Oviedo – cheap and medium range eating

Everywhere mentioned in this post, and more are on this Google map.

For fine dining (tasting menus etc) please see my previous post.

All the places reviewed below are in the Casco Antiguo except for this first one which is just to the north-west of San Francisco park and is well worth the short walk.

Gloria Casa de Comidas (High Intermediate A), 24 Calle Cervantes

This ‘casa de comidas’ (food house – think tapas bar and restaurant) was one of my favourite places to eat in Oviedo. It’s the creation of two-starred Michelin chef Nacho Manzano but everything is very reasonably priced.

On my visit everything was perfect; good quality, innovative cuisine, friendly, attentive service, modern, atmospheric décor and a cool soundtrack of Afro Reggae and Roy Ayers. I loved it and didn’t want to leave, which explains the bill (€61.65).

To drink I went with my server’s recommendation of ‘Vinas de Monte’ by San Esteban, a red wine for €22 that scored well with me (B+).

To start I couldn’t resist trying a tapa of ‘Llampares a la Sidra’, or limpets in cider, a first for me. They were interesting but nothing amazing (B).

Then a tapa of the critically-acclaimed Croquetas de Jamon. The accolades are deserved, they were some of the most delicate I’d ever eaten, almost liquid inside (A).

Then a half racion of ‘Corte de Cerdo Iberico con Berenjenas y Eumulsion de Guindillas’; an unphotogenic but very tasty (A) sliced pork chop with aubergines and an emulsion of small hot peppers.

The tapa of ‘Panceta Crujiente con Pure de Fabada y Verduras Alinadas’, or crispy pancetta with a puree of white bean stew and marinated vegetables served in a lettuce leaf, was excellent (A).

I also loved the ‘Bocata Gochu Asturcelta y Encurtido de Verduras Asiaticas’; pulled pork sandwiched in a soft Taiwanese bun with pickled Asian vegetables (A), with some superior crisps on the side (A). Gochu Asturcelta is an Asturian rare-breed pig.

I also loved their ‘Tarta de Queso y Galleta con Dulce de Membrillo y Helado de Frambuesa’; cheesecake and biscuit with sweet quince paste and raspberry ice cream ‘ (A).

With dessert, a glass of cider liqueur called ‘Diamantes de Hielo’ (B).

And with my coffee (B), a chupito of ‘Los Serranos’ Licor de Avellana, hazelnut liqueur.

A great spot, I’d definitely come again.

El Asador de Aranda “Casa Campanes” (High Intermediate B+), 19 Calle Jovellanos, www.asadordearanda.com

This roast meat restaurant is a part of a chain with locations in several major cities. I’ve been to a few of them and have always enjoyed the experience.

This particular branch, Casa Campanes, has a spacious terrace which would come into its own in the summer, but it was a bit too chilly in late May so my friend Peter and I sat inside the beautifully decorated main room. We were the only customers on a Wednesday night, a reflection on the time of year and Spain’s economic condition rather than the quality of the food which is very good.

To begin we had half raciones of Morcilla de Burgos (B+), grilled slices of a famous black pudding from Burgos that is made with rice…

… and Torreznos (B) aka pork scratchings.

The house specials are roast Cochinillo (suckling pig) and roast Lechazo (suckling lamb). We shared a platter with a quarter of piglet and it was great (B+) but having been recently spoilt by Los Galayos in Madrid (see my Plaza Mayor post), the best place I’ve ever eaten Cochinillo, I couldn’t give it top marks.

With a mixed salad, water and four glasses of wine, the bill came to €77 between two which was pretty reasonable.

El Fontan (Elementary C), 2 Calle Fierro, www.restauranteelfontan.com

I’ve got nothing against cheap restaurants, and this is probably the cheapest in town, but I was very disappointed with this place. It’s highly recommended by both the Frommer’s and the Guia Repsol guides, but the food was terrible when I went, which it shouldn’t be, given that it literally overlooks the fresh produce market of the same name.

I had the Menu Fin Semana which at €16 was unarguably incredibly cheap, given that it included a bottle of unlabelled red (C), but it was cheap for a good reason.

I started with the Fabada which was really quite horrible although not inedible (C). I’m not sure why as it’s pretty easy to make a good one given half-decent ingredients. The bacon was really hard in this one and the chorizo and morcilla tasted very cheap. The sauce was a really light colour for some reason. I could have done a better job myself. The following Entrecote was tough and flavourless (C).

To finish the famous local dessert Arroz con Leche didn’t have its usual caramelised glaze so it reminded me of my Norwegian mum’s rice pudding as it was just simply sprinkled with cinnamon. Hers was better than this though (C).

I quite liked the cup the coffee (B) was served in though. And the waitress was lovely.

Another saving grace, as so often, was the excellent Milenario brandy (B+) from Caballero in Puerto de la Santa Maria which the owner told me was quite hard to get hold of.

Come here if you’re on a budget by all means, but personally I’d rather spend a bit more and get better quality.

Here’s a shortlist of bars that I enjoyed:

Calle Gascona has more cider pubs than any other street in the world!

Tierra Astur, 1 Calle Gascona, www.tierra-astur.com

Recommended by local teachers so I came in briefly one night. It’s very atmospheric, and popular with locals.

La Finca Sidreria, 4 Calle Gascona, www.sidrerialafinca.es

This was the Lonely Planet pick along Calle Gascona so I popped in for a night cap to check it out. If you wanted to drink cider and eat cheese, this would be a good place to come.

El Patio de los Naranjas (Intermediate B+), 4 Calle Jovellanos

Nice low lit bar playing jazz, good for a night cap.

Sidreria Gato Negro, 5 Calle Mon, www.sidreriaelgatonegro.com

This cider bar in the old town seems very popular. It’s very near Married, my favourite restaurant (see previous post).

This final place is closed now, I just wanted to remember it…

Casa Conrado (High Intermediate (B+), 1 Calle Arguelles, NOW CLOSED!

This local institution had a big rep getting accolades from Michelin, Guia Repsol, Frommers and a local foodie teacher that I worked with. It was quite a traditional and formal experience although I never let that phase me.

The service wasn’t great; the head waiter didn’t seem happy and wasn’t very welcoming. Looking back at the dates of the last TripAdvisor reviews, it seems the restaurant’s closure was already on the cards when I went so that might explain his attitude.

Not sure why such a long-standing restaurant closed but ordering a la carte was quite expensive and not always on point according to the reviews. Personally I had the Menu del Dia which was very reasonable at only €25 and the quality was pretty good.

Upon sitting down, a complementary tapa of marinated crab salad (A).

For my starter I opted for the ‘Muslitos de Cordoniz, Crujientes con Salsa de Soja’ or quail thighs friend in a soya sauce batter (B+).

For my main course; ‘Carrileras de Iberico con Pure de Patata’, or unphotogenic pork cutlets in gravy with mashed potato (A).

To drink a bottle of Ramon Bilbao Rioja (B+ for nose, B for flavour).

After this some local ‘La Peral’ blue cheese (B+) and a glass of decent PX (B+).

According to my research, a famous local cake is the Carbayon de Almendra, so I grabbed the chance to try it when the waiter said they had it. It looks like what we in the UK would call an iced bun, something very simple, but the Spanish recipe is a bit more complex, involving puff pastry filled with a mixture of egg, ground almonds, brandy or sweet wine and sugar and covered with an icing made of water, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. This one was very nice (B+), especially with ice cream (A).

Continuing the hunt for things I’ve never had, I went to the bar and asked to see their selection of brandies. They had quite a few, as a good old place like this should, and I was excited to find an untried brand called ‘Conde de los Andes’ by Bodegas Diez Merito.

It looked the business and tasted it too (B+). I loved the bottle for its bling factor and was going to buy one online, but sadly they’ve changed the name now to Marques del Merito. It doesn’t look as good, but I’ll drink it again if I see it.

And that’s it for Oviedo, a town I’d definitely like to visit again. The dining scene is fantastic, and very competitive, hence the good value. A general impression is that newer, more innovative places are winning out over the traditional, stuffier restaurants. I enjoyed it all though.

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