Archive for the Andalusia Category

Almeria – eating near the hotels in Los Molinos

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Centro, Los Molinos, Spain with tags , , , , on March 24, 2019 by gannet39

This is a post primarily for my colleagues as the hotels we generally use aren’t in the Centro but a little way out in the barrio of Los Molinos.

Apologies for the lack of photos but nothing was particularly photogenic!

Hotel Tryp Indalo (Intermediate B), Avenida del Mediterráneo, www.melia.com

A fairly modern tourist hotel I stayed in in 2017 that’s about a twenty to twentyfive minute walk away from the Centro. Alternatively you can catch the #6 bus to the Catedral or the #1 to the Alcazaba from the bus stop outside the Jefatura over the road.

The name Indalo comes from a prehistoric magical symbol found in a cave near Almeria (info here).

The hotel itself is fine, nothing special, but better than the Hotel Vincci below. There’s a terrace on the roof with some broken sunbeds but little else in the way of facilities. It doesn’t have a restaurant but there’s a decent tapas bar nearby…

El Rincon de Basi (Intermediate B), 37 Travesia de San Luis

This is just two blocks up the hill from the Hotel Tryp Indalo, on the parallel street to the main road, so very handy if you can’t face going into town. It’s highly rated by the locals and was at #5 on Tripadvisor on my visit in 2017.

I had a couple of tapas but neither particularly impressed me. Service was pleasant and you can sit outside on the pavement terrace. I would go again but choose more carefully.

They have a second sister restaurant in town…

El Rincon de Basi Centro (Intermediate B), 12 Calle General Segura

This modern tapas bar is just opposite the Inlingua I was working at. I went for lunch and had a couple of decent but watery salads (B-), as is the Spanish way.

Hotel Vincci Mediterraneo (Intermediate C), 281 Avenida del Mediterraneo, www.vinccihoteles.com

This is where I stayed in 2014. Nice enough staff, except for one miserable guy in the breakfast room. It has spacious, basic rooms and is probably quite cheap, but it’s not very central and they fleece you for the internet. Maybe that’s changed since though.

Cadenas (Elementary B), 98 Haza de Acosta, closed Sunday.

Turn right out of the Hotel Vincci, turn second right down unsigned Calle Muro, turn right at the end and you’ll see this bar on the right in a block of small bars.

The easy option near the Hotel Vincci, this is a local tapas bar selling decent food. Get there soon after 8pm to guarantee a place on the terrace as it’s very popular. At lunchtime they only serve raciones.

I had the Patatas Bravas (pictured), Ensaladilla Rusa (boiled potato. tuna, mayo ), Carne con Salsa de Tomate (all B).

Bravas

So these were the options I tried when I was too tired to walk into town. You’ll be rewarded with much better food and atmosphere though if you can make it into the Centro.

A key to other posts on Almeria:

Traditional Tapas Bars in Town
Modern Tapas Bars in Town
Chilling at Zapillo Beach
Walking Around

My map is here.

A weekend in lovely Granada next.

Almeria – Chilling at Playa Zapillo

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Neuva Almeria, Spain with tags , on March 23, 2019 by gannet39

There are a couple of very large beaches near the centre of town which is why Almeria is a major holiday destination, particularly for Spanish tourists. I’m told the best beaches, and nature, are up the coast at Caba de Gato, but I have never had the time nor the car to go. One day though.

Here are a couple of chiringuitos (beach bars specialising in seafood) at Playa del Zapillo that I’ve been to…

El Tio Pepe (Elementary B), Avanida Cabo de Gata

This was the hotel recommended beach shack down in Neuva Almeria, a good place to go on a Sunday when everywhere else will most likely be closed. The food is fine but nothing out of this world.

I just had a plate of Migas (B) with some perfectly grilled Sardinias (A) and several cervecas.

Migas and Sardinias

It takes ten minutes and €6 in a cab to get there from the Hotel Tryp Indalo (see next post), or you could take much longer on the bus. A sun lounger cost me €3.50 for the day.

In 2017 I arrived at El Tio Pepe a bit late at about 2pm (which is when most Spanish people eat lunch) and there was a queue of about twenty people ahead of me so I went to the next chiringuito down the beach where there were plenty of free tables…

Terraza del Mar (Intermediate C), 14 Calle Lopez Delgado

I think this place fancies itself as a bit posher than El Tio Pepe but I don’t rate it particularly highly.

I began with the Caballa; a loin of mackerel with local tomatoes (B).

The Lenguado however wasn’t great as a lot of the flesh was stuck to the backbone, perhaps a symptom of having been frozen until very recently (C).

And I do like my fried potatoes (no pic), the Patatas Alioli, to have a bit of colour (C).

The bottle of Castelo de Medina was very good though (B+) which cheered me up.

The Tarta de Queso was okay but nothing special (C+).

With an Orujo de Hierbas the final bill was €56.

After all this a snooze in the sun was in order. A ‘hamaca’ (hammock) here costs €5.

So treat yourself to a lazy day at the beach!

A key to other posts on Almeria:

Traditional Tapas Bars in Town
Modern Tapas Bars in Town
Eating near the Hotels
Walking Around

My map is here.

A post for my colleagues next…

Almeria – Modern Tapas in the Centro

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Centro, Spain with tags , , on March 22, 2019 by gannet39

There are heaps of tapas bars in Almeria so I’ve had to break my posts down to make them more accessible. My last post about the tapas in the Centro was about the trad places, this one is about the more modern bars. As ever, it’s just my brief impression, not a guide.

Here are my other posts on Almeria:

Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro
Modern Tapas Bars in the Centro
Chilling at Zapillo Beach
Eating near the Hotels
Walking Around

My map is here.

My, and everyone’s, favourite tapas bar is Casa Puga but this next place comes in a solid second…

La Mala (Intermediate A), 69 Calle Real

This hipster bar in Quatro Calles in the Centro is about thirty minutes’ walk from the Hotel Tryp Indalo where I was staying. It was my favourite place in town for food on my trip in June 2017 and at the time it was deservedly (for a change) the Tripadvisor #1 for its Cocina Creativa.

I went twice, once by myself and again with my colleague Sean and two of his local friends.

On both occasions I ordered the Tortilla con Trufa which was always knock out (A).

Don’t recall the name of the dish but it was great; thinly sliced, coiled courgettes tubes with parmesan cheese (B+).

The Entrana steak was a bit of an extra chewy cut (B+) but the Tuna Roja Tartar was really good (A).

We had a great bottle of Verdejo as well but foolishly I neglected to get the name. This Bai Gorri is a great Rioja though.

This is a great spot, definitely a top tip for food.

Continuing in order of preference…

Nuestra Tierra (Intermediate B+), 16 Calle Jovellanos, corner with Calle Marin, www.tabernanuestratierra.com

This bright, modern place has won a few Ruta de Tapas awards for the tapas below. You get one free when you buy a drink and pay a bit more, €1.60 when I was there, if you get extra ones. This is why drinks seem a bit expensive (€3.20 for a beer or €3.60 for a glass of wine).

The Bacalao Frito con Mahonesa Pil-Pil (A); chunks of battered, deep fried saltcod with mayo made with the oil from frying the cod and a sprinkle of chilli flakes, won second prize in the 2014 Ruta.

Also the Pasamar en Acietede Oliva; squid in a jar with olive oil and a black alioli made from squid ink was very good (B+). The year before I was there this tapa had won the won first prize in the 2016 Ruta.

The Crujiente de Morcilla; black pudding fritter with tomato jam, was just okay (B) although it won second prize in 2013.

Sadly though the Boladillos Jamon were not for me. A mash of potatoes with chunks of ham and garlic was strangely inedible (D).

I had a bit of a run in with the mardy waiter about this. I think uneaten unpleasant food shouldn’t be charged for and he did take it off the bill but without any grace. Also his tiny pouring of wine was considerably smaller than that of the person on the next table (a regular no doubt) which I made him remedy.

I’d go back for the Bacalao Frito and the Pasamar though. Total cost €11.50 which is very good for what I had.

El Vino en un Barco (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Arco

This is a cool little bar on a side street off the Calle Real strip. I came for drinks I’d like to come back for tapas. They’re also known for their cocktails.

The waiter was really nice and friendly but I didn’t like the El Terrao red wine he recommended to me as being the best local wine. National classics like Rioja and Ribera might be a safer bet.

I stayed because they had my favourite rum; Diplomatico from Venezuela, which is sublime mixed with a bit of fresh lime juice.

A place I’d go back to for sure.

De Tal Palo (Intermediate B), 15 Calle Real, detalpaloalmeria.es

This big, modern, popular tapas bar used to be the (failed?) Museo de Aciete. I’m guessing that the large pieces of antique olive oil processing machinery they have on display were once some of the exhibits.

As elsewhere, you get a free tapa with every drink. I had another go at the local classic Patatas Pobre, ‘poverty potatoes’, aka greasy fried potatoes with a fried egg, but I’m still not a fan (C).

The Solomillo al Foie con Reduccion de PX sobre Camas de Patatas Paja, didn’t impress as much as I hoped either (B-).

I also had another glass of El Terrao , the same wine I’d had over the road at El Vino en un Barco which had been described as the best but again it really didn’t do anything for me (C).

Total bill for three tapas and two glasses of wine was €8.80. It wasn’t that bad, but I probably won’t be returning when there are so many other places to try.

To the beach next!

Almeria – Traditional tapas Bars in the Centro

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Centro, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2019 by gannet39

Over two trips I’ve spent a couple of weeks in Almeria so I’ve managed to get a bit of a handle on the dining scene. Almeria is a big tapas town so most of the places below are tapas bars but a few double as restaurants. As there are so many I’ve had to break them down into separate posts to make them more accessible. This one is on Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro but there are others on…

Modern Tapas Bars in Town

Chilling at the Zapillo Beach

Eating near the Hotel

Walking Around

My map is here and a map of the barrios is here.

Out of all of the great tapas bars in town, I think this one is unmissable…

Casa Puga (Intermediate A+), 7 Calle Jovelllanos, www.barcasapuga.es GEM ALERT!

The most famous tapas bar in town, so of course it’s in all the guides, but for good reason…

It’s been around since 1870 and the atmospheric interior is covered with beautiful old ceramic tiles and pictures of days gone by.

Comedor

Three huge earthenware wine jars fill one end of the restaurant area while the old wooden bar is where most people choose to stand and talk.

Wine jars

Everything I ate here was superb. My first visit was with a friend on a Saturday night when we did well to get a seat as it was heaving inside and out. We had three plates of sliced Chorizo, Salchicha (A)…

Chorizo

…and Manchego Curado with toasted almonds (A)…

Old cheese

…along with a decent 2002 Rioja Crianza (A).

Ondarre 2002 Rerserva

We were the last ones in the place but our excellent waiter still came to fill our shot glasses with a second complimentary Pacharan, this one tasting more like cough medicine than usual (B).

I was working nearby the next day so came back for lunch where, after another complimentary slice of ‘queso viejo’ (matured Manchego) with toasted almonds, I got stuck into the fishy side of things. I had a plate of sublime creamy Pulpo a la Gallega, still warm octopus sprinkled with paprika and olive oil (A+). (Pic was blurry sorry).

Also a plate of Salmonetes (Red Mullet)…

Salmonetas

…and a mixed salad with Ventresca (belly tuna) (both A).

House salad

This went well with a glass of dry white Verdejo ‘Monasterio de Palazuelos’ from Rueda (B).

Palazuelos

To finish, the Tartita al Whisky looked worryingly different from other times I’d had it. Unlike previous occasions though this one was partly made with ice cream which was a winner (A).

Whisky tart

With this two glasses of sweet dessert wine, called simply Vino Dulce, made on the premises (A+).

Vino Dulce

I had the same old boy looking after me as the night before, which he did very well (thanks Juan). I was literally purring with contentment when I left.

Not far from Puga is the Alcazaba, the ancient fortress on the hill. There was no way I was going to make it up any kind of incline in the heat after that little lot, so it might be an idea to do the sightseeing before you eat.

Cow cart outside Puga

Casa Sevilla (Advanced B+), 14 Rueda Lopez, Galería Comercial Almericentro, www.casa-sevilla.com

This restaurant and tapas bar is the most famous high end place in town, perhaps because it’s one of the oldest (since 1958). In summer it’s best to sit outside in the terrace. I say ‘in’ because it’s in a tunnel but that’s okay because you catch a bit of a breeze. The waiters weren’t particularly friendly but they warmed up a bit with time.

I had the Berenjenas Fritas con Miel de Cana which has been on the menu since they opened. They were very nice (B+) if rather calorific. The aubergines are sliced thinly, battered and deep-fried. You get a bottle of cane sugar to pour over them. Must have a go at making this when I get home.

I was in the mood for meat so I had the Gallego Entrecote de Buey which I asked for ‘pocho hecho’. I should have said ‘jugoso’ as it wasn’t bloody at all but I still enjoyed it (B+) along with the skinny chips (B+). The salt looks like Maldon but it’s a local copy.

To go with it the Rincon Postrero Crianza, a Syrah Merlot blend which was okay (B).

A beer, a Torres 10 year old brandy (B) and the bread took the bill to just under €60. Expensive for Almeria but it was all good tackle.

Bodega Las Botas (Intermediate B+), 3 Calle Fructuoso Perez

This is another atmospheric old joint in the historic centre, tucked down a back street. It’s hard to find but worth it for the beautiful interior, packed with bullfighting memorabilia, including a couple of huge horned heads peering down at you from the wall.
Bull

You can also sit outside in the alleyway on some beautifully painted but very uncomfortable traditional chairs and tiny tables (hence the A minus).

As with all other places in Almeria, you immediately get a complimentary tapa on the house, in our case a plate of unshelled almonds and some fantastic ham on tomato bread (A).

Jamon

My choice of crinkly under-ripe Raf tomatoes (a local speciality) with raw garlic wasn’t the best (B-) as the huge plateful really needed something else to go with it.

Raf tomatoes

The house salad has lots of ingredients but was just ok (B).

There were some beautiful looking canapés on other tables as well. Service was just ok. One negative for me was that this is accordion player territory, but you may like music with your food.

Marisqueria Baviera (Intermediate B), 10 Calle Tenor Iribarne

This seafood specialist is the sister restaurant of Las Botas just around the corner. I had a hankering for some grilled prawns so I had a half dozen Gamba Blanca for €6 which, although very heavy on the salt, pressed the right buttons once I’d brushed it off (B). Not sure I’d come here for any other reason though.

Kiosco Amalia (Elementary B+), 10 Plaza Manuel Pérez García, www.facebook.com/KioskoAmalia

This street kiosk is a quite a famous spot in Almeria, popular with daytime customers and late night clubbers alike. They sell a local coffee drink called Café Americano which is made of milk, cinnamon, lemon rind and a dash of a cola cream liquer called Kola Cortails.

Sadly I didn’t find the right time to try one but instead I had another well known local drink, a Jabega de Menta, basically a slush puppy with a shot of Crème de Menthe, which is very thirst quenching on a hot day (A).

As you can see in the photo, Jerry Garcia is a regular here.

Bar Bahía de Palma (Intermediate B), 17 Calle Mariana

An old school bull fighting bar, plain and simple but with plenty of character. I found it a good place to meet locals and had a couple of good conversations with an old teacher and a young gypsy guy.

And a couple of places to avoid…

Parrilla Pasaje (Elementary C), 1 Calle Rueda López

This bar is famous for the Chérigan, a popular tapa served in many bars around the city. I was slightly disappointed to discover that it’s basically just a piece of toasted bread spread with aioli (or sometimes tomato) and a topping, such as tuna, cheese, tortilla, serrano ham, mackerel, quail egg, or in my case Jamon de York.

However, it did prompt me to find out why ham from my county in England is so popular in Spain. It turns out that in 1860, the cured hams produced by butcher Robert Burrow Atkinson, whose premises were on Blossom Street in York, became so popular that visiting customers exported the name and, in other British locations, they requested York-style cured ham. It is even mentioned by Auguste Escoffier in Le Guide Culinaire and in fact I have eaten it in Lyon (post here) with a Madeira wine sauce.

It seems the name Chérigan may be a corruption of “Sheriff”, perhaps from the Westerns that they film at the nearby Tabernas desert or possibly from the nickname of a bossy waiter (or chef, explanations vary) who once worked in the bar.

Bar Casa Joaquín (Intermediate C), 111 Calle Real

This historical tapas bar just down the road from La Mala (see next post) gets recommendations from both the Frommers and Michelin guides, perhaps because it has been around such a long time, although probably too long in my opinion. The first time I tried to go the waiter told me they opened at 21.00 which was too late for me. The second time I went for lunch at 13.15 which again was too early really but they were open and serving drinks and tapas so I went in.

My ‘Hola, buenas’ wasn’t even acknowledged which wasn’t a good start. I had two beers and two compliementary tapas; a Pisto which was good (B) and some boiled Squid which tasted okay at the time but which I think upset my plumbing later. I think it had been standing unrefridgerated for a bit too long. I wanted some of their excellent looking seafood out of the glass fridge but it wasn’t 2pm yet so I wasn’t allowed. Don’t think I’ll be going back. Miserable waiters and suspect food.

La Encina (Intermediate C), 16 Calle Marin

This place comes recommended by Michelin, Frommers and Repsol, perhaps because it’s in an old (not especially) atmospheric building containing a Moorish well. I might have chosen badly but I wasn’t impressed by the tapas I had in the front area. The restaurant at the back might be better.

This was my first try of Patatas Pobre, a classic local dish which I think just isn’t for me. The pale potatoes were edible (C), but only just. Don’t be put off though, you can get better elsewhere.

The Arroz Negro was a bit too oily for my taste (C) and the Croquetas failed to impress (C).

I asked for a local wine and was given a bottle called Carum which was undrinkable (D). They were nice enough to replace it with a glass of Ribera though (B).

Don’t think I’ll go again though as there are plenty of other places around.

Modern tapas bars next!

Almeria – walking around the Centro

Posted in Almeria, Almeria Province, Andalusia, Spain on March 20, 2019 by gannet39

I’ve been to Almería twice, in 2012 and 2017, and it’s grown on me more and more each time. While not exactly a stunner, the city does have a lot of historical buildings, and there’s a huge beach which is never a bad thing.

I’ve broken my posts down to make them more accessible. This one is about Walking Around, ie architecture, street art etc but here are some others:

Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro
Modern Tapas Bars in the Centro
Chilling at Zapillo Beach
Eating near the Hotels

My Google map of the city is here and a map of the barrios is here.

Almería was founded by the Moors in 955AD. The Alacazaba on the hill is the second largest Arabic fortress in Andalusia.

It has been used as a set for Conan the Barbarian, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Never Say Never Again, and Wonder Woman.

I’ve never actually made it inside. On my first attempt I’d just eaten a huge lunch and couldn’t contemplate walking up a steep hill in the sun, and on my second try it was too early in the morning and they wouldn’t let me in. To be honest, friends tell me I’m not missing that much but I’d like to get inside one day just for the views.

Le Catedral in Plaza Vieja is much more accessible after a big lunch at nearby Casa Puga (see my post on Traditional Tapas Bars in the Centro).

In terms of architecture, there are a few Modernista buildings around. My favourite is the Edificio De Las Mariposas at 6 Puerta de Purchena. Video here.

The butterflies around the top are a lovely feature.

There are a couple more Modernista buildings over the road at 4 and 5 Puerta de Purchena.

They were designed in an Electic style that includes a variety of influences; Moorish as well as neoclassical European.

There’s another in Plaza Flores.

A statue of John Lennon is also in the same square.

The old train station is another example of Moderisme.

It was being renovated when I was there so I need to go back for a proper look at the details.

I adore this house at 31 Calle Juan del Olmo. Wish I knew more about it.

I stumbled across a couple more modern buildings that I liked.

Can’t remember where they are, sorry.

I tried looking for this one on Google street view but still can’t recall where it was, apologies again.

I’m also a fan of the Fuente de los Peces in Parque Nicolás Salmerón.

I’m sure I’ve seen a cartoon character that has similar features to this fish but I can’t think where.

They love a bit of topiary in Almeria. Many of the main streets are shaded by beautifully sculpted trees.

These trees are in Plaza Campoamor in the Centro Histórico just south of the Alcazar.

I was lucky to catch the beautiful climbing flowers in bloom.

The barrio is a nice area to walk around.

In terms of street art, I didn’t see much about, but I quite like these squiggly images.

Both are by the same artist I presume.

Here are a few other bits and pieces that caught my eye.

Time for some tapas…

Málaga Este – places to eat around El Palo beach

Posted in Andalusia, El Palo, Malaga, Malaga Province, Málaga Este, Spain with tags , , on November 18, 2017 by gannet39

El Palo is the next beach along from Pedregalejo. For me it made for a nice walk along the beachfront.

There are heaps of restaurants along the way but this first one is worth going the distance.

El Tintero (Elementary A), 340 Avenida Salvador Allende

El Tintero is a large and very famous chiringuito that attracts an avid crowd of followers. The food is good (B/B+) but nothing out of this world, just what you’d expect from a good Spanish beach restaurant.

What makes them special though is the way they serve the food. The waiters collect plates of whatever the kitchen has just made and parade them around the tables shouting out their wares until someone takes a fancy to what they have and claims it. It’s much more fun than ordering from a menu which is why they are so popular.

I came with my local friend Juan for a light lunch and a few beers. We had an Espeto de Sardinas which Juan taught me how to eat like a Malagueno; with your hands nibbling around the middle and discarding the backbone with the head and tail still attached. A squeeze of lemon juice is all that’s required as they are already salted.

I have a penchant for prawns (it’s the Norwegian in me) so we also had a plate of these delicate white prawns which I think are Gambas de Huelva by the look of them. Again, a little lemon juice is all that’s needed.

After a meal like this, it’s quite okay to suck your fingers (‘chuparse los dedos’).

El Tintero is a great experience which I thoroughly recommend.

Candado Beach (Advanced B+), Cliub Náutico El Candado, Carretera de Almería (no number), www.grupogorki.com

A posh place a bit further along the coast from El Tintero, technically in El Candado neighbourhood but included here for simplicity’s sake. It’s a kind of beach club affair with posh sun beds and a large semi-covered restaurant terrace, located next to a marina far away from the madding crowds.

I was pretty full from lunch and wasn’t keen on their high prices so I only had an Espeto de Sardinas and a couple of glasses of Verdejo for €10.60. Service was efficient and friendly. Be nice to come here to eat with company or spend a day luxuriating in the sun.

El Cobertizo (Intermediate C), 25 Avenida Pio Baroja

I came here because it gets a shout from the Michelin guide but I wasn’t too impressed. The service was good but the food didn’t cut it for me, but that could be because I didn’t order very well.

I love broad beans and black pudding so I went for the ‘Habas Naurales Salteadas con su Vaina, Cebolleta, Jamon y Morcilla Grainaina’ (broad beans sautéed in their pods with scallion, cured ham and Granada style black pudding) but what arrived was rather unsightly, too salty and way too big for me to finish (C).

‘Rabo de Toro’ with chips is hard to get wrong (B). The Tagus red wine and Principe brandy, both from Málaga were drinkable but not particularly special (B-).

With cover, water, dessert and coffee the final bill was €51.

A disappointing experience but maybe if you’re not as strict about having local dishes and drinks as I am, you might have a better meal.

And that was my cheap and cheerful holiday in Málaga. Nothing too wild, just a relaxed recharging of the batteries. Definitely recommended.

Málaga Este – places to eat around Pedregalejo beach

Posted in Andalusia, Malaga, Malaga Province, Málaga Este, Pedregalejo, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on November 17, 2017 by gannet39

Pedragalejo is a long, manmade beach in Málaga Este. It’s about fifteen minutes on the bus from central Málaga.

It’s a popular area with heaps of restaurants and bars along the long Paseo Maritimo. I’ve put the ones I visited on this Google map.

You can get a good run in along the Paseo in the mornings which is when I took these photos (hence the lack of people). Over the bay you can see Torremolinos on the left in front of the Sierra de Mijas mountains and Malaga on the right.

At night every restaurant will be grilling seafood in these little sand-filled boats. The boats can be swivelled so the wind doesn’t smoke out the diners.

The most popular choice is an ‘Espeto de Sardinas’, grilled sardines on a skewer which is stuck into the sand near the flames. This is very typical, in fact Malagueños get their nickname (Los Boquerones) from their love of sardines.

El Balneario aka Baños del Carmen (High Intermediate A), 26 Calle Bolivia, www.elbalneariomalaga.com

This is my favourite place to eat and drink in Málaga, well worth the walk or short taxi ride from the centre. It’s set in a beautiful location next to the sea with a nice view of Málaga across the bay. The atmosphere is magical at night time with the moon in the sky and the waves crashing against the rocks next to your table. The outdoor dining area is under a canopy but you might catch a bit of spray if you’re near the water.

I went twice, the first time on a Saturday night when they had a wedding in and the second time on a Monday when it was still quite busy but easier to get a table.

Reservations are probably a good idea but on both occasions the lovely lady front of house sorted me out and found me a table. The other staff were generally very nice as well even though they seemed very harassed at times.

You’re not supposed to have half portions but the amiable section chief let me have a media of Croquetas de Puchero which were excellent (A). The Croquetas de Bacalao on the second visit weren’t quite as nice but still pretty good (B+). The salad that came with them had a wonderful dressing (A).

The first time I had Gambas Plancha, a bit pricey at €20 for fifteen, but very good (A). A bottle of La Goleta Verdejo was pretty good (B) and well priced at €12.

On the second visit the Calamar Plancha was huge (I could only manage half of it) and again somewhat expensive at €24. I like it a bit crispier that it was but it was still good (B).

This time I had a bottle of Botani Blanco a really nice (B+) white from Málaga for €19 which upped the bill to a total cost of €48.50.

For dessert I had the Leche Frita and a glass of local Pajarete sweet wine which took the bill to €45.

On the top floor there’s a bar where you can get a fancy Mojito for €7.

It was too dark for my photos to come out sorry, but suffice to say it is a very romantic place. A top recommend, especially in the company of a loved one.

In August 2016 I rented an AirBnB in Pedragalejo and stayed on for four days holiday. I spent all my days lounging in the sun at this place…

Hotel La Chancla (Intermediate B+), 64 Paseo Maritimo El Pedregral, www.lachanclahotel.com

This is a small three storey hotel on the beachfront, the only hotel I know of in Pedragalejo, which has a restaurant and bar on the ground floor.

It’s a nice relaxing place for breakfast as from 9am they either had a violinist or a contrabass player playing soothing live music while you eat.

A narrow sunbed (hamaca) and sonbrilla (sun shade, sic) is €5 for the day or you can rent a double bed type affair on stilts for €24. You can get table service from a waiter who’ll bring you chilled beers in an ice bucket.

Kali (Elementary B), 62 Paseo Maritimo el Pedregral

Another good place for breakfast that’s right next door to La Chancla above, so you can still listen to the live music but pay slightly less.

Swan Bar (Intermediate B+), 67 Paseo Maritimo el Pedregral, www.facebook.com

The best Mojito I had on this visit was here (A) although when I went a second time a different bartender put way too much sugar in it (B-). Serving it in a jar is a nice touch. It’s also well priced at €6.50 a pop.

Helados Cremades (Intermediate B+), 34 Calle Cenacheros, www.heladoscremades.es

The best place for ice cream in the area according to my hosts because they make their own, unlike all their competitors.

Miguelito El Cartinoso (Intermediate B), 77 Paseo Maritimo el Pedregral, m.facebook.com

This chiringuito (beach restaurant specialising in seafood) is my host family’s favourite place to eat and for them the paella here is the best in Málaga. The Paella Mixta I had was pretty tasty (B) but the purists would scoff at mixing meat with seafood as many places do in Spain. With a tubo of Tinto Verano (B) and a half bottle of Marques Caceres white the bill on my first visit came to just under €30.

The second time I had the Calamar Plancha which was very nicely presented and pretty cheap at €14. With a couple of thirst-quenching tanques of Cerveza and a doble of Orujo de Hierbas, the bill came to €26.

Service ranged from dour and unsmiling to friendly and efficient over the two visits.

El Cabra (Intermediate C), 17 Paseo Maritimo el Pedregral, www.restauranteelcabra.es

Listed in 1001 Restaurants to Visit Before You Die, and a local institution since 1965 my experience here was sadly quite disappointing.

Unlike many places they will make a paella for one here but the Paella Mariscos wasn’t cooked properly (C) with a few grains of rice still hard and a pool of stock still sitting on the surface. The clams and prawn were nice though. Maybe it’s true that you do need to make it in large amounts for it to be good.

I had a half portion of Boquerones Fritas (fried anchovies) which were okay but pretty tasteless so I had to salt them a lot to enjoy them (B-).

The olives I began with were fantastic though (A) and the half bottle of wine was good so maybe I just caught them on an off day. Total cost with a beer €23.50. Service ranged from friendly to sour. I’d still give them another try if I was in Pedregalejo again.

If you’re prepared to walk a bit further along the beachfront to the next neighbourhood El Palo, there’s one place worth going to in the next post…

Málaga Este – places to eat around Malagueta beach

Posted in Andalusia, Malaga, Malaga Province, Malagueta, Málaga Este, Spain with tags , on November 16, 2017 by gannet39

Malagueta is the main beach for central Málaga, even though technically it’s in Málaga Este. Muelle Uno (Pier One) runs parallel to it on the other side of the peninsula.

The beach is completely urban with blocks of flats overlooking it along its whole length. None of them were of any architectural interest to me, except this one.

I’ve never been on the sands because it’s always so busy, but I have eaten at a couple of places nearby.

You’ll find everywhere on this Google map.

Ba (High Intermediate B), 4 Plaza de la Malagueta, www.grupogorki.com

This is a Japanese Malagueno fusion restaurant recommended by Guia Repsol, part of a group of restaurants that all do different things. I’ve not eaten in the main dining room but I’ve sat outside on the pleasant ground floor terrace which overlooks the beach.

I began with a Wakame salad dressed with sesame seeds, oil and togarashi (Japanese chilli), which was very good (B+).

I followed up with ‘Ostras Japonesa con Ponzu y Momiji’ which were fantastic (A+), if a bit pricey at €3.25 at each. I must try to recreate these.

By the way, Ponzu is a dipping sauce made from rice wine, rice vinegar, soy sauce, bonito flakes, konbu seaweed, and ideally fresh yuzu juice. Momiji I think refers to Momiji Oroshi which is grated daikon radish and red chilli although here it looked and tasted like plain old Tabasco to me, not that that was of concern.

I went with the restaurant’s own recommendation of the ‘Urumakis Huevo Escondido’; California rolls of butter fish and truffle concealing quail egg yolks and completely obscured by a thick pile of battered and deep-fried Chanquetes (whitebait), which I really wasn’t expecting. It was an original concept and sounded wonderful on paper but was quite disappointing in terms of texture and flavour (C+). Best avoided in my opinion.

I tried to cheer myself up with a couple of Salmon Nigiris which are hard to get wrong, although these were a bit on the titchy side (A-). I also had a pair of Tartar de Atun Nigiris (diced tuna with chilli on crunchy rice) which were just okay (B-).

However, the Revuelo white wine from Ronda was good (B) and very reasonably priced at just €9 for the bottle. My total spend was just under €50.

I might go back for the oysters and the more traditional Japanese food but the fusion stuff didn’t work for me.

Café de Paris (Advanced C), 8 Calle Velez Málaga, www.rcafedeparis.com

One of the best places in town according to the Michelin Guide and Guia Repsol, but a big letdown as far as I was concerned.

The à la carte menu has some hefty prices, and I’m sure the food listed on it is excellent, but in an effort to cut down on my restaurant expenditure I had their lunchtime ‘Menu Mediodia’ which was only €17.

You get three options for each course. To start I had the virtually tasteless ‘Ajo Blanco Frio de Alemendras con Uvas’ (B)…

… followed by the ‘Filete de Mero Café Paris’, topped with an unlikable gloopy sauce and plain boiled spuds (C). And to finish a slice of their ‘Tarta Casera’, homemade cake with a sweet syrup that really didn’t go well with it (B-).

With a glass of excellent local sweet wine (A), the bill was just shy of €20 which is very cheap. Just a shame the food didn’t work for me. Maybe the evening chef is better…

Málaga – Centro – Soho Art District

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Malaga, Malaga Province, Soho, Spain with tags , on November 15, 2017 by gannet39

Soho is the designated art district in the south west corner of the Centro; forty run-down but regenerating blocks between the harbour, the River Guadalmedina and Alameda Principal. It’s where you’ll find the street art and avant garde galleries.

There are lots of good pieces on many of the walls here. Click on the pics to get a better view.

Entrance to the Centro De Arte Contemporáneo De Málaga (CAC) cacmalaga.eu is free so I had a gander.

This post is a work in progress, no doubt I’ll add to it when I’m next in town.

Málaga – Centro – Rooftop Bars

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Malaga, Malaga Province, Spain with tags , , , on November 14, 2017 by gannet39

On a sultry summer evening in Málaga, the best place to be is catching the breeze on a roof terrace with a cold drink in your hand. There are many roof top bars in the town. These are my favourites.

You’ll find them all, and more on this Google map.

In the interests of research I tried a few rooftop bars around the centre and each time had a G&T made with Bombay Sapphire gin (although there are many gins to choose from on most bars). Here are the results in order of preference:

Alcazaba Premium Hostel, 12 Calle Alcazabilla, www.alcazabapremiumhostel.com

I like this place because it has the best view of the Alcazaba and the Castillo Gibralfaro that I know of. It’s especially nice at night when the castle is lit up. There’s a restaurant (Batik, untried) and two bars on different levels. A G&T costs a fair 8€.

La Piscina Lounge, Molina Lario Hotel, 20 Calle Molina Lario, www.hotelmolinalario.com

This split level bar is on the rooftop (eighth floor) of the hotel I usually stay in. There’s no view to speak of really but there’s a small swimming pool and a few sun loungers which make it a great spot for chilling in the day time. The loungers are very popular so you might have to go before lunch to snag one, especially at the weekend. A G&T costs 8€ and you usually get a little pot of ‘frutos secos’ (nuts, raisins etc) with each drink.

Ático, Hotel Marriot, 1 Calle Cortina del Muelle, www.marriott.com

The Marriot is directly opposite the Hotel Molina Larios and towers above it. Ático, the hotel’s bar is on the fifteenth floor so you can look down on La Piscina Lounge next door (hence the picture above). In fact you look down on most things and you can see for miles which makes this one of the best views in the city. This height superiority comes at a price however as a G&T costs 12€, a euro for each extra floor. That doesn’t stop it being a popular spot though, especially at the weekend.

Terraza Club Chinitas, Chinitas Urban Hostel, 3 Pasaje Chinitas, www.chinitashostel.com

A pleasant split level roof terrace that doesn’t seem to get too crowded as it’s off the beaten track down a side street. There’s no view to speak of, although you can see the cathedral, but a G&T only costs 7€ and they play chilled house music, or at least they did when I was there.

To sum up then, G&Ts and presumably most other cocktails, cost about 5€ at ground level whereas rooftop bars charge between 7€ and 12€ depending how high they were. The average (in 2016) seems to be around 8€.

And while we’re here…

In Málaga back in 2013 I had my first taste of Licor 43 (aka Cuarenta y Tres), Spain’s best-selling liqueur. The secret recipe has forty three ingredients (hence the name) but the main flavours are orange and vanilla. The latter dominates, too much so for my taste (C+), although it might be better mixed with other things.

A similar southern tipple is Ponche, a brandy-based liqueur that has been infused with Andalucian oranges, dried fruit and spices. I know there’s more than one brand but Caballero is the only one that the bars ever seem to have. It’s ok, like a weak spiced brandy (B), but there are several other Spanish digestifs I’d rather drink.

I’d love to hear about your experiences of drinks and cocktails in Spain. Please tell me your stories in the comments section below.

Málaga – Centro – where to drink local wines

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Malaga, Malaga Province, Spain with tags , on November 13, 2017 by gannet39

Wine production in Málaga province started in the eighth century BC with the Phoenicians and the industry was later developed by the Greeks, Romans, Moors and more recently, by the British.

Málaga has three DOs (Denominaciones de Origen):

DO Málaga (mainly sweet white wines)
DO Sierra de Málaga (white, rose and red wines)
DO Pasas de Málaga (raisins).

The province is most famous for its sweet fortified dessert wines from the DO Málaga which are made from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel white grape varieties.

The three main growing areas are: La Axarquia, Montes de Málaga , and Zona Norte (the hills north of Antequera).

I know of two bodegas in the Centro where you can try local wines; one quite central, and the other (my favourite) slightly off the beaten track.

For more contemporary drinking experiences, please see my post on Rooftop Bars. All these bars and others can be found on my Google map
.
Antigua Casa de Guardia (Intermediate A-), 18 Alameda Principal, www.antiguacasadeguardia.net

This ancient tavern has sold famous local wines on draught since 1840. It’s just a single large room spanned across its width by a long bar and barrels with signs on along the back wall. My favourites are the Málaga Virgen and Moscatel.

In traditional style, the bartenders chalk up your bill on the bar as you go along. They serve simple tapas too which probably haven’t changed since the place opened.

Casa de Guardia is a good place to start your night out as it has heaps of atmosphere and cheap, though not amazing wines (B/C).

La Odisea (Intermediate A), 2 Subida a la Coracha, www.vinosdemalaga.com

This is a favourite spot of mine and I have my friend Nicky and a local blog to thank for making me come here. I love the old world charm of ‘The Odyssey’ and would totally recommend it over the more famous and touristy Antigua Casa de Guardia.

There are about twenty small barrels of different local wines inside and customers can buy wines to take out by the bottle. They sometimes also put on wine tastings and live music.

The location isn’t ideal (on a main road right by the entrance to the tunnel that goes under the castle) but it’s still nice to sit outside on the small terrace.

If you want more peace and quiet there’s an internal patio out the back, complete with a small bomb shelter from the Second World War. Or you could sit in the dark interior by the barrels, but it can be a bit stuffy in the summer, even with the doors open.

I tried two local sweet wines at €2 a glass; the Pajarete (B+) and the Málaga Cream (A), which has notes of coconut to my palate. I liked the Cream so much that I got a bottle to take home for a mere €12. I also tried their brandy which was just okay (B) but good value at €3 a glass.

They also serve tapas which I also need to try next time, along with their acclaimed homemade vermouth. A favourite spot, do go.

Málaga – Eating in the Centro

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Malaga, Malaga Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve put my favourites first and a few to avoid at the end. Old bodegas and rooftop bars have been given their own posts. You’ll find everything on this Google map.

El Pimpi (Intermediate A), 62 Calle Grande, www.elpimpi.com

A local institution, centrally located near the amphitheatre on Calle Alcazabilla. It’s a big place with two entrances, a sizable terrace out front and a couple of seating areas inside. It was very busy when I went, mainly with tourists.

The building is very intriguing; attractively decorated inside with ceramic tiles, old bodega barrels and climbing plants.

The name comes from the colourful characters who would help disembarking ship passengers get what they wanted, although whether they were tour guides or flesh-peddlers seems a little unclear.

In 2013, wanting a healthy lunch, I had the ‘Ensalada Malaguena con Salmorejo, Naranja y Bacalao Asado’; a Malagan salad of cold tomato and bread soup, oranges and grilled salt cod, which was excellent (A).

With a bottle of water the bill was €8.80. The food was beautifully presented and everything looked and tasted great.

Meson Cervantes (Intermediate B+), 11 Calle Álamos, www.elmesondecervantes.com

The original and largest member of the small Cervantes chain (three locations all nearby) which feature highly in the TripAdvisor rankings. Although only at #8 at the time of writing in 2016, it easily has the most reviews, which is what I tend to look for on the rare occasions I use TripAdvisor.

My friend Terry and I ran up a bill of only €41 between us (I know, I wasn’t very hungry). We shared three tapas (salmon, jamon iberico, piquillo peppers), a half portion of seared tuna…

…four medium beers and two glasses of Legaris Crianza, the latter quite expensive at €6 a pop. I was too busy chatting to take notes but everything was good.

El Tapeo de Cervantes (Low Intermediate B+), 8 Calle Carcer, eltapeodecervantes.com

This is the much smaller, and more cramped, sister bar of Meson Cervantes above, just around the corner. It was at #6 in 2016, it easily and had the second most reviews. Again, it’s very popular so reservations are recommended.

In 2016 I came here on my first night with a hunger for Spanish food and wine that took a bit of sating. After a beer to quench my thirst I had glasses of three different Riberas and six tapas, all of which was very good (A/B).

The grilled Atun Rojo with cauliflower puree (see pic above) was a winner and these Mollejas (sweetbreads) from the specials board were also a favourite.

Despite my gluttony, the bill came to a reasonable €31.50.

El Marisquero (Elementary B+), 7 Calle Olozaga

This marisqueria, out the back door of the market on Calle Atarazanas, was recommended by a local food blog. It’s a down-to-earth, basic kind of tapas place with standing areas both inside and out so you can catch the shade or the sun as you like. The grilled prawns I had were very good (B+) and it was bliss to slake my thirst with a couple of ice cold canas.

La Cosmopolita Malagueña (Intermediate B), 3 Calle Jose Denis Belgrano

Recommended by the Guia Repsol, this is a tapas bar and restaurant located in the busy part of town but with surprisingly few customers, despite having a terrace on a quiet side street. I’m sure the items on the main restaurant menu are excellent but there seems to be a limited choice of tapas.

I had tapas of the Albondigas and Croquetas de Puchero which, along with three canas, brought the bill to €12. The quality was good so I would go back to try their mains.

El Jardín (Intermediate B+), 1 Calle Cañón, www.eljardinmalaga.com

I come to this beautiful old café just for the décor (Belle Epoque fittings, lots of cut glass lampshades and lace tablecloths).

According to the barman the building dates from 1927 and it’s called ‘The Garden’ because it’s right next to the lovely garden behind the cathedral.

I haven’t eaten but I know G&T made with Beefeater (they didn’t have Bombay) costs a mere €5, much cheaper than the rooftop bars I review elsewhere. Although I love the interior, I wouldn’t mind sitting on the big pavement terrace outside. There’s Tango dancing on Thursdays for more energetic people.

La Esquinita del Chupa y Tira (Elementary B), 31 Calle Victoria

This is an old grocery shop that has had its storeroom converted into a tapas bar. They sell wine, cheese and ham, both Spanish and Italian, and the prices are very cheap. The friendly young waitress was Italian by birth so perhaps there are some family connections. It’s nothing out of this world but makes a nice stop on the way to this next place.

Montana (Intermediate B+), 5 Compas de la Victoria

This is a very nice spot as at the back as they have a covered courtyard terrace and a garden with palm trees and a pond with carp and terrapins.

According to the blog they do a tasting menu but you have to order ahead. I had a half portion of Rabo de Toro Croquetas which were nice (B).

Also,‘Huevos Rotos al Estilo Candido con Ajada y Secreto Iberico Confitado’, basically shreds of good quality sautéed pork artistically placed atop a fried egg and potato. The bloggers raved about this although for me it was fine but nothing special (B).

On the other hand I really enjoyed a couple of glasses of excellent an Ribera del Duero from Lopez Cristobal (B+).

The bill came in at €18.50. Service was pleasant.
This is a good place for a romantic date, especially if you snag a table under the palms.

 

El Refectorium (Advanced B+), 8 Calle Cervantes, elrefectorium.es

For some reason I thought this Frommers recommended place would be quite down to earth due to its location by the bullring but it’s actually fairly posh. Apparently it’s very popular with the matadors and their fans, so it’d probably impossible to get in when there’s a bullfight on. I went at a quiet time so I managed to get in without a reservation.

I had some I had some high quality local fare (B/B+) but I wouldn’t go back due to the fairly high prices, although the adjoining tapas bar might be more affordable.
Embarrassingly I forgot my wallet and had to go back to the hotel to get it. When I came back I was treated like a returning hero, with a ponche on the house and lots of cheers from the waiters!

These last few aren’t bad as such, just non-descript…

La Camapana (Elementary B+), 35 Calle Grande

A well-known and very popular tapas bar selling typical seafood dishes. I didn’t really explore the menu on my visit in 2013 but my squid rings, bravas and two large beers for €11.60 filled a hole.

El Chinitas (Intermediate C), 4-6 Calle Moreno Monroy

Another Frommers and Seleccion del Gourmet recommended restaurant.

It’s old school and atmospheric but I wasn’t particularly impressed by their tapas tasting menu (mainly C except for the cured ham).

La Farola de Orellana (Intermediate C), 5 Calle Moreno Monroy, www.lafaroladecervantesmalaga.es

Over the road from El Chinitas and once owned by the same people although I’m not sure that’s still the case. I had a cana and a tapa of some cheese concoction which I’ve since obliterated from my memory. I didn’t like the food or the atmosphere so I doubt I’ll go back.

Okami (Intermediate C+), 18 Calle Cister, www.okamirestaurante.es

Entirely edible Japanese food, but nothing special.

The ‘Pollo Teriyaki’ looked great but was a bit too salty for me, and I like lots of soya sauce.

The ‘Uramaki Atun’ and ‘Uramaki Salmon Mango’ were okay but amazing (B-).

For Mediterranean/Japanese fusion you’d be better off going to Ba (see my coming Malagueta post).

Málaga – Centro – Architecture along Avenida de Cervantes

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Malaga, Malaga Province, Spain with tags , , on November 11, 2017 by gannet39

As anyone who reads this blog will know, I do like me a bit of fancy brickwork and Málaga has some nice examples along Avenida de Cervantes which, along with Parque de Málaga alongside it, was built on reclaimed land near the waterfront. You’ll find them on this Google map.

At 4 Avenida Cervantes is the Neo-Baroque Ayuntemiento de Málaga, the work of architects Guerrero Strachan and Rivera Vera, opened to the public in 1919.

At 3 Avenida Cervantes is the Art Deco Banco de España, completed in 1936 by architect Jose Yarnoz.

Finally, next door at 2 Avenida de Cervantes is the rectory of the Universidad de Málaga which used to be the Casa de Correos (post office). The architect of the building was Teodoro de Anasagasti y Algan and the Neo-Mudejar construction was finished in 1923.

A smidgen of Málaga

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Malaga, Malaga Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , on November 10, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve been to Málaga three times; once in October 2013 for two days, once in early August 2016 when I stayed for ten nights and another occasion lost in the mists of time. So, please don’t think of these posts as an authoritative guide to this ancient and fascinating city, they are just my brief experiences.

I’ve organised my posts as follows:

Málaga – Introduction (this post)
Málaga – Centro – Eating
Málaga – Centro – Old Bodegas
Málaga – Centro – Rooftop Bars
Málaga – Centro – Architecture along Avenida de Cervantes
Málaga – Centro – Soho Art District
Málaga Este – places to eat around Malagueta beach
Málaga Este – places to eat around Pedregalejo beach
Málaga Este – places to eat around El Palo beach

Google map here.

I’ve always stayed at the Hotel Molino Lario www.galleryhoteles.com which is very comfortable. It’s in a prime location just opposite the cathedral and there are heaps of restaurants in the streets around the hotel. The staff are helpful, the breakfast is varied, and my rooms have always been a good size with functioning Wi-Fi. On the roof terrace there’s a postage stamp sized pool that’s a godsend in the summer heat.

I’ve not been inside the Renaissance style Catedral de Málaga but I quite like the entrance with the orange trees outside.

The most noticeable monument is the Castillo Gibralfaro www.malagaturismo.com on the top of the mount of the same name that dominates the skyline of the old town. Gibralfaro comes from Jabal-Faruk which means ‘Mount of the Lighthouse’. Although it was used by the Phoenicians and the Romans, it was the Nasrids who turned it into a fortress.

I worked climbing the steep slopes into my morning exercise routine as you can get some great views of the port and the rest of the city.

At the western foot of the mountain you’ll find the entrance to the Alcazaba www.malagaturismo.com, an earlier Moorish citadel that’s connected to the castle via long zig zagging walls.

Next to the entrance you’ll find the Anfiteatro Romano www.andalucia.com. Bits of it (columns, capitals) have been nicked to build the Alcazaba but it still retains its basic form and plays are still held here on certain nights.

I’ve also visited the Museo Picasso www.museopicassomalaga.org (€9 entry) All the guides have it as a must-do but it’s not really worth the cost of entrance in my opinion. The exhibitions I saw were just of his early stuff and not particularly interesting works by other artists.

I was more impressed by the building itself; a wealthy Moor’s town house. I particularly liked the peaceful courtyard and the beautiful, ornately carved wooden ceilings.

You can also see some archaeology pre-dating the house down in the basement level.

There is of course a very modern side to Málaga as well, as epitomised by ‘El Palmeral de las Sorpresas‘ (The Palm Garden of Surprises); the shaded promenade along Muelle Dos down by the waterfront.

More architecture in the next post…

Carmona – where and what to eat

Posted in Andalusia, Carmona, Seville Province, Spain with tags , , on November 8, 2017 by gannet39

I was only in Carmona for two nights so, as ever, please don’t consider this a complete guide to the food scene, just a snapshot of my experiences. I’ve put everywhere on this map.

In terms of ingredients the area around the town is known for producing olive oil and good quality pork. Wild meats such as venison also feature frequently in the local diet.

I picked up a bottle of local oil from this shop next to the Puerto Sevilla. The tourist information office next door also sells it, but I think it costs a bit more.

La Yedra (High Intermediate B+), 6 Calle General Freire, www.restauranteleyedra.es

I think this is the best place in town, recommended by both Michelin and Guia Repsol. I liked the food but the best aspect for me was sitting outside in the pretty courtyard. Reservations might be a good idea as it’s quite popular with tourists.

I began with a glass of Oloroso and a tapa of Queso (B+).

The ‘Arroz Cremoso’, a risotto with boletus mushrooms, spinach and white truffle essence, was quite nice (B).

And I enoyed the ‘Paletilla de Cordero con Patatas Panadera’ (lamb shoulder with baked potatoes) too (B).

A bottle of Beronia Rioja went well.

With a final glass of Carlos III brandy, the bill came to €64.

The service was efficient and English speaking, although they could be a bit more welcoming. A good experience overall but make sure you book a table outside.

La Almazara de Carmona (Upper Intermediate B+), 33 Calle Santa Ana

This is another Michelin and Guia Repsol recommendation, located in an old restored mill. It’s slightly formal, with waiters in white tunics with silver buttons, but not stuffy.

The décor in the restaurant was a bit too chintzy for me so I opted for the less fancy tapas bar where I could get smaller portions and try more things.

I started with a glass of Oloroso sherry and a tapa of Jamon Iberico de Bellota (B+) from Sanchez Romero Carvajal, a producer from Huelva with over 130 years of history.

The ‘Chiperones de Anzuelo, Callos de Ternera y Manitas con Alioli de su Tinta’ or line-caught baby squid stuffed with veal tripe and pigs trotters served with an alioli made with its ink, was interesting even if it didn’t look great (B).

Also the ‘Cordero Guisado a Nuestro Estilo con Cous Cous Primaveral y Salsa de Yogurt y Menta’ or lamb stewed in the house style with a Spring couscous with yogurt and mint sauce (B).

My favourite tapa was the ‘Arroz Crujiente Cola de Toro’ or crunchy rice with bull’s tail (B+).

‘Beso de Vino’, a Syrah/Garnacha blend, was okay (B).

I really liked their Ribera by Lopez Cristobal (B+).

Feeling the need for a sweet I had their acclaimed ‘Torrija de Brioche Caramelizada con Helado de Tres Sensaciones’ or French toast made with caramelised brioche and served with ‘three sensations’ ice cream (B+) and a glass of PX.

Finally, a glass of Luis Felipe Licor (B+) which, along with normal Luis Felipe brandy (A+), is only €8 a glass here. You can often expect to pay double elsewhere.

Total cost €45 which was fine given the quality. I’d come again.

Bar Goya (Intermediate B), 2 Calle Prim, www.goyatapas.com

This is an ordinary, everyday place located in a pleasant ceramic tiled building on the main square (just a few minutes’ walk from the Hotel Descalzas). It was recommended by the local school owners I was working with, and generally seems to be the people’s choice.

I came for lunch and had tapas of Jamon Bellota (B) and some very powerful cheese (B-) followed by half portions of grilled peppers (B) and Albondigas (B) with chips (B+).

With three medium beers the cost came to €26. Everything was cheap and good. This is the easy everyday choice that my colleagues would probably favour.

So a very brief stay during which I ate well but not amazingly so. It would have been nice to stay longer and become more familiar with the local cuisine.

Carmona – walking around the old town

Posted in Andalusia, Carmona, Seville Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2017 by gannet39

Carmona is a beautiful historical town 33km north-east of Seville. Believed to be founded by the Tartessians, the town was later inhabited by the Carthaginians (Phonecians), Romans and Moors, all of whom have left their imprint.

Perhaps the first thing you’ll see when arriving by road is the bell tower of the Iglesia de San Pedro. The church is also known as the Giraldilla due to its similarity to the Giralda of Seville (my Giralda post is here).

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Over the road from the church, perhaps a more famous sight is the Puerta de Sevilla, originally constructed by the Carthaginians but with Roman and Moorish modifications. I think I read somewhere the arch was already 500 years old when the Romans arrived!

The gate is part of the wall of the Alcázar de Abajo, the lower fort built by the Moors.

The tourist information is located here, and if you go in you can purchase a 2€ ticket to get into the Torre del Oro, the tower above the gate. You can click on these photos to go full screen. I particularly like the ones that caught the swallows.

 

I took this short video up there as well to capture the atmosphere created by the swallows.

You can get great views over the town and surrounding countryside from up here. Click on them to enlarge.

 

In the tower there’s a banner depicting a griffin which has become a symbol of Carmona. The image was originally found on a sixth century BC Tartessian vase, ‘El Vaso de los Grifos’, that can be seen in the local museum Museo De La Ciudad De Carmona www.museociudad.carmona.org.

From here narrow streets lead upwards to the centre of the town.

Plaza de los Abastos, the market square, is pretty, but I think I missed the market as it was very quiet.

At the top of the hill on the highest point is the Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro which is now a parador (government owned hotel in a historic building) www.parador.es.

The fort has its own imposing gate.

Many other impressive doorways are dotted around town (click to enlarge).

 

In the central courtyard of the town hall, the Ayuntamiento de Carmona, you can see (from a distance, behind glass) a large Roman mosaic depicting the gorgon Medusa which is in excellent condition. This blog post from the web has a better picture and some interesting archaeological information.

There are a lot more sights that I didn’t have time to check out, so another visit is required!

I was put up at the Hotel El Rincon de las Descalzas www.elrincondelasdescalzas.com, a beautiful fifteenth century palace that’s a short walk from the central square. Definitely recommended.

El Puerto de Santa Maria – chilling at Playa de la Puntilla

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, El Puerto de Santa Maria, La Puntilla, Spain with tags , on November 5, 2017 by gannet39

As I mentioned earlier, a major attraction of El Puerto for tourists is its wonderful beaches. I only went to La Puntilla as it was the nearest one to my hostel but this webpage will give you more information about the others. My Google map is here.

La Puntilla is huge; you could fit thousands of people on it.

It’s not the most beautiful of beaches, it’s right next to the industrial Puerto Sherry, but you can see the bay bridge on the horizon and Cádiz over the other side of the bay.

I went over to the west side as it was nearer this place…

El Castillito (Intermediate B), 0 Paseo Marítimo de la Puntilla

The ‘Little Castle’ is a chiringuito, so no haute cuisine or social frills here, but for me it was everything I need from a beach bar (good cheap seafood and cold beer). The building is an old ‘polvorín’, a defensive construction that protected the town from sea attack by pirates.

After being frustrated by bad timing in Huelva, I finally got to try the local speciality of ‘Huevos de Choco’; boiled cuttlefish eggs dressed here with parsley and scallions. They were interesting but I didn’t like them enough to finish them (C). I think I need to try them again elsewhere.

I followed up with a tuna salad (B) but the main event was the ‘Dorado Frito’; a nicely cooked sea bream served with chips (B+).

Total cost with two beers, 25€.

And that was my weekend in wonderful El Puerto. Infinitely better than being in the truckers’ motel in Lora del Rio where my employer originally had me. Back to work on Monday though…

Eating at Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa Maria

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain with tags , on November 4, 2017 by gannet39

El Puerto is also home to Aponiente, the best restaurant in the south of Spain. Owner Ángel León studied at Arzak and for his efforts was named Spain’s best chef at the Royal Academy of Gastronomy’s awards in 2013.

Aponiente (Advanced A), Calle Francisco Cossi Ochoa, www.aponiente.com

His restaurant inhabits an old 19th-century tide mill in a once derelict industrial area just south of the train station. Google map here.

Built in 1815, the Caño Mill was located in the salt marshes of the river estuary to produce energy from the wave power generated by the four daily tides.

For 150 years it milled sea salt, in addition to grinding flour for bakeries to make biscuits and cakes. However, after the mechanisation of the flour industry and the salt crisis of the 1970s, the building was abandoned until León repurposed it in 2005.

Entering the restaurant, one of the first things you see are these large glass tubes containing phytoplankton, the new buzz ingredient in modern Spanish cuisine which León is popularising. The plankton are rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, so health obsessives are all over it.

Next you come to the fish display where you can see what you are about to eat. The menu is heavily weighted towards seafood as befits León’s popular moniker as’ the chef of the sea’ (video here).

The portholes for windows make you feel like you are inside a ship.

Next you come to the open kitchen which seems very small in comparison to the wide expanse of the dining room after it. There are fifty staff for a maximum of thirty five diners (about twenty when I went for lunch), and while the high ratio is apparent, I think there must be a another main kitchen with more staff behind the scenes.

I had the eighteen course Menú ‘Mar en Calma’ (‘Calm Sea’ Menu) for 175€ with an added wine pairing for 70€. It’s the most I’ve ever spent in a restaurant but I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was going to experience the best wines and ingredients in the region. There was also the Gran Menú ‘Mar de Fondo’ (‘Groundswell’ Menu) at 205€ and 90€ for wine but, while I hate to deny myself any experience, I couldn’t quite justify it on my wages.

Forgive me but I didn’t grade any of these wines and dishes as the staff were hovering around me constantly but suffice to say it was all fantastic (A/B+). Given the price tag is was nice to just relax and let the photos do the talking.

Upon being seated I was served a glass of Manzanilla ‘Maruja’ from Bodega Juan Pinero.

Then, and throughout the evening, the in-house baker came round with a basket containing a variety of wonderful, still-warm breads.

The next wine was a Fino en Rama (‘en rama’ means unfiltered; a current trend in Sherry production) which had been bottled specially for the restaurant by Bodegas Gutierrez Colosia.

A trio of starters arrived. As the ‘fishpig’ logo on the grease proof paper implied, the ‘Lomo en Caña’ was actually cured fish masquerading as pork loin, and they were remarkably similar.

With it, ‘Sobrasada de Pescado Azules’ (Blue Fish Sobrasada). Usually a Sobrasada is a raw, spreadable Balearic pork sausage, so not sure what the idea was here.

The ‘Patatas, Camarones y Limón’ (Potatoes, Shrimp and Lemon) was a take on the local dish ‘Tortillitas de Camarones’; a deep fried chickpea flour pancake containing tiny shrimp.

Here we have ‘Sardinas Asadas’ (Grilled Sardines), although I only count one sardine. Call me finicky but it’s false advertising to use a plural, not that I cared at the time.

Next the over-presented ‘Taco de Almendra y Salazones’ (Almond and Salted Fish Taco).

Lustau ‘Red Vermouth’ from Jerez.

With this, some fishy cakes. Clockwise they are a ‘Berlina de Choco’ (Cuttlefish Doughnut), a ‘Bollito de Calamares’ (Small Squid Bun) and a ‘Brazo de Gitano’ de Plancton (Plankton Roll). A ‘Gypsy Arm’ is the Spanish name for what we in the UK would call a Swiss roll.

Reverting back to the sherry theme; a Manzanilla en Rama called ‘Saca de Invierno’ by Bodegas Barbadillo.

Next came a Plankton dish which I think was additional to the menu as I don’t know what it was called. For me it was very interesting to taste the intense seaweedy flavour but it wasn’t great to look at!

Not sure what these things were sorry! Another off-menu experiment perhaps…

Then ‘Tres Formas de Comer una Caballa’ (Three Ways to Eat a Mackerel).

 

A glass of Champagne Brut Nature ‘Cuvée Solessence‘ from Jean-Marc Sélèque.

The ‘Royal de Erizos’ (‘Royal’ of Sea Urchins) was very pretty…

… but the ‘Sopa Fria de Aguaviva en Adobo’ (Cold Soup of Pickled Jellyfish) wasn’t particularly photogenic. I do like me a bit of crunchy jellyfish though.

The ‘Ostra Café de París‘ (oyster in a sauce of herbs, spices and butter) was presented in a barnacled bowl.

‘Cazón en Amarillo’ (Dogfish with Amarillo Chilli).

After this a glass of Fino ‘Perdido’ from Sanchez Romate. I want to buy a crate of this just for the beautiful label (£8 a bottle approx).

Descartes en Arcilla al Pan Frito (Fish in Clay with Fried Bread). León likes to use lesser known kinds of fish and I think the one in question here is Borriguete which has the great English name of Rubberlip Grunt.

Popieta de Morena en Grenobloise (Pieces of Moray Eel in the Style of Grenoble).

Amontillado ‘1830 Vors’ from El Maestro Sierra. A gem but very hard to get and retails at not less than £48 a bottle.

Pepino, Sandía, Hierbas (Cucumber, Watermelon, Herbs).


Vino de Licor ‘Tintilla de Rota’ from Bodegas El Gato. Rota is a town between Sanlúcar and El Puerto that is now home to an American military base. Many vinyards were destroyed during the construction of the base which is why the wines are quite rare. Tintilla has records longer than Rioja, over 500 years.

And with my coffee…

…Cereza y Chocolate (Cherry and Chocolate) served on an old anchor.

And finally a balloon of ‘Juan Sebastian Elcano’ a Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez from Gutierrez Colosia. Bottles sell for upwards of £70.

With the bill you get a copy of the menu to take home.

This was unarguably an amazing meal but was it worth the money? The answer to that is how much you get paid I guess. On my wages 250€ is a bit too hard to justify (two days of work) but I’m glad I did it if only to see how the other half live. Once in a lifetime is enough for me though.

El Puerto de Santa Maria – eating out in the Centro

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain with tags , , , , on November 3, 2017 by gannet39

El Puerto has lots of great places to eat. I’ve put the ones I’ve been to in the three days I was here, and a few more recommended by various guides, on this Google map. I’ve given Aponiente (the best place in town) its own post.

El Rincón del Jamón (Intermediate B+), 19 Avenida Micaela Aramburu de Mora

In Spain I generally find that the best breakfast joint is where all the pensioners go and El Rincón is that place in El Puerto. My hostel didn’t serve breakfasts so I came to this busy bar every day for the ‘Completo’; un café con leche, un jugo de naranja y una tostada con aciete y pulpa de tomate (a coffee with milk, an orange juice and a piece of toasted French stick with olive oil and tomato pulp).

El Faro del Puerto (Advanced A), 0 Avenida Fuenterrabía, www.elfarodelpuerto.com

After Aponiente, ‘The Lighthouse’ is the best place in town, certainly for seafood. I’m a big fan of their outpost in Cadiz (blog post here) so I was eager to try the original in Puerto. It’s located in an old casa señorial (manor house); a beautiful old building with several rooms and a nice terrace outside, which makes it seem a bit posher than the Cadiz branch. The location is on the edge of the centre but still walkable.

Sadly I forgot to charge my battery so I have no pictures of the food but I remember I began by comparing the ‘Ostiones de Cádiz’ (2€ each) and the ‘Ostras Especiales Nº3 de Daniel Sorlut’ ostrasorlut.com from France (3.60€ each) with the French oysters winning. The local ones were still pretty good though.

After this I had the ‘Tartar de Atún Rojo de Almadraba‘, diced raw Bluefin tuna caught using traditional methods (17€ for a 1/2 ración). It was sublime which it should be as it’s probably some of the best Bluefin available.

I followed up with Sashimi de Pez Limon, assorted raw fish, for which they even provided me with soya sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger and chopsticks to complete the aesthetic, just as they had in Cadiz. Any seafood restaurant in Spain that caters for Japanese diners has to be good.

With the addition of a bottle of decent Barbazul Blanco, I remember the bill being fairly hefty but that’s because the seafood really is top quality and the service is excellent. I’ll definitely be back again next time I’m in town.

Mesón del Asador (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Misericordia, www.mesondelasador.com

After all that fish I needed a change so I came to this grill house for lunch on my last day and had the Parrillada Mixta which was pretty good (B+). I liked the fact that they bring you your own little grill to the table so you can cook the meat how you like it. I’m a big fan of proactive dining.

La Ponderosa (Intermediate A) 6 Avenida de la Constitución

On the Saturday night I had a big night out with my buddy John who lives in nearby San Fernando. As is traditional for Spanish clubbers, the night finishes with a breakfast of Chocolate con Churros; long star-shaped fritters that are dipped in a cup of hot, thick choclate. Popular wisdom has it that this the best churreria in town and I’m unable to disagree.

Heladería y Yogurtería Artesanal Da Massimo (Intermediate B+), 22 Calle Luna, www.heladeriaartesanaldamassimo.com

Walking around in the hot sun being a tourist definitely requires an ice cream, and this Italian-owned ice cream shop in the city centre seems to be the best one.

I had the Helado de Tejas, an ice cream made with crunchy ‘tiles’ of candied almonds, which I understand is unique to El Puerto.

The next restaurant gets its own page…

El Puerto de Santa Maria – walking around the Centro

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by gannet39

The first thing I want to say is I love El Puerto! It has everything I want in a town; good restaurants, traditional wines, nice beaches and lots of things to see and do. What’s more, it’s just over the bay from Cadiz which is another favourite place of mine.

It gets very busy in the summer but mainly with Spanish rather than international tourists which is a good sign in my book. It sure as hell beats spending the weekend in a truckers’ motel which is what my work itinerary had me doing (see my previous post on Lora del Rio).

I only stayed for two nights so this is not a comprehensive guide by any means, just a brief snapshot of what I got up to. I need to go back and get to know it more. Everywhere I know, and many more places I didn’t get time to check out, are on this Google map.

I’ve written four posts on Puerto:

Walking Around (this one)
Eating & Drinking
Eating at Aponiente
Puntilla Beach

El Puerto is a sherry town, which is another reason I like it so much. The town is home to Bodegas Osborne www.bodegas-osborne.com Spain’s second oldest company was founded by the Englishman Thomas Osborne Mann in 1772 (Catalan winemaker Codorniu, established in 1551, is the oldest). The company logo is the famous silhouette of the black bull which has also now become a symbol of Spain.

The Osborne bodega is beautiful, and open to the public.

Guided tours of the bodega in English start at 10am every day. Various tours and tastings are offered and range in price from 8€ for no tour and self-guided wine tasting, to 55€ for a guided tour, VORS wine tasting and samples of Cinco Jotas hams (an associated company?). I just popped in for a look as I was short of time.

By the way, old sherries are described by the Latin acronyms VOS and VORS. VOS stands for Vinum Optimum Signatum (the unofficial English equivalent is Very Old Sherry) and is used for wines over 20 years of age. VORS stands for Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum (or Very Old Rare Sherry) and indicates wines over 30 years old.

There are several other bodegas in town, Terry being the next largest. Some of them have shops where you can buy in bulk such as Despacho de Vinos de Grant bodegasgrant.com which sells the ‘La Garrocha’ label amongst others.

The town’s castle, Castillo de San Marcos, is owned by Bodegas Caballero. Tours and wine tastings in English are available from 11.30am each day.

The old fish market, El Resbaladero, is another nice building.

I stayed at the Hostal Costa Luz www.hostalcostaluz.com, near the Plaza de Toros, for about £30 a night without breakfast. The room was spacious, modern, quiet and walkable from the centre.

Eating in El Puerto coming next!

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