Archive for the Castilla la Mancha Category

Eating Out in Ciudad Real

Posted in Castilla la Mancha, Ciudad Real, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2017 by gannet39

All the places I mention below, and more, are on this Google map.

I’ve basically divided them into two; posh and ordinary, although the former does not necessarily mean expensive. My info was garnered from the Guia Repsol and Lonely Planet guides, and the young school staff that I worked with.

For a posher tapeo (tapas crawl) you could start off in Plaza del Pilar which is due south of Plaza Mayor.

I began at the seemingly upmarket Bar Espana (High Intermediate B+) at 9 Plaza del Pilar where I had three complimentary tapas and a caña for a piffling €3.

The chewy Torreneos (deep-fried belly pork) and the insipid Asadillo soup were fine (B and B-) but the Tortilla with boiled ham and young fresh manchego knocked my socks off (A+). The tortilla had been cut in half widthways and used to sandwich the thin slices of ham and cheese before being sliced into segments and pinned with together with a toothpick.

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I also had a beer next door (9 Plaza del Pilar) at the modern and fairly atmospheric (incense sticks in the loos) Bar Los Faroles (Intermediate B) but was unimpressed by their cold complimentary Patatas Bravas (C+).

From here you should go round the corner to Miami Gastro www.miamigastro.es (Advanced A) at 2 Avenida Rey Santo which is perhaps the best place to eat in town. Although you can have tapas, I came for a multi-course lunch one day.

The have four tasting menus priced between €30 and €45. I opted for the €40 version which began with Pan de Cristal con Paletilla Iberica, Tomate y Aceite de Oliva; light crunchy bread doused with olive oil and tomato pulp and topped with Jamon. It was excellent if rather messy to eat (A-).

I love a good Croqueta de Hongos (mushroom croquette) and this one was pretty decent (A+).

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It’s hard to go wrong with simply salted Gambas Blancas Cocida, cooked white prawns (A).

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The Ensalada Templada de Foie con Fresas, or seasonal salad with foie de gras and strawberries, was beautifully dressed and simply stunning (A+).

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Codos de Bogavante en Tempura (lightly battered lobster) wasn’t available that day so I was given a huge portion of Tataki de Atun (seared sliced tuna), served with a wasabi mayo, instead (B).

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Carrillada de Cerdo Iberico con Crema de Patate, or beef cheeks with potato puree, will always go down well with me (B+).

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I can’t remember what the dessert was called but it was a kind of deep-fried crepe filled with vanilla pastry cream (B).

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To drink I had three small glasses of Analiva Verdejo (B+) with the seafood and with the meat a glass of Casa Albali Gran Seleccion, a 2014 Tempranillo from the local Valdepenas DO which was fantastic (A). Sadly this vintage was no longer available when I looked on the internet. Both wines were made by Felix Solis Avanti, a winery based in nearby Valdepeñas.

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With the dessert a glass of 2012 Pedro Ximenez Cosecha from Toro Albala which was also great (A). The amber colouring of this 17% PX was a revelation as it’s always been a very dark brown on the many occasions I’ve had it before.

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Interestingly they serve Lavazza coffee here which seems like a nod to the superiority of Italian blends, although it wasn’t particularly well served(B).

The final bill came to €45.70 which was fantastic value given the quality and quantity of what I had. The bill also included a beer, a small bottle of water and a croquette and some crisps to eat while I was reading the menu. I thought that the otherwise excellent servers had forgot to add everything on but it was correct.

The best down-to-earth places are all next to each other in Plaza Mayor, in the centre of town.

Acuario (Elementary B) at 11 Plaza Mayor you get a free tapa with your drink which you choose from a menu of mainly fried items. They are particularly known for their filling Huevo con Béchamel; a croquette with a hard-boiled egg inside (B+). With a large beer the bill came to €3.30.

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At El Portalon de La Casona (High Elementary B) next door at 9 Plaza Mayor they are known for serving good value-for-money tapas. I had their Migas (fried breadcrumbs with or without a fried egg) which was quite simple but tasty (B-). With a beer this came to only €2.10.

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Next door again (8 Plaza Mayor) at El Ventero (Elementary C), the Migas is more varied with chunks of ham and other things, but not particularly nice (C-) and certainly not worth the €9.50 I paid.

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They sell other typical Manchego dishes but I’m not sure I’d come here to eat again. However their tables outside are the best placed to view the Carillion clock which chimes at 6pm and 8pm in the evenings.

In the daytime you could finish with a sweet snack from Confitería La Deliciosa at 5 Plaza Mayor.

A good local wine shop is Vinalia at 4 Calle Lanza. I saw the PX pictured above for €18 there. They are also a wine bar.

Out and about in Ciudad Real

Posted in Castilla la Mancha, Ciudad Real, Spain with tags , , , , on March 1, 2017 by gannet39

Ciudad Real is a small city in Castilla La Mancha, about the fifth largest in the province. The city associates itself heavily with Cervantes and Don Quixote although I understand there is no evidence of any real connection. For tourists there’s very little to see or do but it has a big university which is what brought me here for work.

The city was once fortified by the Moors but the only significant remnants of the walls, which apparently had 130 towers, are a couple of gates at either end of the town which have been preserved as monuments. The more impressive of the two is the Puerta de Toledo which is at the northern end of Calle Toledo.

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Besides this there are a couple of churches that are mildly interesting. The oldest is the Iglesia de Santiago.

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The wooden ceiling of the church has a geometric star pattern, clearly showing a Moorish influence.

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In the ceiling of the apse there is a fresco of eight dragon heads, although they look rather like pigs to me.

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Other than this there is very little of any architectural interest, although the town hall in Plaza Major is quite unusual.

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I stayed for three nights at the Hotel NH Ciudad Real at 25 Avenida Alarcos which was fine but nothing special. Some of the staff exhibit typical Castillian severity but a couple were friendly and helpful. The breakfast is a decent spread of lots of things that very few people eat, so you don’t know how long they’ve been sitting there. The Wi-Fi is good but there are no gym facilities.

However, the hotel is well located for the centre of town and also for a long walking/jogging route out to the countryside called the Via Verde de Poblachuela. To get to it simply turn left out of the hotel and keep walking straight, through the bland Parque Gasset and along the main road. At the second roundabout (just after the Arena Quixote) you’ll see the beginning of the path in front of you. (Google map here).

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The Via Verde is 5km long and will take two hours to complete from the hotel door to where the path meets the railway line, and back again. It’s part of the longer Ruta Don Quijote that goes as far as Almagro, so you could walk for much further (20km?) should you want to. There are exercise stations, picnic areas and a couple of drinking fountains along the way. The sun can be quite strong out here, even in late March, so it’s advisable to put on a bit of sun cream. There’s not much to see, just open fields, although the AVE trains sweeping past are quite impressive.

Please see my next post for places to eat in Ciudad Real.

Talavera de la Reina

Posted in Castilla la Mancha, Spain, Talavera de la Reina with tags , , on September 18, 2010 by gannet39

Although it may look like one big council estate, there is an old centre in Talavera, although I didn’t see much of it as it was the other end of town from the hotel, and the better restaurants.  I was working at Compania de Maria (one of the best schools in La Mancha) where the nuns gave me a tour of the 500-year-old building. The town is on a large river which I was told would be a good place for a run but I never made it due to an attack of lazyitis.

The Hotel Roma is pretty bog standard, wi-fi (wee fee) in the rooms but you have to sit on the end of the bed to reach the desk, no room for the chair. Basic brekky (coffee, toast, cake in a packet) but I wouldn’t advise having your evening meal there. The meat is good in the area (especially the game apparently) so my pork chops were ok (B) but the chips were swimming in grease (C) and the fried eggs looked like an offering from Eyjafjalljoekull (D).

There is food culture to be found however, you just have to look carefully. All the below came up on Trip Advisor and were further recommended by a local teacher. The first two places are located on the edge of an estate that looks forbidding (graffiti everywhere, some broken glass) but is probably no different from elsewhere in town. With local unemployment running at 25 to 30% however, it might be prudent to be security conscious especially after dark. Bear in mind though living on an estate in Spain doesn’t have the same negative connotations as in the UK and everyone I spoke to was relaxed and friendly.

Taberna Mingote, (Intermediate A?), Plaza Federico Garcia Lorca, Tel. 925 825 633
This place is a bit hard to find but worth the effort. On the other side of the estate from El Esturion (below), it’s on the ground floor (round the back) of the block that runs parallel with Avenida de Juan Carlos 1 which might be the best direction to access it from, although the locals on the estate that I asked were very helpful. It has brown awnings and you can sit outside, under, on and looking at concrete. The interior feels much warmer with lots of wood and small barrels of Vermouth, Cognac, Mistella (punch) and hams hanging behind the bar. The well-dressed clientele chat to an accompaniment of light jazz. I had two chunks of Morcilla de Burgos (black pudding) pinned to toast and scattered with tiny crunchy slithers of fried potato, with two piquant and chubby Pimientos de Padron on the same plate, and a glass of red (all A) for about €5 euro. This might well be a good place for a proper meal but I was only in town for two nights. Wish there was somewhere similar on the estate I live on.

Morcilla de Burgos

El Esturion (Intermediate B), 7 C/Miguel Heranandez, Tel. 925 824 638

A semi-formal place quite near the hotel on the edge of an estate, which although tiled, is quite brash and modern with tacky decor and dodgy objet’s de art on a nautical theme. The piped soundtrack was also rather bizarre with Tijuana brass being followed by melancholic strings, just a bit too loudly. There are two areas, a tapas bar and the restaurant, which was quiet at 9 but rowdy by 10. A sourpuss older waiter treated me like an alien at first (which I suppose I was) but his young counterpart lightened up when I spoke a bit of Spanish. I had Esparragos a la Plancha with a small curl of smoked salmon on the side (B). Thankfully the salt came in a bowl on the side so I could grind it onto my food with my fingers. I’m not fond of the Spanish habit of sprinkling big crunchy chunks onto lettuce hearts and anything grilled. The lamb chops, Chuletillas de Lechal were great (A). I should perhaps have had a red to go with it but pursued my obsession with Spanish rose and got a bottle of ‘Fontal’ 2008, a Merlot/Syrah blend (B). The Tarta de Queso de Idiazabal con Membrillo cheesecake was fine (B). I paid €45.50 but got two complimentary orujos on the house. Would go again but would try other places first.

Restaurante La Rotisserie (Intermediate A/C), 58 Angel Alacazar, 925 801 550, www.laroti.com

Located in a more salubrious part of town than the places below, it can have a great atmosphere if you go early. I first came here for tapas before going to El Esturion. The front bar is intimate and everyone knows each other so the place fell silent when I came in with my English accent. Everyone is friendly though and I had a couple of exchanges with my limited personal Esperanto. I had two beers and some delicious tapas of marinated red pepper on toast and tuna in oil with tomato and onion for only €5. The air was heavy with perfume and cohiba smoke and the telly was showing the bullfighting as part of the San Isidro celebrations. It was mostly ignored until a picador narrowly escaped a goring by hanging on to the bulls horns, which had the local Del boys off their seats watching the replays.

I came back the next day to eat in the restaurant which was disappointingly quiet compared to my previous visit, but perhaps everyone was partied out from the previous night. The atmosphere is nicer than El Esturion but I didn’t eat or drink quite as well. The soundtrack is better, 80’s female vocalists, and not quite as loud. Things didn’t start too well with a corked bottle of ‘Pata Negre’ red from the local Valdepenas DOC. The next bottle was ok and went well with the complimentary Camembert, Roquefort and ‘fresh cheese’, although I wasn’t fond of the other dish of macerated tuna mixed with a reddish sauce (C). I love Esparragos a la Plancha so had to have it again. This time the smoked salmon (a local habit?) was laid over it but the combination didn’t impress me much (B-). The main Cochinillo con Salsa (not on the menu) was fantastic (A) if rather heavy. The final complimentary Vodka Caramelo made an interesting change (B) but I couldn’t eat the bizarre liquorish-flavoured heart-shaped shortbread (D). Total cost €35. In short, a strange place, with some great food, but some dodgy dishes too, or maybe I was just unlucky.

Written May 2010

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