Archive for the Valenciana Comunidad Category

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – St Francesc – Things to See

Posted in Ciutat Vella, Plaça de l'Ajuntament, Spain, St Francesc, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , on October 25, 2015 by gannet39

Please see the separate post for eating in St Francesc.

Just around the corner from the Hotel Catalonia is the National Ceramics Museum

The alabaster front entrance, done in the florid Rococo style, is just stunning. The eyes of the two male statues either side of the door stare at you piercingly if you view them from immediately below.

The palace was first constructed in the 15th century but was given a Baroque makeover in 1740. I’ve never actually been in to see the ceramics exhibitions, but have made it through the first front door to see the funny little statue of a child sitting on a goose.

Please click on these images to see them in more detail.

Also near the hotel in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is the Art Deco central Post Office or Palau de los Correos. It’s worth popping in for a view of the nice elliptical glass dome but my favourite features are the lion head post boxes outside.20140926_13525320140926_135312

The Plaça de l’Ajuntament is where people also come to view/hear La Mascletà, a deafening barrage of fireworks and crackers, which is held at 2pm each day of the five days of the famous Falles festival. Pyrotechnicians compete for the honour of conducting the final Mascletà on the last day of the festival (March 18th). The mayor gives orders and judges the competition from the viewing balcony of the town hall opposite the display.Spain1a 002

My friend Angie brought me here to experience the truly deafening din in 2014. The square was packed but we still got served easily at one of the bars. I needed a glass of Turia beer to steady my nerves!

20140920_134552There are lots of other nice buildings around this part of town. The old Banco de Valencia on the corner of Career del Pintor Sorolla and Career de Don Juan de Austria is quite impressive. The latter street is a pedestrianised shopping area where you’ll find the ubiquitous but very useful El Corte de Ingles. Lots of other big brand shops can be found in St. Francesc if shopping is your thing.

Just down the road is the at 4 Carrer de les Barques is the Hotel Palacio Reina Victoria which I believe is the city’s oldest hotel.

Wish I could remember where these two buildings are…

Check out my La Seu – Stuff to See and Mercado de Colon posts for more nice architecture.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – St Francesc – Places to Eat

Posted in Ciutat Vella, Spain, St Francesc, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags on October 25, 2015 by gannet39

San Francesc is one of six barrios in the Ciutat Vella (old town). It’s very centrally located, and is quite a safe area, which is why my employer likes to have us stay here.

I’ve organised this post and all the others on Valencia on a barrio by barrio basis. To help you understand where all the neighbourhoods are, here’s a map of the barrios, and my Google map of Valencia. Please see the previous post for Things to See in St Francesc.

My employer invariably uses the Hotel Catalonia Excelsior (lovely staff, average rooms, ok breakfast). It’s next to a small and very pleasant square where you can sit and drink outside, although the bars there are quite expensive.

However this inexpensive place has good food is just a stone’s throw away too, just what my colleagues need after a hard days graft…

La Utielana(Intermediate B+), The official address is Piazza Picadero de Dos Aguas 3 (between Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas and the next door church) but coming from the hotel it’s easier to use the backdoor on Calle Sam Andres 4. Tel. 963 52 9414 utielana.restaurantesok.com

A bit hard to find the first time you go but well worth the effort. Plain and simple tiled decor, friendly and plump staff (definitely a good sign) and very popular, so get there at 8 to avoid disappointment. The cooking is not haute cuisine by any means but homey comfort food, the kinds of things a Spanish granny would cook.

For me, a very satisfying dish to start with is a bowl of murky Lentejas (lentil soup)(B+). For the main you can’t go wrong with the house speciality of Cordero al Horno (roast lamb) with chips and gravy (B+). They also have Platos Especiales del Dia (daily specials) which are usually classics like Cocido or Fiduea. Feeling daring one night I tried the sheep’s brains but once was enough!(C). The Rinones al Jerez are a bit grim too (C) but it’s all very cheap so I gave them a whirl. The house red (Cabellana) is dirt cheap but drinkability seems to vary by the bottle (C/D). You may want to fork out a bit more for something better. For afters I’d suggest some Frutta de Tiempo (grapes in a plastic cup?) or perhaps the Natillas (custard) or Flan (all B) and a glass of the wonderful local Moscatel (A). Total cost will probably come to around 20 euros which is dirt cheap in comparison to elsewhere. It’s all perfectly fine, just make sure you order the right things.

For something a bit different…

Vuelva Catalina (Intermediate B), 8 Career de Correos, www.vuelvecarolina.com

This is a good place to come and eat modern Spanish tapas. It’s the second tapas bar from famous chef Quique Dacosta who also owns Mercatbar (see Eixample – Gran Via post). I like it but sometimes I think form takes precedence over flavour. Still it makes for a change. Although very busy at other times, there weren’t many customers on the Monday I went. The MD was very nice and spoke English though other staff members didn’t really, not that they should have to. I was just feeling rusty as it was my first day in Spain for a while.

On arrival I received some rather dry bread (C) and cream cheese (B). The ‘Yogur’ de Foie Gras y Frutas Secas, sealed in a glass jar, was different but not amazing (B). The Cebollita Roja com Emulsion de Anguilla, red-stained onion with a dollop of eel emulsion in the middle were visually very attractive and had a fair bit of flavour (B+). Next the Sushi with mango and lemon wasabi mayo was a winner (B+). However the Calderoso was tasteless and had strange crunchy bits which I didn’t appreciate (C). I wasn’t really impressed with any of the wines the sommelier suggested to accompany the first courses. The introductory cava (C+) and the following white (C) had no flavour although the Bobal red was okay (B-). To finish, the almond ice cream (A) and the sponge (B) went well together (A). Final glasses of Madeira (B) and Hierbas (B) sent me home pretty happy.

El Poblet (Advanced B ), 8 Career de Correos (immediately above Vuelva Catalina), www.elpobletrestaurante.com

I came here for lunch to celebrate my 48th birthday with my good friend Nicky. It’s generally seen as one of the best restaurants in town, the kind of place where ladies get a little pillow to put their bag on! It’s the third and poshest establishment in Quique Dacosta’s small group of restaurants, along with Mercatbar and Vuelva Catalina.

We had the ‘Grace Kelly’ tasting menu of six dishes for €38. This began with Cebollita Roja com Emulsion de Anguilla, the same red onion with eel emulsion that I’d had downstairs some days before (B+). And continued with Parmesano con velo de albahacas ,parmesan with a ‘veil’ of basil (B). an oyster served with roe and a soya based sauce (A) , a deepfried cracker with minuscule prawns reminiscent of Cadiz’s Tortas de Camarones (B+), Cubalibre de Foie (a larger version than I’d had at Mercatbar and way too big (B) , La Gallina de los Huevos de Oro, an egg cooked in chicken broth with some gold foil which seemed pretty pointless (C) , Fideua Negra con Ajetes y Aire de All I Oli (short noodles cooked in squid ink and served with a foam of allioli, give me the real stuff anyday (B).

To finish, Helado de Alemendras (almond ice cream with I think lavender ice cream as well (B-) and a few not particularly nice complimentary chocs and sweets to finish (C+). The bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and glasses of sweet Dolc de Mendoza were okay (B). It was all pretty good value really, and visually very appealing but the flavours weren’t there for me. I’d advise people to go to Ricard Camarena’s restaurant in Ruzafa for a better fine dining experience.

Casa Mundo (Elementary B) at Carrer Juan de Austria, a pedestrian street in front of El Corte Ingles.

Described by some as a ‘classic’ Valencian tapas bar it’s quite run down and there’s not much of an atmosphere. However it’s justifiably well-known for its fried squid which, with a caña, cost me €6.20 in 2008. It’s not a place to spend much time but it’s handy for the hotel and the squid is good.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Mercat – La Lonja

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Mercat, La Lonja, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 14, 2015 by gannet39

Just over the road from Mercado Central is another favourite building of mine. La Lonja, or in Valenciano La Llotja de la Seda, (the Silk Exchange market) was built in 1482 and is a UNESCO world heritage building. Click on the photos to get a better view.

 

I love the gargoyles and chimeras that run in arched columns around the doorways and adorn the window lintels. Some of them are quite cheeky!

 

In the main hall, with it’s forest of twisted columns, is the entrance to the tower. Debtors were kept here as punishment which must have been purgatory during the hot Valencian summers.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – other things to see and do in El Mercat

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Mercat, Plaça de la Companyia, Plaça del Mercat, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 14, 2015 by gannet39

Besides La Lonja and Mercado Central in the barrio of El Mercat are a few other nice buildings, including some old churches.

Next to the market in Plaça del Mercat is the Església de Sant Joan del Mercat.

There are a few quirky shops around Plaça de la Companyia.

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For cool, modern clothes for both men and women I really like Bugalu at 6 Carrer de la Llotja.

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Original CV at Plaza del Mercado is a good place to buy local products to take home.

I’ve made a separate post for tapas bars in the area. My map is here.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Mercat – Mercado Central

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Mercat, Mercado Central, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 14, 2015 by gannet39

To the west of La Seu in the old town is the barrio of El Mercat where, not surprisingly, you’ll find the world-famous covered Mercado Central, Valencia’s principle market.

It was constructed in 1914 by Francesc Guàrdia i Vial and Alexandre Soler in the Modernism style, and is adorned with brightly coloured ceramics and mosaics. My favourite bit is the cockatoo on the top of the central dome.

It’s one of the oldest and largest working markets in Europe and houses four hundred traders in two areas, one for fish and one for all other food stuffs. You can buy a kilo of tangerines for a euro here, or get a warm empanada from the bakeries. However I only come here to eat at…

Central Bar (Elementary A+), Plaza Ciudad de Brujas (towards the back of the market) www.centralbar.es

This was once a run of the mill market bar but has now been taken over by my favourite Valencian chef Ricard Camarena whose other two establishments I have raved about in my Ruzafa post. It’s very popular and people often queue by standing behind the bar stools waiting for the person sitting to finish eating. I’ve even seen people tag team a space by taking turns eating half of a dish each. The lesson is, go just before or towards the end of normal lunch hours to get a seat, bearing in mind the market closes at 3pm.

The food is fantastic as you’d imagine with so many quality local ingredients close at hand. I didn’t take notes but it was all A or A+. The bocadillo in the picture is called ‘El Canella’ and is made with morcilla, scrambled egg and pickled green peppers. I remember reading it once won European sandwich of the year although I can’t find any reference to such an award.

If you’re lucky you’ll be served by the lovely Isabel, the hostess with the mostest.

More on El Mercat in coming posts.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Seu – Stuff to See

Posted in Carrer dels Cavallers, Ciutat Vella, La Seu, Plaça de l'Almoina, Plaça de la Mare de Deu, Plaça de Lope de Vega, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , on October 13, 2015 by gannet39

As mentioned in the previous post, the most central point in La Seu is Placa de la Mare de Deu.

This is where many civic occasions are held so it might be best to avoid the area when something’s on if you’re trying to get somewhere.

The old town’s main street, Carrer dels Cavallers, runs out of the square. There are a few quirky statues and buildings at this end of Cavallers.

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The Catedral de Valencia is to the south of the Placa de la Mare de Deu. Not exactly a beauty to begin with (it was built in haste when the Christians reclaimed the territory from the Moors), over the years the cathedral has been altered and messed about no end. It has two entrances, a Romanesque one at the rear which I prefer (first picture) and the main door in Plaza de la Reina which is done in an incongruous Baroque style (third picture).

The cathedral is the home of one of the contenders for the Holy Grail, in this case a first century stone chalice supposedly used at the last supper and subsequently by many popes. You can pay to go and see it but as I’m not one for religious trickery I just put my head inside for a peep at the Gothic arches inside the cathedral and then walked on.

Overlooking the cathedral in Plaça de l’Almoina is Casa Punt de Ganxo, built in 1906.

Wish I could remember where this building is because I love it!

20140924_182104In Placa de Lope de Vega, adjoining Placa de Santa Caterina, you can see what is billed as the narrowest house in Europe. You have to look carefully (it’s the red stripe in the centre of the picture) as it’s only the width of a door, and there are one or two other contenders in the square.

I’ve heard a couple of explanations as to why it was built this way, one being that it was due to a father dividing land between his sons, and another that it was a way of paying less tax. Apparently the building widens out once your inside which it would have to really or else what would be the point of living in a house you couldn’t move around in!

At 4-6 Calle del Muro de Sta Ana, you will find La Casa De Los Dulces, Valencia’s oldest sweet shop with spectacular displays of bonbons and lollipops.
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Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Seu – tapas bars

Posted in Carrer dels Cavallers, Ciutat Vella, La Seu, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , on October 13, 2015 by gannet39

La Seu is the most central barrio in the old town, between El Carme and La Xerea. It’s central point is Placa de la Mare de Deu from which runs Carrer dels Cavallers, the main street in the old town which is thronged with tapas bars.

This post is about tapas bars. I’ve also written La Seu posts for restaurants, stuff to see in the area, and drinking horchata. My map is here.

The city’s favourite cocktail is called Agua de Valencia which is made from gin, vodka, fresh orange juice and cava or champagne.

This great bar is one of the best places to try it…

Cafe de Las Horas (Intermediate A), 1 Carrer del Comte d’Almodóvar, www.cafedelashoras.com

This beautiful bar, decorated in a Baroque style, is definitely a good place to start a night on the town.

Las Cuevas (Intermediate A), Technically at 8 Carrer del Comte d’Almodóvar but actually in Placa des Cisneros

‘The Caves’ are just around the corner from Cafe de las Horas. This famous tapas bar gets its name from the three low-ceilinged rooms inside but there’s an outdoor area where if you can sit out in the sun.

Cava Siglos (Intermediate B), 12 Carrer dels Cavallers, www.cavasiglos.com

Siglos bar on cavallersA young and trendy cava bar on the main drag. I tried it on a quiet evening and quite enjoyed the ‘tapas de mercado’, which in my case were canapes of morcilla and cured ham with camembert (A).

One activity I thoroughly recommend is going on a tapas tour, especially if you’re on your own as I often am. My research led me to www.toursinvalencia.com which is run by Suzie Añon y García who is a certified tour guide. She does many different kinds of tours but I chose the eating tour in La Seu.

A gang of eight of us (including four Londoners and two Swiss) went to three bars: La Huerta Santa Catalina, Blanquita and Tasca el Botijo, none of which were particularly historical or famous, they were just good ordinary tapas bars. The food was good and very reasonable (€30 with three drinks) and it was nice to meet some new people.

The highlight of the evening was drinking from a Porron, a wine jug with a pointed spout that you hold high above your head while pouring the wine into your mouth. No mean feat, hence the bib!

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Seu – Drinking Horchata in Plaza Santa Catalina

Posted in Ciutat Vella, La Seu, Plaza Santa Catalina, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , on October 8, 2015 by gannet39

Plaza Santa Catalina is a small square in the Ciutat Vella adjoining the larger Plaza de la Reina, at the opposite end from the Cathedral. When you’re in the area you should try the famous Valencian drink Horchata.

Horchata, or Orxata in Valceniano, is made from Chufas, know in English as Tiger Nuts, which in fact aren’t nuts at all but the edible tubers of a plant. Originally from Egypt, brought to the area by the Moors in the thirteenth century. The beverage even has its own local DOC with the best stuff coming from Alboraya, a nearby village.

The tiger nuts are mixed with water and sugar to create a sweet, almondy flavour which is very pleasant and refreshing. The two most famous horchaterias in Valencia are both immediately opposite each other in Plaza Santa Catalina:

Santa Catalina Horchateria, 6 Plaza Santa Catalina

Built 200 years ago, this is the older of the two and the more beautiful with it’s lovely tiled interior. It’s a cool, peaceful place to escape the heat and bustle outside.

I had my horchata (B+) with a Farton, a kind of lightly sweetened bread specially made for soaking up the horchata, which it did very well (B).

El Siglo, 11 Plaza Santa Catalina.

A mere 175 years old and not quite as attractive as its neighbour over the way, but still nicely decorated with ceramics and Art Deco lettering.

Apparently locals consider the horchata to be better here, at least according to this blogger. My tastings were a year apart so I wouldn’t like to call it. Both were very refreshing (B+).

The blog also has an interesting post on how horchata is made and where to get it from.

Just at the end of the square is the Iglesia de Santa Catalina which has a nice tower. I think you can climb to the top for a small fee. Personally I prefer to save my money for food…Iglesia de Santa Catalina

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – Street Art in El Carme

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Carme, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Valencia has some great street art. A lot of it seems to be in the Ciutat Vella, especially El Carme.

I read that the most instagrammed piece of street art is Moses by Blu at Plaça del Tossal.

I’m not surprised, a huge beard of writhing snakes the size of a house is hard to resist.

Mine and many other people’s favourite is David de Limón who does the Ninja men. If you’re on a PC you can click on an image to go to a full screen slide show.

This is what I saw in 2017. Again, click to go big.

And from 2014.

There’ll be plenty more I’m sure!

Valencia – Extramurs – La Roqueta

Posted in Extramurs, La Roqueta, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Extramurs is ‘the poor widening’ to the west of the old train station, El Estacion del Norte Valencia, as opposed to Eixample which was ‘the rich widening’ to the east. Its subdistricts are El Botànic, La Petxina, Arrancapins and La Roqueta.

The train station itself is in La Roqueta, next to the city bullring. Built between 1906 and 1917 a stunning example of Modernism bearing many Valencian motifs such as oranges, La Albufera (the lake), barracas (traditional houses) and women wearing traditional costume. I love the mosaics in the ticket hall and waiting room inside.

There’s talk of turning it into a museum but I think that would be a shame as it’s such a nice place to alight when arriving in the city.

Bar Los Caracoles (Elementary B) at Calle Convento Jerusalem (as you’re facing the main station it’s the third parallel street to the right)

I came to this place in 2008. It’s a neighbourhood bar with excellent tapas that are cheaper than most other places. I had a doble and a plate of tellines (tiny angel-winged clams) for 5.20. The name would imply the snails are good too.

Valencia – Eixample – Ruzafa

Posted in Eixample, Ruzafa, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Ruzafa, or Russafa, is the part of the Eixample to the east of the railway station. It’s very much an up and coming area with many new and trendy businesses locating here and in the evenings the night life is buzzing.

It has its own market, Mercat de Russafa, which while not as attractive as Mercat Central, has pretty much everything you would want. I noticed grilled pumpkin (sugared or unsugered) here for the first time.

My favourite chef in Valencia, Ricard Camarena, has two of his eateries located in the area, both just around the corner from each other.

Ricard Camarena Restaurant (Advanced A), 4 Carrer del Dr. Sumsi, www.ricardcamarenarestaurant.com

Three of us came here to celebrate my best friend Luke’s birthday by having the six dish tasting menu with wine matching (they also do nine and eleven dish menus).

I didn’t take any notes as I was too busy having fun but everything was A or A+, both visually and in terms of flavour. Below is what I think we had, but there’s a couple of photos I can’t remember. I’ll leave it to you to match the names to the pictures.

Juve & Camps Millesime Reserva Brut Cava 2010
Valencian Oyster in a “Horchata” of Galangal
Menestra of Bobby Beans (fat string beans)
Hake Cocochas (cheeks, tongues or barbels depending on who you talk to) in Coconut Milk
Marinated Sea Bass with Parsley and Tamarillo (a South American fruit)
Pie Franco Verdejo Blanco Nieva 2013
Roasted Kid in Coconut Milk
Furtiva Lagrima’ Moscatel Coshecha 2014

With a glass of champagne, two Negronis to start and three coffees, a glass of Luis Felipe Gran Reserva and two Fernando de Castilla Sol (all brandies) the bill came to €345, less than £100 each, which was great value.

And on another night I went with four friends to Camarena’s bistro just around the corner…

Canalla Bistro (Intermediate A), 5 Carrer del Mestre Josep Serrano, www.canallabistro.com

We had…

Croquetas de Pollo d’Ast (roast chicken croquettes)
Patatas con Salsa de Chorizo Tomate Valenciano y Hierbabuena (spearmint)
2013 Verdejo called ‘Quinta Apolonia’ from Belondrade
Bocata al Vapor con Cerdo Pekin (steamed bun with Beijing pork)
Tempura Melosa de Verduras Ligeramente Picante (slightly spicy mixed veg tempura)
‘Les Alcusses’ 2010, a red from Celler del Roure in the Valencia D.O.

And a creamy thing I don’t recall as I didn’t take notes again. However everything was very good if more down to earth than Camarena’s restaurant around the corner. The bistro has a very cozy atmosphere due to warm lighting and lots of wood. I’d definitely go again.

Afterwards we went for a drink to Ubik Café Cafeteria Libreria a 13 Calle del Literato Azorin, www.ubikcafe.blogpsot.com which is what’s known as a ‘bookshop bar’ although we didn’t do much reading! Café Tocado, at 44 Carrer de Cadis, is also an excellent cocktail bar with a Parisian feel.

And in May 2017…

La Tasqueta del Mercat (Intermediate B), 2 Calle Maestro Auguilar

I came here in when I couldn’t get into either Ricardo Camarena’s restaurant or Canella Bistro which were both fully booked on a Thursday night. It had been recommended by a reader in the comments section of the Conde Nast guide which is why it was on my radar.

It’s a bright modern spot with decent food that is good value. They have three set menus to choose from for €15, €22 and €30.

I wasn’t enormously hungry so I had the smaller one beginning with Ensaladilla Guitxan (a take on the ubiquitous Russian salad of which I’ve never been fond).

I continued with Coca de Cerveza con Pesto, Tomate y Anchoa del Cantabrico (toast with pesto, tomato and anchovy), Bunuelos de Bacalao (cod fritters), Croquetas de Jamon, Setas y Trufa (hame, mushroom and truffle croquet), Carrillera con Jugo de Manitas de Curry (pork cheeks in a trotter sauce with a touch of curry) and finally Brownie con Nueces Caramelizadas y Helado de Dulce de Leche (brownie with caremelised nuts and caremelised milk ice cream).

It was all the food was completely edible B/C if rather calorific. I tried a couple of local wines; Merseguera and Decalogo but they didn’t do much for me (all C+). So not a place I’ll willingly return to although it’s perfectly competent at what it does.

Valencia – Eixample – eating at Mercat Bar in Gran Via

Posted in Eixample, Gran Via, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

Gran Via is the subdistrict of the Eixample that lies to the south of Gran Via del Marques de Turia. There are heaps of restaurants around here, particularly along Carrer del Comte d’Altea. See also the following post on the Mercado de Colon. My map is here.

Mercatbar (High Intermediate B), 27 Carrer de Joaquin Costa, www.mercatbar.es

This is the flagship tapas bar of Quique Dacosta, a famous local chef who was the talk of the town when I was there.

The idea is to reinvent traditional classics in a modern style. Visually and conceptually the food is wonderful but sadly the flavours just weren’t there for me. A chef I met told me that the food is prepared in a central kitchen and then sent out to the restaurants in the chain (including Vuelva Catalina and El Poblet) where it’s heated up, which can’t be good for how it tastes when it finally reaches your plate.

The famous Souffle de Patata y Yema de Huevo, appears to be an egg ‘yolk’ in little mouth sized parcel. I now know that restaurants in Spain are not allowed to sell dishes made with fresh eggs and instead they use reconstituted powder to simulate egg dishes, which might explain how it’s possible to make this seemingly complex tapa. It was an interesting concept but not much more (B).

The Langostinos Crujientes Fritos were okay (B) but the Romescu sauce it served with was pretty horrible (D). I was intrigued by the Cubalibre de Foie Gras con Escarcha de Limon, or foie coated with a kind of coca cola jelly and lemon sorbet, It was an interesting combo that worked pretty well (B+) but there was too much of it. The potato crisps were fine (B) but the local wine left a bit to be desired (C).

To finish the Milojas Clasico de Crema Pastelera Caramelizada (millefoille) were good (B) and I loved the homemade no label muscatel (A+).

I was served by a very nice lady who if anything was a bit too attentive.

The décor is modern and bright with a TV showing how their dishes are made, which makes for addictive viewing. It’s an experience so go by all means but Camarena’s places are better. Arrive early or reserve.

I returned for lunch in May 2017 and was a little surprised to find it fairly empty when the terraces on nearby Carrer del Comte d’Altea were buzzing.

I had the €15 Menu del Dia for which I got some fresh broad beans to shell myself, along with Salpicon de Marisco (seafood salad), Arroz a Banda (rice cooked in fish stock) and Brownie y Helado (brownie with ice cream).
Everything was fine (B) but not out of this world.

To drink a glass of Puerto Alicanate (B) and with dessert a copa of disappointing Mistela Vall de Valo (C).

So still a good place, I’d happily go back.

Valencia – Eixample – El Pla del Remei – El Mercado de Colon

Posted in Eixample, El Pla del Remei, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

The Eixample and Extramurs are residential areas organised on a grid system which lie respectively to the south and west of the medieval old town and its winding streets. Eixample is known as ‘the rich widening’ as opposed to Extramurs which is ‘the poor widening’.

The Eixample is the area to the east of the train station, running along either side of Gran Via de los Germaines and its extension Gran Via del Marques de Turia. It has three sub-districts, Gran Via, El Pla del Remei and Ruzafa.

In El Pla del Remei, the subdistrict north of Gran Via, you can find the stunningly beautiful Mercado de Colon on Calle Jorge de Juan. It was designed by Francisco Mora Berenguer who studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture and you can see the influences of Catalan architects such as Gaudi and Montaner in the structure.

It’s no longer a fully functioning market but was restored in 2003 to house a cafe, a Camarena restaurant in the basement and a few small businesses.

I finally ate at Camarena’s place in May 2017…

Habitual (Advanced B), basement of the Mercado de Colon, 19 Calle Jorge Juan

Efficient service as ever, but the restaurant doesn’t have much atmosphere and feels a bit formal. I had the Bunelo Cremoso y Crujiente de Bacalao con Emulsion de Miso (a codfish croquette with an emulsion of miso sauce), Croqueta al Pesto de Albahaca (basil pesto croquette).

Also the Merluza a la Llama, Caponata de Verudras, Emulsion de Tomate y Habanero (flame-greilled hake with a veg caponata in an emulsion of tomato and chilli).

Also the Esparragos Verdes en Tempura, Ras El Hanout y Crema de Yogur Griego (green asparagus in tempura with greek yogurt cream and ras el hanout) which was tasty but the half portion was huge so it wore a bit thin after a while.

With a bottle of La Ola del Melillero, a PX and Moscatel blend, the final bill came to €51.

As you may know already I’m a big fan of Ricard Camarena and have raved about three of his other establishments elsewhere on this blog (see the Russafa and Mercat Central posts) but this experience wasn’t quite as good (all Bs) which was a little disappointing.

I’ll always love this building though.

Valencia – Benimaclet

Posted in Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

One Sunday I took a walk over the river to Benimaclet to see the ‘Cases de Trencadis’ which translates badly as ‘The Tiled Houses’. Actually Trencadis refers to a type of mosaic made of broken pieces of ceramic tile. This technique was used by Catalan modernism architects, most famously by Gaudi and Jujol in Parc Guell in Barcelona.

These houses were built in the 1930s by Jose Sanmartin Zarzo, an uneducated bricklayer with no formal training in architecture, in tribute to Gaudi.

Zarzo collected leftover tiles from the building sites he worked on to create the façades. The corner building is now a fruit and veg shop but it was closed on the day I went.


You can read more about the houses and other places in Benimaclet on this website.

Valencia – El Cabañal – La Playa

Posted in El Cabañal, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

Valencia has a very wide and long beach that stretches northwards from the port that is known as La Malvarosa once you’re past El Cabañal (see previous post). The beach front, Paseo Neptuno, is thronged with restaurants and bars, the best of which is…

La Pepica (Intermediate B+), 6 Paseo Neptuno, www.lapepica.com

My favourite place for Sunday lunch; Frommer’s describes this venerable restaurant as ‘the Picasso of paella’ and ‘the benchmark for the dish everywhere else in the world’, and I agree, it’s the best one I’ve ever had.

I’ve been twice and had the seafood paella each time (A+). All the white wines I’ve had here have been great. I can also recommend the mixed tuna salad and the steamed baby clams as starters and the ‘pudim’ (another form of the ubiquitous ‘flan’ aka caramel pudding) makes for a strong finish.

The restaurant is huge, there must be seating for a couple of hundred, but you should still reserve, especially if you want to sit on the outside terrace facing the sea. The back wall is covered with photos of famous customers from the past, including Pele and Hemingway.

Valencia – El Cabañal

Posted in El Cabañal, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

El Cabañal, or El Cabanyal in Valenciano, is the old fisherman’s district in Valencia that also includes the beach area (see next post). It was once a separate municipality and it stills maintains a sense of otherness. The locals even still talk of ‘going to Valencia’ even though the area has been part of the city for well over a century.

The buildings in the area are all completely individual and have been constructed in a mish-mash of styles including Art Noveau and Art Deco. Many have beautifully tiled facades. It’s a great place to walk around with a new surprise on every street.

Sadly the area is under threat from the town planners who want to extend a central avenue from the city centre down to the waterfront. The demolition has been completed but the money ran out and the avenida hasn’t been built. Consequently the neighbourhood is in limbo with many people selling up and moving away.

Casa Montana (Intermediate A), 69 Carrer Josep Benlliure

A venerable institution with spades of atmosphere, this is probably one of the most famous places in the city, well worth the taxi ride from the centre. The owner is a nice chap who learnt his English working at a power station near Middlesbrough!

The food is very good (B+) but many come here for the huge choice of wines ( there are over 20,000 in the cellar). Very reasonable prices too if I remember correctly.

On one visit I had a variety of tapas including Habas Estofado (stewed broad beans) (B), Clochinas (Valencian mussels) (B), Calamar de Playa a la Plancha (unbattered calamari from the grill) (B-), Patatas Bravas (whole potatoes rather than chips with a mediocre mayo and spicy sauces (C+), Croqueta de Bacalao (codfish croquettes) (B) and a Txistorra (Basque sausage) (B-). For pud, Tocinito de Cielo con Mermelada de Tomate (flanlet with tomato jam) (B) goes well with a glass of PX.

On another occasion with my buddies Luke and Dominic we had the Habas (broad beans with ham), Jamon Bellota (acorn fed ham) and the Moricilla (black pudding), all very good.

Casa Guillermo (Intermediate B+), 15 Carrer del Progres

For the last fifty years this place has proclaimed itself as ‘El Rey de la Anchoa’ or ‘The King of the Anchovies’. We had them grilled (A) as well as from tins, steeped in oil with thin slices of raw garlic (B+).

I wasn’t as keen on the mixed tinned seafood (B-) but the ‘fried milk’ pudding with cinnamon was good (B). The décor is modern and bright white and there’s an outdoor area. It’s supposed to be very popular but we got seats without any problem.

Please see the next post for the beachfront area of El Cabañal along Paseo Neptuno.

Castellon – the long walk to Grao

Posted in Castellon de la Plana, El Grao de Castellon, Spain, Valenciana Comunidad with tags on March 19, 2015 by gannet39

Ostensibly Castellon is by the sea, however the coast (beach, marina and port) is quite a way from the main town (see separate post) and is best reached by car. This was not an option for me, and besides I really needed the exercise.

It took me just under an hour and a quarter to walk to the sea from the hotel. It was fairly cool on the late March afternoon that I was out but it probably isn’t best done on a hot summer’s day. I found the return leg a bit of a struggle after a multi-course lunch but got back eventually.

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It’s virtually a straight line the whole way (Google map here), beginning in the bleak area around the station and the hotel, passing through the Parque Ribalta and the old town, and then along the long newly built Avenida del Mar, past lots of waste ground and allotments and finally to the satellite neighbourhood of Grao (meaning ‘port’).

There seems to be a lane for some type of public transport going down the middle of the avenida, However, I didn’t see anything moving on it so it may have gone the same way as many other infrastructure projects in crisis-ridden Spain. Maybe you could ask the hotel if they have a bike you could borrow.

Off-season Grao was pretty quiet when I was there. There are lots of touristy eateries with plastic tables on the pier but I thought I deserved a treat after the long hike.

I looked at the menu at Tasca del Puerto www.tascadelpuerto.com just out of interest but since it had received such a good slagging for its overpriced food and slow service from a local tourist website, I was glad that it was closed.

Instead I went to this place mentioned in La Seleccion del Gourmet, a guide I’m beginning to trust less and less.

Rafael (Advanced C+), 28 Calle Churraca, Tel. 96 428 2185

This is the kind of place that suits with expense accounts like to schmooze their clients in. I was looked at slightly askance due to my t-shirt, jeans and trainers look but they let me in and gave me good service.

I had the Menu Rafael, five starters and a second course, the starters I’m guessing being whatever they have hanging around in the cupboards as they aren’t listed in the menu.

The first starter was a pile of non-descript ingredients heaped on a cracker and tasting blandly of the fridge (C).

Next some duck live foie grass glistening on a glass plate, which is hard to get wrong when it’s out of a tin (B).

Also a sea-urchin covered in some gloop that I couldn’t make out. It looked okay but its flavour was obscured. (C).

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After that some deep-fried Anguillas, or elvers, which were fine in an oily way, but filled me up too much without making much of an impression (C).

Also I think these were imitation elvers made of Surimi (fish powder, also used in crab sticks), as the real ones are really expensive.

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Next a very basic paella-like rice dish, with just a few lumps of prawn. It was way too salty for me and I sent back (D).

I was full by this time but the apologetic waiter insisted I have some seared tuna by way of recompense for the rice. The four unattractive lumps I got didn’t seem that fresh (C+) but I ate them so as not to disappoint my chap.

The Verdejo wine was the one redeeming feature (B+).

I felt that the €42 bill was pricey in terms of what I received, and the kitchen seems to have lost its mojo, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. There are other places around here to try.

Finally, a quick stroll along the seafront and then the long walk back to town…

 

Melosos in Gandia

Posted in Gandia, Spain, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , on March 14, 2015 by gannet39

As you can see from my Google map, the town of Gandia is divided into two parts, the more interesting old town and ‘el grau i platja’, the rather sterile port and beach area.

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I came here twice in fairly quick succession, in March and September 2014, either side of the summer season when the town becomes a busy holiday resort.
I stayed in both areas, the first time at the Hotel RH Riviera on the seafront which at that time of year was very quiet (except for big groups of Spanish pensioners) and doesn’t have much nightlife in the off season, though it’s good for bracing walks and runs along the beach.

Most nights I decided to walk the twenty minutes along Avenida del Grau to the old town for a bit more action. Thankfully on the second occasion I was put up at the Hotel Borja located much nearer the old centre and a marginally better hotel in terms of rooms and breakfast.

I say old centre but there aren’t that many old buildings, with just a couple of exceptions. Gandia was the ducal seat of the infamous Borja family, and the Palau Ducal dels Borja www.palauducal.com  has a stunning interior  by all accounts. As usual I didn’t have time to see it due to work getting in the way.

The Teatre Serrano on the main rambla, Passeig de las Germanies, has a nice façade in a simple modernisme style.

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Plaza del Prado and the pedestrian streets off it seems to be the focal point for the locals. I checked out all the bars and eateries around the square. For a change from normal Spanish food, you could go for a burger at Comics Prado. Alternatively Cerveceria El Colamadito on the other side of the square is extremely cheap and popular for drinks though I don’t know what the food was like. For better quality food Café Almeda could on the east side of the square could be a good option.

However my favourite was this great restaurant near the square:

Telero (High Intermediate A), 7 Career Sant Ponc, www.telero.es

I ate in this mid-range place twice in all and each time I thoroughly enjoyed the food, the ambience and the friendly service from the owner and his family.
The dishes here are very traditional. An unusual starter is Coques de Dacsa; corn pancakes with anchovy, boiled egg and tuna (B+), very particular to Gandia.

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As you’d expect in a town in the Valenciana Communidad, rice dishes are also very typical and Melosos feature heavily on the menu here. A meloso is like a paella but wetter as it’s made with more stock. I enjoyed the Meloso de Gambas y Cigalas which is excellent here (A).

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I wanted a white wine to go with the seafood but was told the local ones tended to be sweet due to the hot climate. I went for a Rueda Verdejo from Jose Pariente instead which did the trick.

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To finish Helado de Pasas a la Mistela (B+) or ice cream with raisins and a local sweet wine made from ‘mosto’ (must or alcoholic grape juice from the early stages of the wine making process). A glass of Mistela accompanied this (B+).

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I was introduced to a new Pacharan here called Baines which scored well (B+).

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For me Telero is the best thing about Gandia! I definitely recommend eating here.

If you’re looking for somewhere down by the sea, Ripoll on Paseo Neptuno at the port end of the beach is a bit pricey but has a great view of the sun going down over the sea.

Spain1a 066The restaurants next to the port on Avenida Pau are supposed to be good too but probably very busy in summer. There are a few other untried places on the Google map too.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Xerea

Posted in Ciutat Vella, La Xerea, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , , , on November 15, 2012 by gannet39

La Xerea is a barrio in the old town, sandwiched between St Francesc and the riverbed of the Turia.

Rincon Latino (Elementary A), Carrer del Governador Vell

If you’re looking for a place to start a night out on the town, this divey shot bar might just be the place. Four of us came here in 2014 for a few slugs of the hard stuff. I recall the Quemadito (small fire), tequila and Tia Maria set alight, and the Vaquita Roja (small red cow) with strawberry liqueur and cream, but not much else!

 

La Riua (Intermediate B+), 27 Calle del Mar, Tel. 963 914 571 www.lariua.com

This is a very famous restaurant (mentioned in many guides) run by a husband and wife team, that serves very typical local rice dishes. Its popularity is such that it can be hard to get in if you go too late. I tried to reserve on a few occasions but it seems they don’t answer the phone as they prefer people to just walk up.

ClamsSix of us came here one night in 2012 and between us demolished a plate of Almejas Marinera (B), and two huge pans of Paella de la Mar (seafood paella) and Fideua de la Mar (same as paella but made with noodles instead of rice). Both were good but the general agreement was the paella (A) was better than the Fideua (B).

MerseThese went nicely with a few bottles of local Merse (2009) white (B).

The restaurant is good but perhaps not quite deserving of all the hype and the price of the food. Personally I prefer La Pepica down at the beach.

Most Brits view Paella as the national dish of Spain but most Spaniards see it as  a regional Valencian dish and the Valencians themselves see it as one of their defining symbols.

Originally the ingredients consisted of whatever could be caught in the fields and the true Paella Valenciana includes rabbit and snails although originally eels and water voles were used. The Moorish influence can be seen in the rice and the inclusion of saffron. Later poor local fishermen came up with the Paella de la Mar. Another popular version is the Paella Mixta which combines the other two but Valencianos see this as an abomination though you will see it in restaurants elsewhere in Spain.

The pan it is cooked in is also called a paella in Valencia (their name for every type of pan) but  the word ‘paellera’ is used elsewhere in the country. As well as allowing quick evaporation, essential for a correctly cooked paella, the broad pan allowed field labourers to eat straight from the pan without the need for plates. The toasted rice called ‘socarrat’ at the bottom of the pan is considered a delicacy and can only be achieved when cooking over an open flame.

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The Valencian region produces nearly all the rice in Spain however the village of Calasparra in the neighbouring  region of Murcia is particularly famed for producing the most famous varieties Bomba and Sollana which are especially good for soaking up large amounts of liquid.

Fideua is also apparently from the Valencia region, specifically from a town called Gandia where it was invented in 1925.  As noodles replace the rice it is often better for seafood due to the shorter cooking time. It is optionally served with Allioli.

Valencia – El Saler

Posted in Saler, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on November 15, 2012 by gannet39

Arosseria DunaArroceria Duna (Intermediate C), Paseo Francisco Lozano, Saler, Tel 961 830 490

Duna terraceA very nice spot, sheltering between sand dunes as the name would suggest. All the tables are outside on a large terrace from where you can see the sea. It was completely full at lunch time but I had reserved a table for one as soon as I got there so had no problems getting in.

All i pebreHaving just arrived in Valencia I was eager to try out some local classics. I started with All i Pebre, (garlic and paprika) which is a fish dish, the classic version being made with eels and in this case potatoes. They’ve never been my favourite fish but I like to challenge myself. Sadly I failed miserably again (C).

Poor paella I was also dying to have a Paella de Mariscos. The waiter looked very doubtful when I ordered it but went ahead at my insistence.

The contents of my glassThe result was very disappointing as you can see in the picture. The seafood was ok (prawns, crayfish, langoustines) but the rice was overcooked and darkened (C). Memo to self, you CANNOT have a good paella for one. See the post Valencia – La Xerea for how it should be.

VerdejoA lovely Verdejo from Rueda called El Perro Verde (A) and a Tarte de Manzana, an apple tart with ice cream (B+), made up for the rest of the meal though.

Apple pie and ice creamSaler is a great spot, just make sure you go with a friend or two to share the food. The bad choices were down to me and not the fault of the restaurant.

El Soler BeachIf you can be bothered to wait (the timetable doesn’t seem to work in practice), you can catch the bus back into town outside the La Dehesa restaurant a little further along the beach

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