reserva by Garvey (B).
Here Daniel is demonstrating how to serve it properly, with a warmed glass. Some people say the alcohol is being lost in the fumes but personally I think the smell adds to the taste.
Daniel’s favourite is the Lepanto Gran Reserva so I thought I should try that as well (B+).
With a couple of bottles of water and a 10% tip the final bill came to €70 which was great value for what I had. You might be able to get food and drink of this quality in London but you’d probably pay three times as much for it.
Bar Juanito (Intermediate B+), 8-10 Calle de Pescadería Vieja, www.bar-juanito.com
Slightly hard to find, Juanito is down a side alley off Plaza del Arenal the main square. A mainstay in Jerez for more than sixty years, it’s feted by all the guides (Frommers, Lonely Planet, friends of friends etc) seemingly more than anywhere else in town.
I sat outside in the atmospheric alley and prepared to feast as this was my first time in Spain for a few months.
To begin, a complementary tapa of boiled cauliflower in vinegar and oil, which sounds terrible but was actually really nice (B+).
Next Alcachofas Juanito; artichokes with oil, water, garlic, onion, breadcrumbs and parsley. This dish is a past winner of the National Tapa Competition and they were one of the best ways I’ve ever had artichokes (A).
I nearly swooned over the Albondigas al Oloroso, or meatballs in oloroso sherry sauce (A+), I really must make them at home as I have the sherry.
Then Mollejas Salteados, aka sautéed sweetbreads. I ordered these as I’d developed a bit of a thing for sweetbreads (thymus glands) in Argentina a few months previously. Sadly though they were cut up too small and were dry and over fried (C). I should have had them ‘al Jerez’ as Frommers suggested but couldn’t see them on the menu.
All this washed down with some nutty ‘Alfonso’ Oloroso sherry (B+).
Juanito is a bit pricier than elsewhere but it’s worth it.
La Cruz Blanca (Intermediate B+), 16 Calle Consistorio, www.restaurantelacruzblanca.com
Another locally famous tapas bar but perhaps with a more modern attitude than Juanito.
I wasn’t too impressed with their free tapas of Tuna and Potato salad and another plate with some kind of boiled pork. They tasted tired and flavourless (C+) as if they’d been made a while ago, and they filled me up too much.
It’s impossible to argue with a Tosta de Queso de Cabra con Cebolla Caramelazida, Miel y Nueces (toasted French bread with goat’s cheese, caramelized onion, honey and walnuts) as it’s just too delicious (A).
I’d ordered the Miniburguer de Ternera con Queso de Cabra y Cebolla Caramelazida (mini veal burger served with chips) without looking at the menu properly and realized I’d overdosed on the goat’s cheese and caramelized onion! It was still good though (B+).
A good place but I couldn’t eat any more due to them giving me too much free stuff!
I returned to give them another go on a rainy Monday in April 2016 and I’m glad I did. I had the excellent Croquetas de Puerro, Gambas y Algas Wakame (A).
Then the Huevos Rotos con Foie y Boletus, or lightly fried eggs with foie gras and cep mushooms, which was very oily but again delicious (A-).
With these glasses of the decent local whites Castillo de San Diego made from Palomino grapes by Bodega Barbadillo (B), and a Entrechuelos Chardonnay from Bodega Miguel Domecq (B).
Mesón del Asador (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Remedios www.mesondelasador.com
I came to this grill house on the recommendation of a friend of a friend who suggested I have the Rabo de Toro (stewed oxtail) which is an Andalusian classic. It was very good (B+) if too ugly to picture.
It went well with a bottle of Marqués de Cáceres, a popular brand of Rioja (B).
All the recipes I’ve linked to are in Spanish. Just put them through Google translate to understand them. They don’t necessarily represent exactly what I ate but are the most similar I could find on the web in terms of ingredients.
To finish I had the famous Jerez dessert Tocinillo de Cielo, which is similar to flan except that it just uses egg yolks rather than the whole egg. It was good but tooth-rottingly sweet (B-).
A glass of PX with it was the only way to go. The wine (B) was called Caletero from Bodegas Almocadén, another local maker.
Pics posted Nov 2015 and Feb 2017.