Moou

Before catching an overnight bus to Valencia, I went out for a final meal in Granada. Having had a reasonably large lunch, I didn’t want anything too substantial, so tapas seemed the obvious choice. It was a cold wet and miserable day so I went to the nearest place that was open. I’d spotted Moou on my first day in Granada. It looked a little modern and I wasn’t sure what would mean for the quality of the food. However, it had a range of free tapas available with a glass of wine and combined with the state of the weather this was sufficient impetus for me to give it a try. Fortunately, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the food I experienced. This was definitely a “don’t judge the food by the decor” kind of situation.

In addition to my wine, I selected two tapas:
• Berenjanas con miel de caña
• Castillas a la barbacoa

The former was slices of aubergine which had been lightly floured and deep-fried until golden. They were served topped with salt crystal and drizzles of cane sugar syrup. A really simple dish that tasted fantastic! The clash of salt and sweet was perfect, and combined particularly well with the sweetness of the cooked aubergine. I was surprised by the flavour of the cane sugar syrup. I expected it to be almost sickly sweet, but this was in no way the case. It is a far more savoury condiment than honey. I was also really impressed that the aubergine were in no way greasy. Absolutely delicious!

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The castillas do barbecoa were mini barbecued ribs. The neat was incredibly well cooked. I was able to place the meat in my mouth, bite into the flesh and pull the bone away clean. I even took a photo as proof! Unfortunately whatever process that was used to make the meat so tender also took away a lot of the flavour of the meat. However I really liked barbecue sauce. Usually I find this sauce to be really sweet, but this version was tangier. Really nice. The ribs were served with bread, which I happily used to mop up the sauce. However, for once I managed to resist the accompanying chips.

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Clearly, it was the aubergine dish that was the star of this meal. It was so good that I bought some cane sugar syrup while I was in Valencia and found a recipe online to make it at home. This is link to the recipe I used. It was just as good!

http://gowithcuriosity.com/2011/11/25/a-recipe-worth-frying-for-berenjenas-fritas-con-miel-de-cana-fried-eggplant-with-dark-cane-syrup/

Ermita catedral 530

On my final day on Granada I was determined to eat somewhere other than Calle Navas. It sounds like it should have been an easy task but it actually took me some time to achieve. Not that Granada is lacking in restaurants in any way, it was just a matter of finding one that was consistent with my mood. Eventually I happened upon Ermita Catedral 530. I was really pleased to see that most dishes could be ordered in three differently sized portions. Always easier for a lone traveller wishing to try an array of cuisine. The restaurant had outdoor seating and since it was a nice day I decided to indulge in a little sunshine.

Shortly after being seated I was served with a portion of olives and a selection of breads. The olives were very powerful and had almost a meaty flavour to them. I’m not sure if this was a reflection of the type of olive or the concoction in which it had been marinated. Either way, it was highly unusual, but not unpleasant in small quantities. However, they were so intense that I couldn’t eat the entire serving.

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Still, it was nice to have something to munch on as I contemplated the menu. Eventually I selected three tapa-sized dishes:

• Pulpo a la gallega con pimenton de la Vera cristal decsal

• Secreto iberico asado con salsa de setas y almendras

• Lomo de Bacalao al pil pil

Unusually, the octopus was served warm. This was no more or less pleasant than a cold serving, just different. I was delighted that the tentacles around the flesh, and therefore the fat between the two had been retained. It was probably the best octopus I had the entire trip. The texture of the flesh was perfectly soft with the overall flavour enhanced by sweet richness of the fat. A particularly strong and delicious olive oil had been drizzled over the meat, which had also been sprinkled with large salt crystals and paprika.

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The shoulder of pork was served next. I could see the remanent grains of fat lining the chunks of meat. Not surprisingly, the meat was incredibly flavoursome. The accompanying sauce was unfortunately under-seasoned. However with a little salt the flavour was enhanced sufficiently to subtly compliment the rest of the dish. As for the chips…well who could resist such perfectly golden morsels of enticement?! Certainly not me!

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The cod fillet was a little disappointing. It was served covered with a gratinated aioli sauce topped with slices of fried garlic. I found the fish to be slightly overcooked, although I had no qualms about the flavour. Also, while the sauce was delicious, I didn’t feel that it was the right accompaniment for the fish. The flavours just didn’t blend into a cohesive meal.

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Still, overall I was very happy with and well satiated by my meal. It was also nice that for the first time in Granada I didn’t leave the table feeling guilty about the quantity of food I’d just consumed!

Divisa Blanca Taberna

Ah Granada! A beautiful city with a standard of food to match. On my first day there I spent five hours wandering around the Alhambra (advertised average viewing time is three hours) and at the end of my tour I was ravenous. Conveniently my mother had just sent me a text recommending a restaurant called Los Diamantes in Calle Navas. Having made no plans for lunch I decided to investigate this proposition.

Calle Navas in and of itself was a wonderful suggestion. The street is lined with restaurants, providing ample dining options. My mother had warned me that Los Diamantes was tiny and chaotic, and this was certainly an accurate description. So much so that it was too much for me and I decided I couldn’t eat there. I was also put off by the price of the food. While a full racionne to be shared would have been good value, half portions were still two-thirds of the price, making this less economical for lone travellers such as myself. This is no reflection on the food however, which did look incredible appetising.

So I left Los Diamantes and wandered up and down the street reading each of the plethora of menus before me. Finally I settled Taberna Divisa Blanca, on the basis of the range of lovely looking tapas being consumed by other diners. Searching through the menu I couldn’t find the the pulpo a la gallega that I had seen served to other patrons. A quick check with one of the waiters confirmed that this was free tapas served with a drink. Cheap good red wine and free octopus tapa? The opportunity was too good to resist. The octopus was heavily seasoned with rock salt and paprika, as well as a hint of olive oil. The consistency of the flesh was, actually, inconsistent. Some pieces were the softest octopus I’ve ever eaten, others were a little more chewy, although not unpleasantly so. It had a lovely flavour and hey, it was free so I was more than happy with it.

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Selecting my actual meal from the extensive menu was challenging. I would have loved to have tried the Fritura Variada, which was a massive pile of mixed battered and deep fried seafood. It looked amazing and seemed incredibly good value at €18, but it was just too much food for one person. The Special Salad was equally generously portioned and looked highly appetising and would have made an incredibly filling and healthy meal. However, I opted for the Surtido de Tapas. This was quite simply a platter with an array of tapas of morcello, croquettes, manchego, pork, anchovies on crisps, mix of roasted red peppers and onion, parma ham, potato salad, and fresh slices of tomato.

I was incredibly impressed with the quality of each of the elements of this meal. The morcello was better than I’d eaten in Madrid. Not only was it more flavoursome, but it had a spicy heat to it and had been spiced with maybe fenugreek and/or cumin. It doesn’t matter what it was actually, because more importantly it enhanced the flavours of the morcello beautifully. The croquettes were ham and cheese and again they were perfectly cooked with a golden crunchy crust and a warm, soft-verging-on-gooey centre. The pork had been pan fried in escalopes and covered in a deliciously sweet but unfortunately unidentifiable sauce. The rolls of parma ham were incredibly generous and tasted fantastic. I adore manchego and I have to say that this was the best I have ever had. Absolutely to die for! The same can be said of the potato salad, which was different from any I’d eaten previously. I’m certain there was no mayonnaise involved in this recipe. Instead it tasted like very smooth, creamy, buttery cold mashed potatoes with chunks of potato and whole shrimp mixed through. The anchovies had been marinated in olive oil, parsley, and vinegar. The marinade dripped down onto the bed of crisps, making them too delicious to resist.

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It was an insane amount of food but it was too good to allow to go to waste. Yes, I ate it all myself! Looking around the internet, Taberna Divisa Blanca has only received moderately good ratings from other diners. Maybe I’ve had less exposure to tapas than these reviewers, but from my perspective, this meal was one of the highlights of my trip!

Orixe

On my last day in Madrid I knew I wanted to eat somewhere I hadn’t been before. I wandered around the restaurant areas with which I had become familiar over the past few days but just couldn’t find anything that drew me to a table. So I randomly went down a different street which was conveniently lined with restaurants. Actually not that surprising in Madrid. While I felt I was more in the mood for a meal, a restaurant called Orixe caught my eye. The glass door was covered in recommendation stickers and the tapas was very reasonably priced at either €2 or €2.75 each, and there were even half portions of racions available, which is always convenient for the solo traveller.

The restaurant has both a bar and seated area, although only the bar area was in use at the time. Tables might have been available but my Spanish is so incoherent, in fact non-existent that I was unable to ask. Still I could by this time recognise key words sufficiently to be able to peruse a menu written entirely in Spanish and make a somewhat informed selection.

To start with I ordered a “Bacalao con láminas con una base de patata y cebelli confitida y aoli de miel” and a “Solomillo de cerdo con cebello confitada y queso de cabra”. I also decided that since it was my last day I was entitled to a glass of wine (especially at a minuscule cost of €2,60!) and opted for the Solar de Saminiego Rioja.

While waiting for my order to be prepared I was served with a small appetiser. I have no idea what it was, but it tasted seafoodish, creamy and good.

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My two tapas were ready within minutes and I was soon munching, sipping and reading to my heart’s content. Actually it was more my taste buds that were content. The tapas was fantastic! I started with the Solmillo de cerdo first which was a slice of pork on caramelised onions topped with a piece of cheese, possibly camembert. Let’s face it, it’s hard to get it wrong with that combination of ingredients. The Bacalao was of cod fish but it was served on caramelised onions and a slice of potato and topped with a lemony aioli that had been gratinated. Outstandingly yummy!

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I decided to have two more tapas. While the mini-hamburger had been recommended to me, this felt a little faux-Spanish. Instead I settled upon the “Rollitos de morcilla de león y manzana” and the “Pimientos rellinos a Jarrette guisado y beshamel”.

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I have absolutely no idea what was in the rellitos. There was definitely tomato paste on top which brought a really lovely sweetness to contrast with strong pepper flavour throughout the rest of the dish. “Manzana” means “apple”, but I couldn’t detect that flavour. I’m pretty sure there was rice mixed in as well. I expected the pimientos to be deep fried peppers filled with béchamel sauce. It was a deep fried mini red pepper but it was filled with cooked fish, I believe tuna, which had been mixed with a creamy sauce.

Four tapas doesn’t sound like much but it was all served on slices of thick bread so it was surprisingly filling. I can honestly say that I couldn’t choose a favourite from amongst the four dishes because they were all delicious. Orixe is definitely somewhere to go next time you’re in Madrid.

Meson de la Abuela

After a lovely morning spent wandering the streets of Granada savouring the delights of the winding little alleys I headed back to Calle Navas for lunch. I felt a pang of discomfort doing this because I felt that I should be exploring eateries in other parts of the city. However, it was close to where I ended up and quite frankly at that point I was so hungry that sustenance was more important than diversity of experience.

Still, I committed myself to dining at a different restaurant. A careful process of elimination led me to Meson de la Abuela. It had a good range of half racciones available, as well as free tapas with drinks. Unfortunately there were no tables available so I ended up eating tapas at the bar. There were no seats there either, but I felt that standing at the bar eating tapas was inkeeping with Spanish culture so wasn’t at all phased.

Despite my hunger I took a leisurely approach to my meal. Given that most attractions close for lunch until 4pm, spending the intervening hours eating drinking and reading seemed an excellent use of my time. I selected a glass of red wine, 2008 lorinon crianza, and was served an accompanying portion of paella and fresh bread. It was a surprisingly nice paella given that it was free. So good that I would have happily paid for it, especially given that it was even better than the paella I’d sampled in Madrid. While the tapa was small, it was enough to satiate my appetite to a certain extent. In no rush to leave I took the time to assess my appetite and decide whether I really needed more to eat.

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Finally I realised that the answer was “yes”. I tried to order the pintillos, which I believe are baby squid. Unfortunately they weren’t available. Then I tried to order the prawns and found that they were unavailable as well. On the verge of finishing my wine and leaving to find somewhere else to eat I saw a waiter walk past with a full portion of the fritura de pescado, the seafood platter. Yes, it was all battered and deep fried, but it looked fantastic! I checked the menu and joyously I found I could order a half raccione. Thank goodness because this was the mountain of heaven that was presented to me.

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The platter consisted of:
• Dog fish
• Whitebait
• Anchovies
• Prawns
• Calamari
• Pintillos

Ok it’s strange that I’d been unable to order pintillos or prawns as a meal yet here they were on my platter. However, this feast was so delicious that I am prepared to forgive this inconsistency that led to my first two orders being denied.

The prawns were small but full of flavour. It was almost like they had been shrunk through a process dehydration to increase the intensity of the taste. While the flavour of the anchovies was distinct and intense it was not overwhelming or excessively salty. Clearly they were fresh fillets. It was all so perfectly cooked to the right texture. Surprisingly, even though I am a huge fan of squid, it was the dog fish that was the star of the meal. I’d never previously experienced this form of seafood- it’s actually a form of shark- but would definitely order it again. It had this silky soft melt-in-your-mouth texture. Given the delicacy of the flesh. It had a surprising richness and almost sweet undertones. It was delicious! I could have eaten a whole plate of the dog fish alone!

It was way too much food for one person, particularly following on from my paella tapa. I didn’t care. I ate it all, and enjoyed every second of this culinary indulgence.

And then I went and spent an hour at the free outdoor gym I’d fortuitously discovered that morning.

Mercado San Miguel

I do a lot of self-catering when I’m travelling because it’s cheaper and healthier. I’m not talking about elaborate meals, just picnic-style eating. It does result in fewer opportunities to try local cuisine each trip, but on the other hand it also means I can afford more holidays, and therefore a greater variety of culinary experiences. Hey, it works for me.

In this vein, one of my first stops when is arrived in Madrid was Mercado de San Miguel, having read that it was a great place to pick up fresh produce. This is the disadvantage of using a five year old guide book. Things change, although in this case it was definitely an improvement. The market has evolved into an array of stalls offering tapas to eat there are take away, with only some vendors continuing to offer elements of traditional market sales. It’s even possible to buy wine by a bottle or glass to accompany your meal.

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Mercado San Miguel is an indoor market set up with large standing-height tables (although some chairs are available) to allow diners to eat in relative comfort and minimise food spillage. I arrived at lunchtime and it was absolute chaos. I was absolutely overwhelmed with sensory stimulation. So much wonderful food. Clearly this was a place to eat in Madrid.

However, I was there with a purpose in mind and kept to it, although I was sorely tempted to stray into eating my way through the entire market. I picked up some gorgeous gourre noire goats cheese, a beautiful crusty loaf of bread from Horno San Onofre, delicious but pricey Iberian ham from Mas and some fruit. Unfortunately, it’s not permitted to choose you own fruit in Spain so I found out my peaches were under-ripe when I tried them the next morning.

This experience led me to the conclusion that Mercado de San Miguel is more of a place to eat than shop. I soon returned for a lunchtime feast. It was difficult to know where to start and for a while I just wandered around taking in all that was on offer. Eventually I settled at El Pescado Original this was bar style eating with an array of exotic fish and seafood tapas on display. Although tempted by a slice of tuna-filled potato and spinach tortilla, I decided to try an interesting looking scallop dish. This turned out to be a creamy mixture of cooked mushrooms and scallop that had been topped with breadcrumbs and lightly grilled. It was all so decadent I forgot to take photos!

My next port of call was Va Alacena del Victor Montes. It was a tiny little cart-like store selling varieties of freshly cooked croquettes. I decided to be quite traditional and opted for one of the cheese and one of the chorizo croquettes. They were sublime! Golden crunchy exterior followed my a smooth rich flavoursome filling. Just yummy!

Next I headed to Paella y Olé for, surprise surprise, paella. Diners can choose from a tapas portion or a racionnes sized serving. It usually has three paellas one offer, but one had sold out. Left with choice between meat and mixed seafood paella i opted for the latter, particularly because it had just finished being prepared. Naturally I asked for a tapas-sized serving and at £3.50 this was an absolute bargain as it was a sufficient amount of food to have been a meal in and of itself. It was also delicious. The rice was strongly flavoured with fish stock and bright yellow from the use of saffron. The paella was peppered with mussels, fish and mange tout. More of these ingredients would have been nice but at that price scantness was to be expected.

By this point I was full, which was a shame because there were so many other options I wanted to try. However my taste buds demanded a little piece of chocolate just to finish off the meal. I returned to Horno San Onofre and, spoiled for choice, I eventually elected to try the caracas de chocolate. I can only describe this as a wafer of dark chocolate with crunchy bits throughout it. Whatever. It was delicious, which is the most important thing.

With so many options left to try I couldn’t help but return for another sitting. This time I started at La Casa del Bacalao, which offered an array of seafood tapas on medium sized melba toasts. With my love of octopus I couldn’t help but start with a Pulpo. My other choice was Foie Gras de Bacalao.

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The Pulpo was good but it was the Foie Gras de Bacalao that was the star. It had the same silken texture of foie gras de canard but of course it tasted like fish. Although this description doesn’t do the tapas justice, the flavour was deep, rich, and unlike any fish dish I’d eaten before. It was so good I had to have another. This time I selected a marinated bacalao in olive oil and dill. I also grabbed another cheeky cheese croquette from Va Alacena del Victor Montes.

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The foie gras was just as good the second time around (unlike the croquette which was unfortunately slightly cold), and it provided a really interesting contrast to the marinated bacalao. Where the former had such a strong taste, the flavour of the latter was very subtle, with the olive oil and dill gently enhancing and complimenting the flesh perfectly.

Lastly, I went to El Yantar de Ayer, which I had been salivating over since the first time I came to Mercado San Miguel. The pictures below explain why.

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With such magnificent combinations of antipasti on offer making a selection was incredibly difficult. However, I finally settled on a small olive with ham and cheese, and a skewer of olives, peppers, octopus, and pickled onion. Both were delicious!

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So if you’re looking for basic food ingredients, head down to Mercado de la Cerbado just down from La Latina station. If you want an amazing and affordable tapas experience, then Mercado San Miguel is the place to go.