Abastos 2.0 – Galicia, Spain – A meal to remember

Rúa das Ameas na Praza de Abastos, Casetas 13-18
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Sundays Closed – Tel: +34 654 01 59 37

I’m just back from Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain (detailed post to follow soon, I promise!) but in the meantime, I can’t stop thinking about one of the dinners (and subsequently, lunches) that I had while there…

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Tucked away along the side of Santiago’s market, you can find Abastos 2.0, a buzzing kiosk-sized bar (taberna) with a room-sized restaurant across the alley. If you can’t seem to find it, look out for the deep green awnings and the frantic chefs and waiters running from bar to restaurant with trays of tapas and goblet-sized gin and tonics. I love makeshift, pop-up-feel interiors and this place has taken my obsession to new heights, with exposed walls and piping, concrete floors and lots of half-finished wood and crate slats forming the bulk of their interior furniture and tableware. Then there are the Spanish touches – cherry red lighting to give the kitchen a slightly sultry feel (entirely appropriate when the food is this good), massive turquoise window shutters and quirky cutlery.

The menu is firmly rooted in the culinary history and identity of Galicia, with seafood (molluscs in particular) taking pride of place in both their tapas and tasting menus. As a result, we started our tasting menu with a mollusc-dominated dish – mussels marinated in apple cider vinegar, razor clams dusted with a gin-and-tonic sea foam and clams on apple puree.  Despite misgivings about the mussels (I generally find anything marinated in vinegar to be too heavy), everything was delicious and the pure, fresh flavours meant we could start the “heavier” dishes with a cleansed palate.

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We then moved on to a more Japanese-inspired dish – cod on seaweed with a ricotta cheese sorbet and maize crumble. The flavours reminded me a fusion between fresh sushi and some of the Peruvian cuisine I’ve been trying lately – I’m still not sure the amount of ricotta cheese sorbet worked completely for this dish but it was easily left to one side. Salmon on chestnut pasta followed with a smidgen of avocado and pannacotta cream. Then to separate the fish from the farmyard, we were then served a Galician take on a classic Spanish tomato salad – rocket, salted plum tomatoes and pistachio vinaigrette served on avocado puree. I always think there is so much that can be done with salad and this dish was proof that even with the simplest of ingredients, something delicious can be created.

The centrepiece of the meal was organic, grass-fed beef served with root veggies (potato and carrot) and a touch of rocket with a slightly tangy vinaigrette (my Spanish was unfortunately not good enough to establish what this might have been – but it worked!) The beef was divine, medium rare and well-salted (which I like) and the root vegetable ensemble, although simple, meant there were no distractions from the wonders of Galician steak!

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At this stage in the meal, I had no idea what course we were up to and was feeling a strong sense of post-steak anxiety regarding how much room was actually left in my stomach. Luckily, we were presented with some soothing apple slices sprinkled with grapefruit rind and I could feel myself relaxing into pre-dessert anticipation. It was a bit on the heavy side and probably more up Charlotte’s dessert alley than mine (I’m a cheesecake girl, she’s all about the choc) but that didn’t stop me from scraping the plate clean on my chocolate-cherry slice and passionfruit sorbet.

We finished the evening with a copa – a gin and tonic that quite frankly lives up to its name with copious amounts of gin (warning: you have to say stop or they will keep on pouring..) and a touch of tonic and ice. We’re always keen on trying local gins and as we’d already tried Nordes, which is a bit sweet-salty in the glass, we instead went for a gin called Ginabelle made from Mirabelle and the local Albarino grape.

And how much will this all cost you? Well, you might laugh but with tasting menus at 35 euros and glasses of wine at 3 euros, we happily agreed we had some spending money left over for a tapas lunch the next day – and as usual, Abastos 2.0 did not disappoint…

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Happy travelling, Mo xx

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Mezquita de Córdoba – Spain

After pounding the busy streets of Seville or competing with fellow tourists for Alhambra tickets in Granada, you might find yourself wondering if the Andalusian dream of long, lazy lunches and sleepy, sun-soaked terraces exists at all. That is until you arrive in Córdoba, the second-largest “Old Town” in Europe and home to some of the sultriest street corners in Spain.

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We arrived in Córdoba after three days of scaling Granadian Hills and all the blisters and aching feet that go with it. The city seems confusing from the outside, as is perhaps fitting of a city originally founded by Romans in the 206 BC and subsequently invaded and settled by the Moors, eventually becoming the capital of the Moorish caliphate Al-Andalus in 766 AD. Under the Moors, the city flourished financially and culturally and was considered one of the most important cities in the Mediterranean world. The city’s crown jewel and main attraction, the Mezquita de Córdoba, dates from this period.

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Our stop for two nights, Hotel Mezquita, was located a stone’s throw away from the Mosque and in the centre of Córdoba ’s old Jewish quarter. While the rooms are basic (but very clean), we were amused by the quirky and eccentric mix of English and Spanish antiques throughout. A delicious continental breakfast was served in the traditional Andalusian courtyard and while the hotel seemed slightly gloomy to start with, we were quickly grateful for any respite from the harsh August sunshine.

We got up early to explore the Mezquita, hoping to beat the crowds and get some good pictures in the morning light. Despite being officially called a “Mosque”, the Mezquita is more formally known as the Córdoba Cathedral and is still a functioning Roman Catholic place of worship. As a result, opening times do vary so make sure you check before you head out – in summer (between March and October) it is opened from 8:30-9:30 am and 10:00-19:00 from Monday to Saturday and 15:00-19:00 on Sundays. The best news is that the Mezquita is free for tourists between March and October (otherwise €10/€5).

The interior of the mosque is truly astonishing and unlike any other mosque I have seen. Unlike, its contemporaries in Damascus and Jerusalem (Dome on the Rock), the Mezquita was designed as a simple, democratic space echoing the traditional Islamic prayer space of desert or home. The space is horizontal in shape and dominated by a hypostyle main hall held up by hundreds of columns of marble, onyx, jasper and granite. Throughout, you can see the recognisable red and white double arches, modelled on those found in the Dome on the Rock in Jerusalem. At the south end of the hall, is the magnificent mihrab (prayer niche), which is potentially the most beautiful part of the mosque. Illuminated by 1600kg of gold mosaic cubes sent by the Emperor of Byzantium, Nicephoras II Phocas, the mihrab is framed by golden flower motifs and qur’anic inscriptions. Inside the mihrab, a single block of white marble has been crafted into the shape of a scallop shell that forms the dome and amplifies the voice of the imam.

 

If you have time after your visit, take a few minutes to wander around the Patio de los Naranjos, the picturesque courtyard that frames the entrance to the Mezquita. It’s full of orange, cypress and palm trees as well as gurgling fountains that add an air of serenity to any morning visit. This is the site where ritual ablution (washing oneself) was done before entering the Mezquita for prayers. You can also enter the imposing 54-metre bell tower from the courtyard via the Puerta del Pérdon, a fine 14th-century example of Mudéjar architecture. The tower was originally built to be the Mezquita’s minaret but was subsequently strengthened and made taller by Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Afterwards, head to Córdoba’s Plaza de las Tendillas for breakfast to people watch and enjoy the 1920s vibe. Stop in any café (we tried a couple and they are all excellent) and if you’re feeling brave, go for the crushed tomato on bread (Pan con Tomate) with a generous glug of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt – delicious!

Happy Travelling, Moey xx

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