Archive for the Galicia Category

Down in the Docks in Vigo

Posted in Galicia, Spain, Vigo with tags , , on September 15, 2012 by gannet39

Mussel platforms from the Zenit roofThis is my second post on Vigo. For info on the Hotel Zenit and trips to Las Islas de Cies see the first postVigo street
This is the Atlantic coast so don’t expect it to be as warm as other parts of Spain. I came from 41C in Andalucia to 14C in Vigo in June when it rained for most of the three days I was there. The hottest month is August when the average temperature is around 20C.

Vigo street2

I was a little disappointed the first time I looked for seafood in Vigo. The old town (casco velho) has lots of places that could potentially be quite good but they are inevitably very touristy and expensive. By all means go and run the gauntlet of restaurant touts in the modernised fish market  at C/de la Pescaderia, but it will never be an authentic experience.

Oyster stalls



You can get very cheap oysters here (€1 each) from the old ladies who stand at the stalls along the passageway. You can eat them standing at the counter or sitting down at one of the marisquerias that line the alley and have them  with a glass of Albariño and other bits and pieces.

Shucked

It must be a tough job standing all day selling oysters, probably enough for someone to lose their marbles. The old dear I bought mine off totally forgot I’d paid her and kept asking for her money while giving me a hard glare so it was a bit difficult to enjoy them. However my colleague Camino, who comments below, thinks she was trying to play me for more money!

Unshucked
I had a dessert of Queso de Pais (Tetilla)with Membrillo at Restaurante Bogavante and was given pleasant service.

They gave me a glass of Bandeira port with this which gave substance to the accusation by other Galicians that Vigo is more Portuguese than Galician (they are right on the border with Portugal).

Port wine

I wasn’t too keen on trying anything else seafoody in the fish market as the prices are high and the quality indeterminate. For a proper Galician seafood experience you need to go here:

Nisio (Elementary A+), 42 Santa Tecla, Tel. 986 373 106. Sorry, forgot my camera.

This place is the real deal. A former workers bar in the port area that has garnered a reputation with the locals (thanks Monica) for some of the best mariscos in town. You need a taxi to get here (only €5 from the Zenit Hotel) as you’ll never find it otherwise (cultural generalisation: Spanish people aren’t great at giving directions, they’d rather guess than tell you they don’t know!). The taxi ride takes you in the opposite direction from the old town and circumnavigates several dodgy backstreets, daubed in graffiti and lined with shipping containers, before you arrive at a non-descript red shop front.

Inside there is a simple bar space with unadorned walls except for a couple of pictures of Vigo FC. If it’s warm enough you can sit outside in the backyard amidst the flowers under a beautiful trellis. They also have a back room for posher dining but the bar with the football on the telly was fine for me.

Also, don’t consider coming here unless you have a bit of Spanish seafood vocab as there is no written menu and no English is spoken, except by a very lovely but rather embarrassed lady they pulled out of the kitchen to talk to me. I know my mariscos so this wasn’t too much of a problem and they are really nice here so it was easy to build some rapport. I’m quite glad I forgot my camera though as this would probably have freaked them out a bit, although later they told me they were happy for me to advertise them, albeit with the language proviso above. I arrived at 8.30 and had the place virtually to myself until it suddenly filled up with dockers at 10pm.

I kicked off with a plate of tiny prawns Camarao (?) which were great (A). I made the mistake of asking for some Aioli to go with them and was told in a friendly way that they did not do that kind of thing here (although other Galician places will). I suppose it’s kind of like putting ketchup on your chips; it adds flavour but sometimes when the simple ingredients are this good, you should just taste them for what they are.

This was followed by grilled Navijas (razor clams) (A) and Almejas a la Marinera, a sauce I’d never appreciated before until I came here (A+) After this, Pulpo, I’m guessing in the Al Feira style (with paprika), which was some of the best I’ve ever tasted (A+) although the waxy boiled potatoes it came with were just ok (B). I desperately needed a fag break after this unrelenting assault of pure goodness but the message didn’t get through to the kitchen and I had to temporarily send the final Lenguado (sole), also with boiled spuds, back to the kitchen to keep warm and it suffered as result (B).

The drink to go with this feast could only be the local Albariño white, which comes served in chilled earthenware jugs, (B+).

This was one of the best seafood experiences I’ve ever had. Although I desperately wanted to do the full works it would take a couple of visits to try everything. Stupidly I turned down the Percebes, which can be hit or miss in my experience. However, thanks to my friendly neighbour on the next table (thanks Jose) I was treated to a couple of the best I’d ever had (A+); full flavoured and still warm from the kitchen.

By this time I’d befriended everyone in the bar and what I had for dessert was a bit hazy. I do remember having a few chupitos of homemade Orujo des Hierbas which of course was excellent (A+). After this I piled into a Jose’s car and went into town for more drinks, so my memory is a little misty after this point…

This is a great place, you really should go if you don’t mind rough back street joints and your Spanish is up to it. Also, don’t tell Trip Advisor whatever you do. It’s currently ranked the 57th best restaurant in Vigo and long may it stay that way.

The next day I was in need of a change from seafood so I went on the hunt for meat, no mean feat in seafood central. Galicia is known for its veal but Vigo probably isn’t the best place to have it. The place that was suggested to me (Siglio XXI) no longer seemed to exist so I prowled for a while and plumped for…

El Asador Secreto (Inermediate B) Rua Serafin Avandano, Tel. 986 124 813

This is a bright modern place, with friendly efficient staff and fairly good value for money. The soundtrack is muted but I picked out ‘It’s Raining Men’ by the Weather Girls amongst other disco slammers.

Solomillo de TerneraAfter a complimentary bowl of Guacamole with some nice bread and biscuits (B) I went straight to the main, Gallego Ternera, a slab of entrecote with an artistic slash of raspberry sauce and a solitary stem of green asparagus, both adding little to the dish (B) with this some fairly chunky chips (I like them skinny) which were fine (B).

However, the side plate of Pequillos (‘little beaks’, a variety of mild peppers from Northern Spain, grilled and skinned) were really salty for some reason and I had to send them back (D).

RiojaA few big tables of locals arrived at 10pm (but it was still only half full on a Saturday night) and proceeded to smoke the place out as they grilled their own steaks on the camping stoves placed on their tables. Maybe this is a selling point for some, but the aircon couldn’t cope and it was the one thing that put me off wanting to come back.

Tetilla with membrilloIn recompense for the salty peppers I was given a plate of cheese to finish my wine (Mazerredo de Ostau Crianza 2008). Along with Manchego (A) and Dobeja (??) sheep’s cheese (A). I had the local Tetilla, a more matured version from that I’d had in the oyster market earlier in the day (B+).

PuddingFinally I chose a chestnut tart, served with raspberry sauce, which was very nice (B+).

Ruby portIt went especially well with some Casa de la Ermita 2010 from the Jumilla DOC (kind of like a ruby port), which received serious damage when it was left on my table.

So a nice place but very smoky, but then it is an Asador after all. And they have free wi-fi.

Don Quixote (Intermediate B), Calle Laxe 4, Tel.986 229 346 http://www.donquijoterestaurante.es

I’ve avoided this place in the past due to its name and the fact it has an English menu on the wall outside. On the other hand it’s in a very picturesque spot, at the top of an old slipway, where on a warm evening you can sit outside on wooden terraces. It was a bit chilly this evening so I opted for the rather gloomy interior with its faux medieval chandeliers and displays of swords and armour.
It’s also the only restaurant I found open on a Sunday evening and the staff are very pleasant. Oscar the English-speaking waiter had enough time to educate me a little (see below). The service from the old church was being broadcast onto the street over a tannoy system which clashed horribly with the folk music in the restaurant but I put up with it till the mass finished.

The Ensalada Mixta (B) I started with was a hefty affair with lettuce, carrot, beetroot, white asparagus, black olives, wedges of boiled egg, nicely ripe tomatoes, grilled red peppers and some good quality tuna but, as often is the case in Spain, the last bits were lost in a deep pool of water and Jerez vinegar at the bottom of the bowl. One dropped olive and I my white shirt was destined for the wash.

VealAfter this a thin cut veal steak for which inland Galicia is rightly renowned (A), some nice chips (B+) and some overcooked mixed veg on the side (C).

Ramon BilbaoThe Ramon Bilbao Rioja (2009 Crianza) went very well with it (B+).

Tarta de SantiagoTo finish a slab of a classic Galican dessert, Tarta de Santiago, this moist freshly homemade version being one of the best I’ve ever eaten (A).

TostadoThe best thing for me though was the unusual versions of Orujo they have here. Orujo Tostado is clear aguardente with added caramelised sugar which was excellent (A+) and I favoured it above the free chupito of Aguardente Vejo, (A), which had a more subtle flavour. The colour was the same but this was due to age rather than the addition of burnt sugar.

Oscar waiter instructed me that Orujo is actually an Asturian word and here in Galica, Aguadente is the popular way to describe it.  I posited that this was of Roman origins but he said it was possibly Egyptian! He also gave me the tip that you can buy this, and much more at the wine store on the corner of nearby C/Victoria.

Total cost €39. I’d recommend just coming here at the end of the evening for a slice of homemade tart, and an Aguardente Tostado.

Acuario (Elementary B+), Rua Cervantes, Tel. 986 223 015

This was my second visit here (see previous Vigo post). I had the Ternera Estofado again which was very tasty if a bit salty (B+).

Young wineThe bottle of red Vino Joven was chilled due to it’s youth but was drinkable and cheap (|C+).

LepantoFor dessert Queso Pais Tertilla which all in would have cost about €25 if I hadn’t bumped up the price by €9 with a copa of Lepanto cognac, which was ok, but I’ve had better (C+).

Pablo the owner is an interesting guy who has worked in a top restaurant in London (and hence speaks good English) and has sailed round the world a few times. He was happy to shoot the breeze for a while when all other customers have gone.

My new friend Jose from Nisio took me for a drink in bar of his hotel; Nagari Gran Hotel Boutique & Spa (Advanced A), 21 Plaza de Compostela 21 www.granhotelnagari.com I’m guessing it’s probably the best one in town. The rooftop bar has a great view of the estuary. I think you can go there just for a drink.
In September, Vigo hosts the Vigomar Shellfish Food Festival in the port of Berbes.

Another local delicacy are Zamuburinas, a local scallop that you won’t find elsewhere in Spain. I had a huge slab of Zamburina pie after work one day which was very good (B).

Tarta de Zamburinas

Next time I’d like to go to neighbouring Canido (€10 in a taxi?) which has a small port with lots of restaurants (recommended by Luis) and if the weather is nice (unlikely) maybe Samil (the largest and most popular beach), Playa del Vao (which has a Roman villa at one end) or Playa del Carril (near the fishing district of Bouzas. For more tourist info go to www.turismodevigo.es

Lovely Lugo

Posted in Galicia, Lugo, Spain with tags , , , on September 15, 2012 by gannet39

I’m not usually fond of coach journeys in Spain but the 3 hour trip from Vigo to Lugo was a very enjoyable one. The untypical June weather (12 degrees temperature, rain showers all the way) only served to emphasise the beautiful green mountain terrain as we sped through tiny villages. Ruined buildings with lichen covered walls are everywhere, accentuating the feeling of gloomy decay but still very picturesque. Shop signs use strange 1950’s fonts and nothing seems to have changed for years.

Everyone seems to have their own small vineyard, with a small stone building called a horreo on stilts, for storing grain. The cuffs at the top of post stop rodents climbing in.

20160604_113803

 

Lugo is a really lovely town, the only one in the world which still has intact Roman walls running right the way round. There is a sandy jogging/walking track on them now, which takes less than 15 or 30 minutes to get round.

Walls

From my hotel windowChemist shopTown hallThere are lots of small winding streets with old stone porticos and ancient fountains.

Gate

Street corner

PorticosFountainThe Cathedral is quite nice with its Baroque and Churrigueresque frontage.

Cathedral tower

 

 

 

Catherdral doorCathedralThe two main streets for tapas bars and restaurants are Rua Nova and Rua de Cruz. Sadly my first reataurant choices Verruga and Campos were closed on the Monday when I arrived, my first of only two nights. Instead I checked out the menus of two more places the nice lady in the hotel had recommended.

A Nos A Terra, the cheapest option, looked very good but was quite busy with tapas eaters, so I went instead to…

Meson de Alberto (Advanced B+), Rua Cruz 4, Tel. 982 228 310 www.mesondealberto.com

I chose this place as it seemed to have lots of local dishes on its all day Menu del Dia. It’s very posh, the kind of place where they scrape the crumbs off your table and don’t allow you to pour your own wine. I’m not usually fond of over the top service but they were friendly and not stiff at all.

After a complimentary amuse bouche of mussels with salsa (B)…

Amouse Bouche Mejillones

…my starter was Grelos (a local green similar to spinach only found in these parts) con Marisco (centolla, cigales, gambas) and mixed with cream which was unattractive but delicious and a bit too rich (A-).

Grelos con MariscosThey even provided me with a left-handed fish knife to eat it with, the first time I’ve ever been able to use one!

The plato pricipal was an elephantine veal chop, Chuleton de Ternera Gallega (A), with some slightly dry fries (B-) and a small pile of Pimentos de Padron (B+).

Chuleton de Ternera

And to drink with it, a half bottle of Regina Vitrum (B), a local red fom the Ribeira Sacra DOC (or Denominacion de Orixe in these parts), from the border between Lugo and Ourense provinces.

Ribeira

Finally, Filloas Gallegas (B+), a local crepe served in this case with vanilla pastry cream and deep-fried (rellenas de crema y fritas)…

Filloas

…served with an excellent glass (A+) of a 1981 Solera Pedro Ximenez from Monitilla in the Montilla-Moriles DOC, from the area I had been in a week before (see Puente Genil post).

PX Solera

So, top cuisine all made from locally sourced ingredients, except for the PX. The menu del dia was only €32.40 which was very good value. The next couple of places were even better though.

Verruga (Advanced A), Calle Cruz 12, Tel. 582 229 572 www.verruga.es (closed Sunday, Monday)

Another posh place, the only one mentioned in my 2011 Seleccion del Gourmet and also rated as the best place in town by the receptionist. I came here at lunch time for the €32.40 Lugo Menu del Dia (one of four on offer) as I don’t think I could afford it otherwise, Dishes start at around €15-25 going up to €95 (all 2012 prices) for the Angullas (elvers). The service is friendly though so I had a good experience.

Verruga window

After a complimentary dish of Boquerones with raw garlic and parsley in olive oil (B+)…

Boquerones

I had Caldo Gallego, a simple broth (B+) made with pork stock, white beans, chunks of potato and a turninp green called Nabos.

Caldo Gallego

This was followed by Pulpo Estylo Feria (in the fairground style) which was the best I’d eaten this far inland (B+) but a little salty to my taste, as many things are in Galicia it seems.

Pulpo

I wasn’t so keen on the next dish Capricho de Ternera Gallego(C), basically two thin slices of veal sandwiching a slice of cheese, dipped in batter and deep fried, but a little overdone. It reminded me of the equally unattractive Flamequin I’d had in Puente Genil (previous post). But this was the cheap menu del dia option and I’m sure they have much better dishes a la carte.

To drink with the fish I had a small jug of young white Ribeiro (B+) and with the meat, Mencilla red (B+). To finish; Sorbete de Limon (B) with a chupito of great Aguardente de Hierbas (A). Total cost €36. Siesta time…

A Nos A Terra (Intermediate A), Rua Nova 8

After finishing work at 10pm I finally made it to this place. Campos was also open but only had one table in whereas this place was very busy, probably due to the price differences. I didn’t go into the bodega at the back which looked very atmospheric, but instead ate at the bar.

I had the oyster mushrooms in garlic which were fantastic (A)…

Setas

…and a half ration of Jamon Bellota which of course is the best (A).

Jamon Iberico Bellota

With this a glass of local Ribeira Sacra which was good (B) but the food needed something more full-bodied…

Ribeira Sacra

…so I had two glasses of excellent Rioja (A).

Rioja

To finish a glass of chilled Aguardiente Tostado with ice. Total cost a reasonable €26.

Aguadiente Tostado

Campos, should you want to try it, is at  4 Rua Nova.

Scallops in Vigo

Posted in Galicia, Spain, Vigo with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by gannet39

I like Vigo a lot and would totally recommend it for a visit. The hilly urban landscape reminds me of my hometown, Sheffield, but the difference is that at the bottom of the slope there is a huge port on a wide river estuary, and consequently lots of good seafood. In fact it’s the biggest fishing port in Spain and incredibly, given its size, the second largest  market for fish in the world after Tokyo. The Spanish consider Galician seafood to be the best and a lot of the good stuff is put on the overnight train to Madrid and other inland cities.

Octoman

Whichever way you approach Vigo one of the first things you will notice are the lines of square rafts floating in the estuary. These are mussel platforms, called Bateas, where the mussels grow on strings suspended below the raft. The symbol of the city, and the whole of Galicia, is the scallop which features everywhere, from manhole covers to dinner plates.

The weather in this Atlantic coastal town is quite English with cloudy skies most of the time but luckily no rain at all during the four days I was there. In fact I timed it quite well and arrived on a sunny weekend when the temperature was only three degrees off the local record.

Sea mist

Making the most of our Sunday off, two of us decided to catch the catamaran ferry to the Islas de Cies.

Pirata de Cies

These small islands are a nature reserve but there are several public beaches and a camping site if you want to stay a while.

Smaller beaches

The largest beach has been named as one of the top ten in the world which obviously you should take with a pinch of salt but it is certainly is a beautiful spot.

Main beach

If sun worship is not your thing there are walks all over the island with some great views. Perhaps get your ticket the day before if it’s going to be a nice day as the 10.15 sailing was sold out when we went. There are a couple of companies who run ferries. our thirty-minute crossing cost us €16
Back in town, there is a long parade of bars and restaurants along the seafront on Montero Rios St. None of them are gourmet places but the key thing is you can sit outside and catch a cool breeze while watching the world go by.

Paella

The ‘old town’ on Teofilo Llorente with its recently modernised oyster bars with picture menus, is on a parallel street to the  seafront. It all looked a bit cheap and nasty and there wasn’t any breeze so we gave it a miss. However there will always be something open down here on a Sunday in both these areas when the rest of town is closed.

La Comidilla, (Intermediate B+), 5 Rua Palma, Tel. 986 431143

This was my favourite eatery in Vigo due to the multi-cultural atmosphere , brightly coloured decor and very friendly service. The food is international with lots of world cuisine but they serve local dishes too and it’s all pretty good.

To start myself and my friend Bernard shared a starter of small local scallops which were very good (B+).

Scallops

To follow the Albondigas with plain rice which looked bland but was just what I wanted (B+).

Albondigas

The dessert of local crepe with sugar and lemon was ok but nothing special (C).

Crap crepe
The star (A) however was the Señorio de los Rubios Condado 2010 white wine, from bodegas Coto Redondo, a blend of four grapes (Treixdouro, Albarino, Godello and Loureiro),  from the Rias Baixas DO (sadly sold out on the net, next year!).

Senorio de Rubios

I wouldn’t  recommend the clear aguardente though which although complementary would have been better employed as paint stripper (D).

Paint stripper

So, a reasonable place to come for warm service, a bright friendly atmosphere great wine and good food.

Acuario, (Intermediate B), 23 Rua Cervantes, Tel. 986 223015

A strange old-school little spot just around the corner from the hotel. It seems to be a one-man operation with the waiter doubling up as the cook. Dishes are either served cold or reheated in a microwave. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but the food is actually pretty ok tasting and very cheap. I had Mejillones (al Vapor) which were plump and juicy but served cold (C+).

Mejillones al Vapor

These were followed by Vieiras, a grilled scallop served Galician style in a sauce of onions, garlic, onion, parsley and fine breadcrumbs.

Vieiras

Still feeling hungry I went for the Ternera Estofado, veal stew with chips on the side, which was excellent (A).

Ternera Estofado

The house Albarino was also good. Total cost only €25.


El Mosquito
(Advanced B-), 4 Praza de Pedra, Tel. 986 433570. Tel. 986 433570/224441, http://www.elmomosquitovigo.com

An old school place described by the Cadogan guide as “the people’s choice” but in reality the preserve of the besuited classes. It is indeed “classic” in that it serves good quality ingredients in a traditional way, but I found the food to be bland and nondescript. First off: Mejillones (al Vapor), twenty steamed local mussels, served naked but for a slice of lemon, for the princely sum of €13 (B-). A lot given the short distance they had to travel from the waterfront, but presumably you’re paying for the chef to go to the fish market at 5 a.m. to get the good stuff.

El Mosquito

Next I ordered Calamares, dreaming perhaps of a lightly grilled squid drizzled in olive oil in the Italian style, but sadly I received  the usual deep fried rubbery rings in batter that you can get in any bar, albeit better quality and for €12. There was a lot of them which, without the help of a fellow diner, started to make me feel slightly nauseous half way through.

Finally, a slice of Tarta de Almandreas (spelling?), which was the usual uninspiring dry slab of cake I’m used to in Spain (B-), but almond flavoured this time. To go with this, two chupitos of good quality (B+) Orujo des Hierbas, which in more customer-friendly places would have been free, but I was charged €3 each. The only saving grace was the preceding ‘Valtea’ Albarino, perhaps one of the best I have ever had (A).

The septuagenarian service was kind but a bit slow to give me any attention and I had to get the menu myself after a long wait while they chatted with other customers. I judge the attitude of a place a lot by the way they take your money and the teller (owner?) didn’t even look me in the eye while he parted €51 from me. I wouldn’t go again and I’d recommend you don’t either, unless there’s more of one of you and you both like bland seafood. Apparently the lamb is good though.

Hotel Zenit Vigo, 1 Gran Via, Tel. 986 417 255

This is a great hotel, located near the train station and just ten minutes walk from the waterfront. The rooms (€75 for a double) are modern and spacious and have free Wi-Fi, but no English channels on the TV. The breakfast is comprehensive and served to a  subdued soundtrack of ambient Drum & Bass. The water out of the tap smells and tastes pretty horrible but I guess that’s not their fault. Lovely staff here as in their other branch in A Coruna. Overall it gets a like.

Dawn on the port

Get a room on one of the top floors facing the street for some stunning views of the estuary and surrounding hills, or get the key from reception and go to the top floor terrace for the same.

Sunburst

Tortilla di Betanzos

Posted in Betanzos, Galicia, Spain with tags on July 8, 2011 by gannet39

Betanzos is a small pretty town about half an hour on the bus from Coruna. Located on a loop formed by the confluence of the Rivers Mendo and Mandeo, it has a nice square, a few unusual old churches and quaint buildings but no real attractions that I was aware of, unless you count the local tortilla.
Holy pig

Church door
Bare food saint

 

Enter a caption

I arrived on the night of the San Juan festival  when it’s traditional in Galicia to build bonfires, grill sardines and party till dawn.

Sardinada

When the fires burn down to it’s traditional to take a running jump over the embers and make a wish, although a few brave souls do it when the flames are still quite high!Fire leaperLiar liarI went to a Sardinada at a small bar behind the Santiago church where the local Ska band were using the church door in the picture above as their stage. They were pretty good, my highlight was their brass version of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Ska at the church

There are lots of busy bars on the square but I think you should try this one down a side alley:

Meson Pote (Elementary A) , 9 Travesia de Progresso, facing the porticos on the main square, this is the left hand alley of two that come off the porticos (both are filled with tapas bars).  Pote is halfway down on the left. Free Wi-Fi available.

Meson PoteThis slightly hard to find place was a great recommendation from a local. There are a few barrels outside to stand at but most of the seating is inside. They also have wi-fi but I couldn’t get it to work. It was a buzzing hive of activity when I came on a Friday night. You can get media racions for between €3 and €6 euros and are only charged for the wine you drink. I asked for the local, slightly fizzy, Betanzos white which was pretty horrible when first opened but slowly became less disagreeable (moving from D- to C+) although the nose was more of a smell than a bouquet.

First off, four slices of local cheese (Queixo do Pais) which was completely bland (C+) but filled a hole on the good bread it came with.

Queixo do Pais
Then a plate of tasty Pimientos de Padron (B+), small green peppers grilled and salted, which were in season when I was there (July).

Pementos de Padron
After this a typical Galician dish of Raxo con Patacas (ra-cheu), cubes of top quality pork loin, marinaded and sauteeed in a sauce with garlic and capsicums with chips on the side. Absolutely delicious (A).

Raxo con Patacas
Feeling brave and heartened by the previous good choices, I went for the house speciality Lengua de Tenreira en Salsa, veal tongue in a sauce of olive oil and paprika served with fried potatoes, which looked pretty grim on the plate but was actually really nice! (A).

Lengua de Tenreira en Salsa

Desserts were pretty uninspiring, as usual, so I just had a chupito of excellent (A+) homemade Orujo des Hierbas and left it at that. Total cost €27.50, excellent value.

La  Casilla 90 Avenida de Castilla, Tel 98 177 0161. Closed Sunday

An old school place recommended by Cadogan guide, ten minutes walk up the hill. The old lady isn’t particularly welcoming and it’s a bit dark inside but the food is good and reasonably priced. Apparently it gets very busy at the weekends although there were only two other tables on the Thursday night when I went.

Tortilla di BetanzosTo start I had a racion of the famous Tortilla di Betanzos, an omelette made with thinly sliced potatoes and swimming in still runny eggs. I say eggs but a couple of local teachers have told me that the Spanish Government, in an attempt to reduce salmonella poisoning, has made it illegal for food outlets to use fresh eggs and instead they have to use a powder which has to be reconstituted with water. Have googled this but not found any answers. Can anyone tell me anymore about this? Can’t say I noticed the difference here though (B).

Humungous saladI also had the mixed salad (lettuce, tomatoes, onion, carrot, sweet corn, tuna and green olives) which had great individual ingredients, but why are Spanish salads always swimming in water? (B-). You’d think a restaurant would invest in a salad spinner.

Carne AsadaBoth these portions were huge and I could probably have left it there but I had already ordered the Carne Asada, a chunk of veal roasted till the meat was flaking. In normal Spanish style, it came sitting in a pool of grease with a few small potatoes on the side. All very good (B+). To go with the meat, a bottle of unlabelled local red which was drinkable (C+) and only €7.

One thing the Spanish do very well is steak knives with a deadly serrated edge. I say with shame as a Sheffield lad that if I was going to buy a cutlery set it would be from here. The Argentinean knives I currently have are in the same style but I need more of them. Why can’t we make a decent knife anymore?

Leche Frita CaserasTo finish, Leche Frita Caseras (milk, eggs and flour which is set with cornflour, cut up and fried) and my usual chupito of Orujo des Hierbas. The total came to €37 for seven items.

So, good food but in a very gloomy atmosphere which would put me off coming again, although they do have a lunch menu for only €15…

Hotel Garelos, 8 Calle Alfonso IX, Tel. 981 775 922

A nice little family-owned hotel with pleasant staff, free Wi-Fi and an okish breakfast, although the beds are quite short and very narrow. Only €50 a night though.

You can have a nice walk or run along the pretty Ria Mandeo. If you want to escape town and head for the coast you can get a bus by the bandstand in the square to the local resort of Sada which is supposed to be very pretty, although there doesn’t seem to be a beach. Buses to other destinations leave from the same stop though be warned if you’re taking the ALSA bus to Vigo you need to buy your tickets two hours before from Bar Placa, although they bent the rules for me. The tourist information office in the square was very helpful too.

Ai Coruna!

Posted in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by gannet39

The original old part of La Coruna (or A Coruna in Galician) is located on a banjo-shaped peninsula, so you are never more than a few minutes away from the sea. Gusts of fresh salty air hit your nose as you walk around the town centre and the sound of gulls is everywhere.

A classic view of the town is along Avenida de la Marina, down by the harbour, where you will see the “crystal galleries”; the towering town houses covered in glass windows which reflect the sun and provide a sign that home is near for returning mariners.

The main square is Praxa Maria Pita.Praxa Maria Pita
Maria Pita Square

Church near Praxa Maria PitaThe square is named after a local heroine who proved her bravery during a sneak attack on the harbour by the famous British pirate, Sir Francis Drake.

Statue of Maria Pita
There are good bars and restaurants on the square but they looked a bit pricey so I headed for the backstreets.

I liked to start the evening with a tapa and a cana on Calle Barrera, apparently the oldest street in town, which is lined with reasonably priced tapas bars.

Calle Barrera

I particularly liked Cerveceria del Centro where I had a glass of local Ribeiro white and some Albondigas (meatballs) with square chips for only €2.60.

Albondigas
Just round the corner from Calle Barrera is Rua La Franja which leads to Praxa Maria Pita. The street is lined with marisqueiras and restaurants where you can get the cheapest food in town (though not the best quality).

If there is two or more of you, you can get a Mariscada, (seafood platter), which usually includes Centollo o Buey de Mar (spider crab), Necora (a medium-sized crab), a couple of types of Gambas (prawns), Cigalas (langoustines), and Percebes (goose barnacles) as well as other types of seafood.

Mariscada
I did find one place here, Meson Calexo 1, which would do a mariscada for one person for only €25. In addition to the above on the main plate I got Navajas (razor clams, literally meaning ‘penknife’), Almejas (clams), as well as three starter plates of Berbechos (cockles), Mejillones en Escabeche (tinned mussels in one of my least favourites sauces) (D) and sea snails with Camarones (tiny prawns).

Cockles and mussels
Sadly none of this was particularly good (C) and I had to leave the slimy squid (D) and a lot of the crab which had virtually nothing inside. The saving grace was the bottle of Ribeiro (Casal de Paula 2009) which was pretty decent (B) for €14.
So I relearned the lesson that seafood, like plastic surgery, is something you should never skimp on. They also do a Menu de la Casa for €12 or €8 although I shudder to think what the quality would be like.

On the plus side I had a lovely smiley waitress who recommended a huge slab of cheese cake and gave me a couple of chupitos of Orujo which cheered me up.

Cheese cake
According to my friend Desi, whose family are from A Coruna, the town is the best place to try Percebes. The men who gather them risk their lives to pluck them off the rocks while the waves come pounding in. For most British palates it might not seem worth the effort, but they do grow on you. To eat them, bite off the head and split the thick outer skin to get at the soft flesh inside.

The picture below shows some prime specimens and will cost you a pretty penny.

Percebes

These, from Meson Calexo, are too small, old and dried out.Goose Barnacles

The video link above will show you what they should look like.. I’ve had a few now and when they’re good it’s like eating a juicy mouthful  of the sea, wet and salty.

Coral (Advanced B+),  9 Callejon de la Estacada, a continuation of Avenida de la Marina but set back from the road. Tel. 98 120 0569. Closed Sunday. Open from 9pm.

This upmarket restaurant has a rep for being one of best places in town for seafood due to its close proximity to the harbour. It’s pretty posh with the waiting staff in black suits and grey ties, but no one batted an eyelid when I arrived in jeans and trainers. The decor is unremarkable although it tries to be special: rough stone walls, modern wooden beams and modern lighting with an eclectic but uninteresting art collection covering each length. Sadly I could only afford to eat the shellfish starters (€5-21) as the fish mains (€21-45) were beyond my means.

Coral interior

First, a complimentary amuse bouche of local cheese, on toasted raisin bread with a dash of Jerez vinegar (B).

Cheese,vinegar, bread

Next came the Sopa de Mariscos (€7); a murky bowl of hearty broth containing clams, small prawns and diced fish, which was flavourful but not amazingly so (B).

Sopa de Mariscos
I followed this with Gambas a la Plancha, a plate of twelve prawns, grilled to perfection although their brains weren’t as tasty (A-) as Norwegian ones. Yes, I’m a prawn nationalist! The colder the water; the better the flavour. That’s why Galician seafood from the Atlantic is valued over that from the Mediterrranean coasts in Spain.

Gambas a la Plancha
To go with the all this seafood I went for a local white Albariño from Bodega Attis (2009)(€18) which was just how I like it, very dry and citrusy (B).

A Coruna 010
I tried but couldn’t resist a dessert. My friendly waiter (I think I was lucky, the others seemed very stiff) provided me with a slice of three different cakes for the price of one; a soft cheesecake with no crust and nearly the consistency of caramel pudding (B), cherry flavoured chocolate cake with no discernible chocolate taste, so I left most of it (C) and the local classic Tarta di Santiago which can be very dry but this one was slightly moist (B+).

Dessert

To go with my dessert I had to have an Orujo des Hierbas. I’ve had more fragrant ones but this one was pretty good, and free! So I ordered another.

Orujo

Conclusion: good food but not really worth the price, although I didn’t really do the kitchen justice. The waiters look pretty stiff and formal but my guy came rushing to pick up everything I dropped and still managed to smile. I don’t tip often outside of the UK because it’s not expected but I did here.

Artabria (Advanced A?), C/Fernando Macias, 28 bajo, 16003 La Coruna, Spain 981 269 646

I really wanted to go to this place but sadly it was closed in July when I was in town. Apparently it’s one of the best restaurants in Galica and many of the local teachers further recommended it. The set menus are supposed to be very good value.

A La Brasa (Advanced B+), 38 Juan Florez, 981 275283.

Came here because Artabria was shut and this was the nearest, but not highest, place on my hit list. As the name suggests, this restaurant specialises in grilled meat and seafood. It’s another posh gaff with waiters in suits and scary prices; upwards of €10 for a starter, €18-27 for mains although, as I found out too late, the portions are huge. My English-speaking waitress was very friendly and knowledgeable and was able to answer all my questions about the food. They have an outdoors area which looks very nice in the photos but it wasn’t open when I was there on a Tuesday in June. They do however have free Wi-Fi which is always a bonus.

Manzanilla
I started with an aperitif of Manzanilla de Sanlucar de Barrameda (B), a bone dry sherry from a town in the Jerez  DO.

de Sanlucar de Barrameda
With this I received a complementary dish of cod croquettes and super-thin potato fries (B).

Croquettes
Afterwards came Pimiento de Piquillo Rellenos de Merluza y Gambas, a small red pepper stuffed with hake and prawns with a tomato and cream sauce and small portion of plain short grain rice. I’d been craving rice so this went down very well, and the rest was nice too! (B+)

Pimiento de Piquillo Rellenos
For the main, Caldareida de Pescados, a hearty stew of hake, halibut and monkfish with capsicums, onions, peas and potatoes in a garlic flavoured sauce of oil, vinegar and paprika (B).

Caldareida de Pescados

The potatoes and fish are boiled separately and the sauce added later. If this was just one kind of fish it would have been called alla Gallega (ga-yay-ga) but caldareida implies a variety. This was a good dish with quality ingredients so it should get a B but I gave it a C due to my personal taste. I like powerful flavours and this dish is super-bland, but that might suit another English palate. You can order this dish for two people but the single portion I ordered was still too much for me (lots of potatoes), so maybe skip the starter if you’re having it.

With this I had a half bottle of Condes de Albarei, the nicest Albariño on this trip so far (B+). The Albariño grape comes from the Rias Baixas (lower river) DO.

Condes de Albarei

I was angling for a free chupito when I asked for an Orujo des Hierbas but instead got a quadruple shot in a brandy balloon with ice for €4, but I wasn’t complaining too much.

More orujoI went for the cheapest possible options here and managed to keep the bill down to €43. I can’t fault the place, I just need to find somewhere I can eat well and not break the bank. However this seems to be a tall order as seafood is expensive here wherever you go. Overall it’s probably better to stick with tapas.

Restaurant Mariqueria El-10 (Intermediate B), Plaza de Espana 8, Tel. 981 207 153 or 213 700 www.marisquierael10, open Sunday!

Recommended by the hotel when all the places I wanted to go to were closed on a Sunday. It’s fine but nothing special. I went for the Almejas Marniere (clams in sauce) which was ok (C+) but I keep mistaking it for Almejas al Vapor (steamed) which are much nicer.

Almejas Marniere

For my main, the seafood mixed grill with four kinds of fish, potatoes and salad which again was ok but not something I would order again. With water and half a bottle of house red, the bill came to €30.

Seafood mixed grill

I revisited again in 2012:

One of only two places mentioned for A Coruna in my 2011 El Seleccion del Gourmet guide. The other, Coral, is too expensive in my opinion (see above). I stopped off briefly for lunch on my way to the airport. Although it’s a marisquiera I wasn’t too impressed with the seafood last time so went for the meat options on the €12 menu-del-dia.
I braved the Callos con Garbanzos, or tripe with chickpeas and cubes of chorizo and ham. It was really tasty and only slightly slimy on the lips (A-).

Callos
The stewed veal was a little dry but full of flavour (A-) and the chips with it were very good too (B+). Service is friendly and good humoured. The unlabeled bottle of house red went down well (B).

Ternera Estofado
Total cost with a glass of Aguadiente Tostado was €18, a bargain.

Aguadiente Tostado


La Fe Corunesa
, 8 Riego de Agua or 7 Franja (the shop has two entrances)There are chocolate shops all over town, but this one is also a wine and spirits shop with a very attractive selection. I bought the best bottle of Orujo des Hierbas they could recommend; Pazo de Valdomino from Pontevedra (70cl of 35% for €16) which is very herby and fragrant.

Orujo Pazo de Valdomino

El Riojano at 47/49 Calle Orzan, just along from the hotel, is a good deli, grocery and off licence (since 1896). I bought some fig jam for putting on grilled goat’s cheese.

El RiojanoFig jamEl Riojano  window

Hotel Zenit, 19 Comandante Fontanes, Tel. 981 218 484

Located within 15 minutes walk of the harbour and the old town, this is an ok hotel with relatively simple but spacious and comfortable rooms (€75 a night). The staff are friendly and conscientious and the breakfast buffet is extensive. Ostensibly there is Wi-Fi although it only worked intermittently in the lobby and not in my upper-floor room.

Cartoon statueVirtually everyone I met in A Coruna (teachers, taxi drivers, waiters, bar tenders, receptionists) were truly lovely, in fact I can’t recall a friendlier place that I’ve been to. Would definitely recommend it for a visit.

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