Tapa Thursdays: The Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience

One of my favorite things about eating out in Spain is sharing dishes with friends. One of my least favorite is having to decide on what to eat when everyone has different gustos.

The Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience in the flagship store in Plaza del Duque recently opened its Gourmet Experience on the top floor, selling overpriced peanut butter next to an oyster bar. The appeal was being able to sample different cuisines at the same time while not having to walk all over town. For a Saturday night, I expected loads of diners, but the long weekend meant room to walk and eat and breathe without Semana-Santaesque crowds.

The Gourmet Experience has several different chains, all respected in Seville – 100Montaditos Gallery, with upscale sandwiches between 1,50 and 3,50; Barajas20, a gastro tapas bars; La Calata by Amor a la Mexicana, featuring Mexican favorites in ración form; Hamburguesa Nostra, where gourmet mini hamburgers take center stage; heralded bakery (H)arina; Egaña pintxos and Amorino gelato.

We settled on Mexican and shared a plate of nachos with several spicy dipping sauces. I like Amor a la Mexicana, but was disappointed with the excess of cheese. The price was steep, but desperate times call for desperation when it comes to shelling out euros.

Had we not wanted to share, the space has plenty of communal seating, similar to Mercado San Miguel, so you don’t all have to commit to the beauty of sharing dishes and tastes amongst friends. Like Food Life, the choice is up to you.

The terrace is worth sitting at, though, with views across the square to both the Setas and the Giralda. You can also get drinks. I’m interested in trying to hamburgers and gussied up montaditos and perhaps even leaving room for dessert.

If you go: The Gourmet Experience is located on the top floor of the mega department store in Plaza del Duque, accessed by its own set of elevators after normal store closing hours. 

Would you ever go to a place like The Gourmet Experience? Madrid’s Callao, Gran Vía, Goya and Castellana Cortes have them, too, as well as Alicante!

Tapa Thursdays: Sol y Sombra

Some places have now become tradition with me and the Novio when we have guests – everyone from a sorority sister and her husband to my own mother have had lunch in Sol y Sombra, a restaurant in the northern end of Triana.

The dimly-lit bar is remniscent of establishments from ages past – yellowing, cracked century-old bullfighting posters, a menu written by hand on the wall, dusty wine and brandy bottles resting under them. Those thin napkins that don’t lap up anything aren’t found – instead, you wipe your hands with rolls of toilet paper.

And there’s ham.

Like, dozens of hams hanging right over your head with little plastic cups for catching the sticky fat that rolls off the meat as it matures.

When the Nov and I took Danny and Javi last week, the mournful saetas were echoeing throughout the long, thin bar. At 2pm, the place was empty, so we set up along the bar, feet covered in albero.

The menu is replete with sevillano favorites – revueltos, fried fish, hearty meat stews. Food is only served in half or full rations, and not tapas, and vegetarian options are slim.

The one dish we always order is stewed bull tail, cola de toro. The tender meat comes with the bones and fat in all its glory, served with potatoes. On the last trip, we went all out – a round of croquetas, choco frito, pan-seared pimientos del padrón and the cola de toro.

If you go: Sol y Sombra is located on Calle Castilla 151, just around the corner from Ronda de Triana. Open Tuesday – Sunday from 1pm to 4pm and 8pm until midnight. Expect to pay 10-15€ a head with drinks.

 

Tapa Thursdays: Room Art Cuisine

With the hiring of MaCuro’s head chef, ROOM Art Cuisine went from an American food bar to one of the center’s newest gastrobars only steps away from Plaza Salvador. When my friends and I used to meet in the city’s famous botellón plazas, we’d be stuck for a decent restaurant that catered to many international tastes.

I was invited in November to the Room’s soft opening, along with several other American friends and Tapas Queen Shawn Hennessey. We got a sneak peek at the revised menu, wine list and comfortable yet modern interior while waiters passed around small samples of dishes straight off the menu.

A month later, we were celebrating Mickey’s engagement and wanted to try out a new place. Most of my friends are vegetarians, so the Room has enough to keep their bellies full and Puja and I still got our meat fix with a delicately cooked presa ibérica.

It’s hard to categorize the Room’s food, as the gambit of Spanish wines can be paired with food from around the world – from Ireland to Lebanon. We tried fried cheeseballs in marinera sauce, guacamole with fried plantains, perfectly seasoned humus, a crisp salad with goat cheese and spicy papas bravas.

The service was exceptional – our waiter was quick to fill our glasses and served us two slices of cake to share to celebrate the occasion. The food was artfully prepared both times I went, and prices and portion sizes vary, depending on what you’ve ordered. We paid about 22€ a head, which included wine.

the Room is open for all meals and located at Cuesta del Rosario, 15, just across from Cuesta Sport gym on the Plaza de la Pescadería. They’re also open for happy hour and coffee. I was not compensated in any way for eating at the Room Art Cuisine, nor for this article. All opinions are my own.

Tapas Thursday: Sampling La Brunilda

I have visited so many places whose names ring famous, and usually have felt like something was missing.

When it comes to food, I’m beginning to have high expectations.

In Seville, a city that’s home to seemingly hundreds of tapas bars, it’s hard to not fall victim to the newest or the trendiest. New bars and eateries pop up so often, and even a week’s absence from traversing the center means I’m bound to come across a new bar.

When La Brunilda opened (I think) earlier this year, my friends raved about the food. Websites raved about the food. I went earlier this month, a bit skeptical but looking forward to a new place.

Like many trendy new bars, the space – which looked like a converted coach house, thanks to a large door and exposed brick – was airy and not busy  early on a Tuesday. Having to work two hours later, I chose to not even read and weep the wine list and opted for a beer.

My friends suggested asking the wait staff for daily specials, but we were clear: D chose papas bravas and a magret de pato with a carrot cream, G and I both got an oversized tapa of dorada with pisto and cream of Idizbial cheese, and I couldn’t resist risotto with crunchy onions and asparagus. 

Believe it or not, I liked each dish more than the last.

I hope you haven’t taken a bit out of your computer.

While the food was spectacular, I didn’t feel that the service was. Our dishes came out quickly, but it took ages to refill beers and get the bill – I couldn’t even imagine how long it would take on a busy weekend night.

If you go: La Brunilda is extremely popular, so it’s best to go early or during the week. Located on Calle Galera, 5, near Reyes Católicos, the bar opens at 1p.m. for lunch and 8:30 for dinner. Closed Sunday night and all day Monday.

Tapa Thursdays: El Gallinero de Sandra

El Gallinero de Sandra – Sandra’s Chicken Coop – was what I expected to be an over-priced, chicken-heavy restaurant.

Always one to try a new place and follow my group of American chicks around, I went anyway. My girlfriends always know how to find the good places.

Housed on a pedestrian alleyway between Trajano and Amor de Dios streets, the joint is part of a recent surge in gastrobars, boutiques and trendy watering holes that has the Alameda neighborhood, once associated with junkies and the homeless, ranking as one of Seville’s top nightlife barrios.

Sandra herself greeted us and showed us to a table on a breezy terrace fashioned with fresh white linens, hanging lamps and red accents. We took advantage of one of the last balmy nights to dine al fresco, though the open concept bar and dining area reminded me of an upscale farm restaurant.

As Sandra rattled through what was available off the menu, I went into a temporary coma because everything sounded beyond delicious. L took care of the wine – Garum, a favorite of our group of friends – and we toasted to hatching new plans and a new friend.

The menu at El Gallinero changes constantly, and it had more than just chicken – baked fish dishes, revueltos with everything imaginable, a tempting presa ibérica, though few thoroughly vegetarian dishes. We settled on tuna tartar with vegetables, salad with shrimp and curry sauce, pork loin with creamy rice pilaf and the most decadent foie on top of a flatbread and a garden of caramelized onions. So good, in fact, that I stopped taking pictures and just ate. Dishes were reasonably priced, as well, between 8€ and 16€ for a ración.

Washed down with another French wine – El Gallinero has wines from around the world, as well as a few bottled microbrews and regional liquors – we bellied up for dessert. The lemon meringue was reminiscent of key lime pie, and the coulant and creme brûlée heavenly. Our bill came to roughly 28€ per person with a small tip included.

We agreed the place would be perfect for date night – cozy and intimate – though we were a group of four guiri hens clucking about our summers at lightning speed at a place named Chicken Coop.

What’s your favorite place to have a meal in the Alameda? I’ve got an exciting new food project coming up with the backing of Caser Expat Insurance, so stay tuned!

If you go: El Gallinero de Sandra is located on the pedestrian street Pasaje Esperanza Elena Caro near the Plaza del Duque. Expect to pay 8€ for an omelette or fritata, 9€ for a salad and 11€ for a meat or fish dish. Desserts are 5€ and worth every calorie. The restaurant is open from 13:45 a 16:45 y de 20:30 until close, though closed Sunday night and all day on Monday. Reservations are welcome at reservas@elgallinerodesandra.es.

 

Eating Coruña: The City’s Best Restaurants

Galician food makes my heart flutter – the piping hot pimientos del padrón, raxo smothered in roquefort sauce, fresh-caught shellfish displayed  in every window of every bar on every street.

There are two reasons I spend my summers in Coruña, crossing my fingers that there will be little rain: one is because it’s way cooler, and the other because the food is incredible.

Even though I spend the majority of time eating in the camp cafeteria, the other teachers and I get the chance to actually go out and get some good food in our bellies. Before I tell you where, you need a primer in typical coruñés fare:

polbo a la feira – boiled octopus served over boiled potatoes with olive oil and paprika

navajas – razor clams that are pan seared and often served with lemon

pimientos del padrón – flash-fried green peppers. As the saying goes, some are spicy, others are not

empanada gallega – a pasty, most often stuffed with tuna or ground beef with peppers and onions

percebes – goose barnacles. I didn’t like them on my first run and now love them!

raxo – marinated pork loin, typically served with potatoes

zorza – spicy ground pork, treated with paprika and marinated in other spices

queso tetilla con membrillo – creamy ‘tit cheese’ served with a quince paste for dessert.

La Bombilla

Javi picked us up from the airport high above Coruña’s city center and promised us a surprise. We elbowed our way up to the counter, toasted to new friendships and chose tapas of off the short menu – tortilla, milanesa and croquetas the size of a baseball. La Bombilla, with its turn-of-the-century-esque bar and cheap thrills (aka tapas for just a euro apiece), is a staple in Coruña and one of my favorites. Locals sidle up to the bar at seemingly all hours of the day, so be sure to arrive early for lunch or dinner, or you’ll be forced to grab a plastic plate and find a place to sit on the ground outside. Calle de la Galera, 7

update: I read the sad news that La Bomilla will be closing on December 30th. Rumor is that it will re-open, but likely without the same encanto. Really bummed I didn’t get one last giant croqueta.

O Renchucho de Mayte

Far and away my favorite in Coruña, this little corner bar is always packed for its cheap, home-cooked food and exceptional service. You can’t miss the raxo con roque or the crispy calamares, and the bar now features takeout, too. I am a sucker for their croquetas and cheese, and the tapas are generous and inexpensive. The bar is closed Sundays. Portico Andrés, s/n

The cafeteria at the Yacht Club with no name

Oftentimes, a menú del día, the Spanish equivalent of a three-course meal, is too much for me to eat. But everytime I’m in Coruña, I’ll skip breakfast in favor of the views of the port and across the bay to Santa Cristina beach from the yacht club. While the food is often billed as generic (think caldo gallego or a mixed salad for firsts), it’s served fresh and in heaping portions. What really makes the meal is the atmosphere, with the sea breeze ruffling your napkin and the sun peeking around the enormous glass building. Located in the Club Náutico on Avda. del Puerto.

Parillada Alcume

After all those rounds of pulpo and empanada, I need meat. When it comes down to it, I am a corn- and beef-fed Midwesterner, so I can’t pass up on a parrillada, or a restaurant where meats are grilled over open coals. I’d passed Alcume loads of times, as it’s just off the shopping district, but it wasn’t until a camp vegetarian suggested its mixed plate of meaty good that we decided to try it.

You know it’s good when even the veggie-lover wants to go. We often have to wait to sit down, particularly at the wooden tables outside, but filling ourselves to the brim with sausages and flank steaks makes it worth it. And it’s a lot easier to identify the parts than it is in the camp cafeteria. Calle Galera, 44-46

Pan de Lino

I heard a rumor that there were bagels in Coruña. I gasped, horrified that there would be a place that sells my favorite breakfast food in a small port city before my beloved Seville.

As it turns out, this was merely a rumor (though I did have a bagel sandwich in Cafetería Vecchio, near the Casino), but Pan de Lino’s inviting bakery counter, beautifully mismatched furniture and organic menu is a nice change from the old man bars I usually frequent. The service is terrible, but as long as you’re accompanied with friends and something delicious, you can let it go. Calle Rosalia de Castro, 7

O Mesón Galego

The cream of Galicia’s crop is, without a doubt, its shellfish. As has become tradition, we take our camp cash to the nearest marisquería for a mariscada, or a seafood smorgasboard. I’m sure there are places that are much better (and thus more expensive!), but we group into three and split a 46€ heap of shellfish with a bottle of crisp albariño wine. The kitchen is open, and you can watch the robust cook hack away at crab legs like it ain’t no thang. I’ve also had their pimientos and empanada and approve. Calle de la Franja, 56.

Asiayu Japanese Restaurant

I thankfully have a few friends in Coruña who are always quick to point out new finds and tear me away from Mayte and Bombilla. When Julie and Forrest discovered an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet next to the beach, half of the teaching staff went down to pig out on something other than carbs. The dinner menuú runs 13,95 plus a drink, and you can choose two hot plates in addition to everything that comes around the belt. The sushi was hand rolled right in front of us, but I was too busy pouting about sitting at the end of the loop and not being able to grab the fried sushi or the dumplings before the greedy hands of the other Ts got them (though this did distract them from my terrible chopstick skills). Calle Buenos Aires, 7 Bajo

There are loads of other places I’ve tried – a hidden Mexican joint with great margaritas, an Indian place with an affordable menú, nondescript holes-in-the-wall whose names I’ve long forgotten. Then there are the places I’d love to try, like Spoom’s creative cuisine. But, somehow, the appeal of one euro tapas, a sushi conveyer belt and the tried and true always win out. But really, I’ll go anywhere I see an upturned octopus in the window.

Have you ever been to La Coruña and have any places to recommend? 

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