This started life, quite some time ago, as a blog about food and wine with a bit of travel thrown in. Quite some changes have happened since then so I write less about food, wine and travel. Indeed, I write less and tend to focus on cycling and the objective for the coming year.
So it is nice to come back to food,wine and travel. All in one package. A short interlude in training for the June 11th insanity and a chance to see a small part of the world and eat and drink it. So, for the once yearly trip with my Dad we decided upon Ronda in Andalusia.
The initial reason was the Elderly Gentleman’s desire to visit Jerez and tour a sherry producer. I had already been to Jerez on a day trip as part of a holiday around 15 years ago and must admit the only lasting impression it left on me was that there were a lot of roundabouts. More memorable on the same holiday was a day-trip to Ronda. Add to that it’s alleged role in inspiring part of Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ and the fact that it is halfway between Malaga and Jerez and our destination was finalised.
The original objective of the trip, Jerez, lived up to my memory of it. A lot of roundabouts. We also skipped the sherry tour around 15 years ago and that proved to be a good decision. A lot of people like it but Jerez was just not my type of town. However, the drive to Jerez took us through some stunning landscapes.
In the middle of these landscapes perch some towns on hilltops, the ‘White Towns’ of Andalusia. Ronda is one of these and, despite the countryside surrounding us, the hire car was not heavily used.
We had the fortune of four nights in Ronda at a time of year when the tourist season is starting but not in a way that is suffocating; the only very busy day was Saturday and this we used for a walk down in to the countryside below Ronda. The evenings were not as busy so the crowds were probably in part made up of day-trippers.
They would have received a tantalising glimpse. We saw the town in all it’s glory and in all weathers, sun, rain. All impressive. The ‘Puente Nuevo’ spanning the canyon between the two halves of the town was especially memorable, one of the few times where the overused word ‘humbling’ was actually appropriate. Walking along it we could look down and see choughs spinning wildly along the sides of the cliffs below the buildings perched precariously along the side. A spellbinding sight.
The food and drink was also fabulous. One place in particular stands out in a weekend where there was no really bad food and only one glass of wine that wasn’t that nice. The disappointment of our sherry visit was (long day, boring tour, blahblahblah) was more than outweighed by a meal in a small Tapas bar, ‘De Locos’.
It’s always a good sign when you ask the owner what he would recommend to drink and his response is ‘Well, I am Basque so I like red wine with everything,’ or something like that. In so many places you ask the same question and you get an answer that leads to a very good match of wine and food and a very enjoyable one too but it is just nice to hear advice that is just personal. The food that was served was absolutely exceptional and all dishes were simple yet incredibly tasty and well put together. My personal favourite and a reflection of the wide influences on the chef/owner was tuna with wasabi ice-cream, ginger and soy sauce, showing his experience of working in a Japanese restaurant.
The artichokes were also great. More ‘Spanish’ with cubes of ham and a fried egg. Compared to the tuna it was perhaps simpler in terms of tastes but the execution perfect.
Alongside this food was a charming menu, with the chef/owner also acting as a waiter and providing clear explanation of the all the courses, simple names occasionally hiding a complex preparations. Though not superfluously complex, no foams or Jackson Pollackesque plate decorations. When I heard Wasabi Ice Cream I must admit to a slight feeling of suspicion but it went perfectly with the food. Nice touch as well that the menu was handwritten, practical but still comfortably welcoming.
A nice place and a lot of credit to the chef/owner/waiter, personable and a great cook. Made our evening and a reflection on a long weekend that we were privileged to spend in a place that, despite the many words that have be written about it, retained the ability to pleasantly surprise.
A nice interlude. Now back to the training for the mountain.