Oviedo – Casco Antiguo – eating at the high end

Oviedo is the capital city of Asturias, a region famous throughout Spain for it’s food. Taking advantage of this, plus the fact that fine dining in Spain is generally much better value than at home in the UK, I visited three of the best places and had their tasting menus. You’ll find them all on this Google map along with the cheaper places in the next post.

Married (Advanced A), 19 Trascorrales, www.marriedcocina.eu

This was my favourite out of all the fine dining places I went to. The food is quite simply stunning, both in terms of flavour and presentation. It’s hard to imagine the huge hands of the big jovial chap in the kitchen making such beautifully delicate food but César Fernández Casado is an artist of the finest calibre. He has worked at some of the best restaurants in northern Spain, including El Bulli, Arzak, Mugaritz and Martín Berasategui, and it shows.

I had the tasting menu (€45) and wine pairing (€65) but was too busy enjoying myself and chatting to the friendly waitress to make notes or grade the food and drink, sorry! Suffice to say it was all wonderful. I’ll just let the photos do the talking.

The first drink was an Asturian cider, perhaps the best so far, called 1947 by Vilda de Angelón.

‘Bocarte Marinado sobre una Olivada con Matices de Ibéricos’ or a fried (?) and marinated anchovy on a tapenade with hints of Iberian ham.

Language note! Common Spanish words for anchovies include ‘anchoa’, ‘boquerón’ and ‘bocarte’. In Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria a fried anchovy is a ‘bocarte’ whereas in the whole of Spain a ‘boquerone’ is in vinegar and an ‘anchoa’ is a fillet from a tin.

‘Lámina Crujiente de Tinta de Calamar, Emulsión Tibia de su Guiso, Azafrán y Ajo Asado’ or a sheet of crispy squid ink with a warm (?) emulsion of its stew, saffron and roasted garlic.

With it, a glass of Estelado, a very pleasant Chilean sparkling Rosé.

It might not look like it but I think this was the ‘Carpaccio de Hueso de Jamón con Yogur, Cilantro, Regaliz y Remolacha’ or ham bone carpaccio with yogurt, coriander, licorice and beetroot.

To drink, another Asturian cider called Prau Monga which won the Pomme d’Or in 2014.

‘Vizcaína de Callos de Bacalao, Cremoso de su Pilpil, la Piel Crujiente y Tartar de Boletus al Ajo y Perejil’ aka cod ‘tripe’ Vizcaina style with cream of pilpil, crispy skin, tartar of Boletus mushrooms, garlic and parsley.

With this, a glass of 2014 Albarino called ‘Pazo das Bruxas’.

Cooking notes! ‘Vizcaína’ refers to a food (typically bacalao or chicken) prepared with a pulp of peppers, onion and, sometimes, tomato. ‘Pilpil’ is an emulsified Basque sauce served with Bacalao or prawns (usually) that’s made with olive oil, garlic and very small, hot peppers (guindillas).

‘Lomo de Cabracho Asado, Coca de Frutos del Mar y Caldo Ácido de Sus Espinas (Versión de una Sopa de Pescado)’ or roast loin of scorpionfish with seafood Coca bread and an acidic soup made from the fish’s spines. The seafood included shelled langostines, Goose barnacles (percebes ) and a clam studded with fish roe that made it look like a piece of jewellery.

For the meat dish, a copa of 2007 Rioja called ‘Murua’.

‘Pieza de Ternera Cocida y Glaseada, Verdures Jóvenes de Temporada en Diferentes Cocciones y Texturas’, or glazed veal with seasonal young vegetables with different textures and cooking methods.

To drink with dessert a late harvest Txakoli di Bizkaia called ‘Urezti ‘ (honeyed water) from Bodegas Itsasmendi which I remember as being exceptional (A).

‘Soufflé Frío de Chocolate Blanco, Arenas de Caolín, Cítricos y Chocolate Negro’ translates as a cold soufflé of white chocolate, Kaolin sands (sic), citrus and black chocolate. My understanding is that the bushy ingredient is a local seaweed dipped in chocolate. Que rico!

With coffee a 20-year-old brandy by Torres called Miguel Torres. It was decent, but I’ve had better.

I really enjoyed my meal here and would happily come again. It helps that they are nice people too, and that everything was good value. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in town.

Mestura (Advanced B+), first floor of Gran Hotel Espana, 2 Calle Jovellanos, www.mesturarestaurante.es

This is a modern, formal hotel restaurant but I didn’t find it at all stuffy. I got good friendly service from the waiter and sommelier and the Menu Fomento de la Cocina Asturiana was very reasonable at €39.

Rather than a wine pairing I went with the somelliers recommendation of a single bottle of a 2014 Verdejo Rueda called ‘Tramoya’ by Bodegas Don Diego. It gave me a lovely buzz (B+ flavour, nose A) and was only €12. I tracked it down for only £5 a bottle on the internet and I’m awaiting an order now.

Things began with a Horchata Amuse Bouche (B).

The following Anchovy on Focaccia was stunning (A). I need to try and make this at home!

The ‘Fried Octopus with Humus and Green Asparagus Sprouts’ that followed was also very good (B+).

I wasn’t so wowed by the ’65 degree cooked Egg, Porcini, Cheese Foam & Fresh Winter Truffle’ that followed (C+).

The Seabass in Cider was also wonderful (A).

I can’t remember what the dessert was so it can’t have made much of an impression. The photo doesn’t look great.

However, a glass of Taylor’s Late-Bottled Vintage Port is never going to be bad (B+).

The highlight was the fantastic (A-) glass of Gran Duque d’Alba XO brandy that I got with my coffee. I’d never had the XO before (I’m a big fan of the ordinary Gran Duque) and I was so impressed that I later bought a crate of six from Uvinium for about €50 a bottle.

The total bill was €53.80 which included the port and brandy for free, so good value was had. In conclusion this is a good place for food and a great place for drinks! A definite recommendation from me.

Fermin (Advanced B+), 8 Calle San Francisco, www.casafermin.com

A long standing institution (since 1924) considered by many (Guia Repsol, Frommer’s) to be the best place in town. It was very good, but I enjoyed myself more at Married above.

I had the €65 Menú Degusatción and a wine ‘maridaje’ once again for a very reasonable €28.

Upon arrival I was given a freshly poured Villacubera cider which was sadly still and lifeless (C).

To begin, a quartet of starters. The ‘Melón Mojito’ was interesting (B) but the ‘Foie con Lenteja Negra Frita’, foie with fried black lentils, was tasteless (C). However I enjoyed the ‘Caramelo de Morcilla’, black pudding caramel (B+), and the ‘Croqueta Cremosa de Jamon Ibérico’ aka creamy Ibérian ham roquette, was always going to be a winner (A).

The ‘Ostra con Tocino y Caldo de Jamón’ or oyster with bacon and ham broth didn’t cut it (C).

I forgot to grade the ‘Tartar de Atún Rojo con Helado de Wasabi’ or Bluefin tuna tartar with wasabi ice cream, but I’m sure it was good.

Ditto the Gramona Cava but I know it’s good from past experience.

Also ungraded, the ‘Navaja, Alga Ramallo y Berza’ aka razor clam, Ramallo seaweed (from Galicia) and kale.

The ‘Cigala, Guisante y Tomate Asado’, or Norwegian lobster, peas and roasted tomato, was tops (A).

Then some bland Lubina (seabass) (B).

With the fish, an Albarino called ‘Terras Gauda’ which I’d had before in Gijon (B+).

‘Longaniza Ibérica, Yema y Patata Morada’ or Longaniza sausage with egg yolk and purple potato, according to the menu, although it looks like normal potato to me (B).

‘Tendón de Ternera, Bearnesa de Chocolate Blanco y su Jugo’ or veal tendon with its juices and a white chocolate Bearnaise (B+).

With the meat, a half decent Ribera del Duero called ‘Conde de San Cristobal’ (B).

‘Cochinillo Confiato, Tubérculos y Ras Al Hanut Crujiente’ confit of suckling pig, tubers and crispy Ras Al Hanut (B).

Feeling greedy I added a cheeseboard before dessert, all three of which were top notch (A+).

This necessitated a glass of Rioja Crianza called ‘Ostato’.

The ‘Sorbete de Gintonic, Sopa de Citricos y Enebro’ or a gin & tonic sorbet, with a soup of citrus juniper, was good but a bit too sweet for me (B+). It didn’t photograph well either.

‘Milhojas de Yogur y Chocolate Blanco y Helado de Frambuesa’ aka yogurt filled puff pastry with white chocolate and raspberry ice cream scored A and B+ individually but I don’t think they went so well together (B-).

Finally a PX called 1986 which was fantastic (A+) and a decent coffee (B+).

In conclusion this was a very good meal, and well worth the money, but not quite enough top marks to make it my favourite. It was a quiet night but I found the atmosphere to be a bit tame as well. I’d still go back though.

Except for maybe San Sebastian, I don’t think I’ve been to a small town with quite as many good restaurants. I heart Oviedo!

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