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Top Basque Gourmet Restaurants in Pais Vasco and Pays Basque

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The Basque country – and in particular the glamorous resort of San-Sebastian – is now a must visit destination for lovers of fine gastronomy traveling in Spain. Its inhabitants, the fiercely proud Basque people, have always enjoyed spending money on food and drink, and lots of it! They are privileged to have access to an abundance of superb raw materials – fish, seafood, excellent game, vegetables, mushrooms, fine wines and other delicacies can all be sourced locally. Moreover, over the past thirty years Basque cuisine has been going through a phase of creative renewal, inspired by the French nouvelle cuisine cookery school. The result is that the region is now Spain’s uncontested gourmet stronghold and a paradise for visitors looking to immerse themselves in good food and wine.

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Unsurprisingly, there are more Michelin starred restaurants in the Basque country than any other part of Spain and with standards ever rising; the number is set to increase in the future. The city of San-Sebastian alone has 8 Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famous Arzak, one of the pioneers of the new Basque cuisine school of gastronomy. Of course, plenty of superb restaurants can be found across the region without a Michelin star and not having a star does not mean that the restaurant does not work to the highest gastronomic standards. As a guide for discerning visitors keen to sample one or two of the finer points of Basque cuisine, we have selected our top Basque country restaurants below:

1. Akelarre, Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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With over 38 years experience of wowing diners, head chef Pedro Subijana rarely hits a wrong note with his incredibly refined, exquisite take on traditional Basque dishes and cuisine. This 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in San-Sebastian simply has it all: spectacular views of rolling hills which plunge into the sea, sublime food, a lengthy wine list and professional, but not overly formal service. To savor Subijana’s star dishes, you must try the seven course menu de degustacion. Every dish is a gastronomic treat, but particular highlights include the Sauteed Fresh Foie Gras with Salt Flakes and Grain Pepper and the utterly irresistible Roasted Baby Pig with Tomato “Bolao” and Iberian Emulsion. One for that special occasion! And a personal fave were our clients get extra special service here.

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2. Arzak, 273 Avenida Alcade Elosegui, 20015, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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Considered to be one of the word’s best restaurants in any gourmet guide worth its salt, and, judging by the consistently excellent standards at this icon of modern Basque cooking, we’d have to agree. Founded in 1897 as a house by the current owner’s grandparents, Arzak’s fame can be attributed to one man with a great vision – Juan Mari Arzak. After returning home from the army, Arzak trained in his mother’s kitchen and founded what would become Spain’s first restaurant to be awarded three Michelin stars in 1989. Today, he works with his equally passionate daughter Elena to bring diners a taste of his incredible take on Basque dishes – Arzak literally is the godfather of new Basque cuisine. Signature dishes include his marvelous Rape Marea Baja, which is Monkfish with mussels and nori flavored shells and his sublime Pichon con Chia, a moreish concoction of roasted pigeon with a Mexican Chia seed cracker and chia spheres filled with broth. A venue everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.

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3. Azurmendi, Corredor del Txorierri, Salids 25, Barrio Legina, Larrabetzu, 48195- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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If Azurmendi were up for sale then it would pull in a fortune for its location alone! A spectacular hilltop setting 10 minutes drive from Bilbao airport houses a modern glass and steel building that serves 3 Michelin-starred food of the highest quality. A relatively new kid on the block, Azurmendi was founded in 2005 by superstar chef Eneko Atxa who cut his teeth at such prestigious venues as Andra Mari and Mugaritz. Its fame quickly rose and in 2013, the venue was awarded a third Michelin star. The restaurant, in addition to being celebrated for its Nouvelle Basque cuisine, is noted for its exceptional and well stocked wine cellar, which is also excellent value. A bottle of the superb Alion from Vega Sicilia can be obtained for €60 for example, which is equivalent to the retail price. Atxa’s prize winning dishes include his roast lobster with a tapenade of lobster, mushrooms, black olives and spring onion emulsion and the already legendary Confit of pork on a breadcrumb base salted with pork bones and acorns, garnished with pork jus, herbs and pork crackling. Divine!

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4. Berasategui, Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria, 20160, San-Sebastian- THREE MICHELIN STARS

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A living legend in Basque gastronomy, Martin Berasategui currently holds more Michelin stars than any other Spanish chef. He opened one of the Basque country’s leading restaurants in 1993, in a charming converted farmhouse. He quickly earned a Michelin star and was awarded his third in 2001. This is a restaurant that strives for perfection and easily achieves it; the service is some of the best in Spain, each dish is meticulously crafted and most importantly, Berasategui will happily substitute any dish for something more to your liking. He will also design a menu to fit your budget, which is a rarity in Michelin-starred establishments. Add into the mix an extensive wine list and beautiful setting, and you have the recipe for gastronomic perfection. His signature dishes include a cold potato soup with smoked bacon and the award winning roasted Araiz pigeon, with fresh mushroom pasta, spring onions and light touches of truffle cream.

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5. Elkano, Herrerieta Kalea, 2, 20808, Getaria

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This restaurant is justly celebrated for being a seafood lover’s paradise. Located in the charming Basque village of Getaria, head chef Pedro Arregui, aided by grill master Luís Manterola are famous all over Spain, in fact Europe and beyond for their exquisite shellfish and grilled fish dishes, washed down with the local Basque wine, Txacoli. Their secret is simply only using the freshest, seasonal and locally caught produce which is clearly reflected in the menu. The undisputed highlight at Elkano is the turbot-rodaballo, whole turbot cooked on oak charcoal ashes very slowly, without touching the fire, the result being the finest turbot we have ever tasted. Visitors must also try the delightful kokotxas pil pil, which is grilled hake jowl served with a sauce prepared with its own gelatin, olive oil, parsley, and garlic. Finish with the delicious helado de queso de Idiazabal, ice cream made from a mascarpone-like local cheese served with fresh strawberry coulis.

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6. Etxebarri, Calle de San Juán, 1, 24549 Atxondo- ONE MICHELIN STAR

etxebarri 66Head chef and founder Victor Arguinzoniz is the master of Asador style cooking, which is a traditional Spanish method which cooks everything over a large charcoal grill, including dessert! Located in the beautiful Basque countryside, the restaurant offers new culinary creations based on classic techniques and Arguinzoniz is not afraid to grill baby eels, rice, clams, anchovies and black truffles in his quest for culinary perfection. At the heart of this gastronomic temple, however, is a love of freshness and flavor rather than aesthetics for aesthetics sake or overwrought creations.  The wine list is a similar delight, packed with diverse offerings from Spain’s finest regions. Start your feast with his signature grilled baby eels. Follow with baby sea-cucumbers and green beans and tartar of fresh lobster, then move onto the obligatory chuletón or gilled rib eye. This restaurant, although off the beaten track is an essential visit for lovers of great food and wine!

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7. La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais, 1 Avenue de l’ Imperatrice, 64200, Biarritz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

One of France’s greatest restaurants, the Michelin-starred Villa Eugenie can be found in the stunningly beautiful Hotel du Palais in the glamours French resort of Biarritz. The hotel was founded in 1855 as a private villa (known as Villa Eugenie) for the Empress Eugenie. In 1880 the villa was sold and subsequently converted into a hotel casino and then the luxury hotel we see today. It is now a must visit destination of gourmets traveling in the Basque country and the favourite of many Parisians, who say it exceeds the finest restaurants in the French capital. Head Chef Jean-Marie Gautier is a culinary master, but unlike some of his contemporaries prefers to serve classical dishes and is not a slave to the inventiveness of the new Basque school of gastronomy. The ornate, opulent dining room is a sight to behold and one of the most romantic destinations in France. Diners come from far and wide to enjoy his wonderful creations, including the sangria poached duck foie gras and sautéed sucking lamb with artichoke. As expected, the wine list is extensive and a Bordeaux and Burgundy lovers delight.

La Villa Eugenie, Hotel du Palais

8. L´Atelier, 8, rue de la Bergerie – Quartier St Charles, 64200 Biarritz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

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Another fantastic example of fine gastronomy in the resort of Biarritz, L’Atelier is run by a husband and wife team who recently gained their first Michelin star. A deserving accolade for one of the region’s finest restaurants, presided over by head chef Alexandre Bousquet, while his wife runs the front of house. This small, intimate restaurant serves modern, refined cuisine which mixes the best elements of its French and Basque heritage. Some dishes that must be tried include the sea bream and mashed potato with a pistachio sauce, fried oysters with coconut foam and his divine veal sweetbreads. The wine list offers many gems from both France and Spain, including a great selection of vintage Champagnes. Magnifique!

9. Mugaritz, Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20, Errenteria, 20100 San Sebastian- TWO MICHELIN STARS

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Andoni Luis Aduriz, who founded Mugaritz in 1998 has a pedigree like no other in Spain. This incredibly talented chef worked at the legendary El Bulli in the 1990s and also trained under Martin Berasategui in 1996, another of the Basque country’ leading chefs. He is widely acknowledged to be at the forefront of the new Basque haute cuisine of the region, following the template set out by chefs like Arzak, who wished to investigate the science behind food preparation in their pursuit of perfect molecular gastronomy. Dining at Mugartiz – a mere 20 minutes drive by car from San-Sebastian – therefore, is an experience rather than just an evening of great food. Expect such creative delicacies as noodles of milk skin wrapped in lard served with a tomatoes and pumpkin emulsion, hake with cauliflower and marscarpone cheese and lamb with brain ragout! Service as you’d expect is flawless and attentive throughout and the wine list is a monument to every major Spanish wine producing region.

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10. Zoko Moko, 6 Rue Mazarin, 64500, St Jean de Luz- ONE MICHELIN STAR

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This elegant and beautiful venue is now undoubtedly St Jean de Luz’s best restaurant. Presided over by head chef Remy Benedeyt since 2011, his cooking is a veritable showcase of sophisticated Basque cooking, and is well worth the visit to this delightful seaside resort on the French Basque coast. The emphasis is squarely on providing diners with a warm personal touch, service is friendly rather than overly formal and the restaurant is only too happy to accommodate your personal requests or preferences. Highlights include prawns on a bed of a julienne of avocado and courgette and the famous cannettes (female duck) which comprises of a pan fried breast and a confit leg. Desserts are also splendid, as is the carefully prepared wine list. Prices are reasonable considering the quality on offer and if this fantastic restaurant has a drawback, well then we can’t see it!

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11. Zortziko, Calle Alameda Mazarredo 17, El Ensanche, Bilbao, 48001- ONE MICHELIN STAR

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The legendary Zortziko remains today Bilbao’s finest Michelin-starred restaurant; founded by Daniel Garcia in 1989 it continues to wow visitors with Garcia’s superlative, contemporary haute cuisine. The destination is worth the price of admission alone, a gorgeous and elegant building which was actually declared a historic monument. Garcia keeps the menu seasonal, allowing diners to return and sample different innovative dishes, which are always sublime. Service is totally professional and the wine list impressive. Start your meal with the signature langostino con risotto de perretxikos (prawns with wild mushroom risotto), followed by the suprema de pintada asada a la salsa de trufas (guinea fowl in truffle sauce). Finish with strawberry soup and rhubarb ice cream for real gastronomic heaven.

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12. Zuberoa, Araneder Bidea, Barrio Iturriotz, 20180 Oiartzun- ONE MICHELIN STAR

Restaurante-Zuberoa

Another of Spain’s best restaurants, Zuberoa is set in an idyllic 600 year old farmhouse in the Basque countryside. Founded by the Arbelaitz brothers, the restaurant has maintained over the years a flawless consistency in its culinary artistry, head chef Hilario Arbelaitz is a devotee to the new Basque school of cookery, although he never forgets the traditional origins of Basque cooking which shines through in his creations. Service is perfect, complimenting his delicious, inventive cooking. Signature dishes include: foie gras with chickpea sauce, roasted Norway lobster, vichyssoise and vanilla ravioli, roast duck foie gras with a red fruit sauce and his legendary strawberry and tomato soaked gazpacho.

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Barcelona Restaurants Open on Sundays and Mondays

Posted by gen On November - 18 - 2013

Which restaurants open in Barcelona on Sundays and Mondays?

Sundays and Mondays are traditional closing days in Spain for restaurants and Barcelona is no exception. It is notoriously hard to find nice places to eat on these days and if you don´t plan it properly you can end up in terrifyingly bad tourist dives, very disappointed and in a city as famous for gastronomy as Barcelona, there is no excuse to eat badly!

As our clients are always asking us to recommend excellent restaurants on these days, we have put together a little list of places we enjoy and who are open on Sunday lunch, Sunday dinner, Monday lunch and/or Monday dinner, so you will never be without some foodie recs under your belt on your next trip to Barcelona! Always book in advance to avoid waiting in line or being turned away.

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Barcelona Restaurants Open for Sunday lunch

Arola at Hotel Arts- mythical Michelin starred chef Sergi Arola has this wonderful, breezy  eatery at the Hotel Arts and on a balmy, Mediterranean afternoon there are few nicer settings in Barcelona for lunch! Enjoy easy going delicious tapas like fried calamari; Arola´s signature Patatas Bravas; Iberian pork with Basque Idiazabal cheese, pistachios and chili; succulent Girona beef marinated in soy, wasabi and ginger; ravioli cooked in red wine, oxtail and mushrooms; crab salad and garlicky shrimp, to name  a few goodies.

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Sauc at Hotel Ohla – this Michelin starred eatery at the trendy 5* Ohla hotel is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, unprecedented in Barcelona for a fine dining restaurant. The cuisine is traditional Catalan cooking reinvented with a twist.  You will find adventurous dishes like smoked eel tartare with green apple and herring roe, and more comforting dishes like suckling pig with sauteed potatoes and shallots, and roast turbot withe potato and pancetta terrine in a red wine sauce. Desserts are very tempting, although we usually opt for the cheese plate and Sauc do a great artisan cheese platter.Good choice for a cheffy meal when many of the Michelins close.

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Taller de Tapas- you cannot go wrong with the super high quality tapas at the Taller de Tapas chain in Barcelona (our favorites are the ones on Calle Argentaria and Rambla de las Flores). Prices are superb for the quality of food and wine you have on offer here. We always order about 10 dishes and royally pig out, and no visit to Barcelona is complete for us without a lunch or dinner at Taller de Tapas. We especially love their Jabugo ham croquettes (homemade), Esqueixada de bacallà (delicious salt cod salad with black olives), Pulpo a feira (Galician style octopus), Cazuela de almejas gallegas al alvarinho (Clams cooked in white wine, soooo good), Cecina de Astorga (cured beef thinly sliced similar to Brsaola from Italy), Pimientos de Padron (tiny roast green peppers, one in 10 is super picante), sautéed artichokes with wild mushrooms and the stunning Girona beef with caramelized onions…I personally love cava with tapas and Barcelona is of course at the gateway to the Penedès wine country where cava comes from and on menus including here you´ll always find some nice offerings. At Taller de Tapas they carry Juve i Camps and Gramona, both faves. Also sparklers from Alella, just half an hour north of Barcelona, like Parxet.

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Jaume de Provença- top quality Catalan cuisine and an extensive wine list with over 300 offerings. Very old school and not interested in being trendy, off the radar mostly with international foodies. Dishes we love include their Spinach Catalan Lasagna, Galician pulpo (octopus), Catalan fish soup, and their mythical broad bean, shrimp and mint salad. They also have classics like steak tartare, baked hake with mussels, duck a l´orange, or if you want to try a local delicacy- pig´s trotters! Many Spanish celebrities, professional athletes and high society dine here so you might spot someone famous :)

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Petit Comité – This attractive and always happening eatery is Michelin starred Fermi Puig´s casual offering, with nostalgic traditional Catalan cuisine served in a hip (but still cozy) setting. They currently have a fabulous 40 euro tasting menu including wine pairings, crazy good value for Barcelona, that includes Croquettes, Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce, Catalan saucisson and wild Garlic Omelette , Tuna with Samfaina and Crema Catalana (like Créme Brulée) with cava, an Emporda white and a Monsant red. Nice place to come with a group of friends.

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Paco Meralgo- this self described high end tavern serves brilliant tapas. We love the cuttlefish meatballs, grilled razor clams, periwinkles, roast artichokes, cod Buñuelos, croquettes, Andalusian eggplant… delish and so worth it, don´t miss the tapas here. They open 7 days a week (minus Christmas) for lunch and dinner and lunch is particularly lively.

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Chicoa- stellar traditional Catalan cuisine, in a handsome, cozy setting. Perfect if you are looking for home cooking and if you have been over indulging in haut cuisine and looking for something more quaint and rustic. The specialty here is Bacalao- cod- and some particularly special dishes include the Bacalao a la ampurdanesa (with plums, pine nuts and raisins), Bacalao gratinado al alioli con langostinos (au gratin with alioli sauce and langoustines) and Bacalao a la llauna (oven baked). There are also a ton of excellent local veg dishes like Spinach canelloni and artichoke fritters.

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Bravo 24 at the W- Carles Abellan (of Comerç 24) has this venture at the mega trendy beachfront W Hotel. Rice, seafood and excellent tapas feature heavily on the menu and this is a groovy place to have an upmarket yet casual lunch. Highlights include Zarzuela fish stew, razor clam salad, White asparagus from Gavà, and Wagyu beef. Chilled out and cool.

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L’Olivé- this elegant eatery is owned by the same group who run Paco Meralgo. Located on the shishi Calle  Balmes, the Olivé offers excellent Mediterranean cuisine in a cozy space, we quite like this one for lunch. Go with a group of friends so you can taste an array of dishes! Start with breaded Calçots (similar to leeks), marinated anchovies from Ondarroa, Fabulous Jamón de Bellota (hand cut when you order), and perhaps their beautiful Catalan spinach dish (with pine nuts, raisins and pancetta). The stuffed eggplant is also great as are the road red peppers stuffed with cod. For the main course you could taste their seafood paella or more traditional Fideos (noodles) with squid ink.

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Casa Delfin- Again, top notch tapas in a lovely location in the buzzy Born quarter, near the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar cathedral and a host of trendy shops and wine bars. We love sitting on the terrace at lunchtime and tearing into their mythical Catalan fish stew (Suquet) while guzzling Cava, this is one of life´s pleasures! They do very traditional offal and seafood fishes too and are one of the last breed of traditional, honest, high quality  (not designer and trendy) tapas eateries left in Barcelona, refreshing.

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Barcelona Restaurants Open for Sunday dinner

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Arola at Hotel Arts (description above)

Bravo 24 at W Hotel (description above)

Petit Comitè (description above)

Paco Meralgo (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Monday lunch

Alkimia- super fabulous Michelin starred creative cuisine in a minimalist, chic setting in the Eixample quarter. One of the few high end fine dining options on Monday nights. Run by the very pleasant Jordi Vilà. The dining room is bright and airy and the dishes are a revelation!  Try beautifully presented dishes like Pickled oyster with glazed pork, Crystal bread with anchovies, Ñora pepper rice with saffron and bright red langoustine and then seasonal offerings (they have white truffle from Piedmont now for instance). Classics like Roast chicken cannelloni and baby lamb shoulder are given photogenic, cheffy presentations.For dessert try masterpieces like Spiced pineapple with lemon and ginger sorbet or simple but utterly intoxicating Figs with soft cheese and black olives

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Manairó- Barcelona´s newish “Snout to tail” specialists, but don´t let this put you off! Dishes include Wild sea-bream with stewed cuttlefish, mousse of grilled sardines, croquettes of roast chicken, scallops in rice,and so much more. While the presentation is creative the dishes are actually appetizing and with flavor combos that actually work (not pretentious flavor combinations showing off the chef´s cleverness, there is a little bit of an epidemic of chefs using ingredients for the sake of novelty rather than flavor).

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Hisop- contemporary and stylish very small dining room, this is one of Barcelona´s best value Michelin starred restaurants with  accomplished creative cuisine. Signature dishes includes their “After Eight Foie Gras” and grilled milk and hazelnuts. The current autumn menu looks very tempting with appetizers of pumpkin, scallops and Comté cheese & Squid with trumpets (wild mushrooms), sausage and fennel; and main dishes of Monkfish with green “Romesco” and grilled duck with figs and endive. And the pistachio with kaffir lime also sounds delish, we need to go back to Hisop to taste their current menu as have not been since last season, yumm!

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Enoteca at Hotel Arts- This is the fine dining option at Hotel Arts (which also houses excellent Arola) and they have a fabulous al fresco terrace with views of the Port Olympic. They have one of the best wine cellars in Barcelona with over 500 wines, hence the name. Two Michelin starred chef Paco Perez offers inspired creations like gnocchi, red fruit and squid; grouper fish al pil pil with fresh herbs and caviar; gambas with Boletus, super premium cured ham Gran Reserva Joselito; for daring types, try the Sea cucumber with duck egg, and Iberian pork or the seabass with seaweed and calamari broth (nicer than it sounds). Do try the chef´s tasting menu. This is fine dining with a view on a Monday in Barcelona, no easy feet!

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Tapas 24- Michelin starred chef Carles Abellan´s casual tapas joint. They don´t accept reservations  and open from 9am to midnight so you can come at nearly anytime of the day, very handy to have a quality place like this in your agenda to avoid the ubiquitous greasy, touristy tapas places smattered around town. The tapas are all super traditional, just served with ultra fresh ingredients. You´ll find classics like “La bomba”, the curious Russian salad, Pork croquettes, anchovy fritters,  the Bikini sandwich, rabo de toro, stewed lentils, and then a few cute creative tapas like the McFoie burger. They serve Vermut here, THE trendiest drink in Barcelona at the moment.

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Topik - excellent chef Adelf Morales makes Asian inspired creative Mediterranean cuisine. He has trained with the best at Berasetegui, Arzak and also in Japan and Italy and his Catalan cuisine is heavily Asian influenced. Stand out dishes include Baby lasagna with tuna and samfaina, spider crab rice, hake cheeks al pil pil, Sald cod with a miso dressing, steak tartare, free range chicken with a romesco sauce.

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Bravo 24 at Hotel W (description above)

L’Olivé (description above)

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

Barcelona Restaurants Open for Monday dinner

Gelonch- creative cuisine and pretty hot right now with globetrotting gourmets. Chef Robert Gelonch who worked at El Bulli and Gaig, is a young, innovative chef whose menu features a fusion of modern and classic dishes, ranging from uber traditional dishes like pigs trotters and suckling pig to gambas al Pisco with hibiscus and Chinese cabbage. The best way to enjoy the food roller coaster here is to dedicate 3 hours to his 10 course tasting menu, what a journey!

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Cal Pep- this wonderful fish restaurant is a veritable institution in Barcelona. Specialties at Cal Pep include Xipirons amb cigrons (Baby squid with garbanzos), hake wrapped in Swiss chard, artichokes stuffed with olives, tuna tartare, fried calamari, clams with cured Spanish ham and so many more tantalizing dishes. They always have fresh fish of the day specials and you cannot go wrong with their recommendations.

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Alkimia-(description above)

Sauc at Hotel Ohla (description above)

Paco Meralgo (description above)

Tapas 24- no reservations (open all day)

Bravo 24 at Hotel W (description above)

Hisop (description above)

Enoteca at Hotel Arts-(description above)

L’Olivé (description above)

Manairo (description above)

Casa Delfin (description above)

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Best Wine Bars in Barcelona – Cellar Tours Shortlist

Posted by gen On September - 22 - 2013

Our selection of fave wine bars  in Barcelona….

Madrileños will strongly disagree, but there is no doubting that Barcelona‘s nightlife and bar scene is now one of the most vibrant in Europe. For while the citizens of Catalonia’s capital are all too happy to culturally distance themselves from their regional neighbors, they have in common with all Spaniards a love of social drinking that supports the highest number of bars per capita in the world. So banish those clichés of pitchers of Sangria on Las Ramblas and instead be prepared to party in a city that continues to sizzle with creativity: Barcelona’s wine bars and restaurants speak more of bold contemporary design than tradition!

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Today, Barcelona’s wine bars run the gamut from trendy, design led hotel bars to wood-paneled wine cellars and backstreet local haunts. An explosion of nightlife has occurred in recent years in the City’s waterfront area, which continues to attract large volumes of tourists in the summer. Cava and wine bars, some elegant and cool, some funky and style conscious are also reaching new heights of popularity, especially in the trendy Born district east of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. These bars vary enormously in clientele and vibe, but all are extraordinary atmospheric.

Just don’t expect things to get going before 10pm, especially at the weekend as people get into their night-time stride. Of course, not every venue in this captivating city is worth a visit, so we have done the hard work and listed Barcelona’s best wine bars below:

Salud!

The Bankers Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel – 38-40 Passeig de Gracia

Since opening in 2009, this world-class hotel has won pundits far and wide for its service and has emerged as one of Barcelona’s finest and most sought-after hotels. Housed in an old bank vault, the Mandarin’s classy and refined Banker’s Bar has become a popular choice for both locals and visitors wishing to sample a range of Spanish and international wines by the bottle or glass. There is a real sense of sophistication about the space – sleek, softly lift with a black bar counter and black leather chairs. The service is exemplary and a range of high-quality tapas compliments the extensive wine list.

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Monvinic – 249 Carrer de la Diputacio

Could Monvinic be the best wine bar in the world? It certainly comes close, as Monvinic has an incredible selection of both Spanish and imported wines by the glass or bottle. The emphasis here is on merging the traditional and cutting edge – visitors are handed an iPad like device instead of a wine list, however, a very large wine library is free for anyone to peruse at their leisure. The space is relaxed, elegant and refined, with soft cream colors and chairs replaced by loungers. There are over 60 selections by the glass and unusually for a Spanish destination; there is no bias to local wines. The bite-size accompaniments are also some of the best to be found in the Catalan capital – try the langoustines!

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Hotel Omm’s Lounge and Terrace bar – 265 Carrer Rossello

Hotel Omm led the way in re-defining Barcelona’s hotel and bar scene with its extremely smart, sophisticated urban accommodation for discerning travelers. It’s informal but chic lounge bar has become a firm favorite with Barcelona’s night crowd at the weekends, in addition to the hotel’s guests. Relax in the ridiculously comfortable sofas and peruse their extensive wine menu, which includes some brilliant cava options by the glass. An ultra-trendy club occupies the basement, whilst in the summer months the action takes place on Omm’s fantastic terrace, with views straight over to Gaudi’s masterpiece La Pedrera next door.

Omm

La Vinya del Senyor – 5 Placa Santa Maria

Still in a class of its own, La Vinya del Senyor occupies a space on the delightful Plaça de Santa Maria del Mar right in front of the extraordinary Gothic cathedral, gorgeous spot. Hoards of both tourists and natives come here to taste a wide variety of red and white vintages, accompanied by great value tapas. A good and varied selection of around 300 Spanish and imported wines, including some great cava and sherry, is served at the counter; or in the summer months on the fantastic outdoor terrace. There is no finer spot for people watching in Barcelona. Don´t miss it!

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La Vinoteca Torres – 78 Passeig de Gracia

Torres’ global wine empire now extends to serving excellent tapas and pretty much every Torres wine by the glass at this deservedly popular wine bar on the city’s famous Passeig de Gracia Boulevard. The place’s secret is its ability to be things to all men: purchase wine, stay for a glass, and sample a few tapas or a full-blown 5 course meal. The venue is sleek and stylish and the tapas are some of the finest and most inventive in the city -  Vinoteca offers a great opportunity to enjoy the top-end wines of Torres without having to commit to a bottle. Service is uniformly excellent too.

Cata 1.81 – 181 Carrer de Valencia

The clean, modern interior of this ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ underground venue in Barcelona’s Eixample district suggests that this is no ordinary tapas bar. It is in fact a haven for oenophiles and mini gastronomic surprises. Cata 1.81 serves more than 250 wines by the bottle, with a clear emphasis on wines from every major Spanish region, and a list of over 25 by the glass that changes every 15 days. The only drawback is that space at this wonderful wine bar is quite limited so get there early!

barcelona cata 181

El Xampanyet – 22 Carrer de Montcada

Barcelona’s best-known cava bar still packs them in with its inviting atmosphere and selection of tapas and cava by the glass. Discover the finer points of Spain’s bubbly by sampling the wares of different produces by the glass, accompanied by perhaps a selection of sardines or a Jamon platter. The colorful tiles, stacked casks hung with a variety of bottle-openers and well-worn interior bespeak the informal, fun atmosphere for which this family run operation is well-loved. There is nothing cutting-edge or trendy about the place, which only adds to its timeless appeal.

xampa

Best Restaurant in Madrid- Caoba ticks all the right boxes

Posted by gen On September - 15 - 2012

Spain´s glamorous and bustling capitol of Madrid has literally thousands of restaurants, and Madrileños eat out more than even New Yorkers it would seem.There are eateries on literally every corner to fit every price point, ambiance and imaginable cuisine.

And there are dozens of restaurants that we love and recommend, some for great fish (yes, even though Madrid could not be farther from the sea it has some of the best seafood markets and restaurants in the country!), some for great old fashioned atmosphere, some for exquisite modern cuisine…. but it is quite the rare occasion to find a restaurant that has stunning food AND great atmosphere and buzz AND top class professional and friendly (as opposed to cold and formal) service. In fact it is generally impossible.

Caoba, located in the beautiful and less touristy Pintor Rosales neighborhood (where renowned filmmaker Pedro Almodovar lives) in arms reach of the lush Parque Oeste and mystical Templo Debod, is quite honestly the best and most recommendable eatery in Madrid in our view at present.

Main Dining Area

Private Dining Area

The restaurant has a supremely professional staff that are all at the top of their game, from Italian chef Vincenzo Marconi (who had stints with a number of mythical chefs including none other than Gualtiero Marchesi in Italy´s Franciacorta wine region) to maitre and sommelier Alvaro Barbas who worked for years at Michelin starred Santceloni and who has the restaurant biz in his blood.

Chef Vincenzo

 

The cuisine is fresh, Mediterranean, based on the finest raw ingredients and generally healthy (although the sinful desserts are pretty naughty!) and with a creative twist. On the last night we dined there we had a swordfish dish which was the most out of this world, succulent piece of fish we´d had in ages. Swordfish is indeed more commonly seen in Italy than in Spain, a nod to the chef. There are more than 400 wines from around the world (unique in Madrid, to have so many international wines) and the cheese chariot is  considered one of the best in Spain.

Moist Swordfish at Caoba

Caoba prepare special menus for coeliacs and vegetarians, and do custom designed tasting menus for our lucky clients.

As an example they designed this Grand Tasting Menu for our lucky guests this weekend:

Egg Yolk With  Tête de Moin Cream and Radish Sprouts

Chantarella Mini Quiche Accompanied with Saffron Sauce Foie in a Shot Glass with Turnip-root Mousse

Our Spring Roll of “Oyster Mushroom” and Ginger. Grilled Smoked Provola with the Crispy Ibérico Pork Cheek

Carpaccio of Slow Cooked Iberico Pork Shoulder On a Bed of Celery Root Salad, Parmigiano Cream and Foie

Ice cream Potato and Pumpkin Sphere Smoked Mozzarella Heart, Asparagus, Sage and Textured Seasonal Mushroom Broth Risotto with Foie and “Bitto Cheese”

Veal Fillet Mignon cover with the Brioches Pastry and Warm Mozarella Sauce

Our Cheese Table

“Chocolate que pasión” Liquid Chocolate Shot, Chocolate Ice cream, Thousand-Layer Chocolate and Coffee Cream Cake.

Mini Soufflé of Chocolate and “Sichuan” Peppercorn

Coffee and Petit Fours

Champagne Pascal Doquet

White Italy Tenuta Villanova – Traminer ’09 D.O.C.FRIULI ISONZO

Red Spain Melquior Reserva Familiar ’04 D.O.C. RIOJA

Dessert Cocktail Caoba’s Bellini with Le Bertole Brût Extradry. D.O.C.G.

 

Dessert at Caoba

And after a meal like this, there is nothing better than a delightful digestive 15 minute walk down to the Royal Palace of Madrid in the Plaza Oriente, a terrific and scenic way to “bajar la comida”.

If you will be touring Spain with us, we´d be happy to send you to Caoba for a special tasting menu and personalized attention!

Dining Highlights Barcelona- Foodie Weekend

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2010

Restaurants in Barcelona- Notes from a Foodie Weekend

Dining Highlights Barcelona

We were in Barcelona last weekend checking out new suppliers, taking in some meetings and visiting some of our favorite foodie partners, here are some notes from our trip and tips for your next visit to Barcelona.

FRIDAY- CASA CALVET- We arrived to town after 9PM but managed to get freshened up before our late dinner at Casa Calvet. What a beautiful place! Located in a Catalan mansion designed by none other than Gaudi for a textile mogul at the turn of the last century, the whimsical dining room is all stained glass, “Modernista” design, mirrors, polished wood and brass. A “brindis” (toast) with cava was in order as we admired the setting and ordered the food. We shared wild mushrooms with chestnuts and Jamón Ibérico, perhaps not the most adventurous, but delish.  Other interesting starters included Bomba rice with conger eel and seasonal veg & Apple and foie gras ravioli with truffle cream. Alvaro Palacio´s “Terrasses” from Priorat was good value here and just gorgeous.  The mains selected were a delicate cod steak confit with porcini mushrooms and arbequina olives, artichoke chips and a rich duck liver with chickpeas and Iberian pancetta, aromatized with cumin. Gluttony, not hunger, made us finish with Apple tart tatin, made fresh to order. The other patrons dining this late were a mix of elegant Catalan couples and tourists. The food was not ground breaking or unique enough to be featured in a Bourdain episode, but was still very good and the setting beautiful, recommend for a special occasion.

Dining in Barcelona

SATURDAY- EMBAT AND FONDA GAIG- While we normally breakfast at the Boqueria market when in town (cava and Joan´s garbanzos with Morcilla at Pinotxo in the market are a MUST), we had a meeting so had a quickie breakfast at “any old bar” of simple pan amb tomaquet (country bread drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and rubbed with tomatoes) and freshly squeezed orange juice as you do when in Spain…

Breakfast in Spain

Lunch was with our friend, writer Tara Stevens who is launching a new cookbook as we speak (more on that later…) at the quite fantabulous “Embat“.  We had heard good things about this swish little eatery, and it was the perfect lunch venue- light, airy, friendly, and not so crowded (dinner is more “sceney” apparently). Dinner was supposed to be the highlight today but lunch stole the show.  The wine list is very, very good, we selected a bottle of the current vintage of Vallegarcía Viognier (one of our favorite Spanish white wines), and it was peachy, fresh and creamy, love that wine.  An amuse bouche of Cauliflower pannacotta with caviar set the tone (mmmmms and ooooohs) and we continued with STUNNING cannelones stuffed with duck (a flagship dish,  Canelons d’ànec amb rossinyols de pi”), seared scallops with apple and pancetta, and followed with heavenly slow cooked beef, lobster rice and pigeon three ways. Simply yum, yum and more yum. I think dessert was actually a favorite dish, a refreshing “Sopa de romaní amb meló i llimona” ( a kind of soupy sorbet of melon, lemon and rosemary). Too delicious to describe in words… We were stuffed at this stage so decided to walk it off and do some gourmet shopping while in town. Visits to Escribà, Cacao Sampaka, the Corte Inglés supermarket were in order!

Dining in Barcelona

Dinner then was at Fonda Gaig, an old time favorite, relaxed, understated and  chic, with traditional Catalan cuisine served in a brasserie setting by mythical Michelin starred chef Carles Gaig (Fonda Gaig is his nostalgic eatery, known for its trad cuisine while “Restaurante Gaig“, located at the stylish Hotel Cram is the trendy, creative Michelin starred eatery.) Don´t ask us where we found room (the more you eat the hungrier you get!), but we managed to have a full dinner and dessert (!):  Salteado de setas de temporada (sautéed wild mushrooms) and Senyor Gaig’s biblical croquettes. For mains Pato con peras  (duck with pears) , Vieiras con salteado de alcachofas  (scallops with artichokes) and Albondigas con sepia  (meatballs with cuttlefish). To finish, nothing else would do but Crema Catalana, sublime. We were dying for a bottle of Artadi Rioja, but they just sold the last bottle so we had a very good bottle of Muga. We waddled back to our hotel, luckily a good 20 minute walk so we were able to digest… a bit….

Dining in Barcelona

SUNDAY- CASA DELFÍN- Our friend Kate who owns the truly wonderful Taller de Tapas chain (in our view the freshest and absolute best tapas in Barcelona!) invited us down to her newest venue in Barcelona, the Casa Delfín, a historic and well loved neighborhood restaurant that Kate recently took over.  Respecting the clientele and traditional Catalan cuisine, Casa Delfín has all the classic dishes on offer, as well as traditional tapas (Padrón peppers, anchovies, Jamón, calamares, you name it). While the inside of the restaurant is darling, kind of Parisian bistro a la Catalana, it was a sunny day and sitting inside on such a beautiful afternoon was not an option! We tasted our way through their tapas menu (major highlights were the savory garbanzos, and the nearly sweet, utterly buenísimo sautéed artichokes) and for mains had absolutely delicious seafood rice and a Sunday staple, liver and onions. They serve zippy Alella by the glass and, unusual for Spain, have some nice half bottles on offer. The crowd inside was all local, many older, elegant Catalan couples, while outside on the “terraza” was a mix of funky, younger locals and tourists like us :) Recommended, especially for Sunday lunch.

Dining in Barcelona

Casa Delfin, Barcelona

For our digestif, we took a long walk from the Borne quarter into the Eixample and sat down for a Campari at  the lovely Casa Fuster, our main hotel partner in Barcelona. They have a beautiful bar which is a stylish, relaxed place to have an afternoon drink or coffee and read the newspaper, listen to jazz. Casa Fuster is the coolest place to stay in Barcelona in our opinion, for location, rooms and setting. And alas, late afternoon called for packing, weighing suitcases exploding with our gourmet shopping, and heading to the airport.  A reveure, Barcelona!

Other spots we love in Barcelona: Cinc Sentits (for an elegant but unpretentious Michelin starred dinner delivered in perfect English as the owners are Canadian-Catalan), Abac (for a special “date night” Michelin dinner in glam setting), the old fashioned and pretty “La Dama” restaurant (romantic), Katherine´s Formageria de  la Seu cheese shop (where onsite cheese tastings can be organized), Sergi Arola`s trendy tapas bar at the Hotel Arts, and the tremendous wine selection at the Vila Viniteca enoteca (we organize  Spanish cheese and wine masterclasses here in their cellar). On our next visit to Barcelona we plan to dine again (it´s been a while) at Alkimia and will check out Carles Abellan´s newish Tapaç 24.

Shots around town…

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona Foodie Weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Barcelona Foodie weekend

Seville`s Atmospheric Bar Scene- A Bite of Sevilla

Posted by gen On February - 26 - 2010

A Bite of Seville, By Martina Hemm

Seville Tapas Bar

When making a culinary pilgrimage through Spain, Seville is not to be missed. Home to a vibrant flamenco scene and extensive network of tapas bars, Seville is clearly a town of bon vivants. And Sevilleans are not greedy. They are more than happy to share their lust for life with anyone who makes it down their winding cobblestone streets aged by history and heavy with the essence of lives lived to the fullest.

Start your day at the tiny Bar Europa café. Tucked into the corner of the quaint Plaza del Pan, patrons can look out onto passersby as they sip at their café con leche. Sidle up to the long mahogany bar, still part of the original decoration from 1925, and browse the menu of tapas that has secured Bar Europa in Seville’s Ruta de la Tapa.

Sevilla Cafe Europa SM
Continue on to the cathedral. Built upon the foundation of an old mosque it is the third largest church in the world in length but the largest in square meters. Climb the 35 floors to o the top of the minaret and you will be left breathless, not only because of the hike, but the reward: an expansive view of all of Seville.

After a well-deserved siesta, ring in the evening at El Rinconcillo, claimed to be the oldest bar in Seville. Lined with years of wine and vermouth, the decades converge in El Rinconcillo, where hams hang from the ceiling and the waiter jots down your tab on the bar in chalk. Order some wines and share a bowl of salmorejo, a true Andalusian specialty similar to a gazpacho.

Sevilla El Rinconcillo Wine glass
Continue your tapas tour to Bar Eslava—a narrow tapas bar with a smattering of tables in the back. Hugely popular, the spot fills up early with dancers, musicians, writers, and the grande dames of old Seville. Be sure to catch the name of your waiter! As long as you address them directly and aren’t scared to be vocal with your orders, a flurry of tapas will come your way. The menu has some of the best tapas in Seville, but the Navajas, or Razor clams, are sure to change your life. Cooked on the grill, with a splash of olive oil and pinch of sea salt, their maritime taste is enhanced with a dab of lemon juice.

But don’t have your last glass just yet!  Leave some room for La Carboneria , a flamenco bar hidden behind a red door in the old Jewish district. Enjoy the intimate flamenco shows, and perhaps some impromptu dancing…after all, that is how Seville seduces all her lovers.

Seville tapas bar

INFO

La Carboneria

Calle Levies, 18
41004 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 95 421 44 60

Bar Europa

Calle Siete Revueltas, 35,
41004 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 954 217 908‎

Bar/ Restaurante  Eslava

Calle Eslava, 3
41002 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 954 906 568

El Rinconcillo

Calle Gerona, 42
41003 Sevilla, Spain
Tel +34 954 223 183

Sevilla Oranges in the morning

Madrid Top 10 Tapas Bars

Posted by gen On February - 5 - 2010

Madrid’s Best Tapas Bars

Everybody in Madrid has their Tapas bar- their secret neighborhood hideaway. Whether for a morning coffee, a midday snack, or a late night bottle among friends, madrileños live their lives in their favorite haunts. Here are just ten of our favorite tapas bars in Madrid, to give you a taste. But when you walk through the winding cobblestone streets of Madrid, you will be sure to stumble upon your very own taberna.

by Martina Hemm

 

La Camarilla

La Camarilla

 

Le Cabrera

As the collaboration between Argentinean mixologist, Diego Cabrera and Sergi Arola, the culinary mastermind behind many of Spain’s great restaurants, Le Cabrera could settle back on their good names, but that would go against this new Gastrobar’s principles. Whether in its boutique tapas or distinct cocktails, Le Cabrera gives top ingredients the limelight. Split into two levels diners can start the evening upstairs with a glass mellow red Terrazgo, and follow up with one of Cabrera’s signature drinks in the downstairs cocktail lounge. Or enjoy the night at the open kitchen’s bar, where you can watch the chefs create the stars that make Le Cabrera shine.  Even though head chef, Benjamin Bensoussan, is originally from Marseille his traditional tapas with a twist could fool any Madrileño into believing he was a native. Tiny rolls of potatoes hiding a spicy center and topped with a smooth garlic aioli, are what Le Cabrera calls patatas bravas; a worthy addition to any gourmand’s dictionary.

Calle Bárbara de Braganza 2
Madrid
Tel +34 913 199 457

Taberna Matritum

Rustic yet refined, Matritum is set back from the busy bustle of Cava Baja. Enter into the cozy dining room and watch the dim lighting reflect off of the over 400 wines on display, which the in house sommelier will be more than happy to go guide you through. Treat yourself to one of Matritum’s specialties: pan seared foie with a confit of oven roasted apples and onions or a gratin of scallops in a luscious Cava cream. Better yet, brings friends and join in on a family style serving of patatas bravas with five cheeses.

Cava Alta 17
Madrid
Tel +34 913 658 237

Best tapas Bars in Madrid

Taberna Agrado

Meaning to please in Spanish, Agrado does everything to stay true to its name. Although only a week old at the time of publishing, the tiny modern taberna tucked in amongst the winding backstreets of Madrid, already has a large following of locals who know to appreciate good customer service.  For those in need, the openhearted bartenders are quick to give a wine recommendation, favoring those from their hometown such the 2008 La Vendimia. Drinks are served with crumbled aged Parmesan drizzled with a tart olive oil. If you have come with an appetite Agrado has empanadas de carne with a spicy pebre of onions, pepper, and cilantro, and an excellent list of small dishes focusing on seasonal produce such as the ceviche with ripe mango and crunchy red onions, to please your hunger.

C/Ballesta 1
Madrid
Tel +34 915 216 346

Casa Lucas

Long lines speak for the popularity of this Cava Baja mainstay. So be sure to arrive early and put down your name for one of the coveted tables. This will give you enough time to browse the chalkboard’s daily specials and skim the crowds for a friendly face. Dim lighting and laughter make it easy to find a conversation and enjoy the homey atmosphere over a glass of dry white Peñedes and their classic tapa of pork loin on a confit of onions.

Best Tapas Madrid

Calle Cava Baja 30
Madrid
Tel +34 913 650 804‎

La Perejila

The tiny entrance to La Perejila is easy to miss despite its green color, but sneak a peak inside and the soft breeze of Andalusia will beckon you in.  Flamenco memorabilia covers the walls and lends a distinct touch to the colorful nightspot frequented by the La Latina’s bohemians. Saddle up to the bar and toast to the vibrant atmosphere with a glass of Cava. Be sure to try the salmorejo, a deliciously refreshing soup similar to gazpacho, and if you are feeling like something heartier the toast of sobrasada and warm goat cheese with a drizzle of caramel will leave you craving for more and happy you haven’t missed this jewel of a bar.

Best tapas bars in Madrid

Calle Cava Baja 25
Madrid
Tel +34 913 642 855‎

La Camarilla

A total contrast to the sleek dining room, the bar area of la Camarilla with its bistro tables and worn terra cotta tiled floor, is the perfect pit stop on a tour through La Latina. After a morning of scouring antiques at the Rastro market around the corner, enjoy a typical Madrid breakfast of café cortado and toast with tomato and olive oil. Come back at night to pick and choose from the tapas on display, from salmon rolls filled with a scallop béchamel to sautéed mushrooms topped with green pardon peppers. While the night is still young, browse the long list of wines representing every corner of Spain and enjoy a glass while the music continues to play until the early morning.

Best tapas Madrid

Calle Cava Baja 21
Madrid, Spain
+34 913 540 207

Mercado San Miguel

Come on a weekend and hear a medley of languages bounce off of the beautifully restored marketplace. Crowds of Madrileños and world citizens pulse through the wrought iron stands whittling away the hours with laughter and conversation. Home to small upscale shops by day, the market turns into one big tapas bar at night offering a wide range of delicacies from cured ham, to artisan cheese, olives, almonds, and melt in your mouth seafood tapas. Try the traditional sardine tapa with an unconventional curry sauce, a surprisingly divine combination. The Pinkelton & Wine bar has an excellent red, 2007 CLIO, the perfect way to sip the night away watching as the world passes by the glow of the Mercado.

Best tapas Madrid

Plaza de Oriente 3
Madrid
Tel +34 915 415 104‎

Bar Miguel Angel

Hidden within the entrance to an apartment building, is a white door that takes you down into a cellar filled with small wooden tables. This is Bar Miguel Angel, the secret tip of everyone in the barrio: breakfast joint in the morning, white table dining at lunch, after work hangout for young professionals on weekends. But those who really know stop in between 7pm and 9pm, when the mood is mellow and the tables in the alcove are still free. Following tradition every glass comes with a heaping plate of tapas to choose from. Cured ham on pisto with melted goat cheese, or the ubiquitous tortilla Espanola, the options change everyday but the flavor is consistent.

Calle de Miguel Ángel 6
Madrid

Jose Luis

An institution for over 50 years, Jose Luis has locations throughout Madrid, as well as in Sevilla and Barcelona. But the original is in the prestigious Calle Serrano in Madrid. A fashionable establishment of the 60’s, artists, writers, and professionals were drawn by the ambient and the large variety of tapas. Today’s crowd is a mix of decades of regulars, enjoying drinks at the bar or the daily menu. Try to get a seat at one of the two tables in the bar area to enjoy a casual meal among friends with all the pomp that Jose Luis has retained over the years. The counter offers a broad range of traditional tapas to choose from, be sure to savor a variety to see what makes the Madrileños come back day after day, year for year.

Best tapas Madrid

Calle de Serrano 89
Madrid
Tel +34 915 616 413‎

Lateral

The answer to many Madrileños search for modern, sleek, tapas at a good price, Lateral has several strategic locations throughout Madrid. Take a break from shopping your way down Calle Fuencarral with a medley of tapas at Lateral.  But make sure to plan in some waiting time as the young and the fashionable flock here in droves for light dishes with a blast of flavor. Try the rolls of salmon filled with cream cheese and caramelized apples, a warm salad of grilled eggplant, caramelized onions, and goat cheese, or roasted pimientos de pardon with olive oil and sea salt-an emblematic tapa throughout Spain.

Best tapas Madrid

C/ Fuencarral, 43
Madrid
Tel +34 91 531 68 77

Spain for Vegetarians

Posted by gen On August - 10 - 2009

Spain for vegetarians

Spanish “jamón” is known all over the world, and Spain´s seafood is legendary. There is no question that Spain is one of the most fascinating culinary destinations in the world. But often vegetarians worry if Spain also offers enough non meat/fish options for them to have enough interesting and tasty options while touring. The answer is: you have to look for them and do your research, but yes, yes, yes!

Some sample veggie dishes you can find in Spain, particularly in the Atlantic and Mediterranean north include:

* Sautéed Boletus mushrooms

* Mushrooms (champiñones) served “al ajillo” (panfried with olive oil and loads of garlic)

* Marinated and often smoked spicy piquillo red peppers

* Risotto style “arroz” rice dishes featuring Idiazabal cheese (from Basque Country), or wild mushrooms or asparagus

* White asparagus from Tudela

* Pimientos de Padrón- delicious little green Galician peppers roast with sea salt and olive oil. 1 in 10 is seriously spicy!

* Marinated artichoke hearts from Navarre

* Lightly breaded and expertly fried eggplant (a Spanish recipe with Moorish origins)

* Endives with a Cabrales (blue cheese from Asturias) sauce

* Swiss chard in a delicate cheese sauce

* Caneloni stuffed with spinach (Catalan recipe)

*Escalivada- roast eggplant, peppers, onion, tomato dish with tons of olive oil and course salt. fabulous…

* Pisto Manchego- similar to Ratatouille. Warning: sometimes come with tuna, so do ask.

* Gazpacho- that quintessential summer dish is a healthy and delicious cold soup made of tomatoes, bread, garlic, and plenty of variations

* Ajoblanco- another great summer soup made of almonds, garlic, grapes

* Goat´s cheese salad with walnuts and apples (ensalada de cabra)

* Manchego cheese with pinenuts and honey

* all manor of scrambled eggs (“revuelto”) with asparagus, queso, setas (wild mushrooms), etc

* Catalan style spinach (“espinacas catalanas”), sautéed with raisins, pinenuts, breadcrumbs and onion

* Fruit brochettes (pineapple especially)

And of course tapas like marinated olives, pan fried almonds with chili (“guindilla”) and patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy sauce).

Here is a terrific list of vegetarian restaurants in Spain

And info on Spain´s gastronomy and A-Z Food Glossary.

When ordering in restaurants, a word of advice is to tell the wait staff that you are medically and seriously “allergic” to meat/seafood as often bits of chorizo/jamón, even fish are thrown into veggie dishes without letting you know.

Happy travels!

Spain for vegetarians

Barcelona Hotspot- Fonda Gaig

Posted by gen On August - 6 - 2009

GOURMET HOTSPOT IN BARCELONA

Trendy restaurants Barcelona

We asked local Barcelona gourmet guru and professional travel writer Tara Stevens to recommend a fabulous eatery in Barcelona for our most special clients looking for a memorable lunch, and here is what Tara shared with us:

Fonda Gaig-

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Service was a delight, aside from the sour faced puss manning the till when we left. Señora Gaig was particularly welcoming. The place is vast, creamy decor with lovely plump, red, leather armchairs at each table laid with linen and Riedel glasses, so that you really feel inspired to sit back and get stuck in. Actually, my friend and I spent half of lunch snuggling deep into these fabulous creations declaring how wonderful it all was. Felt luxurious without being stuffy. There’s no music (piped or otherwise) and they’ve got excellent white sound so you’re not disturbed by other tables, but equally there’s a good sense of space here. Don’t feel crammed in at all. Overall atmosphere is really very laid back, the staff pleasant without being overly fussy (which I find perfect).

The food is very traditionally Catalan – canelones (superb), wood cock on the specials (ultra gamey, but definitely a winner for a lot of folks), a boring ensalada de huerta (but then, salad is salad and we needed something green), excellent plump, sweet scallops with friend artichoke quarters. Great bread, less good oils and vinegars, and a substantial though not wildly interesting wine list (if you look hard you’ll find some interesting boutique wineries like Baigorri, but generally pretty much what you’d expect) and interestingly enough the Catalan wines seem to have a higher price hike than those from Rioja or Ribera, say.

Our bill came in at €136, and I left a €10 which is a lot for lunch. However, we choose a mid-range wine €31.60 for a Marques de Vargas 2004, and the woodcock was pricey being a seasonal game bird. A quick gander at a couple of other bills on leaving told me that €100 for two was more standard.

All in all though, I left feeling I’d had a treat, largely because you feel so cosseted sitting there. Compare this to a few weeks ago when I ate at Fermí Puig’s Petit Comite, and felt ripped off by the time I’d finished. And they invited me. But really, who charges €13 for a potato?

Trendy restaurants Barcelona
Fonda Gaig to sum up-   it’s new, of the moment, a great destination for a long lunch or dinner, very relaxed, very Catalan and super comfortable. Best of all they’ll get to rub shoulders with genuine uptowners as opposed to destination diners.

Madrid Fusion-Top Chef Awards 2009

Posted by gen On January - 24 - 2009

Madrid Fusion Top Chefs Awards 2009

This past week here in Madrid, the annual Madrid Fusión gastronomic event took place.  The mood was slightly different than in the last few years (boom years in Spain), with much talking and debating about “High end cuisine for the economic crisis” and brainstorming on how to flourish in tough financial times. Presentations on this theme included “Haute poor cuisine-  Imagination in crisis times by Paco Ron and Peter Nilsson”. However it certainly wasn´t all glum, and as always was an opportunity for top chefs from around the world to exchange ideas and to receive their kudos.

Some of the more interesting topics included “Natural Pantry of the Amazon Jungle: the last version of Peruvian cuisine” by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino (Peru, FYI, is a hot gastronomic destination this year and chef Pilar Latorre is leading an ultra luxury culinary tour there in the spring);  “Gastro Botanic Subtleties of the Desert Garden” by Rodrigo de la Calle and Santiago Orts, “The Chef Perfumist: Renaissance in the 21st Century” by Corrado Assenza; “Science and Cuisine Discussion: Does Molecular Cuisine Exist?” (THE hot topic!!!!) by  Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal, Andoni Luis Aduriz, and Harold McGee; “The Mexican Avant-Garde: Conceptual Dishes with Roots” by Enrique Olvera; “Haute Creative Cuisine with Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Provolone Valpadana” by Nacho Manzano, Jordi Vilà and Paco Roncero; “Plankton: Life’s Origin of the Sea, A New Dressing” by our beloved Ángel León;  “Color: Another Taste” by Elena Arzak; and “Jerez Vinegar in Haute Cuisine: An Acidity with Tradition” by Pepe Rodríguez Rey, Carles Abellan, and Kisko García.

Ferran Adria, photographed by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

A quick summary of some of the highlights from Madrid Fusión 2009:

TOP AWARDS FOR CHEFS- 11 CHEFS FROM ALL OVER THE GLOBE WERE SELECTED FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO HAUTE CUISINE:

Gualtiero Marchesi- Italian

Ferran Adriá- Catalan (Spanish, inventor of molecular cuisine)

Juan Mari Arzak- Basque (Spanish)

Michel Bras- French

Heston Blumenthal- British

Alain Ducasse- French

Pierre Gagnaire- French

Pierre Hermé- French (called the Picasso of Patisserie)

Thomas Keller- American

Nobu Matsuhisa- Japanese

Charlie Trotter- American

juan-mari-arzak-madrid-fusion

AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE IN MADRID

Sponsor: Madrid Chamber of Commerce

Chef of the year: Paco Morales at Senzone restaurant in the stylish Hospes hotel in Madrid

Restaurant of the year: Casa José in the royal town of Aranjuez (chef Fernando del Cerro)

Maitre of the year: Eduardo Navarrina at the Madrid institution Dantxari

Sommelier of the year: Dani Poveda at star chef Sergi Arolo´s superb new Gastro restaurant in Madrid

Lifetime achievement award- Evaristo García of the 100 year old seafood restaurant Pescaderías Coruñesas

AWARD FOR BEST NEWCOMERS

Sponsor: C.R.D.O. JEREZ, MANZANILLA DE SANLÚCAR Y VINAGRE DE JEREZ (the Sherry consortium)

Finalists-

Restaurante Trigo (Valladolid. Victor Martín)

Restaurante Embat (Barcelona. Fidel Puig, Santi Rebés, Cristina Torrás)

R De La Calle (Aranjuez, Madrid. Rodrigo de la Calle)

Gastromium (Sevilla. Miguel Díaz, Ernesto Malasaña, José Carabias)

Narru (San Sebastian, Guipúzcoa. Iñigo Peña)

Gavara (Bocairent, Valencia. Silvia Gavara)

restaurante-trigo valladolid restaurante-trigo valladolid

Any time of the year is a good time to visit the wine country when it comes to drinking nice wines! But winter can be the most challenging season to visit as vineyards are dormant and bare (not lush and verdant, as in other times of the year), and many of Europe´s wine regions are covered in overcast and bleak skies. There are a few regions however that are just fabulous to visit in winter, and here are some nice ideas for wine lovers looking for that unforgettable winter wine tasting escape:

Winter wine tastings

Alentejo, Portugal

The Alentejo is without a doubt one of our favorite wine regions in Europe. This unspoiled and breathtaking region features soft, rolling hills studded with cork trees and Moorish castles and is spotted with colonial style wine “quintas”. The scenery in Alentejo is reminiscent of the romantic savannas of “Out of Africa” and in winter, you can expect bright blue skies and invigorating cold weather. For a winter wine tasting break we suggest you use the Unesco heritage town of Évora as a base, visit a few wineries and enjoy some long leisurely wine lunches in cozy restaurants with open fireplaces.

Wineries to visit: Esporão, Monte Seis Reis, Herdade da Malhadinha are all favorites and can provide (paying) tours and tastings if you contact them beforehand to set up the appointments.

Alentejo winery consortium:Vinhos do Alentejo feature all kinds of wine region info on their website for self-drive trips (in Portuguese).

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel is definitely the romantic and luxurious Convento do Espinheiro, just outside Évora.

More Info on the Alentejo wine region

Luxury chauffeured wine weekends in Alentejo

Alentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winter

Sherry Country, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, the main wine town in the “Sherry lands” is a truly delightful little provincial capital. The benefit here is that the wineries are right in the historic center so you don´t need to drive and you can taste as many wines as you like! Most are in walking distance of each other through the pleasant center. Sherry wines are varied (finos, amontillados, palo cortados, and more) and quite strong, perfect on a sunny and cold winter´s day. The ideal winter wine weekend in Jerez would include winery tours, an excursion to beautiful Seville (one hour by train), and a lunch at La Mesa Redonda.

Wineries to visit: Sandeman (our favorite for private VIP tours), Pedro Domecq, Bodegas Tradición, Emilio Lustau, González Byass (Tio Pepe)

Sherry winery consortium: Consejo Regulador Denominacion De Origen Jerez Xerez Sherry

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel in Jerez is the Palacio de Garvey (which made it to our top ten wine hotels in Spain hotlist). The Villa Jerez is another refined little hotel, out of the center in a more residential neighborhood.

More Info on the Sherry wine region

Info on luxurious wine weekends in Seville and Jerez

Winter wine tastings

Valtellina, Italy

The ultimate winter wine escape, Valtellina offers sunny blue skies, fluffy snowy mountains in winter and phenomenal red wines made with the Chiavennasca grape (cousin of Barolo´s Nebbiolo grape). The region is alpine, near the Swiss border and the perfect winter wine weekend could include winery visits and tastings, an excursion to pretty St Moritz (on the Swiss side) and an excursion by horse-drawn sled through the snow. The cuisine is FABULOUS, real mountain food and it perfectly accompanies the rich, velvety “Sforzato” wines.

Wineries to visit: None of the wineries have regular scheduled tours, so you will need to contact them individually to request a (paying) visit and tasting. We particularly love Nino Negri, Triacca, Rainoldi and Conti Sertoli Salis.

Valtellina winery consortium: Consorzio Vini Valtellini have information on the region, wineries and travel tips.

Where to stay: There are some wonderful spa hotels, perfect in winter. We love the Bagni di Bormio, a real destination hotel with wonderful soothing spa treatments and natural springs.

More Info on the Valtellina wine region

We organize luxurious chauffeured wine tasting weekends in Valtellina, more info here.

Valtellina wine region for winter escapes Valtellina wine region for winter escapes

Galicia Wine Country Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

Early this summer we did an extensive road trip to check out wineries, restaurants and hotels in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia, nestled just above Portugal on the Atlantic. Galicia is really unique in Spain and about as “un-Spanish” as you could imagine. The climate resembles Ireland or Scotland, the bagpipes are the main instrument used in the regional music and Celtic dolmens can be found here! The atmosphere is misty and mystical, just wonderful. We highly encourage you to visit this special and fairly undiscovered Spanish region.

Galicia

Here are some of our notes from the trip, and some of our new suppliers…

We began our tour in gorgeous Santiago de Compostela (have always loved this charming medieval city with its ancient cathedral that attracts millions of pilgrims each year following the Saint James Way (called the Camino de Santiago). We revisited the striking Parador, located in a one of the oldest hotels in the world and where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel stayed in the 15th century (!!), to do a follow up inspection. The Hostal dos Reis Catolicos has been used as a Royal hospital (for pilgrims) and an inn since the late 1400′s and today is a 5 star hotel. There is a new manager and a fresh breath of new life flowing through this historic hotel and despite the fact that the rooms are a bit dated, there is simply no better place to stay in Santiago de Compostela.

We received the grand tour of the property and were entertained by legends and anecdotes. One of the main event halls, for example, is where the old maternity ward of the ancient hospital was; one of the bedrooms was used for plague victims; one staircase is called suicide stairwell…this place is just oozing with atmosphere and history. It is THE place to stay while in Santiago.  On the other hand, we didn’t like the location or decor at the other five star hotel in Santiago, AC Palacio del Carmen, and it lacked character. Another hotel we did love love love, however, was the Parador Monasterio de Santo Estevo, read a review here on our Ten Best Wine Hotels in Spain post. It can be used as a base, as we did, for Ribeira Sacra, the most stunning and pristine wine region in Galicia.

Santiago de Compostela Parador Hotel Santiago de Compostela Parador

STAR WINERIES: we visited many estates in Rias Baixas, Ribeira Sacra and Ribeiro and tasted an array of Albariño, Loureira, Godello, and Treixadura based zippy white wines and a few Mencia based reds (Mencia is the grape used in neighboring Bierzo, one of Spain’s most stylish red wine regions). The climate in Galicia´s wine country is starkly different to other regions in Spain. Here in Galicia, you are right on the Atlantic. The cool and wet misty climate directly affects the viticulture and most of the vines are on pergolas to avoid the moist earth. Wineries range in size, from large estates like the prestigious Martin Codax to ultra tiny cellars like the high-end Santiago Ruiz winery.

Here is a pick of some of our favorite estates, wines and personalities:

PAZO DE SEÑORÁNS, RIAS BAIXAS-

Pazo de Señoráns Wine estate Galicia SpainPazo de Señoráns Wine estate Galicia SpainPazo de Señoráns Wine estate Galicia Spain

This elegant wine estate known for their Albariños is GORGEOUS. While the winery itself is small, new and nothing interesting, the estate itself is stunning. Lush trellised vines pan out in all directions, punctuated by manicured flowerbeds flowing over with pink, purple and blue “Hortensias” (hydrangeas), a beautiful flower so commonly seen around Galicia. The property features a 17th century Pazo (manor house) and a spectacular Hórreo (a traditional granary you find in Green Spain) as well as a historic chapel (that up until this year has still been functioning and many couples have come to be married here at the winery). The owner, Señora Marisol Bueno is one of the most famous personalities in the Rias Baixas appellation and has long been a pioneering force for quality in the region. Their Selección de Añada (specially selected vintage wine), only made in superb years made with 100% old vine Albariño and uniquely aged on its lees for over 2 years before release, is the best wine we tasted on our research trip and one of the best great white wines of Spain at the moment. Marisol´s friendly and knowledgeable daughter gave us the tour, and this estate is absolutely equipped to welcome our VIP clients

Pazo Barrantes Wine Estate Rias Baixas Galicia Pazo Barrantes Wine Estate Rias Baixas Galicia

More info on Pazo de Señoráns

AGRO DE BAZÁN, RIAS BAIXAS-

Agro de Bazan Wine Estate Galicia Agro de Bazan Wine Estate Galicia

This dynamic and lovely winery (founded in the 80´s) are well known for their Granbazán Albariño and their rich dry red wines made in the sister estate Mas de Bazán in the Utiel-Requena appellation in the southeast of Spain. Located in Vilanova de Arousa, the area changes evrey few minutes from industrial parks to picture perfect forest, from pockets of both lovely and built up coastline. Once you arrive to the estate, however, you forget all about its surroundings. The vineyards are beautiful and the traditional manor style house seems somehow funkier with the motorbike parked right out front. Agro de Bazán boasts a young, international and enthusiastic team making excellent Albariño wines that respect tradition.  Fabulous place and fabulous people, completely professional and ready to welcome you to their estate.

Agro de Bazan wine estate Rias Baixas Galicia Agro de Bazan wine estate Rias Baixas Galicia

More info on Agro de Bazan

PALACIO DE FEFIŇANES, RIAS BAIXAS-

We didn´t actually have a good visit here as the woman who was supposed to receive us did not show up for our appointment, a bad start ! But we were soon won over by the wine itself and the beauty of their very own wine castle and tiny, historic cellar. It is located in the prettiest part of the historic town of Cambados (also referred to as the Albariño capital, and a great place to buy wine as there are various wine shops with an extensive selection of local wines you won´t be able to find at home). The square is named after the palace and stand gracefully across the street from the attractive stone church. Palacio de Fefiñanes is the oldest winery (callled “Adega” in the Galician language) in the Rias Baixas appellation, founded in 1904. The estate features a 17th century palace cum castle and a very small vineyard. They make one wine only, with its own grapes as well as other grapes bought in from small local viticultors. As the winery flaked on us for our inspection visit, we won´t be including them in our tours but we do believe it is worth a visit If you find yourself in the area, so if you will be near Cambados, just have your hotel call ahead of time to see if anyone will be able to receive you.

Palacio de Fefinanes wine estate Rias Baixas GaliciaPalacio de Fefinanes wine estate Rias Baixas GaliciaPalacio de Fefinanes wine estate Rias Baixas Galicia

More info on Palacio de Fefiñanes

PAZO CASANOVA, RIBEIRO-

Pazo Casanova wine estate GaliciaPazo Casanova wine estate GaliciaPazo Casanova wine estate Galicia

What a gem!!!!!!!!!!!! Loved the estate (actually there are two estates, both with ancient pazo houses and lush vineyards). We stomped in the vines with the charismatic owner, Carlos de la Peña. Read a full review of the estate here in our autumn newsletter as we selected their Casanova wine as our recommended wine of the season.

More info on Pazo Casanova

Pazo Casanova wine estate Galicia Pazo Casanova wine estate Galicia

ADEGA ALGUEIRA, RIBEIRA SACRA

Another darling little spec of a winery with a passionate and charming owner (Fernando González) is Adega Algueira, located in an ancient stone house near the majestic terraced wine valley of the Ribeira Sacra (translated as sacred hillside). While over 15 grape varietals are allowed in the appellation, the main red grape used is Mencia (and important to note that this region, along with Valdeorras, is where Galicia´s red wines are made).  Apart from wine grape production, Ribeira Sacra is also a natural park and home to much wildlife such as Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, wild boar and badgers. So, how surprised were we to find out that this tiny winery, in a practically unknown hidden corner of Galicia, got 95 Parker points this year for their aged mencia?!! We tasted Fernando´s wines at lunch on his rustic terrace overlooking the grounds, sublime! Again- amazing people, amazing wines, true and bonified wine discovery gem. Fernando and his wife have lovely ideas for wine harvest experiences on the dizzyingly steep and beautiful vineyard terraces overlooking the Rio Miño and Rio Sil, and we will be creating some excellent trips here.

Adega Algueira Wine estate Galicia Spain Adega Algueira Wine estate Galicia Spain

More info on Adega Algueira

BEST OF WHAT WE SAW:  the Parador Santo Estevo;  Santiago de Compostela, with its romantic ambiance in the quaint old town at night and many excellent restaurants like the Michelin starred Toñi Vicente and the whimsical Casa Marcelo; the above mentioned wines and estates; the Northeastern Galician coast (unspoiled and dramatic).

WHAT TO AVOID: Virtually the entire coast south of Santiago de Compostela, barring some lovely coves and the picturesque town of Baiona, is given over to mass development and sloppy building. The cities of Pontevedra and Ourense were not nice, you can definitely skip them. Southern Galicia in general is quite densely populated. The regions of Ribeiro (especially Pazo Casanova!!) and Rias Baixas are definitely worth touring, but don’t expect pristine wine country as there is a bit of industry and half built houses (the building boom has gone bust). Ribeira Sacra on the other hand is in a protected park and is ABSOLUTELY breathtaking, resembling Portugal´s Douro Valley.

Galicia wine country Galicia wine country