Archive for the Asturias Category

Oviedo – cheap and medium range eating

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by gannet39

Everywhere mentioned in this post, and more are on this Google map.

For fine dining (tasting menus etc) please see my previous post.

All the places reviewed below are in the Casco Antiguo except for this first one which is just to the north-west of San Francisco park and is well worth the short walk.

Gloria Casa de Comidas (High Intermediate A), 24 Calle Cervantes

This ‘casa de comidas’ (food house – think tapas bar and restaurant) was one of my favourite places to eat in Oviedo. It’s the creation of two-starred Michelin chef Nacho Manzano but everything is very reasonably priced.

On my visit everything was perfect; good quality, innovative cuisine, friendly, attentive service, modern, atmospheric décor and a cool soundtrack of Afro Reggae and Roy Ayers. I loved it and didn’t want to leave, which explains the bill (€61.65).

To drink I went with my server’s recommendation of ‘Vinas de Monte’ by San Esteban, a red wine for €22 that scored well with me (B+).

To start I couldn’t resist trying a tapa of ‘Llampares a la Sidra’, or limpets in cider, a first for me. They were interesting but nothing amazing (B).

Then a tapa of the critically-acclaimed Croquetas de Jamon. The accolades are deserved, they were some of the most delicate I’d ever eaten, almost liquid inside (A).

Then a half racion of ‘Corte de Cerdo Iberico con Berenjenas y Eumulsion de Guindillas’; an unphotogenic but very tasty (A) sliced pork chop with aubergines and an emulsion of small hot peppers.

The tapa of ‘Panceta Crujiente con Pure de Fabada y Verduras Alinadas’, or crispy pancetta with a puree of white bean stew and marinated vegetables served in a lettuce leaf, was excellent (A).

I also loved the ‘Bocata Gochu Asturcelta y Encurtido de Verduras Asiaticas’; pulled pork sandwiched in a soft Taiwanese bun with pickled Asian vegetables (A), with some superior crisps on the side (A). Gochu Asturcelta is an Asturian rare-breed pig.

I also loved their ‘Tarta de Queso y Galleta con Dulce de Membrillo y Helado de Frambuesa’; cheesecake and biscuit with sweet quince paste and raspberry ice cream ‘ (A).

With dessert, a glass of cider liqueur called ‘Diamantes de Hielo’ (B).

And with my coffee (B), a chupito of ‘Los Serranos’ Licor de Avellana, hazelnut liqueur.

A great spot, I’d definitely come again.

El Asador de Aranda “Casa Campanes” (High Intermediate B+), 19 Calle Jovellanos, www.asadordearanda.com

This roast meat restaurant is a part of a chain with locations in several major cities. I’ve been to a few of them and have always enjoyed the experience.

This particular branch, Casa Campanes, has a spacious terrace which would come into its own in the summer, but it was a bit too chilly in late May so my friend Peter and I sat inside the beautifully decorated main room. We were the only customers on a Wednesday night, a reflection on the time of year and Spain’s economic condition rather than the quality of the food which is very good.

To begin we had half raciones of Morcilla de Burgos (B+), grilled slices of a famous black pudding from Burgos that is made with rice…

… and Torreznos (B) aka pork scratchings.

The house specials are roast Cochinillo (suckling pig) and roast Lechazo (suckling lamb). We shared a platter with a quarter of piglet and it was great (B+) but having been recently spoilt by Los Galayos in Madrid (see my Plaza Mayor post), the best place I’ve ever eaten Cochinillo, I couldn’t give it top marks.

With a mixed salad, water and four glasses of wine, the bill came to €77 between two which was pretty reasonable.

El Fontan (Elementary C), 2 Calle Fierro, www.restauranteelfontan.com

I’ve got nothing against cheap restaurants, and this is probably the cheapest in town, but I was very disappointed with this place. It’s highly recommended by both the Frommer’s and the Guia Repsol guides, but the food was terrible when I went, which it shouldn’t be, given that it literally overlooks the fresh produce market of the same name.

I had the Menu Fin Semana which at €16 was unarguably incredibly cheap, given that it included a bottle of unlabelled red (C), but it was cheap for a good reason.

I started with the Fabada which was really quite horrible although not inedible (C). I’m not sure why as it’s pretty easy to make a good one given half-decent ingredients. The bacon was really hard in this one and the chorizo and morcilla tasted very cheap. The sauce was a really light colour for some reason. I could have done a better job myself. The following Entrecote was tough and flavourless (C).

To finish the famous local dessert Arroz con Leche didn’t have its usual caramelised glaze so it reminded me of my Norwegian mum’s rice pudding as it was just simply sprinkled with cinnamon. Hers was better than this though (C).

I quite liked the cup the coffee (B) was served in though. And the waitress was lovely.

Another saving grace, as so often, was the excellent Milenario brandy (B+) from Caballero in Puerto de la Santa Maria which the owner told me was quite hard to get hold of.

Come here if you’re on a budget by all means, but personally I’d rather spend a bit more and get better quality.

Here’s a shortlist of bars that I enjoyed:

Calle Gascona has more cider pubs than any other street in the world!

Tierra Astur, 1 Calle Gascona, www.tierra-astur.com

Recommended by local teachers so I came in briefly one night. It’s very atmospheric, and popular with locals.

La Finca Sidreria, 4 Calle Gascona, www.sidrerialafinca.es

This was the Lonely Planet pick along Calle Gascona so I popped in for a night cap to check it out. If you wanted to drink cider and eat cheese, this would be a good place to come.

El Patio de los Naranjas (Intermediate B+), 4 Calle Jovellanos

Nice low lit bar playing jazz, good for a night cap.

Sidreria Gato Negro, 5 Calle Mon, www.sidreriaelgatonegro.com

This cider bar in the old town seems very popular. It’s very near Married, my favourite restaurant (see previous post).

This final place is closed now, I just wanted to remember it…

Casa Conrado (High Intermediate (B+), 1 Calle Arguelles, NOW CLOSED!

This local institution had a big rep getting accolades from Michelin, Guia Repsol, Frommers and a local foodie teacher that I worked with. It was quite a traditional and formal experience although I never let that phase me.

The service wasn’t great; the head waiter didn’t seem happy and wasn’t very welcoming. Looking back at the dates of the last TripAdvisor reviews, it seems the restaurant’s closure was already on the cards when I went so that might explain his attitude.

Not sure why such a long-standing restaurant closed but ordering a la carte was quite expensive and not always on point according to the reviews. Personally I had the Menu del Dia which was very reasonable at only €25 and the quality was pretty good.

Upon sitting down, a complementary tapa of marinated crab salad (A).

For my starter I opted for the ‘Muslitos de Cordoniz, Crujientes con Salsa de Soja’ or quail thighs friend in a soya sauce batter (B+).

For my main course; ‘Carrileras de Iberico con Pure de Patata’, or unphotogenic pork cutlets in gravy with mashed potato (A).

To drink a bottle of Ramon Bilbao Rioja (B+ for nose, B for flavour).

After this some local ‘La Peral’ blue cheese (B+) and a glass of decent PX (B+).

According to my research, a famous local cake is the Carbayon de Almendra, so I grabbed the chance to try it when the waiter said they had it. It looks like what we in the UK would call an iced bun, something very simple, but the Spanish recipe is a bit more complex, involving puff pastry filled with a mixture of egg, ground almonds, brandy or sweet wine and sugar and covered with an icing made of water, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. This one was very nice (B+), especially with ice cream (A).

Continuing the hunt for things I’ve never had, I went to the bar and asked to see their selection of brandies. They had quite a few, as a good old place like this should, and I was excited to find an untried brand called ‘Conde de los Andes’ by Bodegas Diez Merito.

It looked the business and tasted it too (B+). I loved the bottle for its bling factor and was going to buy one online, but sadly they’ve changed the name now to Marques del Merito. It doesn’t look as good, but I’ll drink it again if I see it.

And that’s it for Oviedo, a town I’d definitely like to visit again. The dining scene is fantastic, and very competitive, hence the good value. A general impression is that newer, more innovative places are winning out over the traditional, stuffier restaurants. I enjoyed it all though.

Oviedo – Casco Antiguo – eating at the high end

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , on October 18, 2017 by gannet39

Oviedo is the capital city of Asturias, a region famous throughout Spain for it’s food. Taking advantage of this, plus the fact that fine dining in Spain is generally much better value than at home in the UK, I visited three of the best places and had their tasting menus. You’ll find them all on this Google map along with the cheaper places in the next post.

Married (Advanced A), 19 Trascorrales, www.marriedcocina.eu

This was my favourite out of all the fine dining places I went to. The food is quite simply stunning, both in terms of flavour and presentation. It’s hard to imagine the huge hands of the big jovial chap in the kitchen making such beautifully delicate food but César Fernández Casado is an artist of the finest calibre. He has worked at some of the best restaurants in northern Spain, including El Bulli, Arzak, Mugaritz and Martín Berasategui, and it shows.

I had the tasting menu (€45) and wine pairing (€65) but was too busy enjoying myself and chatting to the friendly waitress to make notes or grade the food and drink, sorry! Suffice to say it was all wonderful. I’ll just let the photos do the talking.

The first drink was an Asturian cider, perhaps the best so far, called 1947 by Vilda de Angelón.

‘Bocarte Marinado sobre una Olivada con Matices de Ibéricos’ or a fried (?) and marinated anchovy on a tapenade with hints of Iberian ham.

Language note! Common Spanish words for anchovies include ‘anchoa’, ‘boquerón’ and ‘bocarte’. In Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria a fried anchovy is a ‘bocarte’ whereas in the whole of Spain a ‘boquerone’ is in vinegar and an ‘anchoa’ is a fillet from a tin.

‘Lámina Crujiente de Tinta de Calamar, Emulsión Tibia de su Guiso, Azafrán y Ajo Asado’ or a sheet of crispy squid ink with a warm (?) emulsion of its stew, saffron and roasted garlic.

With it, a glass of Estelado, a very pleasant Chilean sparkling Rosé.

It might not look like it but I think this was the ‘Carpaccio de Hueso de Jamón con Yogur, Cilantro, Regaliz y Remolacha’ or ham bone carpaccio with yogurt, coriander, licorice and beetroot.

To drink, another Asturian cider called Prau Monga which won the Pomme d’Or in 2014.

‘Vizcaína de Callos de Bacalao, Cremoso de su Pilpil, la Piel Crujiente y Tartar de Boletus al Ajo y Perejil’ aka cod ‘tripe’ Vizcaina style with cream of pilpil, crispy skin, tartar of Boletus mushrooms, garlic and parsley.

With this, a glass of 2014 Albarino called ‘Pazo das Bruxas’.

Cooking notes! ‘Vizcaína’ refers to a food (typically bacalao or chicken) prepared with a pulp of peppers, onion and, sometimes, tomato. ‘Pilpil’ is an emulsified Basque sauce served with Bacalao or prawns (usually) that’s made with olive oil, garlic and very small, hot peppers (guindillas).

‘Lomo de Cabracho Asado, Coca de Frutos del Mar y Caldo Ácido de Sus Espinas (Versión de una Sopa de Pescado)’ or roast loin of scorpionfish with seafood Coca bread and an acidic soup made from the fish’s spines. The seafood included shelled langostines, Goose barnacles (percebes ) and a clam studded with fish roe that made it look like a piece of jewellery.

For the meat dish, a copa of 2007 Rioja called ‘Murua’.

‘Pieza de Ternera Cocida y Glaseada, Verdures Jóvenes de Temporada en Diferentes Cocciones y Texturas’, or glazed veal with seasonal young vegetables with different textures and cooking methods.

To drink with dessert a late harvest Txakoli di Bizkaia called ‘Urezti ‘ (honeyed water) from Bodegas Itsasmendi which I remember as being exceptional (A).

‘Soufflé Frío de Chocolate Blanco, Arenas de Caolín, Cítricos y Chocolate Negro’ translates as a cold soufflé of white chocolate, Kaolin sands (sic), citrus and black chocolate. My understanding is that the bushy ingredient is a local seaweed dipped in chocolate. Que rico!

With coffee a 20-year-old brandy by Torres called Miguel Torres. It was decent, but I’ve had better.

I really enjoyed my meal here and would happily come again. It helps that they are nice people too, and that everything was good value. I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in town.

Mestura (Advanced B+), first floor of Gran Hotel Espana, 2 Calle Jovellanos, www.mesturarestaurante.es

This is a modern, formal hotel restaurant but I didn’t find it at all stuffy. I got good friendly service from the waiter and sommelier and the Menu Fomento de la Cocina Asturiana was very reasonable at €39.

Rather than a wine pairing I went with the somelliers recommendation of a single bottle of a 2014 Verdejo Rueda called ‘Tramoya’ by Bodegas Don Diego. It gave me a lovely buzz (B+ flavour, nose A) and was only €12. I tracked it down for only £5 a bottle on the internet and I’m awaiting an order now.

Things began with a Horchata Amuse Bouche (B).

The following Anchovy on Focaccia was stunning (A). I need to try and make this at home!

The ‘Fried Octopus with Humus and Green Asparagus Sprouts’ that followed was also very good (B+).

I wasn’t so wowed by the ’65 degree cooked Egg, Porcini, Cheese Foam & Fresh Winter Truffle’ that followed (C+).

The Seabass in Cider was also wonderful (A).

I can’t remember what the dessert was so it can’t have made much of an impression. The photo doesn’t look great.

However, a glass of Taylor’s Late-Bottled Vintage Port is never going to be bad (B+).

The highlight was the fantastic (A-) glass of Gran Duque d’Alba XO brandy that I got with my coffee. I’d never had the XO before (I’m a big fan of the ordinary Gran Duque) and I was so impressed that I later bought a crate of six from Uvinium for about €50 a bottle.

The total bill was €53.80 which included the port and brandy for free, so good value was had. In conclusion this is a good place for food and a great place for drinks! A definite recommendation from me.

Fermin (Advanced B+), 8 Calle San Francisco, www.casafermin.com

A long standing institution (since 1924) considered by many (Guia Repsol, Frommer’s) to be the best place in town. It was very good, but I enjoyed myself more at Married above.

I had the €65 Menú Degusatción and a wine ‘maridaje’ once again for a very reasonable €28.

Upon arrival I was given a freshly poured Villacubera cider which was sadly still and lifeless (C).

To begin, a quartet of starters. The ‘Melón Mojito’ was interesting (B) but the ‘Foie con Lenteja Negra Frita’, foie with fried black lentils, was tasteless (C). However I enjoyed the ‘Caramelo de Morcilla’, black pudding caramel (B+), and the ‘Croqueta Cremosa de Jamon Ibérico’ aka creamy Ibérian ham roquette, was always going to be a winner (A).

The ‘Ostra con Tocino y Caldo de Jamón’ or oyster with bacon and ham broth didn’t cut it (C).

I forgot to grade the ‘Tartar de Atún Rojo con Helado de Wasabi’ or Bluefin tuna tartar with wasabi ice cream, but I’m sure it was good.

Ditto the Gramona Cava but I know it’s good from past experience.

Also ungraded, the ‘Navaja, Alga Ramallo y Berza’ aka razor clam, Ramallo seaweed (from Galicia) and kale.

The ‘Cigala, Guisante y Tomate Asado’, or Norwegian lobster, peas and roasted tomato, was tops (A).

Then some bland Lubina (seabass) (B).

With the fish, an Albarino called ‘Terras Gauda’ which I’d had before in Gijon (B+).

‘Longaniza Ibérica, Yema y Patata Morada’ or Longaniza sausage with egg yolk and purple potato, according to the menu, although it looks like normal potato to me (B).

‘Tendón de Ternera, Bearnesa de Chocolate Blanco y su Jugo’ or veal tendon with its juices and a white chocolate Bearnaise (B+).

With the meat, a half decent Ribera del Duero called ‘Conde de San Cristobal’ (B).

‘Cochinillo Confiato, Tubérculos y Ras Al Hanut Crujiente’ confit of suckling pig, tubers and crispy Ras Al Hanut (B).

Feeling greedy I added a cheeseboard before dessert, all three of which were top notch (A+).

This necessitated a glass of Rioja Crianza called ‘Ostato’.

The ‘Sorbete de Gintonic, Sopa de Citricos y Enebro’ or a gin & tonic sorbet, with a soup of citrus juniper, was good but a bit too sweet for me (B+). It didn’t photograph well either.

‘Milhojas de Yogur y Chocolate Blanco y Helado de Frambuesa’ aka yogurt filled puff pastry with white chocolate and raspberry ice cream scored A and B+ individually but I don’t think they went so well together (B-).

Finally a PX called 1986 which was fantastic (A+) and a decent coffee (B+).

In conclusion this was a very good meal, and well worth the money, but not quite enough top marks to make it my favourite. It was a quiet night but I found the atmosphere to be a bit tame as well. I’d still go back though.

Except for maybe San Sebastian, I don’t think I’ve been to a small town with quite as many good restaurants. I heart Oviedo!

Oviedo – street sculpture in the Casco Antiguo

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2017 by gannet39

Another wonderful think about Oviedo is that the extent to which it has embraced street sculpture. There are statues everywhere in the Casco Antiguo (over one hundred in the city) and the ones in my post are just a fraction of what there is to see.

These are links to two maps (here and here) showing walking tours of the centre with an option for an audio guide via a downloadable app. And here’s my usual Google map.

My favourite is “La Maternidad” (Maternity) in Plaza de la Escandalera. It was sculpted by Fernando Botero in honour of mothers.

Botero is beloved by many, including myself, for his humourous, often political, over-sized sculptures. The only other one I’ve seen is “Woman with Mirror” in Madrid (see my Plaza de Colón post).

A short distance away, at the top of Calle Alonso de Quintanilla is what at first glance looks like more ‘Boterismo’ but is in fact a work by Eduardo Úrculo called “Culis Monumentalibus“. Any city that has a large bum on their main shopping street is alright by me!

El Diestro” (The Right-Handed) by Miguel Berrocal (1998) depicts the torso of a bullfighter with an exaggerated roundness. It’s located a stone’s throw away on Calle Palacio Valdés.

La Bailerina” (The Ballerina) by Santiago de Santiago (2011) is also close by, outside the Teatro Campoamor on Calle Diecienueve de Julio.

Another Santiago de Santiago called “Amigos“ (1993) can be seen in Plaza Juan XXIII.

Woody Allen is a big fan of Oviedo and they’ve repaid the complement by putting a statue of him on Calle Milicias Nacionales

Another nice statue is “Pescadera” (Fishwife) by Sebastian Miranda Ovetense in Plaza Trascorrales.

El Vendedor de Pescado” (The Fish Seller) by Jose Antonio Garcia Prieto is next to it.

La Lechera” (The Milklady) by Manuel García Linares is just a short distance away in Calle Adolfo Álvarez Folguer. It’s a tribute to the women who brought milk to the city.

A very popular sculpture is “El Viajero” (The Traveller) in Plaza Porlier. It’s actually called “The return of Williams B. Arrensberg” (1993), the subject being a friend of Eduardo Úrculo the sculptor.

“Las Alfareras” (The Potters) in Plaza de Daoíz y Velarde.

So that’s a small sample as I say. There are another ninety or so waiting to be found.

Oviedo – Modernista Architecture

Posted in Asturias, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by gannet39

Here’s a little Modernista architecture tour, coming from the Ayre Hotel Ramiro I where I was staying. I’ve marked them as stars on this Google map.

There are many more buildings, like Casa del Cuito, that I didn’t manage to include. There are some beauties here though!

Viviendas Marqués de Santa Cruz (1914), 11-12 Calle Marqués de Santa Cruz

Círculo Mercantil, 5 Calle Marqués de Santa Cruz

Casa Garcia Conde (Juan Miguel de la Guardia,1904), Plaza de La Escandalera

Junta General del Principado de Asturias (Nicolàs Garcìa Rivero, 1904), 13 Calle Fruela

Banco Herrero, 11 Calle Fruela (1911)

Calle Principaldo, on the corner of Calle Suarez de la Riva

Casa Simeon (Julio Galàn Carbajal, 1915), 4 Calle San Francisco

Casa del Arco Iris (Manuel del Busto, 1922), Plaza de la Constitución

Plaza de la Constitución

Basílica de San Juan El Real (Luis Bellido, 1902-09), Calle Dr. Casal

And several others I can’t remember the location of…

For older architecture please see my ‘Oviedo – walking around the Casco Antiguo’ post.

Oviedo – walking around the Casco Antiguo

Posted in Asturias, Casco Antiguo, Oviedo, Spain with tags , , , , , , on October 15, 2017 by gannet39

I really like Oviedo. It has a fantastic food culture and lots of nice buildings to look at, so it’s the perfect place for me.

I’ve broken my posts down as follows:

Casco Antiguo Architecture (this post).
Modernista Architecture.
Street Sculpture.
Eating at the high end.
Cheap and mid-range dining.

You’ll find everywhere mentioned and more on this Google map.

The narrow streets of the Casco Antiguo are pedestrianised so you can wander around staring upwards, with no danger of being run over.

Notable buildings include the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) at Plaza de la Constitución.

Also in the square are a couple of nice Modernista buildings (see separate post) and the Iglesia de San Isidoro.

The Catedral de Oviedo, while not particularly a beauty, is very imposing.

The finest features to my eye were the heavily adorned archways and the doors themselves which are intricately carved with unusual characters. Click on the photos to see a full-screen slideshow.

Nearby, you’ll find these old relics on the corner of Calle Rua and Calle San Antonio.

There are a couple of bars here should you want a pit stop.

To the east of the cathedral, in Plaza Carrada del Obispo and along Calle San Vicente, there are several old quasi-governmental buildings with imposing doorways.

One of these is the Museo Arqueologico de Asturias museoarqueologicodeasturias.com. Entrance is free, and it’s very modern and plush inside but there are no explanations in English sadly. There are a few nice pieces but nothing that excited me particularly. Again, click on the photos to see them full-screen.

There are lots of little squares that are worth checking out. Plaza Daoiz y Velarde has some nice old buildings. Casa Ramón at 1 Plaza Daoiz y Velarde is a good place to eat tapas and drink cider.

Plaza de Trascorrales has some nice bars and street sculpture. Married, my favourite restaurant, is near here at 19 Plaza de Trascorrales. La Mezquita in the picture looks fun.

As usual one of my favourite places was the market (the low building on the left in the picture, Iglesia de San Isidoro is in the background). I didn’t get a chance to see it in action due to work getting in the way but on my last day I managed to catch the last stall to buy the ingredients for a Fabada, the famous Asturian stew. I also ate here at El Fontan, which overlooks the market (see my post on Mid-range and Cheap Eating).

Just opposite the market at 9 Calle Fierro is an excellent deli called Aramburu www.aramburu-asturias.es. It’s another good place to stock up on goodies to take home…

…or grab a snack.

Street sculpture in the Casco Antiguo next!

Gijón – Cimavilla – Eating & Drinking

Posted in Asturias, Cimavilla, Gijón, Spain with tags , on October 14, 2017 by gannet39

There are lots of great places to eat and drink in Cimavilla, these are just a couple I went to. They’re both on the map.

Auga (Advanced B+), Calle de Claudio Alvargonzález, www.restauranteauga.com

This is a high end restaurant, perhaps the best in town, located on a pier in the harbour. It used to be the fish market but the building has been given a modern makeover. It gets solid recommendations from Guida Repsol, Frommer’s and Fodor’s.

I had the tasting menu (73€) with wine matching (25€) . To save time I’ve just given marks in brackets. Some dishes have double marks to show flavour/presentation, or for wines, nose/palate. Some got past me without being marked, apologies.

To start, a glass of Manzanilla (B+).

Then an amuse bouche of anchovy and roe on a celery and turnip mousse (B/A).

After this a glass of champagne from Perrier-Jouet.

‘Manzana Caramelizada , Rey Silo y sardina Marinada’ or caramelized apple, Rey Silo cheese and marinated sardine (B+/A+).

Asparagus (B/B+).

Langoustine (A/A).

With the seafood, an excellent Albarino (A/B+) from Zarate.

‘Viera Gallega, Manzana Verde, Champinon y Placton’ or Galician scallops with green apple, mushroom and plankton (A/A+).

‘Huevo con Pies de Cerdo y Trufa’, or a slow-cooked egg, with pig trotters and truffle (A/A).

A boring Torres Riesling (B).

Can’t remember what this was sorry but I’m sure it tasted as good as it looks.

‘Carre de Cordero Asado en su Jugo con Orejones’, or lamb chops with their juices and a sauce of dried apricots (B+/B).

The ‘Celeste’ Ribera was another disappointment from Torres (B).

Chef Gonzalo Pañeda is famous for his desserts. This is ‘Sopa de Queso de Cabra con Avellanas y Miel’ or goat cheese ‘soup’ with hazelnuts and honey.

The ‘Yogur, Chocolate Blanco y Coco’ looked great but didn’t have the flavours for me (C).

Not sure what these were sorry, something chocolatey obviously.

Naturally a glass of Noe PX went well with the sweets (B+).

So overall a good experience and good value for money as I recall. It made for a nice treat on my last day in town.

On an earlier occasion I came here…

La Planeta (Intermediate B+), 4 Tránsito de las Ballenas, www.el-planeta.net

The teachers told me this down-to-earth Sideria is one of the best places to come for fish. It has a great view of the harbour, especially from the top floor.

The 2015 ‘Terras Gauda’ Albarino was pretty decent (B+). I found it for about £9 on the web.

The Sea Urchin Croquettas were a new one on me but didn’t really float my boat (B-).

The Almejas Plancha were more enjoyable (B+).

The best dish was the Lomos de Merluza garnished with fried garlic (B+), but it was a bit too oily and overcooked for my taste.

The Orujo de Manzana de Asutrias put hairs on my chest (B).

So a good spot for reasonably priced and cooked seafood. The bill came to €53.

And that was Gijón. Off to Oviedo next!

Gijón – Cimavilla – Walking Around

Posted in Asturias, Cimavilla, Gijón, Spain on October 13, 2017 by gannet39

Cimavilla (or Cimadevilla in Castellano) is Gijón’s old town which can trace it’s origin to Roman times. It corresponds to the area north of Calle Melquiades Alvarez; a small peninsula which separates San Lorenzo beach from the marina and port area.

It’s just a short distance from the Hotel Alcomar, so if you like bracing walks by the sea, this is the place to go. Map here.

First stop is the portico lined Plaza Major. There are a few nice bars on the square and on the side streets off it.

You’ll also find the Ayuntamiento de Gijón here.

Heading east you’ll come across the Iglesia de San Pedro.

It was built in 1945 in a pre-Romanesque style.

Behind the church is the yacht club, Real Club Astur de Regatas Gijón, located in a striking pre-war building with fantastic views of the bay. Shame it’s not open to the public.

Continuing along the coast to the headland you arrive at an old gun bastion which is now crowned with this brutalist sculpture by Eduardo Chillada.

Elogio del Horizonte’ (Eulogy to the Horizon) celebrates the wonderful panoramic views you get from this high point.

This lovely mid-1930s Rationalist building near the bastion caught my eye.

Fundacion Honesto Batalon was a charitable foundation set up by a rich philanthropist to provide free primary education for poor girls and this building was part of the school.

Continuing along the west side of the peninsula you soon come to the ‘Puerto Deportivo‘ (leisure harbour). There are some good bars and restaurants here too, some of which I mention in my next post, ‘Eating in Cimavilla’.

There’s an impressive sculpture on the quayside; ‘Árbol de la Sidra‘ (The Cider Tree) made of hundreds of empty cider bottles.

You’ll pass by the neo-Renaissance Casa Paquet on Calle de Claudio Alvargonzález.

In Plazuela del Marques (just to the west of Plaza Mayor where we started) you’ll find Palacio Revillagigedo, built in the Baroque style with medieval features.

The palace has a couple of nice old neighbours.

From here you could explore the narrow streets of the interior of Cimavilla.

This former fisherman’s district suffered a lot of damage in the civil war but there are still some nice old buildings to be seen.

Right, time to eat methinks!

Gijón – Centro – Architecture

Posted in Asturias, Centro, Gijón, Spain with tags on October 12, 2017 by gannet39

Gijón is a paradise for architecture buffs like me. There are heaps of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernista masterpieces dotted around.

I’ve indicated them as best I can with the yellow stars on this Google map.

My favourite building is Chalet de Ladislao Menendez in Plaza Europa.

It was designed in Modernista style by Manuel del Busto, a famous local architect.

Built in 1907 it could do with a bit of TLC.

If I had the money I’d love to buy it and do it myself.

 

Another favourite is at 43 Calle Cabrales.

It was designed in 1901 by Mariano Marin in an Art Nouveau style.

The ‘rejeria’, wrought iron work, is one of it’s finest features.

Marin was responsible for many other buildings in the town, all in a variety of styles.

Further down the same street at 43 Calle Cabrales is a nice Modernista number…

… which also houses the Tourist Information.

More beautiful iron work.

Nearby Plaza San Miguel has a few impressive piles.

As does Calle Jovellanos

Although I’m not that keen on Basílica-Santuario del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús at 6D Calle Jovellanos, although I haven’t been inside yet.

There are many other fine buildings dotted around town.

 

Gijón – Centro – Drinking

Posted in Asturias, Centro, Gijón, Spain with tags , on October 11, 2017 by gannet39

I’m a sucker for a cocktail in nice surroundings and these two places definitely float my boat.

Café Dindurra (Advanced B+), 30 Calle Covadonga, dindurra.es/dindurra

This beautiful bar is next to the Teatro Jovellanos www.teatrojovellanos.com. It was built in 1901 but received an Art Deco makeover in 1931. It has survived the bombing of the original theater it was attached to.

I’m in love with its angular fonts …

… and beautiful curves.

I had a couple of good Negronis here. I’m an aficionado but these were made with vermouths I’d never heard of before.

The first was made with a French vermouth called La Quintinye.

A green olive and slices of strawberry were added to the usual slice of fresh orange (B+).

The second used a Catalan vermouth called Yzaguirre and was garnished with semi-dried pineapple and fresh orange (B+).

Varsovia (Advanced A), 18 Calle Cabrales, varsoviagijon.com

This is another excellent cocktail bar on the ground floor of a beautiful Modernista building called Edificio Celestino García.

It’s on the waterfront just a couple of doors down from the Hotel Alcomar.

They know how to make a decent Negroni in here and you can choose from a multitude of gins and vermouths.

The bottle shelves are on two floor levels and my bartender had to shimmy up a ladder to get my choices.

I went for a French vermouth with Plymouth gin, garnished imaginatively with maraschino cherries (B+). Another time I swapped the vermouth for Cynar which makes for a nice change too (B+).

My pictures of the cocktails didn’t come out so you’ll have to make do with a photo of this beautiful cut glass water jug!

There are many other bars of course but these two are really special. In June 2016 the going rate for a Negroni was €7.

Gijón – Centro – Eating Out

Posted in Asturias, Centro, Gijón with tags , , , , on October 10, 2017 by gannet39

Gijón is a fantastic destination for food and drink, especially seafood and the famous Asturian cider. Below are my reviews of a Marisqueria (seafood restaurant), a Sidreria (cider bar), a Quesería y Vinoteca (cheese  & wine shop) and a Parrilla (grill). Between them I managed to try most of the classic gastronomic experiences this region has to offer.

These are all in the Centro, please see my other Gijón posts for more suggestions. There’s a map with everything on here.

La Zamorana (Intermediate A), 38-40 Avenida Hermanos Felgueroso, www.lazamorana.net

I came to this old tavern on my first night and it was my best and most authentic experience during my stay. It’s the only place where I experienced cider being poured in the traditional way, by hand from a great height in order to aerate it, which is a great skill.

Inevitably some ends up on the floor and the waiter will also dash out any dregs in your glass by simply tossing them against the wall. No surprise then that the smell of cider permeates the air.

I had a really nice friendly chap pouring mine, and everyone else’s, and it was basically all he did all night. He’d only pour a quarter glass at a time as you’re supposed to drink it straight away. If you leave it he’ll chuck it.

In terms of food, I was so excited to be here that I had the full works of traditional fare on the menu.

After some complimentary deep-fried prawns I began with a half portion of the famous local belly busting bean stew made with chorizo and morcilla; Fabada Asturiana which was great (A).

Then Rodaballo a la Plancha, or grilled turbot, simple but also very good (B+).

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While I was eating, another couple came in and wanted crab so the waiter brought them one to the table to show them. It was huge and still very much alive!

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Next a hefty slab of the legendary Asturian blue cheese, Cabarales (B+), which goes surprisingly well with a glass of Andalucian PX raisin wine (B+).

It would have been rude not to try the local cake Tarta Gijonesa (B+).

With two bottles of cider, some complimentary choccy biccies and a (southern) Cardenal Mendoza brandy the total came to €67.70. Not cheap but for me, totally worth it for the experience.

Tino (Elementary B), 9 Calle Alfredo Truan, www.restaurantecasatino.com

This is a friendly, family-run pincho bar recommended by Frommer’s guide. There’s a restaurant attached but it looked pretty closed when I was there. I was enticed into the bar by the retro feel and the fact it seems popular with the locals.

I asked the young guy for some traditional local food and somehow ended up with a full portion of Calamares Fritos, a dish I really try to avoid in Spain. They were as uninspiring as ever (C) and not cheap at €15.

The classic dish of Merluza a la Sidra Asturiana was better (B) but also a bit pricey at €23.50. This recipe makes it with clams but otherwise it looks pretty similar.

The cider here is served in the modern way, via a plastic electronic pump in the shape of a little man that slots on to the top of the bottle. Much less labour intensive and still quite fun.

I also got to try a shot of ‘La Praviana’ Licor de Guindas, cherry liqueur, which is a fine use for cherries! (B+). According to their website, they add some fresh sloes and a bit of anise.

So a nice neighbourhood place where I learnt a bit more about local food and drink, but I’d only go again if I lived here.

Coalla Gourmet, 8 Calle San Antonio, www.coallagourmet.com

I came to this modern deli on the recommendation of my gourmet teacher friend and ended up doing an extended cheese tasting. All the cheeses mentioned here are local but not the wines.

The first Tabla de Quesos was okay but not amazing. I had Vare (B), Ahumado de Pria (B), the Cabarles (B), but my favourite was the Geo de Lazana (B+) (third from left).

The second tabla was much better as it included some of the teacher’s local favourites. His list included Afuega‘l Pitu and Queso Casin but these were both sold by the unit so I didn’t get to try them.

The server gave me Maximo Rey Silo (B+) as a replacement for Afuega‘l Pitu as it was similar. My favourite was La Peral, an excellent blue (A), and I also really liked the Gamoneu Sobre Cueva (B+), at the top of the picture.

I had a couple of glasses of red to go with the cheese. The 2013 La Zorrina (B+) was the most expensive…

… but just as good was the La Garnacha Mustig (B+).

I also had a glass of Maritavora Ruby Port for the blue cheeses (B+).

I also got a kilo of Fabas de la Granja (aka Judiones) to take home to make my beloved Fabada Asturiana. They sell Fabada kits here too with the meats and beans vacuum-packed for easy transportation.

So, a good spot for cheese and wine. For the cheese it’s best if you know what to ask for so keep my tips in mind.

This next place is just down the street…

Los Patios (Intermediate B), 10 Calle Instituto, www.restauranteparrillalospatios.com

I came to this grill-bar when my first choice was shut. I’d heard of it through a local blog but I wasn’t that impressed. It’s handy for the hotel but there are lots of other modern bars around these backstreets that look quite nice too.

I’d had a big lunch so sausage and chips was all I could manage. First I tried the Chorizo Rojo (B)…

…then the Matachana (B), a kind of morcilla, originally from nearby Leon, which you split open, scoop the insides out and spread on bread, or in this case chips (patatinas).

I also tried a local red wine called ‘La Fanfarria’ which is from Cangas , the only wine DO in Asturias. It was much better than I’d been led to believe (B) but definitely not on a par with the great Spanish reds.

Everything here was okay but I’d go for different meat selections if I went again.

While we’re talking about meat, I picked up some great steak knives at Jesus Pastor, a kitchen and dining equipment shop at 110 Calle Cabrales. I don’t know of anyone who does a better knife for meat than the Spanish.

So I think I managed to try a fair selection of local products in just these few places in the Centro. Check out my other Gijón posts for some more restaurants in the old town and other areas.

Asturias – Gijón

Posted in Asturias, Gijón, Spain with tags , , on October 9, 2017 by gannet39

Gijón is a port town on the coast of Asturias in the north of Spain. It’s something of a resort as well despite its Atlantic climate. I loved it, both for its gastronomy and its architecture, much of which is Art Nouveau and Art Deco, two of my favourite periods.

A good book to take on your trip would be The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham in which Gijón features occasionally; “During the day the wind dropped. In the afternoon a fog came up, by the evening it was thick, and visibility down to no more than a few yards. Somewhere about ten thirty in the evening the sea-tanks came sliding up from the quietly lapping waters at Gijón, with not a sound to betray them until their metal bellies started to crunch up the stone ramps. The few small boats that were already drawn up there they pushed aside or crushed as they came. It was the cracking of the timbers that brought men out from the waterside posadas to investigate.”

I stayed at the Hotel Alcomar www.hotelalcomar.com, an Art Deco three star facing the seafront.

My room had an excellent view of San Lorenzo beach.

Over to the left I could see Cimavilla, the small peninsula where the old town is located. I’ve given Cimavilla two posts of its own; ‘Walking Around’ and ‘Eating’.

On the other side of Cimavilla is the marina and the port.

The neighbourhood behind the hotel is known as the Centro, the central business district, which I’ve given three posts; ‘Eating’, ‘Drinking Cocktails’ and ‘Architecture’.

You’ll find everything on this map.

Included below are two restaurants which are slightly out of the central areas and so don’t fit into any of the other posts.

La Pondala (Advanced A), 58 Avenida de Dionisio Cifuentes, www.lapondala.com

Located east of the centre, in Somió, this is an excellent restaurant and one of my top recommendations in Gijón. It has been run by the same family for over 125 years and they definitely know what they’re doing. Fodor’s guide also gives it top marks.

Fortuitously it was also very near the school I was working at so I could come for lunch with two of the teachers. I was really looking forward to it after hearing their headmistress raving about the lamb she ate here.

The old interior was a little gloomy for a summer’s day so we sat outside on the lovely terrace at the back. It was very much in demand but fortunately my colleagues had reserved, which is probably a good thing to do generally.

We started with a platter of excellent grilled veg (A)…

..followed by some Crepes de Centollo, or crab pancakes, also very good (B+).

For my main, the roast suckling lamb completely deserved the accolades the headmistress had given it (A).

I didn’t drink as I was working that afternoon but I’m sure they must have a great selection.

So a definite thumbs up from me then. It’s definitely worth the short drive from the centre.

Los Pisones (Intermediate B+), 5 Calle Jesús Revuelta Diego, www.restaurantelospisones.com

This modern place, over the road the football stadium, was also recommended by my teacher pals as a good place for seafood.

At first I wasn’t keen on the kitsch modern decor, think faux Trencadís (Gaudiesque broken ceramic tiling) and lots of big gilt mirrors, but they do have a nice terrace if you want to sit outside. The soundtrack of  breathy jazz was quite relaxing though.

After some negotiation I was allowed to have a media racion of Gambas a la Plancha which were sadly a bit mediocre (B-).

However the dish I’d come for, the Fabes a Los Pisones con Mariscos del Cantabrico, was much better (B+).

It’s a stew of the local white beans from the Villaviciosa DO and seafood from the Cantabrian coast, namely clams, crayfish, prawns…

…and three kinds of crab; centollo, necora and buey de mar, or in English (I think); spider, small and big ones.

The food went really well with an excellent bottle of Albarino called Bagoa do Mino (A+) which was the best on their list at €20.

With a couple of complimentary shots the total cost came to €55. So not my favourite place, but definitely worth a visit for this dish.

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