Déjà Vu Melbourne…

We were in need of a pre-winter break so we packed our bags & headed to Melbourne to catchup with several friends and, of course, eat & drink! Melbourne is not too bad a town to spend a week or two…I often say it is Australia’s version of San Francisco with an overall awesome, energetic & creative vibe across multiple fronts – food & wine, culture, music & art, history, etc…

And we could not have lucked out anymore with the weather as most days it drifted into the low 20’s with beaming sun & the bluest of skies. And since we are serious walkers, it made our exploration all the more enjoyable to be free of many layers & no rain gear.

The Big Metropolis; St. Kilda’s Luna Park; Shrine of Remembrance

One of our first target destinations was one of our regular favourites when we lived in Melbourne – the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria in Fed Square). A stunning space to have a wander and experience a serious collection of art – and about 95% is FREE! And if the NGV ticks your boxes, then you need to toddle over to the NGV International just a hop, skip & a jump down St. Kilda Road (and it’s FREE! – except for special exhibitions).

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria International

Besides revisiting our old friend the NGV, we made a point of checking out some of our food stomping grounds that left us with a vey warm & flavourful memory when we departed Melbourne for the UK. We are not really the ‘fine dining’ types, but rather prefer excellent quality food, cooked well, in a relaxed setting & so our big splurge was to lunch @ Cumulus Inc. Andrew McConnell knows a thing or two about food & restaurants & this is our fave out of his bevy of joints (Cutler & Co, Builders Arms, Supernormal & Canteen, Marion, Meatsmith, Cumulus Up wine bar). And it is always a delight for us to be seated at the kitchen bar & get a first hand, close up & personal view of the food proceedings. We had some fun chats with the staff who, despite a busy lunch hour, had plenty of time to answer our questions and offer some insights into Cumulus Inc.

Cumulus Inc.

Bundarra Pork Cutlet & Pickled Witlof & Butcher’s Sauce; Tuna Tartare, Goat’s Curd & Crushed Green Pea

Excellent Juice from Stephen Pannell – Tinto

And of course when in Melbourne, you must visit the markets…it is a habit we have no matter where we be to have a good squizzy at the local market whether an established fixture (e.g., Queen Vic or South Melbourne or Prahran) or a farmers market (e.g., Vegout, Abbotsford).

Prahran Market

I was always impressed & amazed at the range of goods on offer at the Melbourne markets. I swear there is a better selection of European goods like olive oils, vinegars, olives, etc…in the Melbourne markets than I could ever find in most of Europe.

Queen Vic Deli Section

And of course where there is great food, there’s great drinks…so we made the rounds of most of my old wine haunts (Cloudwine – fave for hard to find vino & great prices, Prince Wine Shop, Blackhearts & Sparrows various establishments with extensive choices, The Wine House, City Wine Shop – small but excellent selection & food is great too & Wine Republic – amazing selection & best new find) & scooped up a solid half dozen (New Zealand’s limit) examples of Australian’s finest. Yum…

Melbourne’s Wine Stores…

Another Andrew McConnell joint – Marion Wine Bar

One of the things on our ‘To Do’ list was to have some top notch ethnic food as Lyttelton/Christchurch New Zealand is not as solidly blessed with such an extensive immigrant community as Melbourne does in spades.

We had an interesting Turkish dinner at Tulum with mates from Balaclava but one of our go to places is Don Don, a Japanese restaurant that is fast as and super cheap (by Melbourne standards) and damn good! I ordered our 2 lunches & before I could put my change back in my wallet, 2 steaming bowls were before me!

We had also read some good write-ups for a place called Paper Plate (Vietnamese) where the kitchen was manned by one of chef Geoff Lindsay‘s ex-fellas of Dandelion fame, but at a far cheaper price point. Super crisp & clean flavours – you could see & taste that everything was made from scratch…

Paper Plate in Richmond; Vietnamese Chicken Salad & Vegetarian Pho; Hanoi Beer

One Sunday morning we met some mates for breakfast @ Industrial Beans in Fitzroy – excellent food but busts the wallet @ $90+ for 4! But post breakfast, our friends said we had to see the mural of our Prime Minister (Jacinda Adern) painted on a silo in Brunswick. So we piled into their car & off we went…very touching & excellent job.

Industrial Beans & Grace, Fitzroy

New Zealand Prime Minister Mural in Brunswick

Melbourne Street Art; Melbourne’s Booming Skyline; Melbourne’s Infamous Laneways…

So if you have never been to Melbourne – GO!!!!! It is a city that has so many nooks & crannies to explore you won’t get bored…and if you do get bored of Melbourne, head out to the country to visit the Yarra Valley wine region or the wonderful Mornington Peninsula or hit up Daylesford or Kyneton for a savoury food experience.

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Day Trip’n to Lincoln & Pub Lunch @ the Laboratory…

We had read an article in the Press a few weeks back that profiled the booming town or area of Lincoln, home to Canterbury’s esteemed Lincoln University. The boom has been happening post the earthquakes and seems to be on an uninterruptable rise with many folks escaping Christchurch for a more sedate, tranquil rural life. 

None of the Hounds could remember if we’d ever been to Lincoln, and if we had, we had complelely forgotten it…so on a recent gray, winter’s Friday we headed off for a visit.

It struck us as pretty much what was accurately descibed in the article, with lots & lots of new subdivisions going up like weeds, one pretty much indistinguishable from the other. The town centre had all the mod cons & required services (the library was super cool), including a decent choice of places for a drink & a bite to eat…We’d recently picked up the latest NeatPlaces pamphlet & the sweet description of The Laboratory ticked all the right food boxes and it is a craft beer joint to boot!

The Laboratory @ Lincoln… 

The Laboratory is the wonderful fruition of the blood, sweat and thousands of tears of Martin & Lisa Bennett who came to New Zealand to craft fine English style ales. The original incarnation for this effort was the Twisted Hop, which many folks will fondly remember on Poplar Lane. But like many CBD businesses, the earthquake was a fatal blow and while their partners moved on to re-open the Twisted Hop in Woolston, the Bennetts wanted to do something closer to home where they had settled down in New Zealand. And as fate would have it, in 2011 the Selwyn District Council approached them to be an anchor business in the new town centre plan. Bravo!

A Real Pub Feel…At Least Hound #1 Thought So…

Having lived in England from 2012 to 2015 (Hound #2 is 100% English), we had stuck our noses into a substantial number of pubs and this was mos def a pub! They even let Hound #1 in which certifies it as a pub in our books!

We had a quick perusal of the menu & as an early taste treat we opted for the Handcut Chips with Aioli ($9). Perfecto…hot & crisp and aioli heaven. We especially liked the serving cone – classic Kiwiana. Our beverages to accompany the chips: for me, a pint of the Twisted Hop’s Little Brother American Pale Ale ($9.50) and Hound #2 took the beer-less-travelled route & had a low alcohol Ha’Penny IPA ($9.50) which still was chocka with flavour. They have a more than decent selection of beers (both tap & bottle) to imbibe and please any hop preferences…

Even though we were very tempted by the wood-fired pizzas (we’d had our fill of pizzas that week), for our next course we decided to pick from the Small Plates & Salads menu. Hound #2 veered towards the Spiced Lamb Shoulder with Hummus & Yoghurt ($17) while the Braised Oxtail with Pappardelle & Parmesan ($14.50) was the ticket for me. We were both more than pleased with our respective selections and both plates were left spik’n span clean…we even used the left over flat breads to scrape up the residual tomato-y oxtail sauce!

Da Food: Top Left – Braised Oxtail with Pappardelle; Spiced Lamb Shoulder with Hummus & Yoghurt; and Super Chips & Aioli.

So if you fancy a tiki tour of the Lincoln area (Tai Tapu too – next blog post) and develop a bit of a thirst and some hunger that needs satisfied, The Laboratory will do you right…

A Heavenly Day of Fly Fishing…

The Glorious Clarence River…

My New Zealand trout fishing season got off to a VERY slow start even though I had returned to New Zealand from Spain in early October (the start of the season in NZ). With numerous hiccups to sort out (Billie the Jack Russell, house & landslip, 1975 Series III Land Rover, etc…) I could not muster much traction for fly fishing. I managed to grab myself by the shoulders, give myself a decently hard shake & then headed South to catchup with mate Chester to thrash some treaured waters. So the fly fishing pump had been primed…

But if I thought my season was slow to get a burn on, my mate Craig was far worse – he had not been out ONCE this season and it was rapidly coming to a close (30th of April). So we hatched a reasonable plan to head out for Hanmer Springs on a Saturday arvo, crash in a campground cabin to enable a 6AM start and cross over Jack’s Pass to the Molesworth Station. Together we have fished much of the Clarence River and bits of the Acheron, but Craig had been up this way at the end of the last season and said there was some damn new sweet water to be fished – not too small, not too big & loaded with character (i.e., lots of pools, drop offs, banks, etc…) and there be trouts.

Molesworth Station Rivers…

When the alarm buzzer buzzed @ 6AM we awoke to a 100% perfect autumn day with a good chill on, but blue skies and no sign of rain or wind – yet. It was a 1.5 hour drive from Hanmer to our desired destination so after a quick coffee fuel stop, we were on our way. The Moleworth Road is, relatively speaking, in fine shape as it had appeared a grader had recently done its job making the road smooth as for much of the journey. And the weather only got better – with a super shiny sun hanging low in the morning sky it was warming up quickly…and still no wind.

Sweet Water on the Molesworth Station

Having arrived @ our fly fishing jump off point, we quickly kitted up to attack the first pool. Craig was being his usual courteous self and offered me the first crack as he said there had been a few fish in there last season. I promptly tied on a blowfly dry with bead head nymph dropper & flicked my line up to the head of the pool & watched the drift…nada. A quick roll cast back up stream and a metre or more to the right – BANG!!!! A good 2-3 pounder on the nymph. But the pool still had potential, so I moved up stream a rod length & cast again – BANG!!!! Bigger fish this time, with a tad more spunk & bluster and again on the barbless nymph. I am always a wee bit superstitious & nervous when a fishing day starts out so good & so quickly as it often times more than nought turns to custard for the rest of the day.

Valley of the Sweet Water Panorama…

But my supertitions were rapidly put to rest as we continued our march up river & continued to hook & spot fish. After connecting with 4 browns, I started to fish a stunning stretch of water and after methodically working several casts from left to right across the pool I saw my dry fly indicator vanish & set the nymph hook & it felt like I’d hooked an anchor or a cinder block. A BIG boy that methodically, with no rush or panic, moved to the other side of the river where there was a decent bank where he proceeded to go up & down in a 25 foot circular beat, all the while I could feel the rubbing vibrations of the tippet through my fly line but no amount of pressure could budge him. He never came to the surface but after about 2 minutes the nymph hook popped free…damn barbless hooks. Last pool of the day we spotted 2 feeding at the very top of the pool so I flicked the blowfly again, about a metre above them & watched the drift…when suddenly, spotter mate Jack yelled “he’s turned!” and sure enough, a fish face & gaping mouth appeared 2 rod lengths in front of me.  But my English/Spanish fly fishing reflexes kicked in (got to be quick on the draw there) & I lifted my rod way too soon & pulled the fly right out of his mouth :-(….

One of the Brownies To The Net…

It was as perfect a day of fly fishing as I have had in a long time – muchas gracias Craig & Jack…so very glad to be home & back in the New Zealand river groove.

Goodbye Sweet Water…We Mos Def Be Back.

 

 

 

Back in the U.K. for Summer…Sort of.

Last Hoorah in Hondarribia…

We said adiós with heavy hearts to our home of 2 years Hondarribia…and of course all our great mates. We had a week or so of farewell get togethers that ranged from an evening pintxo stroll down Calle San Pedro to a menú del día with our sweetheart Itziar to a grand lunch @ with Gloria & Bernard @ Andoni’s (and Carmen) Txoko (cooking society). Hondarribia & Spain will be an experience that will be very hard to beat…

Back in the U.K. – Effing Cold!

We boarded the Bilbao-to-Portsmouth ferry on time post a nerve-wracking traffic jam that Hound #2 skilfully avoided by using  her Google map skills to route us through a wee fishing village – phew! Onto England…and as we disembarked in the Land Rover, England greeted us with its typical weather – pissing rain, windy as and effing cold…more like winter than effing August!

Frome’a A Pop’n! New Places Round Every Corner! – Sam’s Kitchen & the Rye Bakery Where Billie Found A Bean Bag…Loves Bean Bags!

We spent our first 4 nights camping in our old village of Frome, Somerset as Hound #1 Billie had an important vet appointment (1 of 4) to gear up for his return to New Zealand. We greatly enjoyed our return to Frome despite the wintry weather conditions as it has truly begun to blossom with new establishments popping up around just about every corner. One of our favourite morning coffee spots was the Rye Bakery which inhabits, quite stylishly, the vast insides of an old church. An amazing space that has seen some serious investment….

We also checked out Sam’s Kitchen Deli which has a truly stunning fit out & space…but we were not so impressed with the coffee in terms of quality and price, but could easily see enjoying a glass of wine or two in the 2nd floor bar & just walking the world go by, up St. Catherine’s Hill.

Fox & Badger @ Wellow – Awesome Lunch! Top Left: Bacon & Pea Risotto with Seared Duck Breast; The bar; Grilled Fresh Mackerel with Potatoes & Horseradish Cream Atop Chard

As we wrapped up our brief stay in Frome & prepared to head for Totnes for a month in an AirBnB cottage, we decided to indulge ourselves for having camped in wintry, wet conditions with a lunch @ our fave pub – the Fox & Badger in Wellow. We have never been disappointed in a meal here and this time was no exception. Exceptional quality at a more than fair price! If you’ve never been, GO!

Home Sweet Home for a Month – Totnes, Devon

We settled into our sweet AirBnB cottage late in the arvo with a cracking evening forecast ahead weather-wise. If you ever need a perfect place to stay in Totnes that is centrally located & comfortable as then check out this place. We ended up in good-vibe Totnes because my old Land Rover needed some TLC by my Devon mechanic Kevin prior to shipping to New Zealand. And Devon in August is or can be a serious challenge accomodation & price wise. But this ticked all the boxes!

Top Left: Best BLT & Avocado Sammie @ Rousdon Bakery; Venison Burger @ The Green Dragon Pub; Landcombe Cove – Stunning!

We have had sporadic stretches of an English summer & when we do, we leverage our time & our Secret Beaches book to the max. This is an excellent informational source for secluded, unpopulated beaches – a necessary bundle of information when you live in jammed to the gills England.

Top Left: Pigs Nose Pub – A Real English Pub; Macely Beach/Cove; Coastal Fields on Walk to Macely Beach

We got lucky with another forecasted, semi-summer’s day so made a plan to walk the track along the River Dart (below) to the village of Ashprington. An excellent walk was had by all and is a favourite activity of Hound #1, Billie. Hard to beat the Devon (or Dorset) countryside with rolling hills, mucho greenery & woods and a sweet river…and the pubs! Ashprington is home to the Dunstan Arms and we had a stunner of a lunch (and a pint or two).

Top: Dart River; Billie Waits for the Pizza; Lunch @ Durant Arms in Ashprington…Rabbit Rillettes & Toast Points & Cornichons.

Top: Billie Plays Hard With Toy Gift from Mate Gorka in Hondarribia; English Summer – Needs a Fire!; Another Gift from Gorka – Txakoli Vino!

We felt that after a few weeks in the village of Totnes that a day out in the Big Smoke of Exeter was in the cards. We had a few shopping missions to accomplish that could not be satisfied in Totnes, so on the train we hopped, Exeter bound.

A Day Out in Exeter…

We were able to tick a quite a few boxes in Exeter – I succeeded in replacing my about-to-disintegrate Levi jeans & Hound #2 raided all the Op Shops (Charity Shops for non-UK folks) nabbing some books & DVDs. We also managed a quick squizzy of Magdalen Road, foodie central for Exeter.

Thurleston Beach, Devon…

We were gifted with another stunner of a summer’s day…only problem it was a Bank Holiday Monday. Hound #2’s whole family has a genetic aversion to doing anything on a Bank Holiday, especially going to the beach. But we sort of devised plan which was to leave super early, get a swim & beach time in and do a coastal walk to the village of Bantham to the Sloop Inn pub for at least a pint & maybe lunch…crowds dependent.

The beach was awesome…until the hordes horded in. General theory is that any beach you can drive to & has a cafe or beach bar will have a tsunami of folks by lunchtime. And it always strikes us as funny or strange that if you are only willing to walk 10-15 minutes farther along you will almost always find a near empty, secluded beach.

The Sloop Inn was also awesome – we knew nothing about this pub but we dodged another Bank Holiday bullet by arriving a bit early when no one was there (yet) & placed our food & drink orders & grabbed a table in the empty garden courtyard.

The meals were stupendous and exceptionally well priced…wish it was our local!

The Sloop Inn, Bantham, Devon: Smoked Mackerel Salad & Local Mussels in Cream/Butter Sauce – Superb All!

Well, as we count down the days to our New Zealand return, frantically ticking off dozens of boxes of things to do with Billie the Jack Russell, my 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie – going to New Zealand!) & us and all our stuff, we have this (below) to return to…a massive slip – the backyard is now ever so much closer to the back door. Happy, happy, joy, joy in our wee casa in Lyttelton :-(.

Welcome Home…

Restaurant Arroka Berri – Excelente!

Restaurant Arroka Berri (The Rocks), Hondarribia, Spain

We Hounds keep a bucket list of places we want to try for a meal & a beverage and Arroka Berri was quite near if not at the top of our list. We heard some good mumblings amongst our Basque mates and the restaurant became an ardent follower of Hound #2’s Instagram feed, but the final push or raison d’être was our Aussie mates David & Carolyn were visiting us.

The Crew; Arroka Berri Logo

We arrived promptly at 8:30PM as we English, Aussie & American folks tend to do, only to find the restaurant 100% empty, and our arrival seemed to cause a bit of front of house consternation & chaos. We retreated to an outside table for an aperitif of a chilled bottle of José Pariente Verdejo (perfecto) whilst we waited for the staff to receive us. At 9:15 or so, más o menos, we sat down at our table…

Vino of the Night – Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas Mencía…Estupendo!

First order of bidness – vino. The wine list @ Arroka Berri is not only very interesting but stunningly affordable. We opted for some bottles of red with a few glasses of white thrown in for Carolyn. I was most curious to pop a cork on the Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas – a wine from the Bierzo region which is famous for the use of the Mencia grape & a bottle of which I have resting on my wine table. This wine costs me (at the retail level) €13.50 euros but Arroka Berri lists it at €16 – deal to make ya squeal! A stunner – to borrow an old mate’s phrase, a velvet Elvis.

Platter of Ibérico Jamón…Yum!

Now to the business of starters – I & Hound #2 were going to order 2 of the Ibérico Jamón & Lomo platters but our waiter discouraged us down to just 1 platter – and he was right as we struggled to finish it! Layered on wee toast points & drizzled with the savoury tomato sauce, jamón heaven…

Foie & Arroz Bomba

David decided on a super rich dish — foie gras. The foie gras was a la plancha (grilled) and sat atop a mushroom based risotto…not missing any gigantic flavours here.

Cordero Asado (Roast Lamb)

On to the Mains…and mostly meaty ones at that. Carolyn decided on the Cordero Asado (Roast Suckling Lamb) with Baker’s Potatoes…the pictures here do not do these dishes justice but the flavours were astounding.

Carrilleras de Ternera (Beef Cheeks)

David ordered, sort of on my high praise for beef cheeks, the beef cheeks (Carrilleras de Ternera) and promptly devoured the plate….man can eat but then again he’s an Aussie.

Cochinillo de Segovia (Roast Suckling Pig)

For my plate of the night I opted for Cochinillo de Segovia, a beautifully roasted suckling pig with ever so crispy skin & perfectly cooked potatoes. This was finger lick’n good…we took the remains home to Hound #1 (Billie) for dessert.

Torrija Caramelizada

And speaking of dessert, the guys opted out but the girls opted in – Hound #2 decided quickly on the Tarta de Queso and Carolyn decided to try the Torrija Carmelizada. It was the Tarta de Queso that merited the multiple thumbs up. And the boys were not truly left out as we ended out our Arroka Berri meal with free glasses of Cava and Patxarán! Needless to say, we all wobbled home at around midnight – a typical happy Spanish repast…

Arroka Berri Tarta de Queso (Cheesecake) – Excelente!

Gíjon – Magical Town…

Our distant impression of Gíjon from various readings & conversations was that it was a seriously heavy industrial port town & maybe not worth a visit, but we had heard from several good friends that Gíjon was mos def worth a visit. These were friends who had lived & spent a chunk of time in Gíjon and, we assumed, they knew of what they spoke. So as part of our return trip to our fave area of Asturias, we put it on the list…

La Galana…Not So Galamorous – Looks Good But Pulpo Tough and My Fabada Vey Weak on Flavour…

We broke up our long Land Rover drive with a brief stop in Noja and pretty much have nothing to report…so on to Gíjon to arrive in a pissing down chubasco (rain storm) & struggling to find a park. But we did, and then zigged & zagged our way to our AirBnB flat that was strategically located in primo territory (Cimavilla). After a warm welcome by our hosts, we headed out with Billie in tow to luckily find a break in the weather! We made a bee line for the Plaza Mayor with a wee bit of hunger & thirst on the burn & several folks had put in a good word for La Galana, so it was our first port of call. This place was the definition of style over substance – staff were surly & rude, prices a tad on the high side and the food was more than a few steps below average. Hoping things would improve…

Gíjon Street Scenes…

Coastal Park Near our AirBnB flat in the Cimavilla Barrio…with a sculpture by Eduardo Chillida

Our AirBnB flat was located within a 3-4 minute walk to the coastal park of Cerro de Santa Catalina which suited Billie to a ‘T’ for his early morning piss & poo walk. Stunning 360 degree views capped off by a wonderful Eduardo Chillida sculpture titled ‘Elogio del Horizonte‘.  Billie was very impressed…

It being Saturday, and Gíjon having a reputably damn decent mercado, we made a bee line for the Mercado del Sur to stock up for our coming days of camping by the sea at Camping Troenzo. And boy did we score! We’d made a list of special Asturias items that needed to make it into our basket & we found several stalls that were packed to the gills with our desired delectable items. By pure accident, we did most of our procurement at a deli stall called Pimienta y Perejil (Pepper and Parsley) that many folks outside the market and post our visit said was THE BEST. The man knew his Asturias products like…well, an Asturian deli expert, so we grabbed some jabalí (wild boar) chorizo, some Cabrales queso and some fat & big Asturias white beans.

Awesome Mercado del Sur - Snagged some excellent jabalí (wild boar) chorizo, cheeses (Asturias is famous for dairy & cheese) & beans!

Mercado del Sur – Gíjon’s Major Market…Snagged some excellent jabalí (wild boar) chorizo, cheeses (Asturias is famous for dairy & cheese) & beans!

And as luck would have it, the monthly artisan market was on for that very Saturday – double score. We picked up some more Asturias queso de cabra cheese and some primo cecina from the Gancedo stall — all organic, all home grown, all in the family and free range.

Artisan Market in Plaza Mayor…

And if our supply shopping could not get any better, in the barrio del Carmen we chanced across Coalla, Spain’s version of the famed US of A’s Dean & Deluca. This joint was a taste & smell sensation – our camping pantry was now past fulll…

Coalla – The Spanish Version of Dean & Deluca…Impressive.

As we edged into our Saturday night, one thing we needed to continue to continue ticking off was a decent taste of ciders as Asturias and the Basque Country are THE makers of Spanish cider. So just round the corner from our flat was La Tabacalera which suited all our minimal requirements just fine – it was a sideria and they had cider.

Sideria La Tabacalera…Top Left: 1st Cider of the night, Zapica; Hound #2 Gets In Some Pouring Practice; Chorizo in Cider; Marinated & Spicy Olives; Da Place…

In most other parts of Spain it is quite customary to just order a glass of cider, but in Asturias you have to have the whole bottle. Not too potent @ 6% or so on the alcohol scale, but it does sneak up on you. Asturias is also one of the provinces where a free pintxo comes with your drink…here we were first plied with some spicy, garlic olives. But our hunger was a tad bigger than that so we put in a racion order for sauteed chorizo with, of course, cider!

Way Cool Bar – La Vida Alegre…

Our next destination was the barrio (neighbourhood) del Carmen which our good mate Terra had tipped us off as THE COOL & HOT area of Gíjon, chocka full of bars, restaurants, cafes & stores. And she was spot on…

We started with a wee cerveza rest stop outdoors @ La Vida Alegre (The happy or joyful life) and enjoyed the excellent people watching as the Saturday night crowds began to stuff the streets….

Hop’nest Bar of the Night – Turnedo! Top Left: One of our 3 Free Pintxos @ Turnedo; Outside View; Excellent Vino Selections; Da Crowds; Menus…

Then it was on to Vinatería Turnedo – now this was the definition of popular…but even though super busy, the staff was more than up to the challenge with quick service and always with a smile.

Yawn…More Bars…Tough Life.

Tierra Astur – More Cider!

Almost happy that Saturday night came to an end – our heads & livers thanked us…so up early & in need of a decent, pre-leaving-Gíjon-coffee we had only one choice – Raw Coco, who’s acquaintance we’d made the previous morning. And it was a case of déjà vu too with the same order of two cafe con leches & a slice of sinful carrot cake.

Raw Coco – Fave, fave Cafe

So we waved a sad goodbye to Gíjon, but we were not too sad as we were heading  for a lunchtime rendezvous @ Casa Juanín…

 

Lunch @ Casa Juanín in the Asturian Mountains…

 

Ah, Glorious Asturias…

After a gloriously fun weekend in Gíjon (post coming up soon), we packed up the Land Rover on a brilliant Sunday morning (after a superb coffee @ Raw Coco) and toddled our way towards the pueblo of Pendones…to have lunch at Casa Juanín.

On The Road to Lunch @ Casa Juanín: Top Left – Co-pilot Billie on the job; Río Nalón; Wet Pooch; Spring Pooch in the Wild Flowers: Fix’r Upper & Roman Tower

It being a stunner of a day & we had a little extra time on our hands, and Billie needed a piss stop, we pulled over in the wee village of Condado for a riverside walk. The River Nalón flows through this valley and is reported by several sources to be a very fine trout river. There are two dams (that I know of) on the River Nalón which make it, like a lot of rivers in the world, a tailwater fishery which is both good and bad. The good is that it tends to keep the water temperatures relatively constant and it also helps to prevent severe flooding. The bad is that it can also seriously muck around with the water flows when summertime irrigation extraction hits full bore. Billie had a nice dip, a pee and a run through a wildflower meadow but we saw no trouts….sweet water though.

Casa Juanín, Pendones, Asturias

We had read about Casa Juanín (you can also read about it here in an extract from the Guardian) in a recent book purchase of mine by author Matt Goulding called Grape, Olive, Pig, and thought it special enough to make a modest inland detour for a Sunday menú del día lunch.

Top: Front Of House with Chilled Cerveza; Me & Juanín (he’s 83!); Our Table View…

We arrived promptly (being American & English) at our reservation time of 1pm, but were quickly handed 2 cold beers & told lunch started sometime after 1:30 or maybe closer to 2. No pasa nada…being so early we were able to snag the best outside table and slowly sip our refreshing beverages. Juanín came out to set our table and we had a very nice chat with him and he told us the secret to a long life (he’s 83!) – work! He not only does the restaurant with his daughter Isabel, but also has a herd of cows and goats that he keeps. He told us the pueblo of Pendones only has 15 or so inhabitants in the winter and that the winter can be very tough – now that’s an understatement.

As time slipped by, more & more folks began to appear & for the most part they disappeared inside Casa Juanín. Hmmmm? At 2pm I was sent in to see if I could get the menu for the day, so I asked Juanín who looked a bit perplexed, but soon his daughter Isabel (the chef) appeared at the door & voila! – a menu appeared.

We did a quick perusal, made our 1st plate, 2nd plate & dessert choices & Hound #2 was sent in to place the order…well it seems that the printed menu bears little resemblance to what is on offer, so Hound #2 made some rapid on-the-spot decisions but upon her return table side, she confessed she really did not know what we were eating except the roasted goat.

Top Left: Jabalí (Wild Boar) & Bean (Alubia) Stew; Dining Al Fresco; Bowl of the Good Stuff; Cider!

Quick to the table was our ordered bottle of Asturian cider (Asturias & the Basque Country are THE cider making regions in Spain but very different styles) – yum. Then came a big, steaming bowl of jabalí (wild boar) & alubias stew (Asturias is famous for its big, white beans which go into a traditional dish called fabada) which was promptly dished out & scooped up & devoured. Super rich in flavour, a silky texture with chunky hunks of wild boar…Clean bowls went back to the kitchen….

Top Left: Pre-meal Table; Plated Roasted Goat & Taters; Full Plate of House Raised Roasted Cabrito, Potatoes & Red Peppers

Next in the queue was cabrito asado (roasted goat with potato & peppers), in fact we got Juanín’s goat so to speak, just kidding…beautiful, tender as, succulent & juicy, packed with flavour, crispy as skin and heaps of it. After we pretty much stripped the massive serving bare, Juanín came out and said ‘¿Más?” (More?) to which the only answer was “Nada más!” – (Nothing more!). We thought if we’d kept answering ‘yes’ food would just have kept coming & coming…

Dessert With A View…Homemade Goat’s Cheese with Apple Paste; The Best Cheesecake Ever

With only a smidgen of room left in our gullets, we made our dessert choices – cheesecake for me & some of Juanín’s own goat cheese with fruit paste for Hound #2, who decidedly declared mine the winner by a long shot. We spent another leisurely half an hour enjoying the bright, oh so sunny oh so warm day & letting our stuffed to the gills stomachs digest…and then we asked for the bill. Qué chollo (what a deal)!!! Total damage came to 34 euros for 2 beers, bottle of cider, bowl of jabalí & alubia stew, gigantic plate of roasted local goat and dessert!

So folks, if you happen by chance to be wandering the backroads of the mountains of Asturias, drop a pin on your Google map for Casa Juanín – you will not be disappointed  & say howdy to Juanín and Isabel for us…