Our new Foodie holiday in Andalucia starts in the pretty village of Alajar in the Sierra de Aracena. The village has a population of less than 500 but incredibly there is of choice of has seven restaurants within the village.
Lucy & Angel, the owners of the hotel where you stay in the village, will talk you through each restaurant – this place is great for jamon, this one has the best paella, that sort of thing.
I visited with a friend and we wanted a long leisurely lunch – very Andalucian! Angel recommended a restaurant that he said had everything – great service, food, wine and ambience. It was Saturday afternoon around 15:00 so it was a late lunch even by Spanish standards.
We wandered down the narrow cobbled streets and commented on how quiet the village was. There were a few dogs wandering around but no other sign of life as all of the shops had closed for the afternoon siesta.
We got to the street where Angel had told us to go but couldn’t see any restaurant – it’s a tiny street in a tiny village so a bit surprising. After checking the address I walked back along the street and noticed a small restaurant sign next to a big wooden door. Aha. I opened the big door and was initially shocked by the noise and life behind it.
It was quite surreal to go from the silence of the empty village streets to the noise of big Spanish families all enjoying weekend lunch. There was certainly life behind those doors.
There were no tables free so we sat in the bar area for half an hour or so just soaking up the atmosphere. We ordered some bellota ham and sherry – yes sherry.
My friend was very dubious about having sherry and I know she was suddenly thrown back to the 80s with visions of her granny sipping a glass of Harvey’s, but sherry in this part of the world is something completely different.
A chilled glass of fino or manzanilla is a perfect accompaniment to the jamon. My friend quickly agreed and now sees sherry in a whole new light. We sat at the bar while the owner of the restaurant carefully and slowly carved the belotta for us. We quickly polished it off.
We then moved into the main restaurant area. Angel had recommended, almost insisted, that we go for the pork steak. It is not something I would usually choose as I find pork quite tasteless at times but I went along with the recommendation.
I was asked how I wanted it cooked – rare, medium - which was a surprise as I didn’t know pork came as anything but ‘done’ – but that is possibly because I very rarely, if ever, order pork off a menu.
Anyway, the meat came and I have to say I had no idea pork could taste like that. It was wonderfully tender, surprisingly succulent and was just served as it was without any need for sauces. It was simply delicious. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.
After lunch we went back into the main bar area to pay and the owner insisted on giving us a ‘chupito’ which is basically a post-meal short drink. Not wanting to offend I dutifully drank it but it kept getting re-filled. It took me a while to realise that it would keep on being filled as long as I kept finishing it … so be warned!
We finally left the restaurant around 18:00 so it was indeed a very long leisurely lunch which the Andalucians would be proud of.