Archive for the Casco Antiguo 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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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 – 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 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 It’s another good place to stock up on goodies to take home…

…or grab a snack.

Street sculpture in the Casco Antiguo next!

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