Let’s start in Galicia; the home of paprika-dusted octopus and the deliciously sharp, yet fruity Albariño wine. Visitors often head to the pilgrim mecca that is Santiago de Compostela, but venture off the beaten track a little and you’ll come across the wonder that is a Furrancho. Traditionally a family-owned wine producer, locals would bring their own food along and sample the best of the latest stock. As years have gone by and families expanded, however, these humble grape-treading establishments have since developed a reputation for great ingredients, cooked following abuela’s recipes to the letter, and served at an incredibly affordable price. Oh, and budding sommeliers will be pleased to hear that the wine has far from fallen behind. Whether you ask for it or not, each table is presented with a porcelain jug of the straw-coloured nectar, along with matching porcelain drinking bowls.
Staying with the theme of alcohol (as many good foodies tend to!), we move East into the lush green pastures of Asturias. The Asturians like their wine, but cider is what really makes these folks tick. Any checked-shirt and peaked-cap sporting local worth their salt will have, at one time in their life, helped to press cider – if, that is, they don’t have their very own press sitting in the garage, waiting for the right time. Be sure to check out our other blog posts for a whole article devoted to the power of cider in Asturias, but for now, we’ll focus on restaurants. A small chain of restaurants named Tierra Astur have set up branches in Gijón, Oviedo, Avilés and Colloto, and they are famed for expert cider pouring, huge plates of hearty Northern food and the not to be missed dining experience of sitting within an enormous upturned cider barrel. Tiny LED lights interspersed among years of empty cider bottles cast a faint green glow around clients as they tuck into a plate of fabada asturiana, ensconced in the round wooden booths.
Finally, we follow the mountain path and end up in the Meseta Central; Castile and León. Just outside of León city – well worth a visit to see the towering spires of the Cathedral and to go on a tapas tour of the Barrio Húmedo – you’ll find the little village of Valdevimbre. Small, though cute and quaint, there’s a very specific reason this place is on the map. Take a wander through and you could be walking among a collection of Shire-inspired hobbit holes. Above ground, the restaurants look like stone-clad one-level bungalows, but the magic happens when you step inside (remembering to duck down!) and make your way downstairs into the heart of the countryside. Prepare to be greeted by endless tunnels of stone-lined caves and alcoves, lit by carefully positioned lamps and filled with tables and chairs, perfect for an intimate dinner. The local wine flows freely and soon, the whole area is filled with animated chatter and the tempting aromas of fried onions, peppers and thick cuts of steak on the parrilla.
Maybe it’ll take a little more effort to find these amazing local dining spots, but if you’re looking for authentic Spanish fare away from the High Street, it’s well worth the effort.
Leah Hendre is currently studying Spanish and Linguistics at Oxford University, but is using her free time to share her love and passion for Spain - and more importantly, Spanish food. www.LeahHendre.com, @LeahHendre [Twitter + Instagram]