The new Restaurant Orio has been open for a few weeks, but the official inauguration for a select group of press and hospitality professionals was today (October 3), and I was fortunate enough to be invited.
Orio is the second restaurant to be opened in Seville by the Sagardi group (the first is in the Pinello hotel), but is aimed at a more day to day market, incorporating a Basque style pinxo bar (Sagardi was founded in the Basque country) as well as a restaurant featuring Basque cuisine.
The front of the premises is a spacious pinxo bar opening onto Calle Santo Tomas, with a terrace facing the Archivos, and the bar itself on one side, with a very appetising array of Basque style pinxos so typical in Bilbao, but something of a novelty in Seville. We got to try a few as an appetiser, my favourite being the chistorras (small spicy sausages).
Beyond the bar are two dining rooms leading out to a second terrace on Calle Miguel Mañara, with space for around thirty diners. Decoration is minimalist, but with lots of wood, and a big mural of a fisherman.
Lunch was a nine course tasting menu (including dessert), starting with oysters and working through a prawn carpaccio, salad, fish, and roast peppers to the grilled beef finale. The quality was excellent throughout, and it looks like Orio will be a welcome addition to dining out in Seville.
A new and welcome addition to the world of sherry in Seville, the Premier Sherry & Cocktail Bar had its official opening on October 19th, with a special master class tasting to showcase some of its brands. The sherry cocktail bar is the sixth establishment in the Premium chain, which was founded in 2010 by brothers Martín and Enrique Maíllo, and has until now specialised in spirits – rum, gin, whisky and vodka, together with a range of tonic waters. The sherry bar is therefore something of a new departure, but aims to maintain the high standards of the group in events, service and quality of product.
In most respects the ambiance is what you might expect of a cocktail bar, with concealed blue light at the junction of walls and ceiling shining through the glassware and serried ranks of interestingly coloured bottles lining the shelves. It’s relatively small size and hints of exposed brickwork give it a subtle sense of intimacy that is quite appropriate to the nature of sherry. The unique element of the decoration, though, are the diagrams along the side wall, designed by José Peñascal, detailing the various grape and sherry production processes, and how they result in the different styles of sherry.
Aside from offering great wines and cocktails, the Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar also gives private tastings, in both Spanish and English, by appointment only. The space can also be booked for private events.
The opening day tasting was interesting and lots of fun, with as good an attendance as the venue really allowed, and was headed by sherry ambassador Pepe Ferrer. An excellent range of sherries from the Consejo Regulador was accompanied by delicious snack pairings.
Many thanks to Cristina Botija and Desirée Ramos of Premium for organising the event, which I hope will be the first of many.
sherry ambassador Pepe Ferrer
pouring palo cortado
the sherry production wall
Pepe Ferrer, Enrique Mallío, Martín Mallío, José Peñascal
Photos Courtesy of azahar-sevilla.com
Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar Jaen 1
Tel +34 955 133 032
3.00 pm – 2.00 am (4 am weekends)
This week I was invited to a private tasting for this year’s edition of Bodegas Delgado Zuleta’s D.O Cádiz white wine Viña Galvana. Delgado Zuleta is of course best known for its sherries (it’s said to be the oldest bodega in the marco de Jerez), especially Manzanilla La Goya, but also produces local white wines.
The 2017 Viña Galvana (85% Palomino Fino and 15% Muscat) is a fresh, light wine with a bright pale gold colour and a touch of fruitiness, and pairs well with fish and seafood. Perfect for the summer weather. The label pays tribute to one of Sanlucar’s most popular events, the annual horse races on the beach which take place every August. The cata was presented by Jorge Pascual, the Director-General of Delgado Zuleta and enologist José Antonio Sánchez Pazo, with promotion by @ProbandoGastro.
The event was hosted by Cinta Romero and her team at La Cochera del Abuelo, who also provided a light post-cata lunch. Thanks to everyone who helped organise this very pleasant event.
El Bacalao, which currently has two restaurants in Seville (one in Plaza Ponce de Leon, the other in Calle Tarifa), has been a fixture in the world of gastronomy in the city for as long as anyone can remember. Recently they introduced a new menu, which was presented to the public via several tasting menu meals for bloggers and “gastronomy influencers” (which apparently includes me), so Wednesday last I took up my invitation and presented myself for lunch at the El Bacalao in Plaza Ponce de Leon, along with fourteen other guests.
The meal was served in the functions room behind the restaurant, and took the form of a tasting of thirteen menu items – four starters, seven main courses and two desserts, with either manzanilla sherry or white wine (even in small portions that’s a lot of food, but one has to be thorough).
As one might expect given the name of the restaurant, bacalao (salt cod) figured prominently in the menu, from the signature bacalao al ajo confitado, through pavias and croquetas to an excellent tartare. Other personal favourites included a lovely fresh spinach salad and the milhojas de cola de toro (oxtail). Many thanks to everyone at El Bacalao for making it such an enjoyable afternoon.
In Spain, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a spot of jamón, so it was appropriate that I kicked off the festive month with a jamón cutting class at Pando’s restaurant in San Eloy. This seems set to become an important venue for gastronomical education events, and the jamón cutting class was the second time I’ve been there recently.
Victor in action
The event itself was good fun, and attended by many local food bloggers and writers. After a bit of theory, we were treated to a demonstration by professional ham cutter Victor Fernández (yep, in Spain it’s a real profession), and of course we later got to sample the results of his labours.
The finished plate. Care to join me?
All in all it was an enjoyable evening, and while I’m not likely to be doing any ham cutting myself, it was still interesting to learn more about this art and its secrets.
It seems that this is the season of Jornadas Gastronómicas in Seville (and nothing wrong with that, of course, especially if I’m invited for a free sample). This week (November 21-27) it’s the XX Edition of Las Jornadas Gastronómicas con Más Tradición – specifically La Semana del Arroz (Rice Week) – at the Taberna del Alabardero.
The event was held in the central patio, normally in use as a restaurant as part of a complex that includes a café, bar, boutique hotel (just 7 rooms), and a catering and hospitality school, with the cooking of a range of rice dishes, including classic paella Valenciano and an arroz negro among others, under the watchful eye of master chef Juan Tamarit.
For those eager to learn the secrets of cooking perfect rice like this there’s a three day school (November 22-24) running at the school in tandem with Rice Week.
Date: November 14th Location: Hotel Palacio Pinello, Seville Event: The inauguration of the menu for the Sagardi Restaurant Group’s XII Jornadas Gastronómicas del Buey
Beef – before cooking
I was one of about 50 fortunates invited to this celebration of Basque cooking, organised by company founder Iñaki Lopez de Viñaspre and master butcher Imanol Jaca, and a menu arranged around the charcoal grilled txuleton steaks of mature Galician beef cold-room aged for 3-4 weeks. It proved to be an event worth waiting for. The setting was pleasant, the company friendly, and the service great. But of course it was the food that we’d come here for.
We started with a little taster of bresaola, a thinly sliced salted and air dried beef that was really delicious, followed by an entree of alubia nueva de tolosa con sus sacramentos. This Basque speciality is a rich dark bean stew served with morcilla, and it was easy to see why this rather rare dish is so highly-prized.
Then the beef. Thick slabs of medium rare grilled meat that were both tasty and tender, and as much of it as you could eat. The side dish of fresh pimientos cooked over a wood fire was a perfect complement.
Beef – after cooking
Afterwards came cheese – a Montaña Aralar sheep’s cheese – walnuts, and some rich dark chocolate truffles to finish, making a great finish to an excellent meal.
Sherry on Top is a summer season of events organised by the Consejo Regulador de los Vinos de Jerez and the Asociación de Hoteles de Sevilla y Provincia that will showcase both sherry wines and the rooftop terraces of the hotels of Seville, with catas (tastings), exclusive sherry based cocktails and live music.
Last night saw the first of the series, on the terrace of the Hotel Inglaterra in the Plaza Nueva, a popular spot both for its comfort and its excellent views of the cathedral, and it was something of a privilege to have an official invitation to attend as part of an audience that included such luminaries as Beltrán Domecq and other well known figures.
The sherry tasting, led by Pepe Ferrer and Carmen Aumesquet, included a Fino, an Oloroso, and a sherry cocktail, and live music was by Los Quiero, who specialise in music from the sixties and seventies. Nice to hear one or two old favourites from the days of my youth.
With perfect weather for sitting out of doors this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I hope to be going to more of these events through the summer.
Although I’d been to Jerez (pronounced Hereth) de la Frontera a couple of times, specifically for the spring fair, which I prefer to the bigger and more impersonal one in Seville, the last time was some five years ago, so when my friend Shawn (aka SevillaTapas) suggested a couple of nights there on a working holiday to explore the city and also visit some sherry bodegas (or vice versa), it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.
For the most part people associate Jerez with sherry and horses, and these are still the main attractions (the annual motorcycle GP also draws a lot of visitors), and I’d never really thought of it as a tourist destination. In fact, although it’s not on the same scale or as well preserved as cities like Seville or Cordoba, Jerez still has a substantial historic old centre that’s worth spending an afternoon strolling around, and a number of monuments worth seeing (of which more later). The name of the city goes back to Phoenician Sèrès and Roman Ceret (although the main Roman settlement was at Asta Regia to the northeast), which later became the Moorish Sherish, from which the famous wine takes its name. The city was reconquered by the Christians in 1264 and became Xerez (later Jerez) de la Frontera, because it was on the border of the Christian and Moorish terrritories, and the name has been retained even though it has long ceased to be true.
This being Sherrytown, though, the first order of business was a visit to a sherry bodega, or in our case, visits to four sherry bodegas over the course of two days to see what’s on offer for the “sherry tourist”. For a more detailed account of our bodega visits you can see my friend Shawn’s blog, so for this post it’s just the basics. First off was Gonzalez Byass (famous for its Tio Pepe fino and the iconic Tio Pepe figure with its guitar and jauntily angled hat), the biggest bodega in Jerez. It’s certainly impressive, but for my money, although good fun, the tour was a bit like an extended advert, suitable for the beginner or people with only a casual interest. For the more mature student, a visit to one of the other bodegas we saw would be more appropriate – Lustau (who make La Ina), or Tradición, a fairly small bodega that specialises in well aged amontillados, olorosos and palo cortados, as well as a fascinating private art collection. We were also privileged to visit Urium, a small family run bodega that doesn’t normally do tours, where we were treated like royalty by host Alonso Ruiz. The bodegas themselves are fascinating, with the ranks of casks in long naves like cathedrals to sherry, although the first thing you notice, sometimes even from the street outside, is the pervasive aroma of the wine.
Another must for us was a visit to the market, which is in a lovely building on the edge of the old town. No real surprises, but the whole swordfish I spotted being unloaded was the first I’d ever seen. We also did the traditional chocolate and churros breakfast in the square outside, which certainly seemed to be a popular way for the locals to start the day.
When it comes to strolling around town, it seems that all roads lead to the Plaza Arenal. This is the big square on the side of the old town facing the modern part of the city, and is so named because of its past association with bullfighting. The square is pleasant enough (the decorative sherry casks paying homage to Jerez’s most famous product are quite fun), but the most interesting parts of the historic centre are close by. Most important of these is the Alcazar, the 11th century Moorish fortress, which
among other things holds the city’s only surviving mosque and minaret, baths, a later octagonal tower, and a formal garden. The walk from the Plaza Arenal past the old town hall and the Church of Santo Domingo to the Cathedral takes you through the oldest parts of the city. For those who, like me, are fascinated by such things, the area of derelict bodegas beyond the cathedral has a certain charm. Not far from here, in the Plaza Mercado, is the Archaeological museum, though unfortunately we didn’t have time to go and see it. Also worth seeing are the Cloisters of Santo Domingo and the remains of the old city wall in Calle Muro.
We found some good places to eat too, though our two favourites were both some way out of the centre. Nevertheless if you have the time traditional fish restaurant Bar Arturo was our absolute favourite, with great food, good service and a lively atmosphere. Ajo Negro was very much a modern bar, but again great food and service. In the area around Plaza Arenal Reino de Leon, Cruz Blanca, and Pulpo y Aparte all served us well.
Jerez is easy to get to, with regular trains to and from Seville, and a journey time of about an hour.
Before I came to Spain I laboured under the misapprehension that a tuna was a small round fish that fit neatly into a tin. Apparently not. Apparently it’s a 200+kg monster whose various parts have special names like ventresca, tarantelo, cola blanca or morillo, so that you know exactly what you’re friendly local tapas bar waiter is going to bring you. Now, I did actually discover this pretty quickly, but a couple of days ago I was able to attend an event that brought that fact home to me in a compelling way.
The event in question was a ronqueo, the carving of a tuna into its component parts (the name derives from the Spanish word for snore, and is supposed to be the sound of the flesh being stripped away from the spine), ready to be turned into delectable little fishy dishes. The ronqueo was organised jointly by four bars, La Pepona, Sidonia, Nazca and Duo Tapas, who hosted the event, with each getting a share of the spoils.
In preparation, the bar was emptied of most of the furniture, and plastic sheeting laid on the floor – although the fish is, of course, already dead when it’s brought in, and expert cutting minimises the “blood and gore” that you might otherwise expect, this is nevertheless a sensible precaution that makes cleaning up easier. With everything prepared and the butcher (does anyone know if this is the right word in this context?) in attendance the tuna is wheeled in on a trolley and unloaded, and the work begins.
Using some very sharp knives and an instrument like a small machete the head is cut off, and then the brains, heart and then other internal organs removed. I was most surprised by the appearance of the gills, dark concertina like masses that were much larger than I expected. Next the fins and spines are removed and discarded, and then the cuts from the belly – ventresca, descargamento and tarantelo – separated from the rest of the fish, almost as if it was being unwrapped. Next were the long rolls of red meat from either side of the spine, the descargado and plato; these are what you most commonly see on the fishmongers’ stalls in the markets, waiting to be sliced into steaks. Then the tail is held up and the last cuts, the cola negra and cola blanca, are cut away.
It’s all over surprisingly quickly, and the various cuts laid out on a long table (a bit like an anatomy lesson in Bones). It’s a lot of tuna, and definitely isn’t going to fit into a tin, which in any case feels increasingly like sacrilege. Final touch is a glass of sherry and some perfect hors d’oeuvres prepared from the recently deceased. All in all, not a bad morning’s work.