Archive for the Valencia Category

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – St Francesc – Things to See

Posted in Ciutat Vella, 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.

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, 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 – El Mercat

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

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

For food, Tasca Angel (Elementary B+) at 1 Carrer de la Puríssima, is a classic (since 1946) stand-up tapas bar just around the corner from La Lonja. It’s a tiny place and always full to bursting, so they appreciate it if you keep reusing your glasses. We tried the All i Pebre (chunks of eel in a garlic and pepper sauce) and while it was a good example of this dish, I’m still not a fan of eel (B-). The sardines and brochettes here are good though.

The famous La Pilareta aka Bar Pilar (Intermediate B+) at 13 Calle del Moro Zeit, is considered by many to be the best place in town to have Clochinas (Valencian Mussels). Clochinas are smaller and more yellow in colour than normal mussels and have more flavour. Both are on the menu so you can compare. I had them ‘al Vapor’ (steamed and served in a broth of, I think, garlic, bay leaves. black pepper and paprika) and they were great (B+). The Calamari, fried in a very delicate batter were excellent as well, some of the best I’ve ever had (A). The old chap in the pictures is showing us the gas powered machine that was used to refrigerate food in the old days.

There are a few quirky shops around here too. For modern and very cool clothes I really like Bugalu at 6 Carrer de la Llotja. Original CV at Plaza del Mercado is a good place to buy local products to take home.

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Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Mercat – Mercado Central

Posted in El Mercat, Spain, 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 the next two posts.

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Seu – Stuff to See

Posted in La Seu, 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 from which runs Carrer dels Cavallers, the main street in the old town. There are a few quirky statues and buildings at the square 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.

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 – Eating and Drinking

Posted in 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 bar.

This post is about eating and drinking, see the next one for stuff to see in the area, and the previous one for drinking horchata.

La Salvaora (Advanced A), 19 Carrer de Calatrava, www.lasalvaora.com

I celebrated my birthday here in September 2014 with my friends Angeles, Juan, Karen and Nicky but I can’t recall much about it! Five of us had the tasting menu which consisted of Braised White Asparagus with a Vinaigrette of Cherries, Tuna Tartar with Ginger and Peach, Turbot Stuffed with Aubergine in a Veloute of Langoustines, Confit of Iberico Pork with Mash and to finish, Yogurt with White Chocolate Cream, Tonka Beans and Red Fruits. All I remember about the food is that it was all very good!

Just a stones throw away from La Salvaora is the lovely Placa de Negret which is full of bars where you can sit outside. The most famous bar here is Cafe Negrito but it’s probably easier to get a seat at one of the other bars at busy times.

La Lola (Intermediate B), 8 Calle de la Subida del Toledano, Tel. 963 018 045 www.lalolarestaurante.com

You’ll find this friendly modern restaurant down a small back street next to the cathedral. I first came here on a warm evening in June 2012 at the suggestion of my dear old friend Angeles, a local lass.

Although I’d been aware of the restaurant before, I’d mentally put myself off going because their greeters hustle for custom on the street; generally a turn off for me because it smacks of desperation. I realise now this was a little unfair because the food was absolutely fine (including the very reasonably priced set menu), it’s more that the place is a little hard to find.

In terms of the food, the Salmorejo was very tasty (A) and the attractive looking Goats Cheese starter was nice as well (B), as was the Bacalao with sauteed vegetables (B+). I can’t remember what we drank due to the fact I hadn’t seen Angie for about 5 years and we were having a good old chat! I remember it as a good place though, somewhere I’d definitely go back to.

Which I did in 2014 with Angie and her other half, Juan. Again the food was nicely presented and original but occasionally a bit hit and miss in terms of flavour. However I remember really liking the Meloso (wet paella) with snails, quail and mushrooms. Juan selected an excellent Merlot from Penedes to go with it.

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

The city’s favourite cocktail is called Agua de Valencia which is made from gin, vodka, fresh orange juice and cava or champagne. This beautiful bar, decorated in a Baroque style, is one of the best places to try it. 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 – 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

Posted in Ciutat Vella, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad on October 7, 2015 by gannet39

Click on an image to go to full screen slide show

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.

Valencia – Eixample – Gran Via

Posted in Eixample, 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.

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.

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Casa Vela (Intermediate A), Carrer D’Isabel la Catolica, www.restaurantecasavela.com, Closed Sundays

A small but high quality tapas bar and deli, since 1908. They can seat about twenty at tables in the back. I came at lunchtime for a mixed tuna salad which I couldn’t fault (A). Big wine selection available.

Valencia – Eixample – El Pla del Remei

Posted in Eixample, El Pla del Remei, Spain, 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.

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.

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.

Paella

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

Valencia – Ciutat Vella – El Carme

Posted in Ciutat Vella, El Carme, Valencia with tags , on November 13, 2012 by gannet39

El Carme aka Barrio del Carmen is the coolest up and coming neighbourhood in the old town. I’d love to have a flat here even if it is a bit noisy with all the night life in the area.

Of course there are lots of great places to eat and drink.

Cafe Sant Jaume (A), 51 Carrer dels Cavallers

A great place to start off is this beautiful old bar on the main tapas drag. You can sit outside on a tiny square off the main drag. We had an excellent beer called Reserva 1925 from the Alhambra craft brewery in Granada, a new one for me (A).

La Comisaria (Intermediate A), 5 Plaza del Árbol, lacomisaria.com

I really like this place because if fuses two of my favourite cuisines, Spanish and Japanese. Eddie the friendly head chef and owner has heaps of international experience, being half Welsh and half Portuguese and having worked in Brazil and at Noma in Tokyo.

The fusion dishes he creates are sublime. Chupa Chups de Langostionos con un Dip de Guindilla Dulce, deep fried langoustines with a sweet chilli sauce (B+), Tartar de Salmon al Estilo La Commisario (B+) and Ensalada Japnonesa de Algas en Texturas y Pepino, a shredded jellyfish and seaweed salad (A-) particularly remain in the memory.

Eddie also introduced me to Albufera, a local blend of Monastrell and Tempranillo that has been aged in oak barrels for three years. I liked so much that I took a bottle home (A).

La Carme (Intermediate A), 2 C/Sogueros www.restaurantelacarmevalencia.com

The building is old and atmospheric with wooden shutters and a very pleasant interior. They are going for a slightly upmarket clientele but the service is down to earth, efficient and very friendly. They also open at 8pm unlike most places so if you are an early eater (by Spanish standards) you can beat the rush.

You can choose one dish from a choice of five for each of the three courses from the €20 fixed menu which is very good value for money.

I had Ensalada de Formatge de Cabra, Datils i Pistachos, basically a green salad with slices of apple, goats cheese with dates and pistachio nuts, which was fantastic (A). Must make this when I go home.

Escudella de Lluc al Forn amb Gambes i Almejas Gratinada, a gratin stew of baked hake, prawns and clams which was pretty good (B). This all went well with a bottle of local 2011 Chardonnay Sauvigon Blanc ‘El Miracle’ (B+).

The Flam de Xocolata al Rom amb un Toc de Taronja, chocolate pudding with rum and a splash of orange (B+)with a digestif of local muscatel (A) made me a very happy bunny.

At the end of Carrer de Quart, the continuation of Carrer dels Cavallers, you’ll find the Porta de Quart, one of only two remaining gates to the old town.

Guarding the approach from the river, on the north east side of El Carme, is the more impressive Porta de Serrans. You can pay to go up the towers to get a view.

Valencia – City of Arts & Sciences

Posted in Ciutat de las Arts i les Ciences, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , , on October 27, 2012 by gannet39

I love Valencia and have even considered moving there. Still might do one day. Although it’s Spain’s third largest metropolitan area, it’s much more livable than Madrid or Barcelona. There just seems to be more elbow room and the cost of rent and eating out is much cheaper.

Since the middle ages, the bat has been the symbolic protector of the city, and you’ll see it everywhere, including on Valencia FC’s badge.

One of the great things about the place is the blend of old and new. Back in the late Fifties, after a catastrophic flood in which many people died, the city government diverted the River Turia which used to run through the centre of town.

The old river bed lay empty for many years. Although subsequent Francoist mayors wanted to turn it into a motorway this was resisted. With the arrival of democracy it was converted into an urban park, great for a walk run or a cycle, a fantastic facility for the people who live here. All of the old medieval bridges still remain so people and traffic can traverse the city without getting in each others way.

In the mid 90s work began on the Ciutat de las Arts i les Ciences (City of Arts and Sciences), a sci-fi ‘city’ conceived by world-renowned Valencia-born architect Santiago Calatrava. It includes a planetarium, a science museum, performing arts centre/opera house and an oceanographic park among other futuristic buildings. I haven’t been inside any of them yet but it’s fun to walk around pretending you’re in Logan’s Run.

It’s not all as idyllic as it may seem though. In the first five minutes of my walk I witnessed three young guys pinching a girl’s handbag as she and her friend were sat chatting by the fountains. The theives saw me filming them on my mobile but as I was on a slope above a low wall they couldn’t get at me easily so they just scarpered on their bikes. So watch your backs, this can still be an edgy town!

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