Archive for the Andalusia Category

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!

Not a lot in Lora del Río

Posted in Andalusia, Lora del Río, Seville Province, Spain with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2017 by gannet39

Lora del Rio is a small town in Seville province. There’s nothing to see or do and I didn’t eat particularly well but the people are really lovely and friendly.

Originally I was supposed to stay at the Hotel El Alamo www.hotel-elalamo.com which on paper seems to be the best place in town. A bit of research on Google Earth however showed it to be a truckers’ motel way out in the outskirts. Further investigations couldn’t find any pavements along the road to town, making walking anywhere rather dangerous.

Thankfully I persuaded my employer to let me stay in a small pension in the town centre called Pension La Portuguesa hostalportuguesa.blogspot.com. It has no stars but it’s within walking distance of the train station and just three minutes’ walk from the school I was working at. The breakfast is just a tostada and coffee and the WiFi is very temperamental but at least I had places to go in the evenings.

You could also stay at Hostal Restaurante Vera Cruz www.facebook.com which is very handy for the station. It’s also a tapas bar which seemed okay when I popped in for a drink. The neo-Mudejar construction was the nicest building I saw during my stay.

Google map here.

In terms of places to eat…

Taberna Javi Garcia (Intermediate B+), 21 Calle Marcos Orbaneja

This is the best place in town by a mile and I would have eaten here every night if I’d known but I didn’t discover it until quite late. It has a pleasant terrace outside, next to a fountain, which separates it from the road.

The service was efficient and friendly and the tapas recommended to me were simple but good. I enjoyed the Jamon Iberico (A) and their chips are pretty decent (A).

This is ‘Presa Ibérica con Queso de Cabra y Cebolla Caramelizada’ or pork shoulder with goat cheese and caramelized onion (B+).

Here we have ‘Solomillo Wellington con Salsa de Queso’ or sirloin with cheese sauce (B+). Not sure what the Wellington connection is as there’s no pastry involved.

I tried a couple of kinds of Anis here and decided I prefer the dry to the sweet versions. It seems they vary in strength as well. This ‘El Clavel’ Anis Seco by Cazalla was 49% whereas the Dulce by the same distillery is only 35%.

Los Alemanes (Intermediate B), 1 Avenida de la Cruz

This was the first choice of the students and teachers at the school I was working at, not sure why. I bumped into them all drinking here and was quickly roped in for a couple of jars! The food is okay (the Presa Iberica was pretty good) but it’s probably popular because the owner is a nice guy. Plenty of space to sit outside too.

And a couple to avoid…

Taberna de Currito (Intermediate C), 11 Calle Fuenfría

This place was virtually empty but I came in because they were showing the Euoropean Championship on telly. There’s no other reason for coming here that I’m aware of. I wouldn’t come again as the service wasn’t very friendly, although Spain losing one-nil to Italy probably didn’t help. I had some Jamon Bellota which was fine (B).

Restaurante Medieval (Intermediate C), 2 Calle Sierra de Andújar, www.restaurante-medieval.com

I ate here a couple of times as it’s opposite the school I was working at. The food was fine but nothing special. The medieval concept is just a gimmick although it suits the cavernous interior of the restaurant.

La Bicicleta (Intermediate B), 21 Avenida Prim, NOW CLOSED!

This gastrobar had pretensions but obviously didn’t live up to them as it has closed since I ate there. They had some nice ideas, like these Capirotes de Langostinos, but they weren’t that amazing (B). Their Croquetas were too salty and had no structural integrity so I returned them (D).

I was supposed to stay in Lora for three nights but I sloped off to Puerto de Santa Maria for the weekend as it’s a much nicer place to be (see next post). It’s easy to get to as it’s on the same train line.

Good eating in Utrera

Posted in Andalusia, Seville Province, Spain, Utrera with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2017 by gannet39

Utrera is a fair sized historical town in Seville province that is famous for flamenco and bull fighting. Tourists also come to see the castle but I’m not sure why as there’s not much to see. Personally I spent the day time hours when I wasn’t working inside avoiding the baking heat and this is in mid-June before the summer had started in earnest. Google map here.

The Iglesia de Santiago, next to the castle, is the main church.

You can see storks’ nests on top of some of the highest spires.

The town is also known for the mostachón, a kind of small flattened cake or Arab origin made with sugar and cinnamon. There are two bakeries in Plaza del Altozano that sell them but I was always working during opening hours so I didn’t get to try them.

I spent five nights at the Hotel Veracruz www.hotelveracruz.com which is the best (only?) place in town. Located in a nice old town house, the staff are friendly and the breakfast is okay.

I ate pretty well while I was here…

Besana Tapas (Intermediate B+), 1Calle Niño Perdido, www.besanatapas.com

The bar is tucked down an alley near the main square. It can be a challenge to catch them open as they’re closed all day Sunday and Monday, and only open for lunch Thursday to Saturday.

I think this is the best place in town. It gets recommendations from Michelin, Guia Repsol and a school owner who told me that people travel from Seville to eat the tapas here. I was certainly impressed with the food. Innovation fused with tradition. Great flavours and presentation.

‘Timbal de Habitas con Papada Ibérica, Migas y Menta’ or timbal of broad beans with pig cheeks, breadcrumbs and mint (A).

‘Mollejas Glaseadas con Queso de Cabra y Setas Salteadas’ or glazed sweetbreads with goat cheese and sauteed mushrooms (A+).

‘Cochinillo Asado con Col Lombarda Fermentada’ aka roasted suckling pig with fermented red cabbage (B+).

They have many other better wines but I went for the Andalucian reds by the glass. An old friend from Cortijo Los Aguilares, Ronda was my favourite (B+).

‘Garum’ from Bodegas Luis Pérez in Cádiz is another good one (B).

The ‘Vino Tinto’ from Marcelino Serrano in Jaen was drinkable (C).

The award for the worst wine, both in name and flavour, went to ‘Tetas de la Sacristana’ (D). It was explained to me that the sacristana is the old lady who accompanies the priest during ceremonies. She’s not meant to be attractive as this could divert the attention of the priest, so her ‘tetas’ are probably not the most appealing thing to look at. I think the bottle had been on the shelf for a while as the wine was undrinkable. They didn’t charge me though.

Total cost for three tapas and three glasses of wine €22.

So except for that last blip, I heartily recommend this great tapas bar.

El Arco (Intermediate B+), 35 Calle San Fernando, www.restauranteelarco.com

‘The Arch’ is another very good tapas bar. It’s more traditional than Besana so a good place to try local specialities. I came with my friend Juan, a local school owner, who helped me to choose.

Huevos a la Flamenca‘ are usually fried, but here boiled, eggs with a sauce of red peppers and tomatoes.

‘Croquetas de Pringá’, croquettes made from the leftovers of a local stew, are always a winner with me.

I think this is their ‘Chorizo al Estilo de la Casa’, or chorizo done in the house style (B+). Chickpeas are a very popular ingredient in Andalusia.

The ‘Pastel de Queso de Cabra con Papaya y Mousse de Pato Caramelizado’ or goat’s cheese with papaya and caramelised mousse of duck, was a rare change from tradition (B+).

They have a large selection of wines by the glass. We enjoyed a decent Ribera del Duero called ‘Finca Resalso’ by Emilio Moro (B).

And finally some ‘Queso Romero’, an aged cheese cured in oil from Cuenca, east of Madrid (B+).

On another occasion we had their ‘Cabrillas en Salsa’, big snails in a tomato sauce (B)and the ‘Adobitos’, chunks of vinegared and fried dogfish (B-).

My second favourite spot. Definitely worth the short walk from the centre of town. They have a restaurant in a separate building nearby which I’d like to try next time.

As an aside, Juan recommended one of his favourite red wines ‘Tomas Postigo’ which retails in Spain at about €20.

La Brasa (Intermediate B), 45 Calle Rubén Darío, www.restaurantelabrasa.net

I’m guessing this traditional restaurant is a bit of a local institution as it’s the most reviewed place on TripAdvisor. I came for Sunday lunch of Spanish classics.

I started with a half portion of ‘Croquetas Caseras’ (B).

For the main, the ‘Parrillada de Verduras’ (grilled veg) and the always satisfying ‘Cochinillo Lechal Asado’, or roast suckling pig (B+).

To drink, an okay Ribera del Duero called ‘Melior de Matarromera’ (B).

To finish, ‘Flan de Huevo y Coco’; a caramel pudding with squirty cream, and a complimentary flask of Orujo des Hierbas (B).

Total cost 40€. All buttons were well and truly pressed. Recommended.

La Herradura (Intermediate B), 11 Calle La Corredera

This is a busy tapas bar just over the road from the hotel. You can sit outside on the pavement if you arrive early. Really there needs to be two of you to eat their parrilladas and rice dishes, the former being highly recommended but too much for a single diner like me.

I tried some more local classics like ‘Carrillera de Iberico al Vino Oloroso’ or pig cheeks with aged sherry and whole peppercorns (B+).

Espincas con Garbanzos a la Sevillana’ or spinach with chickpeas in the Sevillian style, is also very typical (B).

‘Tataki de Presa Iberica con Salmorejo de Habas’ or seared pork shoulder with a ‘soup’ of broad beans (B+).

A good spot, recommended.

And a few places to be aware of, or avoid:

La Fábrica de Nieve aka Asador Pinto (Intermediate C+), 27 Calle La Corredera

This is a grill house just over the road from the hotel. I wouldn’t particularly recommend the food, they burned my Parrilla Iberica (C-/D), but you can sit outside in the big courtyard which is a blessing when the weather is hot. I used it as a pub and came to watch England draw nil-nil with Slovakia in the opening game of the 2016 European Championship. Something to note is that Cervezas and Jarras both cost the same, 2€.

Casa Diego (C+), 33 María Auxiliadora

According to TripAdvisor, this place has a good local rep but I wasn’t that impressed. The best thing is the large terrace in the courtyard outside where I watched Spain go down 2-1 to Croatia in the Euros.

I had the ‘Berenjenas con Salmorejo’, ‘Jamon y Huevos de Cordoniz’ (B-)…

… and the ‘Croquetas del Puchero’ (B), ‘Hamburguesita de Buey’ (C+) and a decent bottle of Rueda (B). They tried to charge me for the ‘Pavia de Merluza’ even though I’d sent it back for not being fresh (D) but removed it from the bill when I protested. Total cost was 20€ which is admittedly very cheap.

Cervecería Carlos (Intermediate C), 17 Calle la Corredera, barcarlosutrera.business.site

Another tapas bar near the hotel. They have a few TV screens (the best spot is in the yard out back) so it was busy with football fans when I went. I began with a beer and was maybe going to eat but the guy behind the bar wasn’t very welcoming so I went elsewhere.

So, good food can be had in Utrera if you know where to go. Choose carefully is my advice,,,

A brief sojourn in Gibraltar

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Gibraltar, Spain with tags , , on March 29, 2017 by gannet39

In February 2015 I went to Gibraltar straight from carnival in Cadiz, having only had an hour of shut eye on the coach and still feeling worse for wear. I was much too early for my flight (coaches were infrequent on carnival Sunday) and I had several hours to kill.

From the coach station you have to walk across the border and then the airport runway which is a spooky experience.

I checked my suitcase into the airport’s left luggage room and went for a look around. It was quite weird being somewhere that looked like England but with blue skies and palm trees everywhere.

First stop was for a life-saving full English breakfast at The Lord Nelson in Casemates Square. It wasn’t great (C+) but it was just what I needed after a night of partying.

I’d been told that the taxi drivers will act as tour guides and show you around the rock but it was a Sunday and I wasn’t really in the mood for, or capable of, human interaction so I decided to go for a walk by myself instead.

I walked through what is known as ‘The Town’ which was all very little England. I quite liked the Art Deco fire station but that was about it in terms of architecture for me.

Along Reclamation Road there were a series of fortified bastions which are now unused, although some of the old guns have been left for the tourists to see.

Lord Nelson features heavily as you’d imagine. Cape Trafalgar, scene of his most famous victory, is halfway between Cadiz and Gibraltar, near Barbate.

Across the bay is Algeciras, a port city built by Franco to compete with Gibraltar. I’d been a couple of years before but wasn’t too impressed (post here). The bay was full of cargo ships so business must be good for both ports.

The rock towered above me during the whole walk. I imagined it to be hollowed out and full of tunnels that had been built for defensive purposes. It even had a waterfall coming out of it although where the water came from I have no idea.

Eventually I got to Punta de Europa, the southern tip of the rock. It was a hazy day but you could just make out the coast of Africa across the straits.

Obviously this is a good place to put a big gun if you want to control access to the Mediterranean.

The name Gibraltar is dervied from the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “Mountain of Tariq”. This is the spot where the Moors first landed to begin their invasion of the Iberian peninsula. The Mosque of the Two Holy Custodians marks this significant place.

My original plan was to try to circle the rock on foot but it soon became apparent that this was not possible as the roads were narrow, twisting and without pavements. I did persevere but eventually the road disappeared into a tunnel and I had no choice but to retrace my steps.

And that was my brief experience of Gibraltar, a very historic but also very strange place. I left plenty to see and do next time I visit, hopefully I’ll be in better condition to appreciate it!

Photos uploaded November 2015.

Campo de Gibraltar – La Línea de la Concepción

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, La Línea de la Concepción, Spain with tags , on March 28, 2017 by gannet39

If you think Algeciras is unlovely just wait till you experience La Línea. It’s a pretty grim working class town set up to control access to Gibraltar (the ‘linea’ is the border between the two) but many of the inhabitants make their living working in the British dependency in service industries such as online gambling.

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It’s on an isthmus with the Rock at the tip so there is water on both sides. See my separate post on Gibraltar. Google map here.

On the east side there’s a long beach called the Playa de la Atunara with grey sand and several cheap marisquerias in a line next to each other along the waterfront road.

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The teacher I worked with at the local high school liked this one the most:

Marisqueria La Perla del Sur (High Elementary B), 129 Avenida Menendez Pelayo, effectively on the Paseo del Mediterráneo, www.laperladelsur.es

I began with a half ration of Huevas Alinadas, aka marinaded hake roe I think, which was okay (B) but not something I’d order again.

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As it was Friday I treated myself to the boiled Mariscada Simple, one of a few masriscadas on offer, which looked pretty reasonable at €26. It involved gambas tigre (tiger prawns), langostionos (langostines), cangrejo (crab), mejillones (mussels) and caracoles de mar (sea snails). Not the best quality but fine (B).

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The waiter warned me it was big but I wasn’t quite prepared for it being huge! It took me well over an hour to finish!! I had to give up eventually because my arms and fingers were so tired.

With a beer and a half bottle of Tierra Blanca the bill came to €40.

It was Friday and a group of ten construction workers in boots and hi-vis where outside having after work beers. They were in high spirits and while one danced and sang a Flamenco song the others were enthusiastically clapping to the rhythm and shouting ‘Ole!’. It was a strange sight for someone like myself who’s not used to Flamenco culture. Great to see it in action like this.

This place is on the bay side of the isthmus facing the marina.

aQa (Intermediate B-), Calle Andrés Viñas (no number), off Avenida Principe de Asturias, www.restaurantaqa.com

This is a bright modern place that is probably the most attractive restaurant in an otherwise dingy town. It’s probably more fun at night when it becomes a lounge bar.

Rather than hang around in Gibraltar airport I came here on a fleeting visit in August 2016 because you can sit outside on the terrace witha beer and look at the marina and the bay. It’s ten minutes’ walk from the bus station and twenty minutes’ walk to the airport, including passport control.

I had the aQa burger and two medium beers for €11. The burger and potato fries were edible but not anything I’d want to repeat (C+). Get a salad I’d say. Service was unwelcoming and unsmiling so I didn’t tip.

So, a good place to kill time but order wisely.

Campo de Gibraltar – something fishy in Palmones

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Palmones, Spain with tags , on March 27, 2017 by gannet39

Palmones is a small village between Algeciras and La Linea that’s known for its seafood restaurants and it seems a lot of people from neighbouring towns come here for a meal at the weekends. Google map here.

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As it was only €10 in a taxi from the Hotel AC in Algeciras (€15 coming back!) I thought I’d give it a try on a Thursday night. I turned out to be the only customer in both the places I went to so perhaps it’s better to go at the weekend for more atmosphere but maybe book ahead as I’m told the restaurants can get very busy.

Both the following places were recommended by two different teachers in Algeciras and La Linea but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed with them. The jury is still out though and I’m willing to give the town a second chance if I’m in the area again.

El Copo (Advanced B+), 2 Almadraba, www.elcopo.es

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‘The Cup’ is the most famous restaurant in Palmones and probably the oldest by the look of it. Guia Repsol have awarded them one sun so they should be pretty good. The décor is generally on a nautical theme with lots of fishing nets with glass weights. In the bar there’s some bullfighting memorabilia. There’s hardly any space left on the walls.

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There are some murky looking crab and lobster tanks dotted around and some questionable water features. Not quite sure what this is supposed to be.

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A soundtrack of dodgy disco and Latin classics is played on tinny speakers which is quite painful when you have no one to converse with.

This restaurant is clearly the whimsical work of a strong personality who was once the man to know according to the pictures on the wall. Nowadays though I get the feeling he is resting on his laurels and has let things slide. I did actually meet Senor Manuel Moreno briefly at the end; a chap the size of Pavarotti who has clearly done some good eating in his time.

The waiters that night were two old boys who were very hard to understand and although not downright unpleasant, obviously hadn’t had many dealings with foreigners and weren’t particularly welcoming.

The old guy who served me couldn’t answer any of the questions I had about the menu and the explanations he ferried back from the kitchen were even harder to comprehend than the written original. Usually I scrape through with my dodgy Spanish grammar and fairly extensive knowledge of food vocabulary, but not here.

And so, on to the food. There is an impressive range of seafood and fish on offer but much of the menu is aimed at groups or couples. The tasting menu (€48 in 2016) and rice dishes are all for a minimum of two people so were unavailable to me as a lone diner.

I decided to try some local classics beginning with the Pate de Atun or Pate Mantecada as it’s sometimes called, that is, large slabs of tuna smothered in lard to preserve it. My half portion was pretty hefty but I polished it off without a problem (B). The presentation was pretty poor though; a slice of orange with a small dollop of fish roe (the waiter didn’t know which fish) and a stalk of parsley stuck in the lard as an afterthought.

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After this a half portion of Almejas de Carril al Jerez (Galician clams steamed in sherry) which were too salty even for this salt addict (B-).

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Then another half portion of Tortitas de Algas del Mar con Camarones (seaweed pancakes with shrimp) which seem to be inspired by Tortellitas de Camarones; a frittura of tiny shrimp in a batter. In the latter you can actually see the shrimp but here they liquidise the lot before frying them which seems a shame. They were oversalted again but not by as much this time (B-).20160414_210002

To drink I had the Jarra Especial de la Casa, a fizzy local wine made from Palomino grapes and served in terracotta which moved from an A to a B+ as it got tired.

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I was tired of the place myself now and decided to finish eating somewhere else. However I went into the tapas bar (where I should have eaten in the first place) and was quite impressed by the number of rare and ageing bottles of spirits on the back bar, including a couple of brandies I’d not come across before. When I asked about the prices the waiter had to go and ask.

Mr Moreno appeared and insisted that I have a complementary glass of the house brandy. This turned out to be a heady mix of Spanish Cardenal Mendoza and French Napoleon brandies which went down very well (A).

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I’d give this place a second chance if I was with a group or maybe come for a quick drink and bite as part of a tapeo.

Restaurante Willy (Intermediate C), 79 Avenida Andalucia

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After La Copa I came here for a tapa just to check them out. The ubiquitous Tataki (on every menu in every fish restaurant I’ve been to in the area) caught my eye so I decided to try their version of this Japanese classic.

I regretted it as soon as I saw it. The ‘wasabe’ was a scary luminous green that hurt my eyes and it was served with some dry mini-toasts which I left untouched (C-).

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So a disappointing trip to Palmones. I would go again to give it another try though.

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