Santa Catalina is the name of the castle and the hill upon which Jaen sits. I’ve written a separate post about walking to the top, this one is about a couple of old school places to eat when you finally get up there.
This first place is about halfway up…
Horno de Salvador (High Intermediate B+), Subida al Castillo, www.hornodesalvador.com
I decided to go a little out of town for Sunday lunch during my 2017 visit and this seemed the best option. You need a taxi to get here (€6 or so, more going back if you call it), as it’s on the steep hill road going up to the castle. The restaurant is quite posh but the waiters are friendly and the food is good.
To start I had the Pate de Perdiz, partidge pate, which is very typical of the area. It was very good (B+), but there was too much and it could have fed three or four, although I polished the lot off because I was starving. The price (€15) should have been a warning but I was just eager to try it.
As the word ‘horno’ suggests, Salavador speicalises in roast meats so I had the Cochinillo Tostón al Horno; two slabs of roast suckling pig with chips, which was just what I wanted (€20, B+).
To drink, a bottle of Marques de Campoameno, an old friend and generally regarded as the best local wine (also €20, B+).
To finish, a dessert of super sweet Tocino de Cielo (B-)…
…a glass of PX (B)…
…and a Terry Reserva brandy (B).
With bread, water and coffee the bill came to a tasty €83. It was a great food experience but a rather greedy one!
This next post is about the restaurant in the government owned hotel next to the castle at the top of the hill…
Parador de Jaén (High Intermediate B-), Castillo de Santa Catalina, www.parador.es
On my final day in 2013 I decided I just had to get to the top of Santa Catalina hill (see previous post), and if I couldn’t do it on foot, I’d do it by car, so I booked a table at the parador’s restaurant and took a taxi each way. For some reason it was a cheaper fare going there than getting back!
When you go inside, after first walking past the hotel reception and along a corridor, you get to ‘the lounge’, a huge square room with soaring vaulted ceilings, high chimneys on facing walls.
And on another wall, a bank of windows with wooden Moorish shutters.
The décor in here consists of long swords hanging on the walls, alongside portraits of Christian saints. One shows a knight with a halo riding a horse and smiting the heads of some turban-wearing men with his sword.
Not very PC but this is the actual history of this place. A Moorish castle once occupied the hill but it was put under siege several times by the Christians who eventually captured it and built this newer fortification in its place.
Passing through this room you come to the restaurant which has been designed to look like a Medieval banqueting hall; very long with a low ceiling and several arches.
It’s decorated in sturdy Medieval style with clunky wooden light fittings and a huge tapestry showing a battle scene on the end wall.
Unfortunately the food at these paradors is often not very good so I wasn’t counting on a gourmet meal. The Gazpacho Andaluz, with two halves of quail egg and a swirl of excellent olive oil, was pretty good (B+), but that’s quite hard to get wrong if you have quality ingredients.
However the grilled leg of goat came with the kind of mixed veg (diced carrots, beans and peas) that you get from a bag in the freezer, and the solitary potato looked processed as well. A swirl of reduced vinegar failed to make it posh (C).
The saving grace was the award-winning local red, Marques de Campomeno 2011 (B+), a Tempranillo/Cab Sauv, which is now my favourite local tipple whenever I’m in Jaen.
To finish a local dessert, Dulce de Gachas con Matalauva y Aciete de Oliva Extra Virgen, which translates as a sweet set porridge, topped with aniseed and extra virgin olive oil. The main ingredients of most Gachas recipes seem to be milk, flour, sugar and whatever flavourings are to hand; a sweet born out of poverty if ever there was one. Despite its simplicity it was quite nice (B) and the waiter loved me for ordering it!
Generally the front of house staff here were very pleasant but they took a long time to attend to me, although to be fair they do have a lot of ground to cover.
After eating I decamped to the lounge with a glass of the local sweet anis, appropriately named Castello de Jaen, which seemed the only fitting way to end the evening.
So a mediocre and slightly pricey food experience but the interior of the parador and the views of the town at night were worth it.
Please see my other posts on Jaen for other places to eat.