The Puerta de Almocábar separates La Ciudad from the Barrio de San Francisco which lies outside the city walls. Some describe the barrio as having a village atmosphere as it’s right next to the countryside.
On Saturday night I did a one man tapeo (tapas crawl) starting in the two places below and finishing at El Lechuguita and El Almacén in Barrio Mercadillo (see my Mercadillo – some places to eat post).
Bodega San Francisco (Elementary A), 32 Plaza Ruedo Alameda, www.bodegasanfrancisco.com
This atmospheric old place would have to be included on any must visit list made for Ronda. All the guides like it, and the locals seem to as well. They seem to have spread to adjoining buildings so they must be popular.
The hams are hung so low from the ceiling that only short people can comfortably work here.
I was in the busy, slightly raucous tapas bar where you can take your pick between two TV screens, football or bull-fighting, or alternate between both depending on which is more exciting.
I’d hazard a guess and say that generally the food here is very simple but good. They make their own salchichas and chorizos which obviously I had to try. I was introduced to the Masita de Chorizo, a small kind of bread bun (a local speciality) with a patty of spicy chorizo mince sandwiched inside. It was really good (A), much better than the ones I’d have later at El Lechugita.
I also had a great Croqueta de Setas (A), but then I’ve never had a bad one. If you’re not a fan of commercial mayo you might want to ask them to leave it out as it does seem to appear with a lot of items on the menu.
Next stop on my tapeo was…
Almocabar (High Intermediate B), 5 Plaza Ruedo Alameda
Yet another place recommended by Toko, and by several guides, as being one of the best eateries in town. Noticeably most of the clientele are from out of town, unlike Bodega San Fernando over the road. It has a tapas bar at the front and a small restaurant with 24 covers at the rear.
I came twice, the first time just to the tapas bar where I hit it off with the friendly young bartender. On his recommendation I had this rather unsightly tapa on a slate, some kind of meat on a skewer with brown stuff squirted erratically all over it. It tasted fine as I remember, so a B for flavour but a D for presentation.
I played safe with the next order and got some cheese (B) before moving on (see my Mercadillo – some places to eat post).
I came again the next day, also my last night, and gave the restaurant a try seeing as it had such a good reputation. The back room is small and doesn’t have any windows, which became a problem later.
The menu is impressively large for such a small place but I found the options a bit too international given my predilection for trying local specialities. Ingredients as varied as mango, ginger, soya sauce, parmesan cheese and basmati rice all featured.
Another thing that I disliked was the BS I got from an older waiter who took me for a know-nothing tourist. I caught him out a couple of times on the provenance of ingredients he was trying to sell to me.
As I result I don’t know whether to believe him about the restaurant’s black salt coming from Mallorca.
The island is certainly famous for salt (I like the Flor de Sal d’Estrenc brand) but I can’t dig up any trace of a black variety. I’d imagine it’s probably quite easy to make if you mixed it with squid ink or herbal ash maybe.
However, most importantly, the food saved the day.
The Ensalada de Melva (a smaller member of the tuna family) was great (A).
It went well with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc (B+) by Palacio de Bornos from Rueda that I’d not come across before.
The Paletilla do Cabrito (shoulder of kid goat) I followed up with was fine (B) and quite typical, according to my untrustworthy waiter. I think he was right though, if only because it was rustic and simply presented, with a few baked baby spuds and a medley of diced local veg.
The glass of local Lagarejo red I had with it wasn’t great, one to avoid (C).
When two tables ordered sizzlers (immediate thought: what are they thinking serving these in here??) and started cooking their own meat (duck I think) the small unventilated room quickly started to fill up with smoke. I escaped to the bar to finish off my meal with another round of local cheeses (B+).
I got chatting with a Dutch couple and an Australian family so I had a couple of brandies. The commercially available one I had was good quality and was okay, but the next one (made on the premises I believe and called Palacio de Mondragone) I regretted the next day (C-). Avoid.
My total bill came to €80 which I didn’t mind seeing as it was my last night and I’d had a good time. By way of summary this is undoubtedly a good place with an adventurous chef/owner, but make your choices wisely. There is probably something for everyone on the menu though.
My last night in Ronda, and I’ve done so much but yet I feel I’ve hardly done it justice. I’ll have to come again.
Next, a return to Algeciras by train on Henderson’s famous railway. The route passes many notable sights including the Cueva del Gato (Cave of the Cat). I had the misfortune to be sat next to a harmless but bonkers old guy who miaowed constantly at me by way of explanation as the train passed the cave. Ah, the memories…