Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

We left right after breakfast on Saturday for the two-hour drive to Granada and arrived at about 1:00 p.m. at the hotel Hospes Palacio de Los Patos. After checking in and were given rooms in the Palacio (there are 42 rooms in total, a few in the palace and others in the modern new wing across the courtyard).

The hotel interiors are modern and are carried over into the rooms as well. Our room, # 41, had wooden floors, a modern white mock-croc headboard, a thick beehive-pattern black and white rug and an interesting chrome sink with a lamp attached to it. There was also a flat-screen TV and DVD player and free Internet connection (although for some reason, we couldn’t connect to the Internet using the ethernet cable provided).

After settling in and unpacking our bags, we walked to the center of town and had lunch at a restaurant I had read about – Restaurante Cunini – which specialized in seafood. We arrived just in time for the lunch rush at 2:00 p.m. and unfortunately weren’t able to squeeze into the bar area which was heaving with locals having all sorts of seafood dishes with glasses of cold beer.

We managed to get a table in the back (not as nice as the patio outside or the bar area) and ordered a simple lunch of chipirones fritos (deep-fried baby-squid), almejas naturales (raw clams with lemon), gambas al pilpil (shrimps in olive oil with garlic and chili), ensalada rusa con camarones (potato salad with shrimps) and lenguado a la plancha (grilled sole). The food came quickly – the clams were very fresh and the baby squid was light and crispy but the shrimps tasted like they were frozen and the salad had way too much bottled mayonnaise. The sole was simply grilled except that the accompanying vegetables were overcooked and soggy. Overall not a very impressive meal and expensive too. Maybe we would have been luckier if we had eaten at the bar although that would have been impossible with a 5-year old in tow who would have been trampled underfoot by the crowd. We went back to the hotel to read the weekend papers and have a short siesta.

For dinner that evening, my son and his nanny had room service while my husband and I went downstairs and walked over to the new wing to the hotel’s restaurant Senzone for a quiet dinner. We sat outside by the fountains and enjoyed our al fresco meal.

The menu is simple and lists about 8 starters and 8 main courses (4 fish/seafood and 4 meat) plus 6 desserts. There is also a 65 Euro tasting menu of six items from the menu especially chosen by the chef. The waiter was very helpful – I couldn’t decide on which starter to have and he suggested both the salmorejo (thick gazpacho-like soup) and the chipirones (baby squid) which I chose.

Freshly-baked bread was offered right after with a choice of mini baguettes of white or wheat along with two types of rolls: one was curry-flavored and another had basil and tomato. We were then given a small appetizer to share of shot glasses of ham-infused soup with bread on a skewer to dip into the soup and Parmesan cheese crackers with curry alioli.

Our amuses bouches were served soon after – salmorejo, which the waiter remembered I wanted to try. This version was given a twist with not only the accompanying bit of jamon Iberico (Iberian ham) but with the delicious addition of lobster and black caviar from Riofrio.

In between courses, my husband asked for a glass of Lagunilla Crianza rioja to accompany his main dish of pan-fried sea bass with a lemon-cream sauce. I chose the sauteed red prawns with braised pork cheek and bits of pineapple. The prawns were fresh and the pork was tender and went well with the sour-sweet pineapple but the combination of the two didn’t really complement each other. Desserts were the chocolate three ways (brownie, ice cream and flan) for my husband and a refreshing palate cleanser of fruit brunoise (tiny cubes of apple, cantaloupe and honeydew melons, mango and watermelon) with a tea granita and a peach sorbet. We finished off the meal with a tilleul (linden) infusion for me and an espresso for my husband to accompany his Romeo y Julieta cigar.

After a restful though short nights’ sleep (there was a lot of noise from the main road despite the wooden shutters), we got up early and enjoyed the buffet breakfast spread – fresh fruits, cheeses, cold cuts, mini croissants and pains au chocolat, cereals, juices and a selection of eggs made to order. We lingered over the breakfast table with the Sunday papers and several cups of strong cafe con leche (milky coffee).

We checked out soon after and took a taxi to the Alhambra. We had reserved tickets for the Nasrid palace entry at 2:30 p.m. but wanted to get there early so we could see the rest of the Alhambra including the Generalife gardens and the Alcazaba fortress before going to visit the Palacio de Nazaries. Unfortunately, we were neither allowed to enter nor change our tickets for an earlier scheduled visit as the time on the tickets are strictly enforced to control the number of people inside and protect the palace and the grounds. Since we still had two hours left to kill we took the number 32 Alhambra mini-bus, which stops at the perimeter gates every ten minutes, to the center of town. We walked around the main street of Reyes Catolicos, passed by the cathedral and the lively Plaza de Bib-Rambla and stopped for a drink at the Plaza de la Romanilla then took the 32 bus back to the Alhambra gates.

At 2:00 p.m. sharp, we joined the long queue at the entrance and walked to the Medina and the Palacio Carlos V then waited impatiently by the entrance to the palace (since our tickets said 2:30 and we weren’t allowed in until exactly 2:30). As soon as we were let through, we rushed in and by that time my camera battery had died which is why (on my second trip to the Alhambra) I still didn’t get any photos except for the one below. Anyway, the architecture and detail of the Alhambra can only really be enjoyed by experiencing the sheer size of the structure and the amount of decorative carvings, tiles, archways and rooms that make up this 14th-century Moorish palace. It’s one of those places that has to be seen to be believed.

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