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.
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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.
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!I 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.
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.
This 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.
Then a plate of tasty Pimientos de Padron (B+), small green peppers grilled and salted, which were in season when I was there (July).
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).
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).
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.
To 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).
I 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.
Both 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?
To 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.