Doing the "ronda" in Valencia means dropping into as many tapas bars as you can fit in and trying a bit of what they have on offer. Here are a selection of my best 5 tapas bars that made up my main Ronda for three days.
1. Taberne de la Reina - Plaza de la Reina, 1, Valencia
Entering the Plaza de Reina from the south this fine modern tapas bar is half way up on the right. Why aren't there more bars like this in London?
A vast array of beautifully presented tapas to suit any palate. All washed down with sweet tasting Rioja tinto or a cold refreshing glass of Estrella Dam.
2. El Kiosko - Calle de los Derechos, 38
Top Rioja's to look out for - Contino:
A bit of a dive bar feel with a Galician style seafood menu. The chipironas fritos are to die for as are the gambas roman (deep fried prawns in batter) washed down with a stone cold glass of local white wine.
The bar is full of locals and perched on a small square that has about 4 buzzing little food and drink venues with Spaniard's and tourists all mixing it up and whiling away the hours listening to buskers, or simply dancing in the sunshine (on sundays). Get down there!
3. Boatella Tapas Bar, Valencia (Opposite the Mercado Central on the main road)
A great little tapas bar with inside and outside seating frequented by locals and tourists. Really nice atmosphere and a great place for an indulgent lunch or people watching stop-gap in the evening.
Grumpy men serve great big fillets of anchovy (boqueronas) in vinegar which is what we expect in Spain. Eye watering seafood tapas such bacalao (cod) or a plate of pulpo a la Gallega to make your mouth run with saliva.
Best thing to do is just start ordering what you like the look of and wash it all down with a few glasses of the local red wine that is great with seafood and really refreshing.
4. "Lizarran, Pinchos Tapas y mucho mas" - 8 Plaza Ayuntamiento
I walked upon this place on my first morning and enjoyed a good simple breakfast. Stumbling upon it again I was tempted in by the top-lit cabinets of self-service tapas.
This plaza is lively to say the least, like the Piccadilly of Valencia! With fun contemporary music, it's a 'munch, chat and get in the mood' bar. They had a good selection of tintos on the menu so I tried them all. The Rioja crianza and Ribera del Duero crianza's are so cheap and taste so good that ordering them is a no-brainer.
My tapas included: tortilla y jamon, mayonnaise with chopped pulpo (octopus), patatas y pulpo, peppers stuffed with mayonnaise, onion and shredded vegetables. I was edging towards the tuna and tomato empanadas but ran out of capacity (and that's not even mentioning the tapas desserts! see pics)
5. Bodega Sorolla - Tapas and very good wine - C / Derechos, 27, Valencia
House wine is an unlabelled Ribera del Duero crianza - a lovely touch to the passing aficionado. The barman, Martin, is easy to identify with his stout build, beret and Peter Blake-esque beard. The hospitality is warm and authentic with very good tapas ranging from meats to fish and peppers. I would suggest a few tintos and plate of "jamon y queso" (ham and cheese) the latter being manchego cheese which is a joy to behold when blended with the Ribera del Duero house wine - fruits blending with the cheese and washed away with little bite of tannin clearing the mouth perfectly. Yum!
After all this heavy working out, you should consider enjoying a few digestif's at one of the popular late night bars that are open until about 2am. The Cafe Lisboa is great to sit outside on a warm night under the large olive tree. Or for a bit more life head to the Cafe Negrito round the corner - there are lots of places to go, so just wonder and pitch up is the best advice.
Great Spanish Wines:
Wine Tasting in Abruzzo - tasting notes
Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.
Abruzzo: fine wine in an Italian idyll
East from Roma to Abruzzo
From Rome we headed east to Abruzzo, a region of Italy that rises up like a burly landlord to greet the traveller. The Apennine mountains at their tops are stark and beautiful, lonely, yet fulsome. Rustic doesn’t quite do this landscape justice. It’s a place for pilgrims, peace lovers and, of course, we followers of Bacchic and gastronomic pleasure.
Watch: Wine Tips from the Grape-Pickers Party
After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of.
Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!
From Picasso to Pecorino Wine (not cheese!!)
What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.
Fermo and the genteel pleasures of the Palazzo B&B
The Palazzo is located in the centre of Fermo, a small Roman hilltop town with a rich history dating back to antiquity. Flying from abroad, Ancona is the closest airport, 67km north (about an hours drive) along the coast of the Adriatic sea.