A 30.000 pies por viajeros para viajeros

Authentic Santander

Their interior design and decor are clearly aimed at newcomers and avant-garde visitors, but they retain the traditional flavours of their cuisine through formulas cherished for their long-standing success. I am referring to Bodega La Cigaleña and Bodega del Riojano, two beacons of Santander whose labour reminds us that wholesome traditional cuisine based on no-frills quality produce is the secret of their permanence over time.

Bodega La Cigaleña

Wine, wine, wine; produce, produce, produce; history, history, history – that’s what makes Bodega La Cigaleña the epitome of classics in downtown Santander, a place well worth visiting, particularly to savour their food and drink. Simple dishes based on the finest ingredients is the perfect excuse to try the best wines – especially the natural ones – a trend picked up on some years back like some visionary pioneer by the manager of the establishment, Andrés Conde Laya, the third generation of business owners here since it opened in 1949. An eatery with the atmosphere of a rustic inn and a museum of myriad curiosities.

And, if they are not natural wines, don’t fret, as their wine cellar, with some 10,000 items, can count itself among the finest in Spain. You need only to look up to discover a ceiling crammed with bottles – they have, for instance, a Madeira wine from 1830.

Not-to-be-missed dishes include a sauté of 18 vegetables (a tribute to a creation by Michelle Bras), and grilled octopus and Norway lobster covered in a thick sauce of lobster heads. A word of advice – let yourself be guided by Andrés when it comes to choosing a wine.

Bodega del Riojano

Bodega del Riojano, which celebrates its platinum anniversary this year, is one of the quaintest eateries in town on account of its wine casks decorated by artists. Most of them are located above the heads of the guests. This restaurant-gallery features snapshots of Woody Allen, and works by Ramon Calderón, Antoni Clavé, Oswaldo Guayasamil, Eduardo Gruber, Manuel Viola, Miguel Ibarz and even the comedians, Andreu Buenafuente and Moncho Borrajo.

Their culinary offerings could be described as homemade, with a prevalence of traditional recipes  and stews, like their leading performers – red beans, peppers stuffed with beef, and pork and codfish with tomato. Also noteworthy are their mussels and prawn croquettes and their scrambled eggs with ham and baby broad beans.

 

Text and photos by Ferran Imedio of Gastronomistas.com