Archive for the Huelva Province Category

Huelva – tapas in the centro part two – Avenida Pinzón

Posted in Andalusia, Avenida Pinzón, Centro, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2019 by gannet39

Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón is the main pedestrian street coming off Plaza de las Monjas, the main square in the centre. It’s the street which has the highest concentration of my favourite tapas bars and as luck would have it’s also the same street as my hotel, the Hotel Eurostars Tartessos www.exehotels.com (decent breakfast, nice reception staff but the gym is a joke).

There are so many other good places to eat in the centre so to make everything more accessible I’ve broken them down into three separate posts of which this is the second. All the places mentioned are on this Google map.

D Alutura (Intermediate A-), 8 Avenida Martin Alonso Pinzon

Another favourite. A fun, modern place just up the street from the Hotel Tartessos.

The food is very good but I also like the design of the bar which has two tiers of tables running along the length of one wall to maximise space.

It’s quite fun sitting up high but surely there must have been some tipsy people who have tumbled down the steps at some point.

Not sure if eating at this height would pass health and safety in the UK.

I had the Croquetas de Queso Azul, a half portion of Jamon Bellota and the Milhoha de Presa, finishing with some cheese. All excellent or very good (A/B+).

The Paco Garcia, Martin Berougo and Carramimbre wines were pretty decent too (B+/B).

I had nice friendly service from an older guy but I think the younger ones could smile a bit more.

Another grumble was they wanted to charge me €14 for a glass of Luis Felipe, a favourite brandy of mine.

Granted it’s a top notch brandy but €10 would be more reasonable. Hoever they also do copas of cheaper Magno for a reasonable €4.50, and the waiter is very good at pouring. Video here.

A great place, check it out.

Kalaka (Intermediate A), 20 Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, www.kalaka.es

This small but very popular place is fortuitously located directly opposite the Hotel Tartessos where I was staying.

It’s very hard to get in, for lunch or dinner, so reservations are essential.

I went for lunch and had a very tasty Ensalada de Pollo (A)…

…and the Porcini Rissotto which was top notch (A+).

Both together came in at the ridiculously cheap price of €6! I really need to come here again.

Garum (High Intermediate A), 4 Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, www.garumrestaurantes.es

According to the teachers I worked with in 2015, this is the best arroceria (rice restaurant) in town. They were kind enough to invite me for a late lunch to celebrate the end of the Christmas term which was an offer I just couldn’t refuse!

We began with some top quality Jamon Bellota from nearby Jabugo, a town that I’m told has nothing going for it other than the fact the area around it produces some of the best cured ham in Spain.

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This can be tested by raising the plate to a vertical position. If the ham sticks to the plate and doesn’t move, it’s a sign that you have the best stuff. It was indeed sublime (A).

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After this some nice clams in a garlic sauce (A).

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And some of the famous Gambas Blancas de Huelva.

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For the main, a seafood paella utilising some of Huelva’s fantastic seafood (A). I just wanted to keep eating it but I had to stop for fear of appearing too greedy.

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One of the teachers Carmino was from Galicia and I put it to her that her region of Spain had the best seafood in Spain due to its colder water. She was very diplomatic with her answer, perhaps because her Andalucian husband was sitting next to her, and just said that the species of sea life in the Med and the Atlantic are completely different and so don’t bear comparison (the delicious white shrimp above being a case in point), which of course is completely true. I still think that cold water seafood has more flavour though as the creatures need to take on more fat.

The wine selected to go with the seafood was a local white called Barredero which at only 12% was soft and light, just what was needed (A). It seems a popular choice in Huelva as I was offered it again at Azabeche.

The dessert of choice for my fellow diners was pineapple from Costa Rica which is typically eaten around Christmas time in Spain.

This is an excellent restaurant and somewhere I’d love to go again. Bear in mind though that you need at least two people to share a rice dish which is rarely made for just one. There is another branch of Garum in nearby Punta Umbria.

And finally a couple of cautionary tales…

Gran Via Uno (Intermediate C-), 1 Avenida Martin Alonso Pizon

Another Guardian pick, but I had a bad experience here sadly. The Croquetas were cold in the middle but the young guy who served me tried to tell me they were okay. I think that because I was English, he thought I didn’t know what a croqueta should taste like. I insisted and got them back warm, but they were still just average (C).

I then tried to ask what kinds of Rioja he had and was subjected to a long and fast explanation of Rioja wine, obviously thinking that because I was English I didn’t know anything about Spanish gastronomy when in fact I’d be willing to bet I know more than he does. Our relationship broke down at this point so someone else came to serve me and I got a glass of Bai Gorri Crianza without any fuss.

The main of Ventresca de Atun was nicely cooked and quite good (B) but the vegtables I got with them had a strange and quite unpleasant earthy flavour and I only ate half (D+).

The Vina Barradero I had with it was okay though.

I might be persuaded to go again but next time I’d rather sit in the posher restaurant area rather than the gloomy tapas bar.

El Ambigú (Intermediate D), 479 Plaza las Monjas, NOW CLOSED!

While we were at Garum, the teachers also told me the place next door was good, or at least the meal they’d had was. Unfortunately that wasn’t my experience when I went for lunch a couple of days after the wonderful meal at the arroceria.

To begin with I had really poor service from a young and rather dim member of the staff who responded to my query about what the specialities of the house were by reeling off a list of everything they sold.

The situation was rescued by an older waiter who brought me a menu with the specialties (!), San Jacobo Casero (deep fried cheese and ham, similar to Flamequin) and Berenjenas Rellenas (stuffed aubergines), clearly displayed. Unfortunately they didn’t have any aubergines and I’m not a fan of Flamequin so I settled for a rack of prawns and a glass of wine. The wine was fine but the prawns weren’t very fresh as their darkening heads showed. Rather than have anything else at this place, I decided to go round the corner to Azabeche to finish my lunch.

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I went to the toilet first though and the washroom was a mess as well which was the final turn off for me. In their defence they had only been open a couple of days, the signs on the windows from the previous restaurant were still on the windows, but all the same this was not a good show from a restaurant pretending to be better than it actually is. I’d like to say they’ve got their act together now but they’re getting absolutely slated on Tripadvisor.

So you it is possible to get bad food in Huelva, but generally speaking I ate extremely well. Even more tapas next!

Huelva – tapas in the centro part one – Calle Vazquez Lopez

Posted in Andalusia, Calle Vazquez Lopez, Centro, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , on May 12, 2019 by gannet39

Locals used to joke that the statue of Columbus in Plaza de las Monjas, the main square in the centre, is pointing the way to all the good restaurants. It’s true that there are some very good places along Calle Vazquez Lopez but times have changed and there are now better and more modern places along Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, the other main pedestrian street coming off the square. I’ve broken them down by giving each street their own post, and written a third post about other places in the centre. They’re all on this Google map here. You’ll find a few more posts if you click on the Huelva link.

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So, in order of preference…

Azabache (High Intermediate A), 22 Calle Vazquez Lopez, www.restaurante.azabache.com

This higher end tapas bar is really hard to get into. I’m not exactly sure when it opens (8pm maybe?) but it would be advisable to get here as soon as it does most nights, and definitely at the weekend. It’s open Monday too but that’s not a good day for seafood so while you’ll easily get a spot at the bar, there’s not much on the menu. I went three times in all.

My favourite dish was the Ensalada de Berenjenas; a puree of roast aubergines and red peppers in olive oil and topped with Jamon Iberico (A).

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I ordered some Habas (broad beans) but these somehow became Gambas Rebozadas, battered and deep fried prawns, which were fine (B). If I’m going to eat prawns though I ‘d much rather have the grilled Gambas Blanca for which Huelva is famous.

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I also had Taquitos Corvina (chunks of sea bass) a la Plancha (B) and battered and fried Lenguado (sole) which needed boning but was also fine (B).

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I also had the Revuelto de Gurumelos, scrambled egg with earthy local wild mushrooms (B+) but it was a bit pricey at €14.

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My biggest regret about my visit to Huelva was not having the Huevos de Chocos (cuttlefish roe) at Azabache. I’d never had them before and they are supposed to be really good here. They need to be really fresh and are usually just served a la plancha with a bit of mayo on the side.

Glasses of wine cost €2.20, a little expensive but the quality is good. The local white wine Barredero seems to be the first choice here to go with seafood, as it was in other good places.

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You usually get a free chupito (shot) at the end of the meal and everyone seemed to be having something called Gecko which I’d never heard of before, so I ordered a double. It turned out to be caramelised vodka, very sweet and sickly but a good dessert substitute in small amounts (B).

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It’s much better to stick to their Limoncello, which seems to be quite popular in Andalucia. The one they have here is made in the province and is surprisingly good (B+).

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There’s a restaurant in the back but it seemed to be booked up with groups each night with no tables for single diners. This was the week before Christmas though so it might be different at other times of year. The whole place was still buzzing when I left at 11pm on Saturday night.

Portichuelo (High Intermediate B+), 15 Calle Vazquez Lopez www.restauranteportichuelo.com

This place is highly rated by some people on the net and by the Frommers guide. I visited it twice and liked the food but not the atmosphere particularly although they do have a terrace in the square outside, unlike Azabeche below.

On my first night I sat in the restaurant at the back where dishes cost a couple of euros more. I had a decent Rabo de Toro (B+) and two glasses of Rioja for my main.

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For dessert I had a slab of the deceptively named Tocino de Cielo (bacon from heaven), a speciality of Jerez, which I think is essentially another member of the flan family. It was much too sweet for me though (C). With a glass of PX the bill came to €27.

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On a second visit they were very busy but there was still space at the bar. I had their ‘obligatory’ house speciality, the Revuelto de la Casa (scrambled eggs with potato, jamon and green peppers) which was very good (A-) but served on a cold plate and a bit pricey at €13.

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I also had Albondigas de Chocos (cuttlefish balls which were very intense in flavour (B-).

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With two glasses of slightly effervescent Verdejo called Melior by Bodega Roble de Matarromera (A), the total came to €20.40, which is a bit on the steep side.

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Abacería La Abundancia (Intermediate B), 48 Calle Vázquez López

This place is just down the road from Azabache and gets a mention in the Rough Guide. I come here when I can’t get in at Azabache. It’s a bit small and lacking in atmosphere but the food is fine. I like the Albondigas de Carril (B+).

More great tapas bars on Avenida Pinzón next!

Huelva – Centro – Acanthum the best restaurant in town

Posted in Andalusia, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain on February 28, 2017 by gannet39

This is one of my favourite restaurants! Make sure you reserve as soon as you know you’re going to Huelva as it’s very popular. I’ve put it at the top of my list on my Google map.

Acanthum (Advanced A), 17 San Salvador, Tel. +34 959 245 135, www.acanthum.com

This restaurant requires its own post as there’s so much to say. Huelva province is rich in quality ingredients, from wonderful seafood to fantastic hams and great wines, and so the chef Xanty Elias has plenty to work with. Nearly everything that his diners eat or drink is from the area.

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I’ve been twice, in 2015 and 2017. I’ve posted the most recent experience first. So in 2017…

… the dishes and wines came thick and fast again so I didn’t have time to grade anything. Again I was chatting all the way through with Thiago the new sommelier from Brasilia. His English accent was a little hard to understand at times but I enjoyed his selection of local wines.

I had the €72 Menu Emocion, a ten-dish tasting menu of ten dishes (plus bonus dishes) and the eight-glass Maridaje de Vinos add on for another €32.

We stared with an unknown amuse bouche and a glass of sherry.

Olive – Sherry – Sardine with a glass of red verumut from my old friend, Bodega Saenz.

Mussel – Lime – “Galanga” Spice. I remember really liking the Blue Garay from the local village of La Palma del Condado (where Luis Felipe brandy also comes from).

Prawn – Pistachio

Tomato – Coriander – Swordfish with a Palomino Fino called Espinapura.

Cuttlefish – Wood Ear – Soybean

Iberian Ham Tartar. Sounds very wrong making tartar from raw ham but when it’s the best in the world, it’s a different matter. Video here.

This was paired with a wine from Delea A Marca who are noted for being the first producer to use French grapes in Huelva.

Artichoke – Baby Clam with a glass of sparkling Lume Brut from Contreras Ruiz.

Not sure what this extra was but it came with another wine from Delea A Marca, a Cab Sauv this time.

Partridge – Pig’s Trotters – “Trompeta” Mushrooms with an Oloroso called 1918 from Antonio Contreras Labrador in Condado de Huelva again.

Steak – Pumpkin – Rosemary

Yes, I know it looks like a certain emoji, as one of my kind friends pointed out, but don’t think about that! It tasted great, as did the smallest carrot I’ve ever had.

Lemon – Peach – Ginger with Ricahembra, a sweet blend of Zalema and PX grapes, from Condado de Huelva once more.

Chocolate – Coffee – Hazlenuts

Thiago saved the best wine for last; Entrepalo, a Bodega Saenz wine (as are many others in this post) that is exclusively made for the restaurant. It was sherryesque, but like nothing I’d ever had before.

It cost me €110, the most I’ve ever paid for a bottle of wine, but it really did blow me away, and it was Christmas so I forgave myself.

Truffles

This was a disappointing end for three reasons. First, to my mind truffles should be made of chocolate, second I hate fruit chews and third the menu states a plural. The size of the board just served to emphasise the insufficiency. Ah well, the rest was good.

The grand total came to a scary €226 but half of that was the Entrepalo. Overall the food wasn’t quite as good as last time but I still enjoyed myself a lot.

And in 2015…

I’d been trying to get in since I arrived but it was booked out every evening as a result of being awarded a Michelin star, the first in Huelva province, the month before.

On my very last day, a quiet Tuesday, I finished work before lunch and was able to get a table by arriving as soon as they opened at 1pm. I was still cursed with my timetable though as I only had a paltry ninety minutes in which to eat before I had to catch a train back to Seville. Consequently I opted for the eight dish ‘Electio’ Menu de Degustacion (they only do tasting menus), which I was told would take an hour or so to eat, rather than the full fifteen dish ‘Acanthum’ which would need at least two hours.

The wine was served up by the very friendly and knowledgeable sumiller (sommelier) José Antonio who speaks good English. We had an instant rapport as we swapped ideas and thoughts on food and drink. I had him to myself for a while as the restaurant only started to fill up around 2pm and I learnt so much in just a short time.

We started with an unnamed amuse bouche of two small crackers with some creamy substance which were okay but lacking in any perceptible flavour (B).

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José Antonio’s first offering was a local espumosa called Édalo by Contreras Ruiz. It was fine but not mindblowing (B).

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The dishes were usually listed on the menu by their ingredients rather than a descriptive name so I have written them here in the same way.

The starter proper ‘Ortiguilla – Coco – Lemon Grass’ was another pair of crackers this time made with sea anemone (a local delicacy) topped with two small pikelets containing the South East Asian herb, I think, and spotted with a reduction of coconut milk. This did much more for my taste buds (A).

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Next a large black tile with an imprint of a right hand arrived on the table and I was required to place my palm into it and have the ‘La Caballa en Adobo’, aka a cube of vinegared mackerel balanced on the back of my hand. However the theatre didn’t really make up for the tiny portion (B).

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To drink, Condado Palido by Bodegas Juncales, made from Palomino grapes using the solera method, just like sherry, except they can’t call it that as it comes from the Condado de Huelva DO rather than Jerez.

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Next ‘Algarroba – Sardinia Usisa – Placton’. Algarroba is the pod of the carob plant which has a pleasant, sweet taste and is often used instead of chocolate. Unión Salazonera Isleña, S.A. (USISA) is a canning company, located in Isla Cristina near Huelva, specialising in the artisan production of preserved and salted fish, in this case sardines. Placton is of course plankton, currently a popular ingredient in modern Spanish cuisine.

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I’d lost the plot with the food by now as I was so blown away by the wines which were backing up on the table as they knew I was in a rush. All I can say is that the fish was fine in combination with the other ingredients (B).

Next ‘Nuestro Ravioli y Clorofilia’ or two tiny little cubes with skins made of ham fat, containing I think a stew of cuttlefish and potato, sitting in a pool of liquidised chlorophyll and I think asparagus . Good flavour (B+) but again a frustratingly tiny portion.

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With this a local red vermouth; Vermut Sáenz made by Bodegas del Diezmo Nuevo (aka Bodegas Sáenz) in nearby Moguer, which was good (B).

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‘Atun – Morro – Cangrejo’. Morro means ‘nose’ or more probably ‘snout’, although I’m not sure which animal it comes from (a pig most likely). I remember José Antonio telling me this crab was usually just used for stocks as it wasn’t large enough to be eaten on its own. Good flavours (B+). Forgot to get a pic, sorry.

To drink, Garay Red, a white wine, yellowed in oak, and made by Bodegas Garay in La Palma del Condado. It was very good as far as I remember (B+).

‘Arroz con Setas y Yema Curada’. I’m a sucker for mushroom risotto and anything similar so this hit the spot (A).

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‘Carrillo de Buey – Pina – Vanilla’. I love beef cheeks too and this unusual combination, with the vanilla pod treated like a grissini, was very interesting (B+).

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With this, a red wine called Bemoles by Cerro San Cristabal. Fine as I recall.

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Next we went off piste with a tabla of two goat’s and two sheep cheeses. Two of these were I think, La Chivita (a goat’s cheese from Asturias) and Zamorano (a sheep’s cheese from north west Spain similar to Manchego). To my knowledge, these were the only things I had from outside of Huelva province.

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La Torrija del Pobre y Torta de Ines Rosales’. Torrija (a kind of bread pudding) is one of my favourites too and this ‘poor version’ (made without egg and with water instead of milk), worked very well (A). It was served with crumbled torta and strawberries for which Huelva is famous (many of the ones we eat in the UK come from the province).

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I was given a whole Torta de Ines Rosales to take with me which was a nice touch. It’s a round biscuit made of wheat flour, olive oil, sugar and spices including a hint of anise, from an original 1910 recipe.

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The order and grading of the wines had got quite fuzzy by this point. Despite the amounts poured being very small, José Antonio responded to my enthusiasm by adding a number of wines that weren’t meant to be included in the wine matching.

I remember being very impressed by the wines from Bodegas Saenz (who also made the vermouth). These included La Patriarcha, a dry almondy sherry-like wine made from Palomino and Pedro Ximénez grapes….

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…Dulce Blanco, a sweet white wine…

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… and in particular Fresa, a sweet wine made with a syrup of the famous strawberries.

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Another drink that impressed me was the Misterio Oloroso Muy Viejo (a sherry aged for forty years) from Bodegas Privilegion del Condado. I did email the bodega’s online shop but, as it had been a limited edition of only 500 bottles, it had sold out.

To finish, I also had a glass of Luis Felipe, my most favourite Spanish brandy, which is produced in La Palma del Condado, very near Huelva.

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With half an hour left to get my train I had to leg it at this point, so I took my leave of both José Antonio and Xanty the chef/owner who was front of house talking to his guests. I congratulated them on a wonderful experience which I hope to repeat one day when I have more time to enjoy and digest.

The whole shebang only came to £50 which was stunningly cheap considering the quality of the food and wine. You would have to pay three or four times that in the UK, if indeed it were possible to get the same food. I hope you get to experience it too.

Huelva – Centro – Places to Eat

Posted in Andalusia, Centro, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , on February 27, 2017 by gannet39

Locals joke that the statue of Columbus in Plaza de las Monjas (the central square in the centre) is pointing the way to all the good restaurants. There are others of course but it’s true that there are some very good places along Calle Vazquez Lopez. Google map here.

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Portichuelo (High Intermediate B+), 15 Calle Vazquez Lopez www.restauranteportichuelo.com

This place is highly rated by some people on the net and by the Frommers guide. I visited it twice and liked the food but not the atmosphere particularly although they do have a terrace in the square outside, unlike Azabeche below.

On my first night I sat in the restaurant at the back where dishes cost a couple of euros more. I had a decent Rabo de Toro (B+) and two glasses of Rioja for my main.

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For dessert I had a slab of the deceptively named Tocino de Cielo (bacon from heaven), a speciality of Jerez, which I think is essentially another member of the flan family. It was much too sweet for me though (C). With a glass of PX the bill came to €27.

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On a second visit they were very busy but there was still space at the bar. I had their ‘obligatory’ house speciality, the Revuelto de la Casa (scrambled eggs with potato, jamon and green peppers) which was very good (A-) but served on a cold plate and a bit pricey at €13.

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I also had Albondigas de Chocos (cuttlefish balls which were very intense in flavour (B-).

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With two glasses of slightly effervescent Verdejo called Melior by Bodega Roble de Matarromera (A), the total came to €20.40, which is a bit on the steep side.

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Azabache (High Intermediate A), 22 Calle Vazquez Lopez, www.restaurante.azabache.com

This higher end tapas bar is really hard to get into. I’m not exactly sure when it opens (8pm maybe?) but it would be advisable to get here as soon as it does most nights, and definitely at the weekend. It’s open Monday too but that’s not a good day for seafood so while you’ll easily get a spot at the bar, there’s not much on the menu. I went three times in all.

My favourite dish was the Ensalada de Berenjenas; a puree of roast aubergines and red peppers in olive oil and topped with Jamon Iberico (A).

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I ordered some Habas (broad beans) but these somehow became Gambas Rebozadas, battered and deep fried prawns, which were fine (B). If I’m going to eat prawns though I ‘d much rather have the grilled Gambas Blanca for which Huelva is famous.

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I also had Taquitos Corvina (chunks of sea bass) a la Plancha (B) and battered and fried Lenguado (sole) which needed boning but was also fine (B).

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I also had the Revuelto de Gurumelos, scrambled egg with earthy local wild mushrooms (B+) but it was a bit pricey at €14.

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My biggest regret about my visit to Huelva was not having the Huevos de Chocos (cuttlefish roe) at Azabache. I’d never had them before and they are supposed to be really good here. They need to be really fresh and are usually just served a la plancha with a bit of mayo on the side.

Glasses of wine cost €2.20, a little expensive but the quality is good. The local white wine Barredero seems to be the first choice here to go with seafood, as it was in other good places.

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You usually get a free chupito (shot) at the end of the meal and everyone seemed to be having something called Gecko which I’d never heard of before, so I ordered a double. It turned out to be caramelised vodka, very sweet and sickly but a good dessert substitute in small amounts (B).

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It’s much better to stick to their Limoncello, which seems to be quite popular in Andalucia. The one they have here is made in the province and is surprisingly good (B+).

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There’s a restaurant in the back but it seemed to be booked up with groups each night with no tables for single diners. This was the week before Christmas though so it might be different at other times of year. The whole place was still buzzing when I left at 11pm on Saturday night.

Abacería La Abundancia (Intermediate B), 48 Calle Vázquez López

This place is just down the road from Azabache and gets a mention in the Rough Guide. I gave it a try when I couldn’t get in at Azabache. It was half full when I arrived and was a bit lacking in atmosphere. The food is fine though.

And in the parallel street to the east is…

Puro Chup Chup (Intermediate B+), 6 Calle Rábida, www.purochupchup.com

I came here for two reasons, firstly to try their international fusion cuisine for a change from the norm and secondly because they’re open Sunday evening, albeit with a reduced menu. Inside the restaurant is bright and modern and the staff are really very nice.

To start I had their Banh Mi de Cordero, Pina Asada y Encurtida con Pepinos, Chile Fresca y Salsa “Lamb of God” (lamb, roasted pineapple and with pickled cucumbers, fresh chilli and salsa) which was served in a hot dog bun. Although it was nothing like the real thing (it should be pork in a crispy baguette) , it was still tasty (B+). However the sweet “Lamb of God” sauce that was slathered on the top of the bun made it quite difficult to eat without making a mess.

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I followed up with the Chateaubriand which arrived looking like a Modernist painting. The bits and pieces you can see in the photo include Apple Chutney, Foie, Pistachio Yoghurt, Apple Pearls and tiny Ice Cream Cones containing Afuega’l Pitu, a cow’s milk cheese from Asturias with a long history.

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This all went well with a couple of glasses of a decent Garnacha (B).

For dessert I had the deconstructed Tiramisu as recommended by my excellent waiter. I’m not usually one for coffee based desserts but this one was really good (B+), and very filling.

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With this I had a glass of fantastic Muscat dessert wine by Jorge Ordóñez from Malaga. There are four sweet wines in their line and this is called Victoria #2. It’s one of the best muscats I’ve ever had (A+) and I have since ordered a few bottles on the internet from www.decantalo.com for about €17 a half bottle.

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However I’d advise against having this Portuguese almond flavoured digestive (C). It tastes like marzipan and I could virtually feel my teeth rotting when it was in my mouth.

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Total cost €30.90. Puro Chup Chup is a nice change from the usual and I’d love to go again to try some of the other items on their menu.

If you’re staying at the Hotel Monte Conquero, this place is just over the road.

El Picoteo de la Rocina (Intermediate B+), 5 Calle Pablo Rada, open all day Sunday and Monday (which is unusual).

This place is a Lonely Planet top choice and it was also recommended by a local who said it’s a good spot for Sunday lunch. It’s always rammed so either reserve or get there as soon as it opens (9pm in the evening). Its popularity might explain why the staff seem so stressed, or perhaps they are chronically understaffed. Either way they seem to be running around like headless chickens with little time for pleasantries.

I began with some good Jamon Bellota (B+).

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Next I had the gruff waiter’s suggestion of Entrecot de Ternera Gallego, a huge slab of Galician veal (500g I’m guessing) which was excellent (A-). However they were a bit stingy with the chips and I wasn’t that keen on the gloopy sauce on the side.

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With this two glasses of an excellent Ribera del Duero (A) called Melior by Bodega Roble de Matarromera who also made the nice verdejo I had at Portichuelo. Finally, with some Manchego Curado, the total came to €45.60.

Garum (High Intermediate A), 4 Avenida Martín Alonso Pinzón, www.garumrestaurantes.es

According to the teachers I worked with, this is the best arroceria (rice restaurant) in town. They were kind enough to invite me for a late lunch to celebrate the end of the Christmas term which was an offer I just couldn’t refuse!

We began with some top quality Jamon Bellota from nearby Jabugo, a town that I’m told has nothing going for it other than the fact the area around it produces some of the best cured ham in Spain.

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This can be tested by raising the plate to a vertical position. If the ham sticks to the plate and doesn’t move, it’s a sign that you have the best stuff. It was indeed sublime (A).

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After this some nice clams in a garlic sauce (A).

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And some of the famous Gambas Blancas de Huelva.

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For the main, a seafood paella utilising some of Huelva’s fantastic seafood (A). I just wanted to keep eating it but I had to stop for fear of appearing too greedy.

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One of the teachers Carmino was from Galicia and I put it to her that her region of Spain had the best seafood in Spain due to its colder water. She was very diplomatic with her answer, perhaps because her Andalucian husband was sitting next to her, and just said that the species of sea life in the Med and the Atlantic are completely different and so don’t bear comparison (the delicious white shrimp above being a case in point), which of course is completely true. I still think cold water crustaceans have more flavour though.

The wine selected to go with the seafood was a local white called Barredero which at only 12% was soft and light, just what was needed (A). It seems a popular choice in Huelva as I was offered it again at Azabeche.

The pudding of choice for my fellow diners was pineapple which is a typically eaten around Christmas time in Spain.

This is an excellent restaurant and somewhere I’d love to go again. Bear in mind though that you need at least two people to share a rice dish which is rarely made for just one. There is another branch of Garum in Punta Umbria

And one to avoid…

El Ambigú (Intermediate D), 479 Plaza las Monjas

While we were at Garum, the teachers also told me the place next door was good, or at least the meal they’d had was. Unfortunately that wasn’t my experience when I went for lunch a couple of days after the wonderful meal at the arroceria.

To begin with I had really poor service from a young and rather dim member of the staff who responded to my query about what the specialities of the house were by reeling off a list of everything they sold.

The situation was rescued by an older waiter who brought me a menu with the specialties, San Jacobo Casero (deep fried cheese and ham, similar to Flamequin) and Berenjenas Rellenas (stuffed aubergines), clearly displayed. Unfortunately they didn’t have any aubergines and I’m not a fan of Flamequin so I settled for a rack of prawns and a glass of wine. The wine was fine but the prawns weren’t very fresh as their dark head meat showed. Rather than have anything else, I decided to go round the corner to Azabeche to finish my lunch.

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I went to the toilet first though and the washroom was a mess as well which was the final turn off for me. In their defence they had only been open a couple of days, the signs on the windows from the previous restaurant were still on the windows, but all the same this was not a good show from a restaurant pretending to better than it actually is. I’d like to say they’ve got their act together now but they’re getting absolutely slated on Tripadvisor.

This past place notwithstanding, I ate very well in Huelva and would happily go back for more. Make sure you check my dedicated post on Acanthum, which is the best restaurant in town.

Huelva – food shopping

Posted in Andalusia, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , , on February 26, 2017 by gannet39

Due to its position between the mountains and the sea, Huelva province has a wealth of ingredients, which find their way to the table via the many excellent food shops around the city.

I love to wander around markets so my first stop was the Nuevo Mercado del Carmen at 2 Avenida Italia, www.mercadodelcarmen.com

Google map here.

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The market is very modern and spacious as the current building it occupies was only opened in 2010. There are over one hundred stalls, many of which specialise in just one thing.

A few stalls sold only fresh tuna and nothing else.

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Thankfully the stocks of locally caught Atún Rojo (Atlantic Bluefin tuna) have been recovering in recent years so you don’t need to feel bad when you eat it.

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Gambas blancas de Huelva (Huelva white prawns) are considered to be some of the best in Europe. They are fantastic just simply char-grilled and scattered with sea salt.

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Coquinas (wedge clams) are also very popular.

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The local variety of cuttlefish is known as a ‘choco’. People from Huelva like them so much that they are themselves known as ‘choceros’. A typical preparation is Chocos con Habas, cuttlefish with broad beans. They are much more photogenic when they are in the sea.

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Huelva province, particularly the area around the town of Lepe, is famous for its strawberries which are exported all over Europe. In fact Spain is the world’s largest exporter of fresh strawberries and Huelva is responsible for 95% of national strawberry production.

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In the autumn mushrooms are readily available. Common varieties are the Gurumelo (amanita ponderosa), or the Níscalo (lactarius deliciosus). The variety in the picture are called Angula de Monte (cantahrellus lutescens) a kind of Chanterelle which are great fried with garlic.

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Another very famous product from the Sierra de Huelva, particularly the towns of Aracena and Jabugo, is cured ham. Consequently there are many shops specialising in ham dotted around Huelva. I usually go to Carnicería Juanma at 7 Calle Méndez Núñez carniceriajuanma.com to stock up on some Ibérico de Bellota to take home.

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In Dec 2017 I bought three packs of Jamon from two different ham shops, both of which were recommended by a local. I got some Jamon Bellota (€9.50 per 100g) and some Jamon Loncheado Etiqueta Negra (€7 per 100g) from Le Serrania de Jabugo laserraniadejabugo.com, the 1 Calle Palacio branch, and some more Jamon Bellota (€12.50 per 100g) from my usual place Carneceria Juama. I’m pleased to report the Juanma ham was the best.

There are three main classifications of ham; Ibérico de Bellota (from pigs fed only on acorns and grass), Ibérico de Recebo (from pigs raised on acorns and authorised feed), and Ibérico de Pienso (from pigs raised on feed only).

The world’s most expensive ham (€500 a kilo), from a rare breed of pig called Manchado de Jabugo Ibérico Puro, is from Huelva province. The high price tag is due to the ham having to be cured for six years.

The best deli in town is just around the corner from the ham shop. Los Angeles at 17 Calle Concepcion is a wonderland of top quality ingredients. I picked up a bag of Fabes de la Granja (butter beans), some tins of Ventresca de Atun (belly tuna), Membrillo (quince jelly for cheese) and some Aciete Virgen Ybarra (an olive oil from Seville province). They also stock Jamon Cinco Jotas which is one of the best cured ham brands around.

I was in Huelva just before Christmas so Los Angeles had a lot of hampers on display. If anyone is wondering what present to get me, I’ll have one of these please!

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Presumably though, I’ll just have to sort myself out.

I’ve written several other posts about Huelva, click the link…

Andalusia – Huelva – stuff to see

Posted in Andalusia, Huelva, Huelva Province, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2017 by gannet39

Poor old Huelva, it does have a rep as an unlovely town as everyone, including some of its inhabitants, were keen to tell me. My first impressions weren’t great but it did grow on me during the five days in December 2015 that I was there. By all appearances it seems to be a completely modern town however there is a lot of history if you scratch the surface.

Google map here.

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Since ancient times the area has been a source of metals for just about every major Mediterranean civilisation from the Phoenicians and Greeks, through to the Romans and Arabs. Artefacts from these civilisations can be seen at the small but interesting Museo De Huelva at 13 Avenida Alameda Sondheim www.museosdeandalucia.es Entrance is free.

The museum has a small collection of Pagan idols.

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Some original Arabic ceramic tiles can also be seen.

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I’m not sure about the origins of this jug but I love the two animals incorporated into the design.

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The metal deposits and mining activity are the reasons the Rio Tinto (one of two rivers that meet at Huelva, the Odiel is the other) got its name. The reddish colour of its water is due to copper and other heavy metals being washed into it.

In 1873 the British arrived and formed the Rio Tinto mining company to exploit these resources. The company is now a huge multinational, one of the biggest in the world, although it no longer operates in its birthplace. However the company’s influence can still be seen all over the city.

Naturally the railway was hugely important for this industry and the Neomudéjar train station, the Estación de Sevilla, was built by the British.

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A couple of doors down from the museum, is Casa Colon, a British built hotel that now houses the city archives. It’s one of the older buildings in town but not particularly photogenic. However it would make a good starting point for the ‘Ruta Ingles’, a heritage route set up by the local council, as you can upload a guide to the route onto your mobile by scanning the barcode on a sign in front of the building.

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A bronze statue of the Virgin del Rocio being paraded in the street stands opposite Casa Colon.

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The procession draws around a million people each year.

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Just up the road is the incongruous Barrio de Reina Victoria, also called the Barrio Obrero (Workers’ District), an estate of British-style semi-detached houses that Rio Tinto built for its workers.

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In terms of architecture there’s very little else to see. Another old station, Antigua Estación de Zafra , can be seen at on Avenida Alemania near the bus station.

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There are a couple of nice buildings along Calle Vásquez López. Next to Portichuelo (see my restaurant post) is the Gran Teatro de Huelva at 13 Calle López www.festicinehuelva.com which has a nice neo-classical façade.

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And opposite the theatre is the Casa de los Conchas which has some beautiful ceramic tiles above the windows and doors.

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I quite liked the iridescent tiles on this house at 40 Calle López although my photos don’t show them to their full effect.

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The baroque Catedral de la Merced in Plaza de la Merced www.diocesisdehuelva.es has a distinctive brick façade.

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The oldest church in the city is the Parroquia Mayor de San Pedro Apóstol in Plaza San Pedro, The pretty pink bell tower is a symbol of the city.

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There are various other bits and pieces of architecture to be seen but I think these are the highlights. Much of the town was wiped out in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (Portugal is only 50km away) and so there is nothing truly old remaining.

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