Archive | Further afield RSS feed for this section

Meson Villarejo Restaurant, Puerto Lumbreras.

7 Jun

Sunday lunch has always been a special time for Spanish people when they take time to get together as a family and enjoy some well earned time off.

Last Sunday, we took a trip north from us to Puerto Lumbreras to visit the outstanding Meson Villarejo restaurant. It’s an easy 35 km drive from us so it’s slightly further away but well worth the trip.

Dining room

Dining room

Meson Villarejo is a couple of kms off the autovia nestled in on the left well before you reach the town centre. It’s a family affair and you’re made to feel very welcome the minute you step inside. There’s a lovely terrace outside where you can eat but we chose the air conditioning as it was a very hot day.

Outside dining area

Outside dining area

You can choose between an al a carte menu or go as we all did for the menu del dia (3 courses) for 18 euros. Tremendous value!

Sunday menu del dia

Sunday menu del dia

I started with cod parcels, jamon croquette, date in bacon and deep fried langoustine – really an appetizer before a second dish of aubergine stuffed with seafood and topped with cheese which was mouth-watering and one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever tasted. I’ve added pictures of my fellow diners dishes – a plate of salmon carpacchio with tomato, and a very creative version of fried eggs, ham and chips so you can get an idea of the variety of what is on offer.

Cod, jamon, date and langoustine

Cod, jamon, date and langoustine

Eggs, ham and chips

Eggs, ham and chips

Salmon carpacchio with tomato

Salmon carpacchio with tomato

Aubergine stuffed with seafood with a cheese topping

Aubergine stuffed with seafood with a cheese topping

We all ordered the same main course – as it sounded so good – the beef fillet with foie and apple which was perfectly presented as well as delicious.

Beef fillet with foie

Beef fillet with foie

The atmosphere is good because the place is full and it’s full because it’s good. The staff are lovely, the chef often comes and talks to you and there is a real unhurried relaxing air to the place.

Los tres amigos

Los tres amigos

The Meson Villarejo is a lunchtime only restaurant open from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm daily. They don’t have a website but their Facebook page is here.

Dining room and chef painting

Dining room and chef painting

Meson Villarejo Restaurant Telephone number: 968 402 563

Advertisements

El Batel Auditorium in Cartagena – Patti Smith

18 Nov

On Friday, five of us went to see Patti Smith at the Congress centre by the harbour in Cartagena.   We love this city, about and hour and a half away from Vera, Almeria and although quite a drive for a night out, it was well worth the effort.  The auditorium itself is quite spectacular, designed by Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano of the Selgas Cano studio of Madrid, and completed only last March, it provides a surprisingly intimate venue within the 18,500 sq m structure.  It is like a vast corrugated warehouse in design, but at night turns iridescent with LED’s from within.  Quite spectacular and beautiful by the water.

 

We went early and our friend, Nevenka kindly drove us as she knew we would like wine with our tapas!  There was a great place right next door to eat which Nevenka had been to before.   We parked outside the restaurant, 100 yards from the venue and tucked into calamari, potatoes with morcilla (black pudding) and chorizo, pork in tomato sauce, baked potatoes stuffed with seafood among other things.  We took full advantage of the fact we didn’t have to drive and had a good few glasses of vino!

We walked over to the concert hall at 9 ish – John and Heidi had booked online so there was no hanging about – our tickets, unbelievably, were 30 euros each – another advantage of being able to see a legend in a smallish Spanish city!  Patti Smith  was just fantastic, yes legendary –and exceeded our expectations – she is, after all, 66 next month, but the voice was still there and the appreciate, mainly Spanish, crowd certainly got their money’s worth.

 

We would thoroughly recommend taking a look on what’s on in Cartegena, as often there are big names playing (Chick Corea being one of them in a couple of weeks – we are tempted to go again).

 

It is well worth staying overnight in the ancient city of Cartagena, check into a reasonable hotel (at this time of year 50 euros will get you a good double room), go for something to eat, see a concert.  Next morning, having done your research as to what you would like to do, visit the recently restored Roman Theatre, the Maritime museum (Cartagena was one of the most important defensive ports in the western Mediterranean), to name just a couple.  You really need to spend half an hour on the internet to get the best out of your visit.  But it is also a great place to just wander around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the ancient and modern architecture.

It just reminds us of the many fabulous cities that really, are on our doorstep, and sometimes life gets in the way of visiting them!   I urge you to put a date in the diary and go, if only for the day.

 

Casa Perela Restaurant & Bar, Murcia

8 Aug

It seems a long time since I last posted something – and it is – but at this time of year there do not seem to be enough hours in the day!  The weather is sensational and it is an outdoor life from July until September!

 

Just before the start of the busy season, early in July, we went with some friends to Murcia for the weekend – we really love to visit, and now know it quite well having been around a dozen times – it amazes me the amount of people who either live here, or visit regularly, who never venture into the city- it is only an hour and a quarter away from us, and I must say we tend to go for the shopping, but even more so for the tapas bars and fantastic restaurants.

 

We did more research for our most recent trip, and in addition to going to our favourite restaurant upon arrival, sought out the best area for the best tapas bars too.  They are all pretty much centred around the old town, near the cathedral, which is great if you are not keen on driving in large Spanish cities as you can find a car park by the river, and just spend all your time walking everywhere with no need to collect the car until you leave!  All the little boutiques and shoe shops are here too (although if you want the bigger shops like Zara, you can still make a ten minute walk to the main shopping street from the Cathedral).

 

On one of our evenings, we decided to have a real tapas evening and go from place to place (having looked up the best ones!).  They really are all concentrated in one area off the Gran Via so it is made all the easier.  Some are really quite sophisticated and, therefore, a bit more pricey (but you do get sprayed with a fine mist of water overhead at regular intervals electronically!  We are a bit behind the times down in Almeria!

 

One of places we went to was one of the older bars in a tiny street with several other more traditional places called Casa Perela in Calle Ruiperez.  It was just fantastic.  There is usually a proper menu too, so you can pick and choose what you want.

 

This one was famous for its wild mushrooms and delicious they were – we had all kinds of little bites, prawns in batter, cheese, jamon and then ended up having two steaks between the four of us – our chef did a little routine of throwing sea salt into the air to season the dish – it was simply divine – great food and a great atmosphere and not expensive.  If you take 120 euros out with you for four – you will be well fed and er, well drunk, if you know what I mean.  Do take the time, or get up the courage to drive to this city – you won’t be disappointed.

Casa Perela Restaurant telephone no.968 935 198

Murcia Food Market

13 Jul

We love Murcia and take every opportunity to go there.  Last week some friends were over from Perth (Australia, not Scotland!) and so we thought we would do a city break with them as they have visited us 3 times already in Almeria.

 

Di, my friend, booked the Rincon del Pepe in the old town, from Oz as she had a bit more time than I – it is one we have been to before (not to stay in, but for their great tapas bar), and Di said it looked the best from a central point of view.

 

Anyhow, I always like to check out the food markets in whichever Spanish city I am in (Valencia’s of course, being the most amazing).  But the one at Murcia offered some very decent looking meat, fish and the usual array of vegetables and fruit – it is one of the things I love about Spain – the availability of lovely fresh produce that has not seen polystyrene packaging or cellophane – you choose exactly what you want, the biggest freshest fish, the juiciest rib of beef (always so much cheaper bought on the bone) and the plumpest peaches and tomatoes.  As we were staying another night and day, I didn’t buy much, just some lovely “doughnut” peaches fromParaguay.

It is all so temptingly laid out in a way that just doesn’t really happen in the UK unless you take a trip to Borough Market in the city of London – but you will find the same kind of food markets in every Spanish village, town and city – they seem to take a real pride in presenting their food and also it is an opportunity to meet with neighbours and friends for coffee, drinks or tapas and make it into a social occasion too!

Las Alpujarras

9 Mar

Last weekend was Mick’s birthday – not giving anything away, but it was a biggie!

So I decided to book a weekend away for us with some friends.  Most of us had not been there despite being here for such a long time, but it has been on our list for ages, only just over 2 hours away and is an area of magnificent beauty.

We set off in the morning on Friday, and then stopped for coffee in a lovely little village en route – there are hundreds of places along the way to drop in for a drink or tapas or lunch.  John and Heidi had already been to the town where had a second stop for lunch, and ate in the same restaurant. There was a fantastic menu del dia for 10 euros, bread and olives, huge salad with the most amazing tomatoes like you have never tasted, meat or fish and usually a stew of the day is on offer, plus dessert and coffee.  This is common all over Spain– instead of having a ghastly cheap hamburger or fried chicken for lunch, virtually every bar and restaurant has its own menudeldia where almost everyone can afford to eat – they range in quality, but generally the standard is high.  We hadn’t really planned a big lunch as we were booked into our casa rural (country hotel) for a 3 course dinner, but we couldn’t resist and tucked in.  We left there at 4 pm– oops!

We then made our way to our destination in the Alpujarras, a village called Mereina, took several wrong turnings and ended up going the long way around, along the top of the mountains, with the most incredible views (the next day, we discovered that had we not gone that way, we would have been recommended to because of the astonishing scenery.  So finally we arrived in the tiniest village and found our little hotel, Las Chimeneas (the chimneys).  It was very lovely, and actually we had our own “house” between the six of us, with a living room and wood burning stove in two rooms.

The village itself was a little disappointing, as at this time of year you don’t really want to be driving at night in the dark around hairpinbends and so there was nowhere really to have a drink before dinner.  Luckily we had bought wine with us to have in our living room, before walking across the tiny square to the Las Chimeneas restaurant for dinner.   I should say that in the Spring and Summer months this would be lovely to stay, particularly if you are walkers or birdwatchers and really want some peace and quiet, but at this time of year, say from November to end of March I would choose to stay somewhere a bit larger with more life.  The plus points of staying here were the magnificent views from the house, (on a clear day you can see Med and the Atlas mountains beyond), the clear mountain air, and the total peace and quiet.

The next day we planned our trip around being out all day, finding somewhere for a big lunch, and buying something delicious for our supper.  We headed off after breakfast to a largish town called Ugijar.

It was situated at the bottom of the mountains, and so instead of looking out on a view, you looked up to the green alpine hills and snow capped mountains – just gorgeous.  The town was bustling, being Saturday morning and actually reminded me more of France than Spain.  There was a tiny market with lovely fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and a couple of good little supermarkets and butchers (where we bought Jamon from Trevelez village even higher up from where we were staying.  We bought local fruity olive oil from the Bodega (wine merchants) – 5 litres for 12 Euros (about £10).

We had a coffee break on a lovely terrace where we planned our route to get to Alqueria de Morayma near Cadiar for lunch.  John and Heidi had already been here and so we knew it would be good.  It was.  It was a little rural complex, all on its own, with lots of little apartments surrounding the restaurant and bar.  It was the most beautiful day and so we were lucky enough to have lunch outside.  It was just a lovely experience and a place I would highly recommend both to stay and/or eat.  Again though, it is a drive to any village or town and so once you are there at night, you would probably stay put.  I could have easily stayed a couple of days.

Then it was back home – the mountain air had made us all a bit sleepy and so some of us had a siesta and later Mick, John and Graeme got our dinner all laid up for us, Jamon, bread, salad, cheese and wine of course!  Bliss for me.

We left the next morning after breakfast – we could have taken a long drive home, with lunch to break up the journey, but we had the mutts to collect in the late afternoon and settle in at home again before the working week. We drove over the top of the mountains and saw the snow that makes Sierra Nevada such a popular place to ski and the forbidding castle at Calahorra.

Las Alpujarras is really the most beautiful area – it is made up of hundreds of villages and fewer larger towns and really is worth a visit if you like tranquility, mountains, pine trees and endless views.  We really felt like we had had a proper break, even though it was only a couple of days.  We will definitely go back again.

Lorca

14 Feb

Lorca is a lovely town around 40 minutes drive from us.  It is, like many Spanish towns, great for a mooch around.  There is always something to look at, decent shopping and lots of bars and cafes tucked into its little streets in the old town.  It is a municipality and town, within the region of Murcia and its population has increased by almost 20% in the last decade (almost 93,000 people live there).

The Lorca castle, which overlooks the city ofLorcafrom a strategic location, and is distinctly visible from a distance, was built by the Moorish inhabitants during the 13th century. Its history dates back to the Islamic period when it was built between 8th and 12th centuries; some remnants of which are still seen in the form of water systems in the older part of the castle.  Up until the earthquake last year, the castle was used as a venue for concerts – Bob Dylan played here some years ago. It will be a while I think before it is safe to use it again.

In ancient times Lorca was the frontier town between Christian and Muslim Spain. Even earlier to that during the Roman period it was ancient Ilura or Heliocroca of the Romans.

The Plaza de España (Spanish Square) is one of the most emblematic monuments of the city, located in the heart of Lorca’s historical centre. Containing the Collegiate San Patricio and the Chambers of the Collegiate members, the Casa del Corregidor and Posito, the granary of 16th century, amongst others. The Plaza has been declared a cultural monument.

The town was seriously damaged by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake on11 May 2011, killing at least nine people – we even felt the after effects here!   You notice the damage to most of the buildings the moment you drive into town.  However, it is still worth a visit either for a morning wander, a bit of shopping or just going to one or two tapas bars and watching the world go by.

For more information visit here

Hotel Santa Isabel la Real, Granada

2 Oct

We had some guests staying last week and they decided that as Granada is only a three hour drive away, that they had to go and visit the Alhambra.  I always encourage people to go there – it is one of my favourite places in the world and in fact those of you who come here for longer than a week, it really is lovely to do a little overnight trip somewhere else. Granada is an enchanting place and definitely worth the effort.

We go reasonably often and on one of our trips we went with an old school friend, Di, and her husband Pete who now live in Perth.  They researched our little three day trip and came up with the most gorgeous place to stay in the old town, Santa Isabella Real.

It was, it has to be said, a tiny bit tricky to find, but once you head for the old town and have a map, actually it is not too bad.

The hotel is, like a lot of smaller hotels inSpain, set around a central courtyard.  It is very simple, but absolutely gorgeous.  The rooms are fairly small, but beautiful, beds are luxurious as are the bathrooms and there is a lovely sitting room downstairs, and a breakfast room.  There is not bar in the hotel but frankly, when you are in Granada where there are hundreds of places for a pre-dinner drink or a late nightcap, it really doesn’t matter.

I would really recommend this charming hotel – it is not budget prices, but nor is it hideously expensive either and if you go in summer, the rates are really reasonable as all the Spaniards head for the coast. Breakfast is also included in the room rate, uncommon here for some reason; it is a relaxed affair and there is plenty to choose from.

Check out the website, www.hotelsantaisabellareal.com if you are planning a trip here.

Santa Isabel la Real Hotel, Granada telephone number is 958 294 658

La Pequena Taberna Restaurant, Murica

21 Jun

I know I have blogged about Murcia before, but feel it is worth mentioning again and again.  When you live in the countryside/beach, you get a real kick out of going to a city where there are proper shops (I mean like Zara and Aldolfo Dominguez!) Murcia, though a bit further than, say,Almeria, is just a great day out and not just for shopping.  There are plenty of reasons to go – buildings, a river, yes with water in it (those of you who have been here will know what I mean), a new concert hall, and botanical gardens, not to mention the fabulous restaurants here.  One of which is La Pequena Taberno, situated in a small square called Plaza deSan Juan, near the Cathedral.

You know when you have arrived at the right square, as you will see several very classy, understated restaurants, with the most stunning displays of aubergines, tomatoes, kumquats and the like outside each one.  You can sit outside or actually at this time of year it is probably preferable to sit in the coolness of the interior.

The food is, well, classy Spanish – there are lots of different menus at different prices, with a huge range of fabulous Murcian dishes (and costing half that you would pay inLondon!) or you can have raciones (large portions of tapas) which are just as tasty and interesting.  There is something for everyone here, and if you are a fish eating vegetarian, you will also not be disappointed.  I urge you to try it, if only for a drink and rather than talk about the menu in too much detail, take a look at their website.

If you are visiting here on holiday and flying into Murcia, if you have an evening return flight, why not go via Murcia City for lunch (thus avoiding the 13 euro toll!) – you will need an hour to get to the airport of San Javier from there.

La Pequena Taberna Restaurant Telephone: 968 21 98 40

Cartagena

9 May

When my family were here recently, we headed off to Cartagena one day – it is an easy drive from here, under an hour (so well within my 1 and a half hour boredom threshold in the car!).  You take the toll road and it really is a gorgeous route and you only see a car every 10 minutes or so – I don’t think the Spaniards like paying 13 euros to use this route!

Cartagena is an interesting place – it has been the capital of the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Department of the Mediterraneansince the arrival of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th Century.  It is still an important naval seaport today.  It was the first of a number of cities called Cartagena and has much to see if you are interested in Roman ruins such as the Theatre of Carthago and the cathedral which was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War and which dates back from the 13th Century to name a couple.

Cartagena has the Peral submarine here that was built by Isaac Peral and was launched in 1888 as one of the first U-Boats.

It holds the distinction of being the Spanish city with the most beaches, i.e. 10!  Like most Spanish cities wandering around the old town behind the port affords pretty good shopping and many places to stop off for a drink and tapa, or a decent lunch to linger over.  All our trips seem to centre on some kind of eating activity, a favourite pastime among the Spanish, and those of us who live here!

La Parranda Restuarant, Murcia

16 Mar

If you follow my blog, you will know we had a trip up to Murcia a couple of Saturdays ago.  We crammed some shopping in, but more important than shopping is of course, eating and drinking!  Murcia for us is pretty much undiscovered, and as Spain’s 10th largest city, there is quite a lot to discover both culturally and cuisine wise.  As we were in one of the familiar parts to us, i.e. around the Cathedral and old town, we went for the third time to our favourite restaurant, La Parranda.

La Parranda restaurant frontage

We first discovered it about 5 years ago when we stayed overnight on our way to Valencia for a little city break.  We could see La Parranda from our hotel bedroom window in the Plaza San Juan amongst several other rather marvellous looking places.

 

The are about 4 or 5 and I would be happy to go into any one of them – they have tables outside with patio heaters in the winter time and fabulous displays of trugs or glass vases containing  vast amounts of tomatoes or aubergines – they are quite stunning.

Outside eating area - beautiful in Spring and Summer

Anyhow, the thing about La Parranda is that when you order your first drink, you are treated to a bowl of big fat olives along with the biggest potato crisps you have ever seen in your life, and we loved this gem of extravagant bar snacks that we just feel the need to go there on every trip.  I think La Parranda comes from the verb Parrandearse, to go out on the town but I could be wrong!  Cheap it is not, but sophisticated it is, and we are not talking London prices either.

Olives and big crisps

We decided to stay at the bar, on high stools and around tall round tables, and order from the tapas and racion menu (Racion is a more substantial portion than a tapa, and often enough for two or three of you to share).  We had boquerones (anchovies) on toast, peppers stuffed with salt cod, morcilla (black pudding), grilled pork loin in tiny baguettes, meltingly tender, a huge salad of the most delicious green tomatoes that you get here, with hearts of palm – I can’t remember whether we had anything else to eat, but the menu is pretty vast just in the bar area.

One of the tempting salads

With a few drinks the bill came to 50 euros with a tip for three of us – I imagine it would be double the price in London. Each time I eat really authentic and posh Spanish food, it inspires me to get out my Spanish cook books and be a bit more inventive rather than sticking to the things I know and am confident cooking.

 

Next time we are in this area of Murcia, though, I think we have to have a drink and a snack in each of the other restaurants in Plaza Juan – they all look worthy of a peak inside.

La Parranda telephone number: 968 220 675