menú del día

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Many people visiting Jumilla for the first time say that they want to go somewhere “really Spanish”.  To be honest they would be hard pushed to find anywhere in Jumilla that isn’t Spanish: two Chinese and one Italian restaurant is about it.  The following are John’s and my favourites for what we feel are very good reasons, so why not check them out and tell me what you think? Remember that Spanish people rarely go out for lunch before 2pm, so if you get there by 13.55 you should get a table.  ;-)

1. Restaurante San Agustín  (Av. de la Asunción, 64)

Good food, a great atmosphere and fantastically friendly staff: this has to be our number 1.  As I don’t eat meat I love coming here for their delicious fish dishes, using fresh fish from Santa Pola.  Their desserts are also yummy, making it very difficult for me to choose just one.  Menú del día is 10€ in the bar, where we usually eat when we are on our own, as we enjoy the lively atmosphere.  It is still a very reasonable 12€ in their new, stylish restaurant where the posh people eat, and where we eat when we go out with friends.

2.  Bar Paraíso (C/Cura Abellán, 23)

If you want to go to a typically Spanish bar, for an excellent value ménu del día at 8€, this is the one we would recommend.  This is also one of the few bars to offer their menú at weekends, including festivos.  Friends we have taken there have said that it is some of the best food they have tasted in Spain, so why not give it a try? 

3.  Restaurante de Loreto  (C/Canalejas, 73)

This is the place if you want to splash out: we paid 20€ the last time we went there for menú del día.  Of course if you are based in the UK you will think that is ridiculously cheap for an excellent meal in lovely surroundings!  We had to admit that it was good value considering the quality of the food and the wine served with it, which was Tavs: one of our favourites.  The restaurant is set in a 200 years old mansion, with six beautifully decorated individual rooms, and a summer courtyard at the back, so if you go there you will enjoy looking around. 

The courtyard in Restaurante Loreto

4.  Duque de Lerma  (C/Rambleta del Convento, 7)

By the time we walk up the hill to this restaurant, we are always ready to enjoy their reasonably priced menú del día at 9€.   The bar is small and cheerful, whilst there is a large restaurant at the back for groups.

5.  Restaurante Reyes Católicos (Av. Reyes Católicos, 33)

This is a popular restaurant, with a small bar, where they do a menú del día for 12€.  It is conveniently situated on the Avenída of the same name.  When we went there with Spanish friends nobody looked at the carta – they just ordered what they fancied, and luckily everything was available.  The staff were very obliging when we asked for queso frito con tomate without the tomato, for me.  They also cooked some calamares separately for our friend Lesley, who is on a gluten-free diet.

6.  Restaurante Monasterio (Av. de la Asunción, 40)

We have enjoyed the 9€ menú del día here on many occasions.  The restaurant was refurbished about a year ago, and we were very dubious the first time we went in after that, as it seemed very new and very quiet.  However it is back to its normal noisy self and is as popular as ever, especially for take-aways.  For some reason, the last few times we have been there, people were popping in to buy their lunch and take it away.

7.  La Brasería del Ave (C/Valencia, 11 – corner of Reyes Católicos)

We have a soft spot for their bar, as we inadvertently gate-crashed the opening party after it changed hands.  We were walking past just after it re-opened so decided to go in for a glass of wine and a tapa.   John ordered our wine and was asked if we wanted a tapa so chose something.  Later on, a member of staff brought over more tapas, so we had another glass of wine.  After enjoying lots of delicious tapas and wine, John went to the bar to pay our bill, only to be told that it was free as they were having an opening party for their family and friends.  Oops! 

Having enjoyed tapas in the bar, we were delighted when they opened their restaurant, where they do a good menú del día for 10€.

8.  Bar Las Delicias (C/Hernando de Nuño, corner of Calle Lope de Vega)

This tiny bar is tucked away in our local barrio of San Juan and deserves a special mention for their Thursday bargain menú del día at only 3.80€.  They also serve delicious tapas and have weekend specials, so although this bar is new we expect it to be around for a long time.

9.  Casa Sebastián (Av. de Levante, 6)

Very handy for the Tuesday market, as it is situated in the market building, Casa Sebastian is the only restaurant that isn’t open in the evening and that doesn’t do a menú del día.  Their carta though is reasonably priced and the food is very good, so if you are laden with shopping and don’t want to go too far, why not have a meal there?

10. Méson Jumillano (Av. de Murcia, 47)

Méson Jumillano

Convenient for people shopping at Aldi, and easy to spot as it is also on the right-hand side as you head into town, this is our local restaurant.  The first time we went there we decided that the man behind the bar looked uncannily like René from ‘Allo ‘Allo.  Since then it has changed hands, and in my opinion the food has changed for the better, so we pop in there for the 9€ menú del día on a fairly regular basis.  When the weather is warm, we occasionally sit outside for a coffee or glass of wine with our dog Lisa.

11. Cafeteria Monreal (next to Hotel Monreal, Calle del Doctor Fleming)

This café, adjoined to the hotel, serves consistently good food.  It has a 9€ menú del día during the week and also on Saturdays.  We have always enjoyed the food there and the staff are very friendly.

12.   Michelangelo (Av. Reyes Católicos, 58)

Sometimes, no matter how much you like Spanish food, you just have to go out for an Italian meal don’t you?   Not surprisingly it is popular with families and it is probably one of the  safest choices for eating out in Jumilla if you are a vegetarian.

¿Hablas Inglés?

Most staff in the above restaurants don’t speak English, although some restaurants do have menus in English if you ask for the “carta”.  We have discovered however that a couple of staff in San Agustín speak a few words of English, as do staff in Loreto and Monasterio. 

Be warned, when you are going somewhere for the menú del día, that some waiters will rattle off the choices in rapid Spanish, making it hard to follow even if you speak Spanish fluently!  They are always willing to repeat it more slowly though (más despacio), and if you are lucky the menu will be written down on their pad so you can have a sneaky look at it. 

If you come on one of our “Walkers Tours of Jumilla”, we will be happy to book the restaurant of your choice for you in advance.  Please leave your comments and your own recommendations below, even if you don’t agree with our choices.

¡Que aproveche!

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The world-wide recession has hit Spain badly, although in Spain they refer to the “crisis” (pronounced cree-sis).  We have noticed several shops and bars closing over the last couple of years, occasionally re-opening under new management before the inevitable happens and they close for good.  Existing shops and bars are always coming up with ofertas to attract customers and some bars that previously only opened in the evenings have started opening earlier in the day for desayuno.  The Spanish tradition of going out for breakfast is still going strong, in spite of these tough times, and bar-owners are doing what they can to stay in business.

The special offers are particularly helpful for British pensioners living here, who have seen the value of their pensions plummet because of the worsening exchange rate.  We have happily taken advantage of the Thursday special menú del día at Bar Las Delicias, which costs a mere 3.80€ for three courses including drinks, and are strong supporters of the various Ruta de Tapas promotions that have taken place over the last few years. 

Even before the summer sales started, many shops were advertising special offers.  I ventured into Juan Guardiola, one of the most expensive clothes shops in Jumilla, when I spotted their “Outlet” sign.  I emerged triumphantly with a matching evening top and skirt plus another top for a grand total of 25€.  Female readers will understand when I boast of saving over 100€!

The last time we went into Murcia on the bus, we were sorry to see that the shop advertising “Precios Anti-Crisis” had closed down.  Presumably because, even with their precios anti-crisis, the crisis had proved too much for them.

In spite of the crisis, new shops and bars have been opening in Jumilla.  I think this is a sign of Spanish optimism, plus their willingness to word hard.  Rather than bemoaning their lot and signing on for the “paro”, they choose to start their own business.  I hope for their sakes that they manage to ride out the storm.  We are more than happy to support them by shopping in the new shops and having coffee (or wine) in the new bars for as long as our dwindling pensions allow us!

A young man I know through facebook has been writing messages on his facebook wall, advertising the fact that he is looking for work.  He makes it clear that he is willing to work hard and prepared to take a lowly position, though he would hope to progress.  If I had work to offer, I would be happy to employ someone who is showing a bit of initiative.

We also saw in La Verdad, one of the regional papers, that the budgets for fiestas have been cut back.  To me, that sums up living in Spain in these hard times: they wouldn’t dream of cancelling a fiesta, however they recognise that spending needs to be curtailed.  Jumilla hasn’t been as badly hit as some towns, possibly in recognition of the fact that this year is the 40th Fiesta de la Vendimia, however the budget has been cut by 30%. 

Apparently this is likely to be achieved by savings on fireworks and concerts, though the line-up just announced for the concerts taking place during the Fiesta looks pretty good to me.  Pablo Abarán is a young singer-songwriter whose debut album went to no 1 in the Spanish charts and gained him a platinum disc.  Joana Jiménez won the TV competition “Se llama Copla” and apparently she is the voice of the moment.  Having listened to them both on youtube, I am looking forward to hearing them perform live in Jumilla.

As for saving money on fireworks – nobody told the organisers of the Fiesta de San Fermín, judging by the number of fireworks lighting up the sky!

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Hopefully I whetted your appetites in my previous post, so I thought I would do a quick update today on yesterday’s fiesta fun.

Our friend Jaqui invited a few of us to join her and her daughter Melissa for menú del día in Restaurante Monasterio. For those of you not in the know, the Spanish fixed price menú del día  is a wonderful invention, started in 1965 under the Franco régime to guarantee workers a good cheap meal at lunchtime.   The cost of our lunch was 9€ per head, with so many starters, mains and desserts to choose from that we had to ask our patient waiter to repeat the choices a couple of times.

Waiting for our main courses to arrive

We shared a generous salad to begin with, and then the waiter kindly brought fussy old me a tapa of ensalada marisco as I didn’t like any of the starters.  In my defence, my choice was slightly limited by the fact that I don’t eat any meat! The starters included salmorejo (similar to gazpacho), consomé with pelotas (meatballs) and arroz tres delicias, which looked like vegetable rice however, as I suspected, some ham had been added.  Main courses included sardines, boquerones, chicken, meat kebabs and escalopes – I can’t remember all the choices, just the dishes our group selected.  We begged for a break before we ordered desserts, as by this stage we were all feeling pretty full!  I had a yummy tiramisu (I received some envious looks from my fellow diners) and other homemade desserts included tarta de queso, flan and natillas.  We had a couple of bottles of good Jumilla wine to accompany our meal, and coffee to finish.

John and I were offered a lift home but declined, as we needed to walk off some of our huge lunch. Just to remind you, the menu was 9€ each: amazing value! 

We also walked into town that evening, to meet up with Jaqui and Melissa again, plus other friends.  The meeting point was Bar La Casa, because we knew that Cristina was due to play a starring role in the evening’s events, as she is one of the Reinas for 2011.  When we arrived Cristina was working hard serving us and other customers, dressed in her everyday clothes, but she assured us that she would be changing later on.

Cristina wearing her sash

After some tapas and red wine, and once a totally transformed Cristina had emerged, we all wandered across the road to join in the festivities.  The plaza was already crowded and the atmosphere was buzzing, as families watched their children dancing on the large stage.  In between the dance performances, the Fiesta Reinas were being crowned and presented with bouquets.  We all cheered loudly when Cristina received her award, calling out “Guapa!”  There were also bursts of fireworks in between performances,  as I predicted.  When we left just after midnight it was obvious that many of the revellers would be partying for a long time, however we had two more late nights ahead of us, so decided it would be wise to pace ourselves.

Fireworks for San Fermín

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 Spain has always been a popular holiday destination, however many tourists don’t get the most out of their stay.  Sure, they return with a suntan (or more likely sunburn!), several pounds heavier weight-wise, several pounds lighter money-wise (having spent far too many euros), some tacky souvenirs and lots of exciting photos of them on the beach, by the pool or in the bar.  Is that what you want? Or do you fancy doing something different this year?

Before you go on holiday, use the internet to research your holiday with a difference.  Staying on the Costa del Sol? Away from the beaches there are some lovely villages to visit on the ruta de los pueblos blancos, or discover the city of Malaga instead of bypassing it in your rush to reach the beach.  Costa Blanca?  There is a lot to see in Alicante (the city, not the airport!) and if you are a wine lover, come and visit Jumilla, known as the city of wine.  A good place to start your research is http://www.spain.info/en/, and don’t forget to check whether there are going to be any fiestas in the area you are visiting.

Visit Mijas for the day when staying on the Costa del Sol

The first thing you will have to learn when you are on holiday is to get up a bit earlier than usual, so that you can enjoy the whole day, and to leave your hotel/apartment/resort/comfort zone.  You are going out for breakfast, which for Spanish people is best enjoyed in a café or bar between 10 and 12.  They will have had a cup of coffee first thing, but the morning break is a time to meet friends and have a chat over a coffee and tostada or maybe chocolate and churros.  You will definitely need a snack then, because you aren’t going to have lunch until 2pm at the earliest!

Spend your morning walking around the nearest town, visiting museums and churches, strolling through local parks and generally working up a good appetite for lunch.  Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, to slap on the suntan lotion, to bring your camera (this year your friends may find your photos a bit more interesting than usual) and remember to carry a bottle of water. 

Keep your eyes open while you are enjoying your walk because you are looking out for a good menú del día, however be aware that many restaurants won’t advertise them before 1pm.  This is a top money-saving tip in Spain: have your main meal at lunchtime like the Spanish do, though avoid obvious tourist areas to get the best value for your money. Menú del día will usually cost you between 8€ and 12€ for a minimum of 3 courses, bread and a drink.  We know a very good bar in Jumilla where for 8€ we get a shared salad to start with, a basket of bread, a wide choice of starters, mains and desserts, a carafe of red wine with water or refresco plus coffee to finish our meal.  After that, we don’t need much food in the evening!

Drive inland from the Costa Blanca to visit Jumilla castle, a local bodega, and have menú del día

Lunch will be a leisurely affair, which is good news, as you will be indoors during the hottest part of the day.  If you want to go native, observe how Spanish people avoid sitting in the sun.  They love being outdoors during the summer: enjoying a drink, chatting to their friends, promenading along the sea front, but they walk in the shade or sit under a parasol.  Also observe that, even though Spanish chicas will wear miniscule skirts or shorts in town, beach wear is kept strictly for the beach.

After lunch you can stroll back to your hotel or apartment for a siesta if you fancy going really native, or plan ahead for the evening, relax with a good book, and enjoy a cold drink.  In tourist areas there may be shops open in the afternoon, but elsewhere only supermarkets disregard the traditional siesta.

If you haven’t gone out for a menú del día, be prepared to pay more for your evening meal, and also be prepared to wait for it!  We were staying in Barcelona a few years ago, and left our hotel at 8pm to find somewhere to eat.  Nearly every restaurant was shut, and as we were hungry we were becoming a bit anxious.   We popped into a bar that was open,  for a glass of wine and some tapas to calm our nerves.  As we left the bar just after 9pm, we saw that restaurants were beginning to open up again.  Lesson learnt!

Depending on where you are staying, you may be given a free tapa with your drink when you go out in the evening for a glass of wine .  If you had a big lunch, that may be all you need.  If not, look for a bar that is full of local people and you should find the best and cheapest tapas there.

A peaceful square in Valencia

Finally, don’t go to bed too early or you may miss the best part of the day.  On the last night of a holiday in Valencia to enjoy the Las Fallas festival, we were on our way back to our hotel just after midnight, when we decided to stop for a coffee.  Noticing a large marquee in the square behind the bar, we decided to take a quick look and discovered that a band was tuning up inside.  Local people were beginning to go into the marquee and encouraged us to join them, pointing out that there was a bar set up in the corner, which was selling drinks for 1€.

Soon everybody was up dancing to the music, chatting away to us in a mixture of English and Spanish and generally having a good time.  There was a mixture of both young and old, from niños to abuelos, all making a lot of noise (Spanish people tend to be noisy) but nobody appeared to be drunk, even though vast amounts of alcohol were being served at the bar.  When we left at three in the morning the party was still in full swing, however sadly we had a flight to catch!

If you decide to go native in Spain, you are guaranteed to have a great time.  Please tell us all about your experiences and any recommendations in the comments box below.

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