Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cadiz, if you please

I wanted to see everything in Andalucia. I was tempted by the palaces of Granada and Cordoba, the small villages along the Costa Tropical, the faded glamour of Malaga. I wanted to see the sea and the mountains. But with only a week to play with, I decided on Cadiz as the other side of my first adventure in Andalucia, coaxed by the returns of its Google Image Search, it's sea-locked situation and tales of its slightly end-of-the-road atmosphere. As a destination for a couple of days, it didn't disappoint - and we managed to scale the length of the city quite a few times, chasing the sunset to the Cadiz's southwesterly tip at the Castillo de San Sebastian.

Just too dreamy.

Being sea-locked and all, Cadiz is famed for its fresh fish. Particularly fried. Tapas is also popular, but clearly not to the extent of Seville - there were times where we'd be roaming the streets for block and blocks trying to find open tapas bars, especially later on in the evening, and even in key plazas. It shows you can try too hard to the 'authentic' thing (late night tapas binges, you'd think) and sometimes that just doesn't work. Tapa prices were notably cheaper in Cadiz though and in some places you were given a plate for free with drinks, just like in the movies.

We had a couple of very memorable portions of fried fish. The first on our first lunch after the train ride from Seville. It was at Meson La Cartuja, just off the main square in the old town. A whole platter of fried fish, including white bait, sardines, cuttlefish and cod. For about 10€. Pretty amazing. We ordered a salad to go with it as we were afraid of death by protein - our salad also came topped with tuna. It was incredibly fresh and the batter was very light compared to that in British chippies.

We also tried the most popular freidura (fish and chip shop, basically), which is on Las Flores - a pedestrian street with lots of flower sellers. Lots of happy families strolled past, children armed with tall flowers, on their way home. Inside it was like a Spanish version of the British chippy, slightly weary, down at heel but full of all walks of lives tucking in to yummy fresh fish and other raciones. We had fat and juicy prawns fresh out the Atlantic, and some croquettes for substance. The prawns were delicious, so meaty and sweet.

Our top tapas was at La Marina, overlooking the market square. We had a tripe stew with chorizo and chick peas - my first time eating tripe and boy is that a pungent taste. Almost a bit too much for me, but the chorizo flavours helped to soften the blow. We also had tuna cooked in a sweet onion and oloroso sauce (delicious), kidneys in sherry and 'salad' which was basically potatoes with more tuna. All were delicious, and as you can see from our spread, we were a bit more mezze than tapas, having them all at once. The olive oil based sauces were so moreish, we really had to ration our bread soaking them all up.

We also had tapas at Le Gorda Te Da De Corner, a cheap, bright, studenty tapas restaurant, where all the tapa were 2€ or under. It wasn't all fancy pants, but the pork with an almond and cream sauce was tasty.

Some of our fanciest tapas was at snazzy Sopranis, just around the corner from our hostel. It was incredibly stylish, and the proprietress was pure Almodovar as she strutted around, taking care of her guests in heels and leather trousers. We just had a couple of dishes - duck ham with an orange zest and pine nut chutney, and a sardine and red pepper empanada, which was such a winning combination of flavours - definitely one to try at home.

Our final meal for the holiday was in Jerez, where we flew back from. Jerez is a sherry town - the air is thick with the smell of it - and has a comfortingly stuffy and conservative feel about it. Our guidebook told us that the sherry dynasties bred a local elite who like to ape the customs of the British upper classes, playing polo, wearing deck shoes, chinos and starched shirts.

Our lunchspot was right in keeping, Restaurante Alcazaba, a faded traditional restaurant, all yellow walls, wood panelling and lots of big hair (ladies) and slicked back hair (men). That's not to do it down though - a bit of olde worlde charm in an olde worlde town is just right. And all the Jerez slickers were onto something good - 4 courses and wine for €11! The first was a potato salad tapa to share, I had Revuelto - Spanish scrambled egg with wild mushrooms for a starter. It was all about the mains though - mine was slow-cooked oxtail in a rich gravy and sautéed potatoes. Pete had pork steaks in a roquefort sauce.

So that was it. The last of the sun for 2011, but a great introduction to Andalucia and authentic tapas. I'm all inspired to try out some of the dishes on friends and go back and see more of the region.

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