DOS HERMANOS DO VALENCIA
DAY THREE: 24 HOUR PAELLA PEOPLE
Valencia is the home of Pealla. Not just Paella but a wide variety of dishes based on the use of Bomba rice.
Most bars and restaurants in the town offer versions of the dish, but most are not very good. Friends of mine in Spain who know Valencia well cautioned me to only try the local speciality at the places that insist you name which paella you wanted when you make the reservation and, my dear chum, Monica from Madrid was even more insistent that there was only one place that she would go on her frequent trips to Valencia, CASA ROBERTO.
So, Saturday was the day we had planned and, thanks to Amex, we negotiated the reservation system and made a booking for 10pm that night.
Given that we were going to order an awful lot of carbs, we decided that quite a lot of walking was needed beforehand and we headed out after some coffee and mint tea to walk the other half of The Touria. What an amazing public space. Filled with exceptional sporting facilities for football, athletics, rugby, softball and lots more, it was filled with locals enjoying their morning activities. Along its route as well are some stunning examples of modern architecture, particularly the Museum of Science.
Soon, it was close to midday and, as the law demands in Spain, it was time to have a little drinkie and a few pincho. So we did.
BODIGA LA GOYESCA – a traditional Andalucian bar which offered a decent range of sherries and wines which we sampled while eating habas ( beans ) with jamon, boquerones en vinagre, chiperones fritos and some pescaditos. All very good if rather pricey. Still, hardly €47!
BAR KAL PE – what I love about Spain. A grubby looking bar from the outside and, in truth, the inside. But, decent beer, a freebie of olives and some decent snacks on offer.
BAR CINCO JOTA – Named after the five acorns, the premier rating for Iberico products, this small bar had a very serious young man behind the counter who became even more so when we ordered a surtido ( selection of ) Iberico. He solemnly sliced pieces of lomo, cecina, salchicon jamon and chorizo. It was very very well worth the effort and perfect with a couple of copitas of manzanila.
By now we were walking back towards our hotel and some afternoon nappage in anticipation of our Paella and we popped into three, well four more places en route. As we did, we walked back through the Plaza De La Virgien where brides come from their ceremonies to be photographed. As we strolled through, there were at least four on show. The guidebooks say that it can often be many more than that and the wedding parties outdo each other by setting off firecrackers
BAR SAGARDI – a Basque bar offering the montadito ( tapas mounted on bread )that are the specialtiy of that area. In truth, quite poor and a bit bland
BAR MARRASQUINO – just for a glass of wine
BAR PILAR – back to this excellent bar this time just for some chiperones a la plancha.
BAR BARLEARES – for some cana and a rather nice tuna empanada
BAR RUBI – our last cana before siesta.
After a few hours sleep, we were fit again for the evening’s entertainment. Of course, you need to have a few tapas before a good Paella. So we set of to
TASCA ANGEL – some more of those sardines. We certainly did like those a great deal. This time though we also ordered some more all I pebre ( eels ) so much better than our first try. Thick chunks of eel in a rich garlic sauce.
BODIGUILLA DEL GATO – just a cana
BAR GOYAESCA – back to this bar which was right next to our restaurant of the evening. A glass or two of sherry set us up nicely.
CASA ROBERTO – what can I say? My chum, Monica, was spot on. A fantastic place.
We had pre ordered the traditional Paella with chicken, rabbit and snails. A dish which has its origins in the time of the Roman empire.
As we entered at 10pm the place was filling up nicely and we went straight to our table and sipped on some manzanilla while the waiter removed the slip of paper which had scrawled on it which paella we had ordered. It takes about 30 mins from when you arrive for the dish to come to the table ( I am unsure how long they have it cooking before ) so we chomped on yet more excellent Jamon Iberico and ordered a bottle of Pesquera Crianza.
The dish was presented to the table as tradition dictates and they gave us the choice of plating it or leaving it on the table. We chose the latter. It was right up there with some of the best dishes I have ever eaten. The bomba rice had plumped up in the cooking stock and surrounded dense pieces of conejo ( rabbit ) and pollo ( chicken ) scattered about were plenty of meaty snails. The dish, as all good paella should, had formed a crust on the underside which we scraped off down to the very last grain.
We we stuffed by the time we finished but still managed a couple of nasty ( naturally ) desserts before the waiter left two bottles of Orujo and Pacheran on the table with instructions for us to help ourselves “ on the house” which we duly did.
Well, we certainly needed to walk that off. Earlier in the day, we had seen a Ferrer ( fair ) being set up on The Turia and thought that would make a great way to end the evening. The fair was based around the region of Andalucia and, when we arrived, it was in full swing. A band was just starting to play music from the region and we decided to stand for a few minutes to listen. So beguiling was it that we were there for well over an hour. The band were playing a mix of modern music and classical Sevillana, a type of Flamenco punctuated by off cadence clapping breaks. As they played this most plaintive of music, members of the audience broke out into the Sevillanas dance which comprises intricate hand gestures which, I am told originated with the gypsies in India. I am not ashamed to say that to see people, young and old, couples and singles, men and women offering up spontaneous dance to this moving music did bring a tear to my eye.
By the time the music finished, it was past 1am and the fair showed no sign of coming to a halt. We, however, were definitely fading and headed home to the hotel and the slightly less pleasing sounds from the town Hall