My Salamanca: Three Bite-sized Pieces
It’s easy to eat well in Salamanca. Whether it’s bar-hopping on Calle Van Dyck, the best tapas street in town, or sinking your teeth into the local jamón, this student city is an affordable stopping point on a gastronomic tour of central Spain. The local dishes can be heavy, but don’t let that stop you from buying a slice of chorizo-filled hornazo or digging into a tender chunk of grilled veal.
After nine months as a resident salmantino, I’ve drawn up a quick list of some of my favourite places to eat and drink – gratuitous photos included.
For breakfast on the go: Croissantería París (Rua Mayor, 36)
First of all, what is a croissant place doing in an entry about Spain? Despite the name, this bakery does everything with a hedonistic Spanish twist. It’s hard to ignore the spinach and ricotta triangles, wrapped as they are in layers of flaky pastry. Or you could pick the tuna empanada, rich with diced peppers and tomato sauce. Or maybe you could try the hearty croissant to the right, stuffed with lomo (pork loin), béchamel and grilled pepper.
Savoury offerings aside, the croissantería’s pièce de résistance is its legendary Napolitana Blanco y Negro. Despite first appearances this is not your ordinary pain au chocolat – it is liberally filled with equal parts of white and dark chocolate, an ingenious solution for indecisive chocolate enthusiasts like me.
My love affair with the pastry began one cold November morning in the wake of a mid-term exam: it was fresh from the oven, a warm, toasty pick-me-up before another four hours of class. I took one bite and suddenly my senses were overwhelmed with a torrent of buttery, hot white chocolate. It was an unexpected, passionate first kiss.
Needless to say, it sparked off a beautiful eight-month relationship. Every day I would sit in class, waiting for the cathedral bells to chime in ten o’clock and the start of a fifteen-minute coffee break. Every day I would rush out to the bakery to drown myself in white chocolate, delighting in the soft crunch of the pastry as it lovingly caressed the roof of my mouth.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. In my final week in Salamanca I bid my beloved blanco y negro goodbye, but not before taking a few snaps for memory’s sake.
For mouth-watering tapas: Taberna Galatea (Calle Prado, 11)
This was a tough one to choose. Why blog about one specific tapas bar when Calle Van Dyck was just two blocks away from where I lived? But I found Galatea within the first week of my arrival and never stopped going back since. This was my preferred place for a light dinner after salsa class or a prelude to a big night out.
At Galatea the food is down-to-earth but decidedly experimental, balancing meaty flavours with the sweetness of fruit. All the tapas are held on a base of French bread, so it’s best to go with a bit of space in your stomach.
From the bar there are two tapas that never fail to pass my lips. First up is the melt-in-your-mouth morcilla, instantly recognisable by its distinctive black colour and the topping of melted cheese. Then there is the slab of foie gras and goat’s cheese drizzled with mango or raspberry marmalade. As you have probably realised by now, I am a big of sweet things.
Don’t ignore the list of made-to-order tapas on the wall – you could not possibly leave without trying the brocheta de morucha, a succulent skewer of the local morucha beef, and the solomillo de pato (en salsa de uvas). For that troublesome mouthful of Spanish you’ll get a wonderful toast spread with pieces of duck fillet in a creamy grape dressing.
And if it tickles your fancy you could always order the more adventurous items on the menu. How about some grilled ostrich or deer meat? Or maybe you’re kicking for the kangaroo with rose petals in mushroom sauce. Whatever your pick, chances are that you’ll want to come back for more.
For a quiet, inspired drink: Capitán Haddock (Concejo, 15)
With more than 3000 watering-holes for roughly 150,000 inhabitants, Salamanca has the second-highest ratio of bars per person in Europe (after Bilbao). Simply put, that’s one bar for every 50 people. Among this diverse offering there are no less than three Tintin-themed bars: one named for the dog (Milú), another for bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson (Hernández y Fernández) and yet another for the swashbuckling Captain Haddock.
It was a French friend who led me here one winter afternoon. The music was a soothing mix of jazz and I was immediately struck by the coziness and the quirkiness of it all. An old piano, a ship’s painted figurehead below the rafters, café tables and chairs lit by candelight… and then I discovered the cinema chairs. Yes, this bar was actually lined with those comfy red fold-down cinema chairs!
Though it is just steps from the Plaza Mayor, Capitán Haddock remains astonishingly low-key. It’s tucked away at the end of a hidden courtyard so only the locals know where to find it. The trick? Look for a vertical sign that says “Valencia”.