Fiesta del Marisco, O Grove 10-2019

I've wanted to go to this seafood festival for many years now, since about 2012 when I first read about it and was planning some food holidays. Unfortunately it never happened, mainly because I like travelling in September and so going in early October can be difficult. But finally, the stars aligned and I managed to get there in 2019.

After flying into Santiago de Compostela and driving down to the lovely seafood town of O Grove, I realised that tourists really don't go there. There was us 2 tourists, and we met one Dutch journalist who was passing through for work. Every single other person was Spanish.

The seafood market in O Grove is small, but has lots of high quality ingredients at reasonable prices. I only had a short lunch to cook some razor clams, percebes and scallops. I would have liked to stay longer and take advantage, but maybe that's for another time.

The town is obsessed by seafood with homages to the crustacean located around the place.

How was the fiesta then? Average unfortunately. Despite all the great local ingredients, only a select few are presented at the fiesta and only cooked in specific ways. There's some impromptu groups of people singing and dancing, and at night there was some reggaeton singers for the underage smokers and drinks (and the older ones at the back) for more entertainment.

Don't get me wrong, the seafood isn't bad, on the contrary it is decent quality, but there was nothing special there that I haven't seen before. The local mussels are large and delicious and the arroz (rice) and fideos (noodles) were full of flavour. Also the bread was excellent, but it's not great if that's a highlight in a seafood place. Razor clams were ok, clams and mussels small but flavoursome (oysters better). The scallops were tiny little things grilled and shrivelled. Considering the quality and breadth of the market, couldn't they have expanded the dishes a bit more? There was also a lobster tank and another crustacean I've never seen before (can't remember the name) but they weren't being served. The tease.

There's also commerative earthern ware and cups to take home for the memories.

I'm glad I've tried it, but I won't be back for the fiesta. Maybe just Galicia again for the seafood markets to enjoy.

D'Berto, O Grove 09-2019

Apparently D'Berto was rated the Top Seafood Restaurant in Spain 2014. That's a huge accolade considering the seafood quality in Spain generally, particularly in Madrid and Galicia. I had been somewhat underwhelmed by the seafood fiesta in O Grove, and although part of me wanted to buy seafood to cook at home, part of me also wanted to go to a restaurant to see what they could do (in what would be probably the last night in O Grove for my lifetime).

Then there was the choice between restaurants, the more standard ones with standard prices, or D'Berto with its reputation and premium prices. I managed to get a Saturday night booking by calling on Friday. Considering it was the seafood fiesta opening weekend, there's a few interpretations - it really isn't that busy a town anyway, or people are happy eating locally rather than paying premium. Maybe a bit of both.

After finding a street carparking spot (not realising until a few minutes later they have their own private carpark), we walked past the front and were immediately confronted by very large crustaceans. The lobsters and langoustines in the tank were enormous, almost certainly the biggest I've ever seen. Once walking inside, some huge clams and percebes were in the display also.

The wait staff spoke English and were very friendly. Essentially they have no limits - order as little as you want of each dish and they will do it for you. Flexibility is always appreciated.

- Galcian broth €6;
- Oysters €4 each and Warty venus clams (carneiro) €2.5 each - both were good with nice flavour. The clams weren't as big (they seemed to not give us the giant ones) or as strong as those I have in London. It was one of the few places where I've preferred the oysters over the clams. I thought the clams were the spiky shelled ones (but I was clearly wrong);
- Percebes grande from Cedeira €19.8 for 100g - quite large, but not the biggest they had there. The largest one served was about thumb sized. It was definitely more satisfying than the thin types I got from the seafood fiesta. They were also cooked in very salty water, maybe just a little too much;
- Crab (necora) €27 - this tiny crab was coated in salt and had crystals on the shell. It made it difficult to eat and stung our lips. I mentioned it to them and they didn't really say anything. I probably should have been more insistent;
- Clams to the Frying Pan €15 for half portion - standard. Didn't need both these and the raw clams;
- Scallops "The Original" €6 for 2 - these were actually very nice grilled (with butter I think) scallops that retained their thickness through the grilling. Very good;
- Fried lobster (bogavante) €44 for 500g - the smallest lobster they had, which was fried in butter. Very nice too. Oddly served with freshly fried chips, that weren't cooked properly such that several were stuck together and therefore soft;
- Cheesecake (tarta de queso) €7 - unusual in that it had a very strong milk flavour to it.

For €159.3 for 2 people, there was good variety but it just didn't seem worth the money. I suppose it feels like they are priding themselves on the size rather than the cooking quality. In fact most things are raw, boiled in very salty water, and the few extras are fried (which is a bit better). For comparison, I'd have to say Ramiro in Lisbon is better (https://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/cervejaria-ramiro-lisbon-10-2013).

I was disappointed to find they also had charged €1.5pp for the bread and €2 for tap water. That is not a standard in the region and probably should have limited my tip. Oh well. I won't be back.

Ravello Heladeria, O Grove 10-2019

I actually wanted to go to the gelato place across the road (Heladeria Encantadas y Dulces), but for some reason it wasn't going to be open for another 30mins (and this was 4.30pm). There didn't seem to be much point waiting and the quality at Ravello looked adequate.

Forest fruits (frutas del bosque) and hazelnut (avellana) were alright and filled the need. Just as we finished, the other one opened.

Castro's Panaderia, O Grove 10-2019

In Galicia, empanadas are not the same as what the rest of the world thinks. Here they are large pies essentially, and filled with local ingredients like seafood.

There aren't many bakeries in O Grove, but Castro's seems to have the nod with also all the locals queuing there for their morning bread each day. They probably don't get a lot of tourists, because even the locals seemed amused/surprised to find me there (and speaking some Spanish).

I tried the cockles (berberechos) empanada €12 - a thick buttery pastry with lots of cockles filling the inside. It had good flavour. My only small gripe was it was quite gritty too.

Upon leaving at the end of the trip, I had a mussels (mejillones) €7 to go. Although the local mussels are great, these were slightly less in terms of quality and flavour (obviously used for this purpose) but still good. And not gritty either.

If I'm ever in the area (which is quite unlikely to be honest), I will be back at that bakery.

O Piorno, Santiago de Compostela 10-2019

After arriving into Galicia into the heavy evening rain, a nearby dinner was needed before the drive to O Grove. I was told by a Galician friend that I should stop into Santiago but given the dark and weather it meant that anything more food was probably not going to be fruitful. After finding a random place to park on the street, I looked on Google maps and found a Galician restaurant nearby. It would have to do.

The fresh seafood in the counter was a good sign.

- Homemade croquettes €7.2 - cheese and jamon. Very good;
- Steamed cockles €9.95 - simple flavours;
- Grilled king prawns €10.95 - very flavoursome prawns actually.

It was a good meal and a nice introduction to simple local seafood flavours.

Considering we were going to drive to O Grove for more seafood (and decent meat being more difficult to find), I should have ordered the beef (Rubia Galicia breed). Next time.

Burgermeister, Berlin 09-2019

Before going to the airport, I had time for one final meal. I had walked along the art of the Berlin Wall and it was only a short walk across the river and through a park filled with lots of young males to get there.

The burger place is known for the odd location - an old public toilet block under a road and enclosed by two others. It is known for queues also, but assumably at 7.30pm on a Tuesday, there isn't as much drunk traffic through there.

At the recommendation of Berlin Food Stories, I ordered the Meisterburger €5.3 and also my own choice of chili-cheese fries €4.1. I thought both were good, but neither was fantastic. The patty was cooked through but still soft and charred for flavour. There wasn't much seasoning. The fries in particular were on the expensive side, with no flavour on the meat, weak jalapenos and the gross American-style liquid cheese really isn't to my taste and thick and gluggy. I suppose I just like better quality ingredients overall. 

I'm glad I've tried it, but no need to go back. Not sober at least.

Zazza Kaffehaus, Berlin 09-2019

After eating at Imren, I had some time to kill before going to the airport. I took advantage of finding a cafe which had a powerpoint to recharge my phone. It has a pleasant atmosphere (other than one screaming child), a nice hot chocolate, and a famous rusty car outside. The things in Berlin that make it artistic and cool...

Marafina, Berlin 09-2019

I wanted to try something a little more inspirational in Berlin. Something new for me was finding a Sudanese restaurant. It required a little train journey out to a small place with delightfully artistic decor and delicious food for eat-in or takeaway.

- Chorba adas (red lentil soup with peanuts) €3 - excellent dhal-like soup laced with olive oil and chilli sauce;
- Marafina Spezial Teller (grilled chicken breast fillet, grilled minced beef, falafel, fried goat cheese, fried veggies, salad, eggplant sauce, mich & peanut sauce) €7 - that all-inclusive plate had so many elements and all were good. The falafels were not the best I've had, but still crisp on the outside. The chicken was tender and the salads nice too.

The food was very good all around with heavy similarity to Middle Eastern.

Would definitely return the next time I'm in Berlin.

Monsieur Vuong, Berlin 09-2019

Monsieur Vuong is no longer known to be the best pho in Berlin, that honour goes to the Dong Xuan centre in the far east. However for a convenient one in Mitte, is does alright.

Pho Bo €9.5 for a big bowl. Nice clear soup broth with good flavour. Beef was scrunched up and average. My main issue was they didn't provide any extra herbs, they said everything is in there, and no Sriracha. No Thai Basil even.

Also the cocktail I ordered really had minimal alcohol in it.

Oh well, no matter. I will probably try somewhere different next time.