A moorish tapas crawl in Jerez
The Hedonist - what to see and where to be seen
Saturday 04 January 2014
Tapas and sherry, here we come. Resisting the temptation to head straight for the nearest tabanco, we sought out our hotel, Casa Grande (00 34 956 345 070; casagrande.com), a 1920s mansion on a photogenic plaza in central Jerez de la Frontera. It is owned and run by Monika and the rooms are large and airy, with white marble and period furnishings. There was even a perfect miniature balcony for views of the plaza.
Leaving our room's air-conditioned comfort, we set out on a tapas crawl. First stop was La Cruz Blanca (00 34 956 324 534; lacruzblanca.com), a buzzing hot-spot in a low-lit leafy square. From a blackboard scrawled with daily specials, we selected lomo (pork tenderloin) cooked in sherry, pinxo de solomillo de ternera (grilled sirloin) and a wonderfully fresh tomato and soft cheese salad. We then stumbled upon El Almacén at Calle Latorre 6, a stylish tapas joint with long communal tables adorned with jars of wildflowers, and a well-stocked bar running the length of the building. We ordered large slices of tortilla and a portion of berenjenas con miel (aubergines drizzled with deliciously rich, sticky honey), accompanied by a glass of tierra blanca semi dulce. Our last course was then devoured at Tabanco El Pasaje on Calle Santa María 8 (00 34 956 333 359; tabancoelpasaje.com) a traditional bar where sherry is served straight from the barrel and cured meats and cheeses are offered up on greaseproof paper – all to a soundtrack of loud, local flamenco.
Next morning, we were back on the streets early, en route to our first bodega of the day. Bodegas Tradición (00 34 956 168 628; bodegastradicion.es) is a family winery with serious sherry credentials and a world-class gallery featuring El Greco and Goya. After that, a little fuzzy in the head, we swung by Bodegas Díez-Mérito (00 34 956 332 973; diezmerito.com). Taking a moment to inhale the sweet scent of fermenting grapes among dusty sherry barrels, we sat down to an alfresco tasting accompanied by giant platters of jamón and manchego. Then we grabbed a quick coffee at one of Jerez's oldest cafés, La Moderna at Calle Larga 67 (00 34 956 32 13 79) which is built into the city walls, then on to El Gallo Azul, down the road at Calle Larga 2 (00 34 956 324 509), known for its contemporary take on regional tapas.
Virtually bursting, we set off next in search of a little hammam in a sleepy back street, Hammam Andalusí (00 34 956 349 066; hammamandalusi.com) is a traditional Moorish bathhouse with a lavish modern twist: the hot, medium, and (bone-chillingly) cold pools are lined with lanterns and the air is infused with incense. After our Andalucian bath treatments, we were led upstairs to an intimate restaurant where we tucked into a Moroccan-inspired five-course feast, followed by cocktails on the roof.
Next morning, there was just one more stop to make before heading home – The Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art (00 34 956 319 635; realescuela.org). After sherry, horses are Jerez's proudest cultural calling card, and these bi-weekly shows by the dancing horses and their riders' staggering horsemanship are admired the world over. After that, there was just time for one more fino for the road.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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