Archive for the Cadiz Province Category

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!

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.

Algeciras – going to the beach

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, El Rinconcillo, Getares, Spain with tags , , , on March 26, 2017 by gannet39

Despite the huge container port dominating the shoreline, there are actually a couple of big beaches in and around Algeciras that are okay. I mention Getares below which is a taxi ride from the AC Hotel, but in my opinion the best beach is in El Rinconcillo which is about 20 minutes’ on foot from the hotel.

Gibraltar

La Playa de Rinconcillo is a fairly long and wide beach with fine, white sand. If you screen out the oil refinery on the one side and the ferry port on the other, you won’t feel the need to go anywhere else.

Playa de Rinconcillo

There are two ways to get there, along Paseo De La Cornisa, which is the park on the waterfront opposite the hotel, or the direct route along the main road. I recommend taking the latter if it’s your first time and you want to find the restaurant.

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Directions:
Turn left out of the Hotel AC and follow the main road for another two roundabouts.
After the second, bear right (following signs for Playa del Rinconcillo).
Go straight over another roundabout, past the Hotel Mirador.
Turn right at the next roundabout and you’ll see the place below on the left, just before you get to the beach car park.

Map here. I suggest taking photos of the screens if you can’t download in real time.

La Esquinita (High Elementary B+), 2 Carretera Rinconcillo, Playa de Rinconcillo

Recommended by a local teacher in 2012, ‘The Little Corner’ is a typical seafood beach bar ie nothing fancy (paper tablecloths etc) but good and cheap. Opening times can be a bit erratic in my experience, especially out of season, but if it’s shut, it’s only €5 in a taxi into town.

As I say, it’s fairly rough and ready, just like its owner Juan Moreno (the one that looks a bit like Maradona) who gets slated for being rude in a few English reviews on TripAdvisor.

It’s true that he’s quite brusque and I can quite imagine a couple of uptight Brits being offended by his manner, but hey, he’s got a busy restaurant to run (packed out by 3pm) and no time for fools who don’t know what they want in Spanish (the menu is only spoken, very quickly). Fortunately my seafood vocab is pretty good so he slowly warmed to me and was actually quite affable by the time I left.

I began with some Almejas al Vapor which were a bit big and chewy but okay (C+).

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The hefty Carabineros were also quite unrefined but perfectly good (B).

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My favourite was the cooked Gambas Blanco (A).

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To drink a bottle of the popular local vino blanco Barbadillo (C+), a local medium dry from Cadiz, in an ice bucket for just €9.

I later had another glass of Guerilla Albarino which was very good (B+).

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They don’t make their own desserts so I finished with a slice of commercial cheesecake with squirty cream (C+).

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With a beer at the beginning, and a complementary limoncello at the end (C), the bill came to just €46.

The beach is just a few yards away which is handy for a little siesta after a big feed.

If you want want a change from the view of the oil refinery at Rinconcillo, it’s just a €7 taxi ride to Getares, a small but ‘real Spanish’ beach resort in a neighbouring bay at the southern end of Algeciras.

The beach is sandy, wide and stretches for about 3km, the water looks ok and the ever present Rock dominates the centre of the view out to sea. The promenade is classically tacky and caters mainly for teenagers, and there isn’t a foreign tourist in sight. However, I didn’t find anywhere good to eat here.

Las Olas (Low Intermediate C-), 8 Playa de Getares, www.restaurantelasolas.es

When the taxi drops you off at the beach car park, turn right along the promenade and it’s the second unit on the right.

The hotel recommended this place and walking along the strip it did look like the best spot if only for having more modern plastic tables and chairs than the other joints.

I went with the gruff owner’s recommendation of a bottle of white Emparrado to go with my planned seafood banquet. Disappointingly it was so sweet that I couldn’t drink it. (D). The old chap wasn’t too happy but he replaced it with a Barbadillo 2011 which was much better (C+).

I started with a mediocre Ensalada Mixta with tuna, asparagus, corn etc (C) and moved on to a plate of grilled Navajas (razor clams) which were too salty but just about okay (B-).

I followed up with Almejas al Ajillo, hoping for clams steamed in their own juices with a bit of white wine and garlic but got them instead in a gloopy and again oversalted red sauce (C).

Still hoping for satisfaction I ordered some Sardinas a la Plancha which were edible but soggy and without the crispy skin I was craving (C-). And yes, they were very salty again.

Feeling frustrated, I had a carajillo to prepare myself for the bill (€50) and decided never to come here again.

It can be difficult to get back to town from here in the evening so it might be an idea to have the first taxi to come back at an arranged time.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Barrio San Garcia

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, San Garcia, Spain with tags , on March 25, 2017 by gannet39

San Garcia is the southernmost barrio before Getares which I mention in my ‘Algecirsas – going to the beach post’. The posh private school I was working at was in this residential area so you can guess the kind of demographic that lives here.

The neighbourhood played host to two good restaurants in 2012 but when I returned, post crisis, in 2016, one had shut and the other seemed on its last legs.

Las Barcas (Advanced B-), Urbanizacion Villa Rosa Carretera a Getares

I quite liked ‘The Boats’ when I first came in 2012 but I have downgraded it after my 2016 visit.

I don’t honestly know how it has stayed open through the recession when so many more popular places have closed, including La Sal its neighbour over the road which was generally considered to be ‘the best place in town’ when I was last here.

I counted five staff members and two customers including myself on a Friday night. Either they make all their money on Saturday and Sunday or it’s a money laundering operation.

The food is still very good, especially the seafood (they are going for the Galician angle), so I’d still recommend it for that but the décor is horrible, naff aquamarine blue and bright white, and as it was only April I couldn’t escape it by sitting outside as I did last time.

The service is much less fun than it was. I think the guys who served me last time have left and been replaced by a small chubby old boy and a tall, thin, slightly younger chap who seems to call the shots. It was rather like being waited on by Mr. Magoo and a very severe SS officer. The Oberführer barks at you in a mixture of Spanish, French and English and is probably the reason why not many people come here.

Anyway, the food is still very good, I had half portions of the Almejas de Carril which got a B as opposed to B+ last time…

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…and Tataki Atun in a coat of sesame seeds (A) served with a pot of soya sauce mixed with Dijon mustard that worked quite well (B+). This came with a rocket salad with grated Parmesan which was very good (A) but I’m not a fan of mixing rocket with tuna.

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After this a dozen Gambas de Huelva (A) which was an expensive treat at €20. I didn’t mind though as this was my last night before going home.

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With these an excellent Albarino (A) that was ‘sin marca’ (unlabelled) from Martin Codax, a famous bodega in Galica which the waiters were at pains to tell me was exclusive to the restaurant and was a snip at only €9. I know Codax make a top quality Orujo des Hierbas as well so it was a pleasant surprise that their wine is good too.

Clear Orujo is set aflame in a pot and doused with coffee at the end of a meal in Galacia which is called a ‘Quemada’ (burning). I love the look of the Quemada cauldron and set of cups they have here.

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To finish a homemade flan (caramel pudding), and a glass of good PX (B+)…

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…and also a glass of Duque de Alba brandy which was a snip at €6.50, although it’s shelf mate Cardenal Menoza, also now €6.50, had been free on my last visit.

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In total the bill came to €68 which is fair enough given the quality of the seafood.

Reviews of two meals at the same place from 2012:

I love a good waiter and the old boys here are funny, friendly and very attentive. I went with all their suggestions without looking at the menu. I also learned a bit of Andalusian when I explained the fish knife was pointless as I eat right handedly. Apparently I’m ‘segato’ which I think means I’m a leftie.

To drink, the local (Cadiz) dry white Barradillo again (B) to go with my pescados. The complimentary starter was a delicious (B+) Ensalada de Bacalau, with chunks of potatoes and codfish, prawns, sliced onion and squid, as well as codfish, all dressed with some great olive oil and a bit of parsley.

For my primero, the Almejas al Ajillo were great (A); about twenty clams steamed in their own juices with what must have been a whole head of thinly sliced garlic, perhaps with a little bit of wine or stock. The broth was so good I was spooning it out of the dish with the huge serving spoon when the waiters weren’t looking.

The fish for my segundo was Lubina (sea bass), which had been perfectly grilled with olive oil, and came with a tiny portion of nicely sautéed veg on the side again (A) although I wasn’t sure about the combination of fish with diced jamon (C+). It could have done with a couple of the lovely spuds they have over the road at La Sal too.

I couldn’t make out the name of the dessert but I’d describe it as a semifreddo with squirty cream and a sprig of mint, made great by the waiter pouring several globs of Pedro Ximenez raisin wine over everything (A).

I asked for a local liqueur but apparently Andalusia doesn’t have one, so I went for the usual Orujo des Hierbas (B). For all this, the bill came to €50.

I liked the service and relaxed atmosphere so much here that I came back the next night (my plan A was closed), even though I could probably have eaten better over the road at La Sal.

This time I was here to try the meat, so I had a solid 2008 Rioja Crianza called Azpilicueta to go with my Entrecote, which was served sizzling on an earthenware platter with some seared slices of courgette, potato and cherry tomatoes on the side. It was fine (B) but I’d been fairly recently spoiled in Argentina, so it was hard to give the local sirloin a top rating.

Also from 2012, closed now but I wanted to preserve the memory of a good meal:

La Sal (Advanced A), C/Rosa de Los Vientos, Tel. 956 572 818 NOW CLOSED!

This name came up at two of the schools I worked at so I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did because I had my best meal here after spending a week in the city.

At La Sal you can sit out on the terrace and if you screen out the oil storage tanks in the middle of the picture, you have a nice view of the boat marina and the mountains beyond, albeit with the odd sniff of sulphurous compounds wafting past from the chemical factories.

Cune with a view

After a complimentary canape of cured duck meat on a tiny piece of toasted bread (tostado)…

Duck canape

…I went for the Salmarejo Cordobes, a cold soup similar to gazpacho but with bread and garlic added to the mix and, perhaps in the style of Cordoba, diced Jamon and egg and a splash of olive oil, which was fantastic (A+).

Salmorejo

Next I went with my waiter’s suggestion of Lenguado (Sole) for the main and was rewarded with a perfectly grilled fish (A), some of the nicest waxy and best cooked spuds I’ve ever had in Spain (A+) as well as a small portion of sautéed peppers and courgette (B+).

Lenguado

Finally a chocolate truffle with chocolate ice (A) and a large chupito of Orujo des Hierbas, chilled to perfection (A).

Choc Truffle

Total cost €41.70, very good value given that it included a half bottle of Cune Crianza Rioja for €9 and two chupitos which weren’t charged. Contentment was mine…

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – around Plaza Puerto

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Puerto, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags on March 24, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Puerto is actually just a roundabout in a bleak industrial part of town, rather than a pedestrian square. One of the old dock cranes is on display in the middle of the rotunda with Gibraltar, as ever, dominating the horizon in the background.

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The area used to be a beautiful beach called El Chorruelo back in Victorian times until Franco later had it developed into the port in order to compete with Gibraltar. El Chorruelo was immortalised in music by Paco de Lucia the famous Flamenco guitarist whose brother was a bell boy at the hotel below.

The Autoridad Portuaria Bahía de Algeciras, the port authority for the bay, have their rather ominous looking building here which monitors naval traffic in the Straits of Gibraltar.

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In a town virtually bereft of anything old, I was quite interested to visit this historical building…

Hotel Reina Cristina (Advanced A), Calle Paseo de la Conferencia, www.hotelesglobales.com

The construction of the original Victorian hotel was financed in the 1890s by Alexander Henderson who also built the famous railway between Ronda and Algeciras.

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People of means would arrive on the steamer from Gibraltar to relax on the beautiful beach in front of the hotel, or rest up before taking the train onwards to Ronda for a spot of sightseeing. At the time it was the most expensive hotel in Spain.

The original colonial building burned down in a fire and the current eclectic Andalusian-style construction replaced it in 1930.

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I love these mosaics behind the outdoor bar near the Salon Principe which must date from that period.

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During WW2 the terrace was used by spies to watch the ships passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. It has hosted important conferences and such notables as Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and Orson Welles have all stayed here.

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In the landscaped grounds there are the remains of an 8th century mosque and an old Arab well that still functions.

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I came to have a G&T on the terrace (there are at least a dozen international gins on the menu) and imagine what it was like staying here during the Belle Époque.

The salon still seems to be a Saturday night meeting place for the older Spanish generation who have a bit of money. Not exactly my kind of people but it was interesting to experience a side of local society that I didn’t know existed.

The restaurant is supposed to be quite good and the buffet did look quite impressive when I went in for a nosey. I might come back for a meal some evening…

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – the market and around

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Nostra Senora de la Palma, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 23, 2017 by gannet39

The Mercado de Abastos de Algeciras in Plaza Nostra Senora de la Palma in the centre of town is worth checking out. Built in 1935, the domed roof was once the largest in the world until the Houston Astro Dome stole the title in 1965.

Google map here.

There’s a stall on the inner circle where I go to get paprika, cured meats and dried beans to take home.

A couple of the stalls specialise in bull meat, and probably other parts of El Toro as well. They have large photographic displays showing the provenance of their wares.

Bull meat merchant

You can get tapas and drinks from a couple of places inside but I prefer to go to La Casita below.

Around the permanent market in the market square there are lots of fruit & veg stalls. Other than the huge white salad onions and beef tomatoes, most of it was unremarkable but there are a couple of snail vendors.

Bags o Snails

Snails

Calle Tarifa leads out of the west side of the market square. There’s a great little tapas bar along here that I recommend for lunch…

La Casita (Elementary A+), 16 Calle Tarifa

It’s not often I agree with Trip Advisor but in my, and many other people’s view, ‘The Little House’ is the best eating out experience in Algeciras. Not because of the food, the tapas are just okay (all B/C), but it’s the frenetic atmosphere and the hilarious bartenders that make this a great experience.

The place is always packed but the stocky tattooed chaps on the bar get your order as soon as you come through the door and bellow it in the direction of the kitchen serving hatch with a Gregorian chant-like inflection at the end of the sentence.

They do this while pouring drinks at top speed interspersed with cracking uproarious jokes with the clientele. If you’re female, you’ll be called ‘guapito’ or if you’re English you become ‘my friend’.

God knows how but your food is in front of you within seconds. And how they keep tabs on who has what I have no idea. But it all works, and I love it.
The tapas, or more correctly tapitas, are all around €1.30 each and they have a deal where you get two tapitas and a cerveza for €3.20. I had…

Paella de Pollo.

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Tapas de Plancha (Rosada, Lomo Fresco).

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Tapas de Frita (Calamares, Pollo).

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And the unexciting Salchicha Rojo.

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And their homemade Pacharán, a Basque liqueur made from soaking sloes (endrinas) in anisette.

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In total I had five tapitas, a pot of allioli, four cervezas and two doubles of Pacharán for just over €10. You can’t argue with that.

This next place is located in the run down area south of the market which I call ‘Little Morocco’. I was warned not to walk around here at night (although I did) but it’s fine in the day time.

Alkazar (Elementary B), 2 Calle Juan de la Cierva, next to the Tourist Information office

My friend Nicky loves North African food so I came here on her recommendation. It’s handy for the port if you’re waiting for a ferry and has veggie options if you fancy a change. The train and bus stations are nearby too.

There are several places around that serve similar food, including Casablanca next door but this one has lots of tables out on the street.

Their marinated olives are excellent (A).

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And their veggie tajine is fine (B).

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I upgraded with their Parrilada which involved five spits of meat; two of marinated lamb which were lovely (B+), two of chicken which were meh (C) and one of beef koftas which I left (C-).

With a couple of beers the bill came to a miserly €23.

See my ‘Villa Vieja – things to see’ post for some pics of the architecture around here.

From 2012:

Montes (Intermediate B), 27 Juan Morrison, Tel. 956 654 207

One of only two recommendations I considered from Trip Advisor at the time, and also the only restaurant to feature in the Rough Guide. I came for lunch and had the €9 menu-del-dia.

To start, El Cocido del Dia, or the ‘stew of the day’ (B), a typical lentil soup with the usual chunks of chorizo and morcilla. Saffron gave the murkiness a yellowish tinge.

Lentil soup

The next dish, two kinds of fried fish, was a mis-order on my part. Unboned and tasteless I could only give them a C.

For dessert Natillas (custard) which inexplicably came with a soggy digestive biscuit in the middle. It was a first for me, but I have learned since that this is a thing in Spain. It tasted amazing; especially with the liberal sprinkling of cinnamon it had received (B+).

Natillas

This is a bit gloomy place favoured by an older clientele but you could probably eat well here if you make the right choices.

It was once one of the best places in town but I have read a few comments that say it has changed hands and isn’t as good as it was.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – things to see

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 22, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Alta is the central square in the old town of Algeciras. It’s the town’s central hub for social activity in the evenings.

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In the centre of the square is a monumental fountain dating from 1930. It’s decorated with Seville ceramics, including ornamental frogs around the perimeter.

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A balustrade runs around the square which is also decorated with ceramic tiles.

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As are the benches, although they aren’t quite as old as the fountain.

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The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Palma stands on the west side of the square.

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In the southeast corner is a small chapel, the Capilla de Europa.

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At the end of Calle Alfonos XI, on Avenida Blas Infante, you’ll find the highly uninimpressive Parque Arqueológico de las Murallas Meriníes de Algeciras, the only uncovered archaeological remains in Algeciras.

Remnants of the old city wall, and a surrounding moat (ditch?) can be seen which caused the intended extension of Avenida Blas Infante to the waterfront to be diverted around it.

The walls were built by the Marinids in the 14th century when Algeciras was a Moorish town. They were destroyed during the Castillian reconquest of 1344.

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Personally I’d have just bulldozed through it (and that’s coming from the son of an archaeologist) after fully excavating and recording it first of course. Still I guess the local folks feel they need at least some connection with the past as there is precious little else.

I had to search hard for some modern architecture that I liked and eventually found Edificio Kursaal on Avenida Villanueva behind Restaurante El Alkazar which I will review in a coming post.

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It’s a Modernist conference centre built quite recently in 2007 I believe and designed by the artist Guillermo Pérez Villalta who is from nearby Tarifa. I understand preparations are under way to use the building to display his work.

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The most decorative aspects of the exterior are the wrought iron window grilles.

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There are more features inside I’d love to see. The slideshow here shows some of them.

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I quite like the Deco style building next to it as well although I don’t know anything about it.

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Over the road from El Alkazar is this old veteran which doesn’t seem to be getting much use.

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And that’s about it in terms of interesting architecture, although the market building is quite famous as well (see the next post on ‘Villa Vieja – the market and around’).

Algeciras – Villa Vieja – tapas around Plaza Alta

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, Plaza Alta, Spain, Villa Vieja with tags , , , on March 21, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Alta and the streets off it, particularly Calle Alfonso XI, constitute the main area for tapas bars in Algeciras. Please also see my next post on things to see in the Villa Vieja, which includes photos of Plaza Alta. My Google map is here.

La Querido (Low Intermediate B+), 2B Calle Alfonso XI, the street leading north out of Plaza Alta

I really like this little place and so do a lot of other people as it was always crowded on both my visits; once for lunch and another time for dinner.

The guys who run it are friendly and very hardworking; constantly running up and down a ladder into the store room in the loft space.

The simple and very short menu has lots of international influences and there seems to be an emphasis on organic products. There’s a good choice of veggie options as well.

For lunch I had a cheese Empanada (B) followed by the Entrana which was sliced rare sirloin served with Foccacia (B) and Chimichurri (A), an Argentinian salsa the name of which has an interesting history (click on the link).

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The Banoffee pudding is a decadent delight (A).

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A glass of Gloria Sanatorio, a sweet wine from Cadiz, went really well with this (B+).Their other dessert wine is a cream sherry called Canasta which I’m not too bothered about (B-). With a couple of beers the bill came to €21.40.

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The next day I came for dinner and had the Hummus with Pita to start which was okay but rather unexciting (C+).

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I followed up their very filling Parmagiana (B+), the Sicilian ‘aubergine lasagna’ served here with a dollop of pesto.

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I finished with some excellent artisanal cheese. I think all three slices were Payoyo (a favourite cheese of mine from Cadiz) in various stages of ageing; fresh, semi-curado and curado (all A).

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I had a couple of glasses of their best wine, a Rioja Crianza called Pinturas which was great (B+) and a Rioja Roble called Lagrimas de Maria which wasn’t all that (C).

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One of my favourite places in Algeciras with good food and a good attitude.

Recoveco (High Intermediate B+), 16 Avenida Blas Infante

I quite liked the atmosphere in this modern Guia Repsol recommended place so I hung out for the evening using their free Wi-Fi. There’s a nice courtyard terrace out back but no one seemed to be using it when I went in April so I stayed inside.

The food is very tasty and reasonably priced but I wish they didn’t chill their red wines as I like to be able to smell what I’m drinking. The staff aren’t particularly friendly but they’re okay.

The Carrillera tapa, beef cheeks with mashed potato, is excellent (A).

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The Mini Burger de Trufa y Parmesan is also good (B+) but I wasn’t particularly blown away (B-) by their gimmicky Yakitori; a skewer of pork marinated in a sweet sauce and served on a tiny grill.

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With a tapa of Manchego cheese, four glasses of red and a Cardenal Mendoza brandy the bill came to a very reasonable €25.

From 2012:

La Carboneria (Intermediate C), Edificio Europa, on the corner of Calle Muro and Calle Murillo

This is an asador (grill house) so good for meat. They also have a lively tapas bar at the front a with waiter who is a bit of a character.

I disturbed the kitchen staff from having their pre-service meal at 9.15, so you may want to come a little later. I wasn’t too impressed by the complimentary starter of what seemed to be Kraft cheese between to crackers on a bed off browning sliced red cabbage. Also, I already knew that the bread in Spain generally leaves a lot to be desired, but the anaemic roll on my side plate took things to another sub level.

Things got better with the Ensalada de la Casa (A), a huge bowl of mixed salad, some deep fried balls of cheese and great belly tuna, all nicely dressed. I’d suggest coming here just for this.

The Solomillo Iberico was ok (B) as was the Ribera (Marques de Caceras) I had with it (B). To finish the Tarta Fina de Mazana (B). Total spend €47. Might come back for tapas.

This next place is closed now, a victim of the economic crisis no doubt. I’ve not deleted it though as some of the things I had here were quite nice and I’d like to remember them.

Marea Baja (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle Trafalgar, NOW CLOSED

A teacher-recommended fish specialist that looks traditional which, along with the price of their brandy, put me off on my initial recce. In fact though, they are quite experimental, for example, they use soya sauce and wasabi in some dishes. I was pretty happy with the attentive owner’s recommendations.

He has a good range of wines too and I enjoyed a nice 2011 Verdejo (B+) from Palacio de Bornos in Rueda which was put in an ice bucket without me having to ask.

The complimentary apertivo was a couple of whitebait dressed in a soya sauce with a chive and olive oil dressing which was great (A). I wasn’t so sure about the green olives with cumin that came with it though (D). The following Boquerones Rellenos (stuffed anchovies) and mashed potato croquettes were sadly tasteless, even with energetic salting (C).

Boquerones Rellenos

After this, Guiso Marinero, a fish stew with potatoes featuring heavily (B).

Guiso Marinero

Then a main of Corvina in a sauce with a small portion of nicely cooked veg on the side (A). The name Corvina is used for different fish around the world, but here it was most likely a large sea bass.

Corvina

Finally, on the portly waiter’s say so, an almond-flavoured panna cotta (A).

Pannacotta

And a chupito of Coriander liqueur (‘Cilantro’ from Galician distiller Valdomino Manor) (A).

Cilantro liquer

Both were totally new, but delicious concepts to me.
What completely won me over was the free (usually €10) brandy balloon of Cardinal Mendoza (A) that I received with the bill (€55.50).

I like this place. The owner is passionate, his staff less so but they were still friendly and attentive. Satisfaction and value-for-money criteria were all met.

Photos uploaded June 2012 and February 2017.

Algeciras – Staying in barrio El Mirador

Posted in Algeciras, Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Campo de Gibraltar, El Mirador, Spain with tags , , , on March 20, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve been to Algeciras twice for work, in May 2012 and April 2016, staying for a total of about two weeks. I’d never heard of it before, which is strange as it’s Spain’s largest port (and one of the largest in the world for cargo), built by Franco to compete with Gibraltar over the water.

The reason for this is probably that there’s very little of anything cultural to experience and it’s not a holiday destination by any stretch of the imagination. Even local people I have worked with describe it as ‘not beautiful’ and ‘ugly but comfortable’ as part of their warm but slightly apologetic welcome. It has grown on me with time though, and I’ve discovered a few gems hidden away in the corners.

One good thing about the city is all the other places you can get to from it, such as Gibraltar, which is just a bus ride away on the other side of the Bahia de Algeciras (or Bay of Gibraltar depending on your loyalties). You could visit the beautiful beaches of neighbouring Tarifa, or travel the famous train line inland to lovely Ronda, or perhaps even take a short ride on a fast ferry to Tangiers in Morocco. I’ve written posts for all these places except Tarifa.

Here’s a map of the barrios, and my Google map.

On both my visits I’ve stayed at the Hotel AC Algeciras www.marriott.com. It’s located near the waterfront in a barrio called El Mirador, which is walkable from the centre.

It’s worth requesting a room on floor seven as they have private balconies and the reception seem happy to upgrade you if they are available.

I’ve stayed in 601 which is a suite with an extra bathroom and a sitting room that I never used. I preferred 604 which is one large room and has better views, although the downside is it’s opposite the lift. It might be better to ask for the higher numbers on each floor.

The AC is a modern hotel (around two years old in 2012) with (usually) friendly and helpful staff, a good breakfast spread (it’s part of the Marriot group who always put on a good brekky) and a small gym. It’s quite stylish with lots of stained dark wood, bathrooms with glass sinks and plenty of chrome.

I’ve eaten in the hotel once (something I never usually do) when it was raining stair rods outside. There are only about four options for each course on the menu, none of which particularly inspired me. I had the Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Jerez Vinaigrette, which arrived without the vinaigrette (C). We were overseen by the waitress from hell; sullen, rude and intentionally accident prone. I was gobsmacked to find her still working there in 2016 but she was much better behaved. Still my advice would be to walk into town, or to one of the places below if you’re feeling lazy.

Jaipur (Elementary B+), 82 Avenida Virgen del Carmen

In need of a change from weeks of eating only Spanish food, I came to this ‘Indian’ (actually Pakistani) restaurant for a light evening meal. I wanted to order more from their extensive menu of Indian standards but having had a large lunch I had to rein it in.

A spicy Aloo Gobi will always be a winner with me and this hit the spot despite the potato being ever so slightly undercooked (B+). The Raita and Pilau Rice were both perfect (A) and the Chipati was okay (B). The friendly owner gave me a complementary Gulab Jamun (B), a Delhi speciality, when he heard I’d lived there for a while.

The total bill was only €24 with a tip. There is zero ambience as it doubles as a pizza and burger takeaway, but they’ll deliver to the hotel should you be feeling lazy. You’ll find their menu here.

Meson La Posada de Millan (Intermediate C), 47 Maestro Millan Picazo, mesonlaposadademillan.com

This was a recommendation from the hotel receptionist. It’s nearby, fairly cheap and you can get some okay food if you choose the right things. It looks like it should be part of a chain with paper menus for place mats and decor on the faux Posada theme (like thousands of other similar places around Spain) with fake wooden beams on the ceiling, modern ‘old world’ ceramic tiles and cast-iron electric chandeliers.

To begin I had the Gazpacho Andaluz, which was fine (B) but nothing special. To follow I had Carrillades en Salsa. The beef cheeks were beautifully fibrous as you would expect and the gravy sauce was full and rich (B+), while the skinny chips were just ok (B-). This was only a half portion but would have been a full meal in itself.

I went with the Protos Roble (C+) for €14.75 but wished I’d gone for the crianza (two year old) version which is much better. I‘d been spoilt by a Protos 2006 a few weeks earlier, a reserva I think, which was stunning (A).

The very gruff waitress tried to whisk my plate away when I was only halfway through my cheeks and replace it with one of those crappy ice cream menus you get when restaurants outsource the dessert course. I wasn’t too happy and let her know it. Not sure if she hates all her customers or just the English ones (Gibraltar might be an issue here with some people).

The following Chuletas de Cerdo do Cabezal were the cheapest meat item on the menu but were too heavily salted (C), and the accompanying sautéed carrots, peppers and courgette were overcooked (C-) as were the square chips (C). The Tocino de Cielo (a kind of very sweet flan) tried to look attractive but was doused in too much honey (B-).

I came here on another day out of sheer laziness to sample the €12 menu-del-dia, for which I got the house mixed salad with lettuce, onion, sweet corn, beetroot, black olives and a chunk of great tuna (B+), followed by Secreto Iberico which involved some tiny tasty boneless chops (B) and the same poorly cooked veg (C-) I’d had the previous time. The flan (caramel pudding) to finish was just like anywhere else (B). You get what you pay for here.

When it comes to food I’ve heard Algeciras described as ‘gastronomically conservative’. I gave it my best shot, and after a poor start, I think I have eaten pretty well here overall. Please see the coming posts for some better tips.

For a room picnic, or more serious gourmet food shopping I recommend the Hipercor supermarket in El Corte Ingles at Calle Juan Pérez Arriete (see my Google map). This particular branch is a wonderland of top quality Spanish foods and wines. I picked up four 250g tins of Ortiz Bonito (best quality A+ line caught tuna) which were on sale at only €3.10 each. I also got a bottle of Cardenal Mendoza ‘Angelus’ brandy liqueur which I’d never seen before for only €17.30. All great bargains.

Jerez de la Frontera – Centro – Nightlife

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, Jerez, Spain on March 11, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve written several posts on Jerez. You’ll find the index here. Google map here.

There are some beautiful bars and clubs in Jerez. Here are a couple I’ve been to…

Damajuana Cafe Bar, 18 Calle Francos, www.damajuanajerez.com

I’m guessing this was once a rich man’s palace with a large interior courtyard and lots of rooms on several floors, one of which is now a despacho de vinos (barrel room).

Some simply describe it as one of the best bars in town but their website sees it as “a cultural center, with literary acts, jazz and blues concerts, painting, sculpture and photography exhibitions and wine tastings” so if any of those interest you, you should check their site for what’s on.

My friend John and I used it as a starting point for a night out on the town. It was pretty packed but we met lots of friendly people.

Tablao del Bereber, 8-10 Calle de las Cabezas

I’ve been here a couple of times and loved it. It’s a beautiful space with ancient walls (I read that it was once a fortress) and tastefully decorated with antique looking artworks and Arabic lanterns.

Midweek most of the clientele are young guys who come to smoke shisha pipes in the bar area. At the weekend it’s much busier with two rooms of dance music. House, cumbia and ragga seem popular. I’ve made friends with quite a few characters I’ve met here, including one I brought with me.

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Thank you Jerez, I had a great time!

Pics from November 2015.

Jerez de la Frontera – Eating & Drinking North of the Centre

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Jerez, North, Spain on March 10, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve written several posts on Jerez. You’ll find the index here. Google map here.

Another of Alejandro’s suggestions. Google translates the name as ‘farmhouse grape juice brick maker’! It’s one of several ‘cortijos’ that are just outside the city limits. I got a taxi there and walked back without too much trouble.

Cortijo Mosto Tejero (Elementary B+), 2 Ctra. Trebujena, www.facebook.com/cortijomostotejero, Tel:+34 659 74 34 14

Very rustic and traditional, next to the road but with no other buildings around. There’s seating on plastic chairs inside and a terrace outside where I sat in the February sun.

I had a glass of Oloroso sherry from Rio Viejo while I made my choices (B).

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The first dish was Ajo Campero, a very local dish made principally with day old breadcrumbs, tomatoes, green pepper, garlic and olive oil and garnished here with grilled red pepper, boiled egg and a thick wedge of radish. It’s yet another Spanish recipe that uses up old bread and it’s very filling.

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I could have stopped eating after the heavy Ajo Campero but I’d come here to try Tagarninas Esparragadas, the tagarninas being the strange spiny plant I’d seen in the market (see my Things to See post). It translates as ‘Spanish thistle’ although it’s not in the thistle family.

Esparragadas refers I think to it being cooked in spices; cumin (showing an Moorish influence?) and paprika and fried with olive oil, garlic and yet more breadcrumbs. Here they also put a fried egg on top. It’s a very particular taste, and I’m not sure I’m keen on it (C) but it was an interesting food experience.

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A good place to go for rustic food on a sunny day!

Pics from November 2015.

Jerez de la Frontera – Eating & Drinking West of the Centre

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Jerez, Spain, West with tags on March 9, 2017 by gannet39

I’ve written several posts on Jerez. You’ll find the index here and the Google map here.

This place was recommended by Alejandro, the helpful receptionist at my guest house, La Fonda Barranco. It’s a down-to-earth place in a working class area within walking distance of the centre. It’s slightly hard to find but definitely worth the effort for their seafood.

Bar Arturo (Elementary A), 9 Calle Guita

I got great service from one of the waiters here who was looking to practice his English. On his suggestion I started with a tomato salad, served with raw garlic and olive oil (B+)…

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… and followed up with their renowned fried fish platter (A).

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I finished with a shot of PX (B+) I hadn’t had before called El Candado from Valdespino, one of the oldest bodegas in Jerez.

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The final bill was very cheap and I’d definitely come again. Worth the short walk if you want a real neighbourhood experience.

Jerez de la Frontera – Centro – Eating & Drinking off Plaza Plateros

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, Jerez, Plaza Plateros, Spain with tags on March 8, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Plateros is a very buzzy area with lots of other places other than the one I review below. Tabanco Plateros at 35 Calle Algarve and Gorila Cervecería at 10 Plaza Plateros might be good places to check out too.

My Google map is here. My other posts on Jerez are here.

Rody (Advanced B+), 1 Calle Chapinería, www.rody.es

Recommended by the Moro Sams again, this is a higher end place. The Sams are particularly keen on the croquetas made from leftover Puchero, an Andalusian stew of ham hock, chicken and pig fat and I wouldn’t disagree (B+).

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However they liked the stuffed squid a bit more than I did. Not sure what it was stuffed with exactly and it didn’t really float my boat (B-).

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The local Tierra Blanca white wine they gave me was okay (B-). Imagine my shock when I saw it in a supermarket for €4! I got some posted over to me in the UK because it was so cheap and it still only came to about £7 a bottle.

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Pics from November 2015.

Jerez de la Frontera – Centro – Food, Drink and Flamenco around Plaza Esteve

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, Jerez, Plaza Esteve, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on March 7, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Esteve is just to the north east of Plaza Arenal, in the centre of Jerez. You’ll find the new market here and a number of good places to eat and drink. You’ll find more of my posts on Jerez here and my Google map here.

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I stayed in this area on a second mini-break in April 2016…

Hotel Nova Centro (Low Intermediate B), 13 Calle Arcos, hotelnovacentro.com

A dilapidated hotel located in an old building. It’s cheap, central and friendly. There are other more attractive, and more expensive, hotels on my Google map that I tried but only this place had availability at the time.

Vinoteca Rafael (Elementary B), 6 Calle Arcos

Just over the road from the hotel, this is a sherry shop where all the old boys hang out. You can drink here but also shop from their big selection of local wines and brandies. You can also get Jerez vinegar here.This is the most famous brand.

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La Vinoteria (Elementary B+), 7 Calle Lancería

Another place to buy local alcohols but not drink them, although a friend of the gregarious owner plied me with a sherry he’d brought. I scored a bottle of Cardenal Mendoza (a favourite brandy of mine) in it’s newly designed bottle and case here.

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Tabanco El Pasaje (High Elementary B), 8 Calle Santa María

A Jerez institution and the oldest tabanco in town (since 1925). The word ‘tabanco’ is a blend of ‘estanco’, a state controlled shop, and ‘tabaco’, a product they sell.

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It’s a great place to see live Flamenco although it’s tiny so you’ll have to arrive early to get a good view. One of the last of a dying breed, come for the atmosphere and sherry on tap but not the tapas.

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Teatro Villamarta, Plaza Romero Martínez, www.jerez.es

A place to watch Flamenco, and other shows, in a more formal setting. I haven’t been but I like the building.

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El Gallo Azul (Intermediate B?), 2 Calle Larga

The Blue Cockerel is a good spot for people watching. The circular building is quite famous in Jerez and features on postcards.

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You can eat tapas on the ground floor and there’s a restaurant upstairs. I’ve only had a beer here so I can’t comment on the food but I’m sure it’s fine.

Restaurante Cafetería la Vega (High Elementary B+), 0 Plaza Esteve (sic)

This café seems to be a prime meeting place for the older generation of Jerezanos. It’s also recommended by the Sams from Moro in London as a good place for breakfast.

I’ve been twice and liked it. The first time I had a Mollete con Jamon Iberico y Tomate which was good (B) but as it was February it probably wasn’t the best time to eat fresh tomatoes. My bad. Molletes are an Andalusian bread roll that are usually toasted.

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The café also has a rep for Churros so I tried them the next time and they were very good (B+). If you sit upstairs on the internal balcony you can get a good view of the Churrero making them. It’s a mesmerising procedure to watch.

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Fresh orange juice and café con leche is good here too. A prime breakfast spot.

As I mentioned earlier, the modern market, Mercado de Abastos, is in Plaza Esteve. It’s not spectacular but it’s worth a visit.

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Some unusual produce I saw included Tagarninas, a kind of plant whose spiny roots are eaten in these parts (please see my coming post on Eating & Drinking North of the Centre).

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I also saw some of the tiny shrimp used for the regional speciality Tortillas de Camarones where they are mixed into a batter made of chickpea flour (apparently a Genoese influence), deep fried and eaten whole.

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Click on the Jerez link for more posts on this fantastic town.

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Pics posted in Nov 2015 and Feb 2017.

Jerez de la Frontera – Centro – Eating & Drinking off Plaza del Arenal

Posted in Andalusia, Cadiz Province, Centro, Jerez, Plaza Arenal, Spain with tags , , , on March 5, 2017 by gannet39

Plaza Arenal is the central square in Jerez. There’s not much to see, other than this statue, but there are plenty of good places to eat and drink on the streets off it.

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I’ve written a few other posts on eating and drinking in other areas of Jerez which you’ll find here. My Google map is here.

This is my favourite place in Jerez, I came here three times in two days in April 2016.

Albores (High Intermediate B+), 12 Calle Consistorio, www.restaurantealbores.com

Alba, a popular female name, means the first light of day. The equivalent in English would be Dawn.

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It can also mean the principle or origin of a concept. For chef Julian Olivares the concept is about blending seasonal, traditional and international cuisine, and he does it very well. Click on the menus to enlarge.

 

This isn’t just my favourite place, hordes of locals seem to like it too, so it might be an idea to reserve at busy times, such as Sunday lunch, or arrive early. They’re open all day every day so you just have to get there before the Spanish do.

You can sit outside on their street terrace under the orange trees or in the bright modern interior. On my first two visits I sat outside for tapas and once inside for Sunday lunch.

On the first occasion I had the Barriga de Atun (A), a seared tuna steak served with jam and grilled veg and a small baked potato with salmorejo (a gazpacho made with bread), served with a salsa of cream and soya sauce. (A).

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Also a half portion of grilled squid (B+).

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On my next visit with my buddy John we had a half portion (media racion) of the Croquetas de Gambas, Espincas y Pistachos (A).

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Also a media of the Salmon Marinado; smoked salmon marinated with lime and vanilla which sounds wrong but was actually very good (A).

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We also shared a media of the Carrillada Iberica al Oloroso con Puré de Calabaza, beef cheeks in aged Sherry with a puree of pumpkin (A).

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This all went well with a couple of glasses of ‘Barbazul’, a decent local red (B). The bill came to a good value €32.

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On the third visit I came by myself for a blowout Sunday lunch having missed breakfast due to partying with John till 6am. I kicked things off with some decent Jamon Iberico de Bellota (B) that came with some slightly soggy Pan con Tomate toasted bread with tomato pulp (B-).

I followed up with their great croquetas again, served slightly differently this time with some mayo (A).

 

For the main, one of my favourite meat dishes, the hearty Rabo de Toro Estofado con Vino Tinto (B+).

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I splashed out €25 on a bottle of ‘Taberner’ (B+) a 2011 Syrah from Bodega Huerta de Albala in the Tierra de Cadiz DO. They also make the afore-mentioned Barbazul but this is higher up their range.

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Next some sheep’s cheese with almonds; Queso Manchego de Oveja y Almendras (B+).

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Profiteroles con Salsa de Chocolate y Pistachos (B).

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Of the many PX’s on offer Daniel my waiter recommended the Oxford 1.970 Pedro Ximenez Solera from Bodega Dios Baco (B+). Later I picked up bottle to take home for €16.

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To finish things off it would have been rude not to have one of their selection of fine brandies. I began with one I hadn’t had before; the Renacimiento Solera Gran Reserva by Garvey (B).

Here Daniel is demonstrating how to serve it properly, with a warmed glass. Some people say the alcohol is being lost in the fumes but personally I think the smell adds to the taste.

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Daniel’s favourite is the Lepanto Gran Reserva so I thought I should try that as well (B+).

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With a couple of bottles of water and a 10% tip the final bill came to €70 which was great value for what I had. You might be able to get food and drink of this quality in London but you’d probably pay three times as much for it.

Bar Juanito (Intermediate B+), 8-10 Calle de Pescadería Vieja, www.bar-juanito.com

Slightly hard to find, Juanito is down a side alley off Plaza del Arenal the main square. A mainstay in Jerez for more than sixty years, it’s feted by all the guides (Frommers, Lonely Planet, friends of friends etc) seemingly more than anywhere else in town.

I sat outside in the atmospheric alley and prepared to feast as this was my first time in Spain for a few months.

To begin, a complementary tapa of boiled cauliflower in vinegar and oil, which sounds terrible but was actually really nice (B+).

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Next Alcachofas Juanito; artichokes with oil, water, garlic, onion, breadcrumbs and parsley. This dish is a past winner of the National Tapa Competition and they were one of the best ways I’ve ever had artichokes (A).

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I nearly swooned over the Albondigas al Oloroso, or meatballs in oloroso sherry sauce (A+), I really must make them at home as I have the sherry.

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Then Mollejas Salteados, aka sautéed sweetbreads. I ordered these as I’d developed a bit of a thing for sweetbreads (thymus glands) in Argentina a few months previously. Sadly though they were cut up too small and were dry and over fried (C). I should have had them ‘al Jerez’ as Frommers suggested but couldn’t see them on the menu.

 

All this washed down with some nutty ‘Alfonso’ Oloroso sherry (B+).

Juanito is a bit pricier than elsewhere but it’s worth it.

La Cruz Blanca (Intermediate B+), 16 Calle Consistorio, www.restaurantelacruzblanca.com

Another locally famous tapas bar but perhaps with a more modern attitude than Juanito.

I wasn’t too impressed with their free tapas of Tuna and Potato salad and another plate with some kind of boiled pork. They tasted tired and flavourless (C+) as if they’d been made a while ago, and they filled me up too much.

 

It’s impossible to argue with a Tosta de Queso de Cabra con Cebolla Caramelazida, Miel y Nueces (toasted French bread with goat’s cheese, caramelized onion, honey and walnuts) as it’s just too delicious (A).

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I’d ordered the Miniburguer de Ternera con Queso de Cabra y Cebolla Caramelazida (mini veal burger served with chips) without looking at the menu properly and realized I’d overdosed on the goat’s cheese and caramelized onion! It was still good though (B+).

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A good place but I couldn’t eat any more due to them giving me too much free stuff!

I returned to give them another go on a rainy Monday in April 2016 and I’m glad I did. I had the excellent Croquetas de Puerro, Gambas y Algas Wakame (A).

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Then the Huevos Rotos con Foie y Boletus, or lightly fried eggs with foie gras and cep mushooms, which was very oily but again delicious (A-).

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With these glasses of the decent local whites Castillo de San Diego made from Palomino grapes by Bodega Barbadillo (B), and a Entrechuelos Chardonnay from Bodega Miguel Domecq (B).

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

I came to this grill house on the recommendation of a friend of a friend who suggested I have the Rabo de Toro (stewed oxtail) which is an Andalusian classic. It was very good (B+) if too ugly to picture.

It went well with a bottle of Marqués de Cáceres, a popular brand of Rioja (B).

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All the recipes I’ve linked to are in Spanish. Just put them through Google translate to understand them. They don’t necessarily represent exactly what I ate but are the most similar I could find on the web in terms of ingredients.

To finish I had the famous Jerez dessert Tocinillo de Cielo, which is similar to flan except that it just uses egg yolks rather than the whole egg. It was good but tooth-rottingly sweet (B-).

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A glass of PX with it was the only way to go. The wine (B) was called Caletero from Bodegas Almocadén, another local maker.

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Pics posted Nov 2015 and Feb 2017.

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