Over the last week I’ve enjoyed the privilege of being able to sample the taste-bud tingling best of gastronomy in Asturias on Spain’s verdant northern coast. My belly has been satisfyingly filled and, maybe less satisfyingly, swelled to bursting point by a rich and diverse journey through the region’s cuisine. It has been a culinary voyage that has transported me from hearty rustic dishes such as fabada (bean stew flavoured by chunks of chorizo, tocino, tacón and morcilla) and mountains of grilled meat, as high as the Picos de Europa themselves, to delicately flavoured dishes that were presented with such artistic finesse that I felt like an uncouth vandal as I plunged my fork anarchically into them.

I could write reams about each (and probably will) but for the moment I’m only going to mention three wonderfully unique places that made dining in Asturias an unforgettable pleasure for all my senses.

Tierra Astur – Colloto
Empty jade-coloured bottles hang from the ceiling; legacies of cider fuelled good times past. A calle length counter is topped with perfect specimens of locally grown produce. Huge grills blast out heat as intense of that from a foundry’s furnace and the best seats in the house are inside immense cider barrels.
Asturianos seem to possess voracious appetites and a main course of succulent grilled meats piled high and topped with char-grilled peppers has everyone but seasoned veterans waving the white flag long before the summit of the meaty mountain is conquered. A bottle of locally produced Cangas de Narcea wine with its earthy, full-bodied attitude is just the fellow to unlock the flavours of the food served in Tierra Astur.

The Clock Tower, Laboral, Cuidad de Cultura
Gijón’s eye-catching grand utopian vision, former orphanage and now cultural city is worthy of a visit in its own right. Throw in a lunch in the Hitchcock setting of the clock tower- right behind the clock face in fact – and you’ve got a seriously sexy spot for a chic buffet.
Admittedly it’s a bit of a tease to talk about having lunch in the clock tower of the Laboral as it isn’t  a venue where visitors can just pop in for a quick bite in super stylish surroundings. However, it can be rented out for parties, celebrations and conferences. If eating in a clock tower wasn’t enough of the bees knees, the colour of the tower’s clock faces can even be changed to match those of any corporation holding an event there. The vistas from the top of the tower are increible as were the little Cabrales roulades (blue cheese) that formed part of the buffet when I visited.

The Transcantábrico Gran Lujo
There can be few culinary experiences to match dining somewhere as exciting and nostalgically romantic as the dining carriage of the Transcantábrico Gran Lujo. It’s impossible not to sigh pleasurably as the train trundles past meandering rivers and rolling green countryside where cattle graze lazily and black horses try to outrun the train. This is the stuff of 1930s travel, and dining on elegantly prepared dishes such as hake with spider crab illuminated by the soft light from a Tiffany lamp is paramount to enjoying a tantalising taste of travelling nirvana. It’s particularly impressive how the impeccably attired waiting staff serve food and pour wine without spilling a drop as the train weaves and sways its way through the glorious Asturian countryside, especially considering I couldn’t walk through the carriage without accidentally getting up close and alarmingly personal with my fellow diners.

Of course had it not been for the fact that I was a guest of the Asturian Tourist Board I wouldn’t have been able to eat in a clock tower or in the cosily luxurious confines of the exquisite Transcantábrico Gran Lujo. But if the opportunity for anyone visiting Asturias to follow suit comes up, my advice is to grab it with both hands…and feet.

At the very least seek out Tierra Astur. Eating there is an experience that is accessible to all. One final piece of advice though; don’t eat for a week before going if you want to have any chance of making it to the summit of that meat mountain.

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Comments
  1. Drooling over it all …… but…..would give my eye teeth (whatever they are) to eat on the train!

    • dragojac says:

      Yup, mine are somewhere in a bag in Asturias : ) We had a couple of wonderful days on the train (apart from the stops in small villages to go exploring) and it’s just one of those bucket list type of travel things to do. Lying on a luxuriously comfortable bed watching the countryside roll past the window was just the ultimate in decadence and going to a disco on a luxury train was simply surrealville. I’ll be writing a lot more about it, but probably not on this blog.

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