Day two of the Jerez Getaway with Pam & Gord started off with a WHACK of hot crispy fried churros in front of the Central Market. After that, following THE PLAN IS THERE IS NO PLAN format we had been going with, we decided to see if we could go to Lustau for their Copa en Mano bodega visit. And there was still places available! So off we went after a quick visit to the market and cathedral.
I really enjoyed the concept of this tour. Usually people visit a bodega and then have a tasting at the end. With this one visitors start off with a glass of manzanilla and then taste their way around the various Lustau bodegas, finishing with sweet wines and then a bonus vermouth tasting in the shop. So it was a lot of fun, and we tasted some very special wines which I don’t think are included in the regular visit. And then it was time for lunch!
My friend Tomoko met us at Lustau, since (no plan, right?) we still weren’t sure where to go. From there I called one of my favourites, Albalá, and was told they were fully booked, but if we showed up we could go on a waiting list. Well, good enough for us! And sure enough, after a quick taxi ride, and about ten minutes after arriving and enjoying a drink at the bar, we got a table. Food was amazing, company even better. And afterwards we walked back into the centre for a penúltima. Then it was time for me to go. I didn’t have a return train ticket, leaving it open since THERE WAS NO PLAN. In the end I left Jerez at 7.15, and was home, unpacked, showered and with a load of laundry on by 9 pm. With my cats! It was a great getaway.
This week (on October 4) I was invited, along with other journalists, bloggers and regular commentators, to the presentation of this season’s tasting menu at Restaurante Ispal. Ispal has been the dream of Pedro Sánchez-Cuerda Rodríguez (director of Grupo La Raza) for the past 15 years, and together with Antonio Bort (his executive chef), and Ispal’s new head chef Rubén García Chacón, Pedro’s dream has now been realised.
The objective of Ispal, which opened a year ago, is to showcase the traditional cooking of Sevilla, using indigenous products and providing support for local family businesses, and then reinterpreting these popular dishes by elevating them to haute cuisine. This, by definition, involves the use of the highest quality ingredients, meticulously prepared and presented.
The local ingredients include salt from the salt flats of Utrera, cheeses from Castilblanco de los Arroyos, the famous tomatoes of Los Palacios, goat kid from Los Corrales, fish from La Puebla del Río, wines from Sierra Norte de Sevilla, Ronda, and sherry wines from Jerez.
The tasting menu, which you can see below, was spectacular. Many thanks to Fernando Huibrodo for the invitation, and to the entire Ispal team, including maître Alonso Reche and sommelier Cisco Nuñez.
Pedro Sanchez-Cuerda Rodriguez – director of Grupo La Raza
Antonio Bort – executive chef of Grupo La Raza
Rubén Chacón – head chef at Ispal
Fernando Huidobro – president of Andalucía Academy of Gastronomy & Tourism
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 held this week (October 3), and I was fortunate enough to be invited.
The Sagardi group also has Orio locations in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, which are aimed at a more day to day market, incorporating a Basque style pintxo bar (Sagardi was founded in the Basque country) as well as a restaurant featuring traditional Basque cuisine.
The front of the premises is a spacious pintxo bar opening onto Calle Santo Tomas, with a terrace facing the Archivos de India, and the bar itself on one side, with a very appetising array of Basque style pinxos so typical in Bilbao and San Sebastián, but something of a novelty in Sevilla. 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, monkfish, and roasted piquillo 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 Sevilla. Check out the photos below (but only if you’re not hungry!)
WARNING: Look away now vegetarians!
Some people think that meat-eaters should have to either hunt their own food or watch animals being slaughtered in order to pass some sort of “carnivore test”. I am not one of these people. But while I am normally not squeamish about eating meat, I have to admit that I wouldn’t really enjoy tucking into this guy’s crispy roasted face, even though I am sure it is delicious. How about you?