Santander – Apart From “Rabas”
09 December, 2015
Two clichés about Santander. One is 100% true. The other is gradually becoming less so. The first (true) one – you simply have to visit Santander, as it is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. The second (dispensable) one – you have to eatrabas(deep-fried squid rings). Well, no, you don’t need to because the Cantabrian capital’s culinary offerings have grown in quality and diversity, something we went to try out on our palate.
Modern, informal cuisine tends to be a ploy. On the pretext of being modern and informal – wham! – they pull a fast one on you. This is not so with Umma. On the contrary. The dishes are recognisable, the produce good and, above all, the sense of taste is above average. Well above average. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez has turned an erstwhile family restaurant into one of the must-visit eateries of Santander. His flair for toying with new ingredients in the same dish, balancing them and bringing out the best in each recipe is prodigious. He takes it in his stride, and it stands to reason, as he has done it all at Noma (Copenhagen), Mugaritz (Rentería) and Cenador de Amós (Villaverde de Pontones, Cantabria), all distinguished by the Michelin Guide and the magazine, Restaurant.
Star dishes; each better, tastier and more dazzling than the next, refining and updating the flavours of Cantabria. Starting with the scrumptious croquettes – round, crisp on the outside, and creamy, almost liquid, on the inside. Then the Santoña anchovy pizza, pork jowl, Gomber cheese, black olives, rocket and dried tomatoes, and ending with two symphonic dishes – beef tongue, mushroom and hazelnut carpaccio and organic eggs with jerky and mushrooms. Take note of the home-brewed beer and the wines, far removed from the wine-cellar establishment. Noteworthy, too, are the exhibits gracing the walls, and the jazz and soul concerts held on Thursday nights.
Umma is what the Japanese exclaim when they like something a lot, and umma is what you’ll say on leaving the establishment after lunching or dining there.
Average price: €35-40 (lunch menu, €18; fast-good menu from Tuesday to Friday, €14, and tasting menu, €39).
When you enter Mexsia and catch sight of the glasses placed any old how, teetering on the edge of the table, you think, “This must be a special place”. Well, yes, because, as you came in, you noticed the background music and the lighting that made you think you were in a pub, rather than a restaurant. Maybe, no… well, yes – this is a gastropub. It is the brainchild of Óscar Calleja, holder of a Michelin star at Annua (in San Vicente de la Barquera). Mixture, fusion, delight. Mexico and Asia – “Mexsia”. Pungent, spicy sauce, like serrano-chile green gazpacho and charcoaled scallop, shrimpaguachile with Chamoy sauce – a fine dish with citrus accompanying excellent produce; exciting like fried maki in tempura with spider crab, masera and avocado pear, or like singed salmon nigiri with crisp nori algae. Sharp, like the homemade nachos served with three, likewise homemade sauces…
Average price: €25-30 (fast-good lunch menu from Tuesday to Friday, €15, and tasting menus for €25 and €30).
They might as well have called it El Paraíso, because the spot where the restaurant is located is paradisiacal, dream-like, marvellous, beautiful… A 19th-century hermitage, a deep green meadow, a cliff, with the sea in the background – unsurpassable! Here, you can live out the Stendhal syndrome for yourself. But, El Remedio is also a good name because, while you are there, you forget about all your concerns; so, it is a remedy for all ailments, albeit a temporary one.
While splendid when the sun shines, in a storm it must be spectacular. A gift on the eyes and the soul, bolstered by the cuisine of Samuel Fernández, attached to the land and sea seen from his restaurant. You must order the megano (a tiny squid done on the griddle) with potato in squid ink, scallop with boletus sauce and cured bellota ham (with a long, intense flavour), dried beans with field mushrooms, a finger-licking, long-simmered stew, fried bull’s tail with beetroot mustard and barbecue sauce. And, all this eaten while gazing out over the horizon. And dreaming away…
Average price: €40.
Goodness me – what gastronomic diversity! Why wait to relish it all? Check out our flights here.
Text and photos: Ferran Imedio (Gastronomistas.com)
09 December, 2015