Archive for the Vigo 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

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

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