Almeria was founded by the Moors in 955AD. The Alacazaba on the hill, the second largest Arabic fortress in Andalusia, is a reminder of this history. The influence can be seen in the food with many Moorish ingredients featuring heavily and a strong preference towards rice and fish recipes.
Perhaps their most famous foodstuff however is a newcomer, the Raf tomato, whose crinkly body and sweet flesh is much prized. It was first developed in the sixties and seventies and is only grown here.
There are several large beaches near the centre of town, making it a major holiday destination for mainly Spanish tourists. The best apparently are at Caba de Gato, but I didn’t have time to go.
Here’s my Google map with all these places marked.
For great food and traditional surroundings in the old town: Casa Puga (Intermediate A+)
For good food and picturesque surroundings near the old town: Bodega Las Botas (Intermediate B+)
For fast food and fishy snacks at the beach: El Tio Pepe (Elementary B)
Easy tapas option near the Vincci Hotel: Cadenas (Elementary B)
Out of all of them, I think this one is unmissable…
Casa Puga (Intermediate A+), Calle Jovelllanos 7, Tel. 950 231 530 www.barcasapuga.es GEM ALERT!
The most famous tapas bar in town, and 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.
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.
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)…
…and Manchego Curado with toasted almonds (A)…
…along with a decent 2002 Rioja Crianza (A).
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+). Sorry about the blurry pic.
…and a mixed salad with Ventresca (belly tuna) (both A).
This went well with a glass of dry white Verdejo ‘Monasterio de Palazuelos’ from Rueda (B).
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).
With this two glasses of sweet dessert wine, called simply Vino Dulce, made on the premises (A+).
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.
Casa Puga is in the old town, just minutes away from all the historic sites such as the (perhaps not so special?) 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 lot, so it might be an idea to do it before you eat.
I did manage the attractive Plaza Vieja and La Catedral which were on the flat, and achievable at a slow shuffle.
Bodega Las Botas (Intermediate B+), Calle Fructuoso Perez 3,
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.
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 fantastic ham on tomato bread (A).
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.
The house salad has lots of ingredients but was just ok (B).
So, this wasn’t the greatest food experience but that was down to our (my) poor choices as there were some beautiful looking canapés on other tables. Service was just ok. Another downer is this is accordion player territory. Their sister restaurant Marisqueria Baviera is just around the corner at 10 C/Tenor Iribarne,for the seafood side of things.
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.
It takes ten minutes and €6 in a cab to get there, or you could take much longer on the bus. A sun lounger cost me €3.50 for the day.
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, 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).
Hotel Vincci Mediterraneo (Intermediate C), 281 Avenida del Mediterraneo, Tel. 950 624 272, www.vinccihoteles.com
Nice enough staff, except for one miserable guy in the breakfast room, spacious but basic rooms and probably quite cheap but it’s not very central and they fleece you on the internet. The wi-fi is €6 for 24 hours but doesn’t always work. Via the cable through the telly it’s €7 an hour!
Places I didn’t have time to get to:
Recommended by my 2011/12 La Seleccion del Gourmet guide:
Casa Sevilla, 14 Rueda Lopez, high end place
Recommended by the Rough Guide:
Aranda, 8 Rambla del Obispo Orbera, selling La Gitana dry sherry
Restaurante Alfareros, 6 Calle Marcos, good menu del dia but always closed when I went, maybe permanently?
Teteria Restaurante Almedina, 2 Calle Paz, friendly Morrocan place serving couscous and tajines.