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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Glorious Beaches, Albariño and Empanadas – Why Galicia Should Be Your Next Spanish Destination!

Spain is hardly a tough sell for the Brits; there seems to be a never ending appetite for the country’s gorgeous beaches and climate, the glitz and glamour of Barcelona and Madrid, not to mention the incredible food of San Sebastian and the Basque region, my own personal food Mecca which I wrote about here and here.

But in my quest to get to know this country in a little more depth, I have been lucky enough to visit other lesser-known regions of Spain (or at least lesser-known to me). Last year I spent a few fantastic days in the region of Castilla La Mancha and was blown away by the beauty of its capital Toledo and the incredible restaurants I got to sample there. I highly recommend it, as you can read in my features here and here.

And more recently, I returned to the region of Galicia. There is so much to do and see in this part of Spain that I can’t stay away for a number of reasons. The glorious sandy beaches, natural scenery and cultural and historical sites would be enough to warrant a visit in their own right, and I will write about these in more detail in a separate feature.

In this post however, I would like to share a few thoughts on Galician fish and seafood, the local food specialties, and the Albariño wine for which Galicia is renowned.

The largest city in Galicia, Vigo, is home to the world's biggest fishing port; it attracts fishing boats from across the seas to sell their catches, or as a starting point en route to other European destinations. The quality of fish and seafood in Galicia is unparalleled in Europe, and this plays a major role in the cooking of the region.

Galician Food and Cookery Class

One the places I got to try Galician cooking at its very best was at Hotel La Quinta de San Amaro in the heart of O Salnes area.

A charming boutique hotel, it has 14 rooms with great views of the surrounding countryside, a restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. Most importantly though, it offers Galician cookery classes with Chef Rocío Garrido Caramés of Cocina de Mi Abuelo.

It was here that I tried Arroz Caldoso (or Arroz Marinero) for the first time and fell completely in love with it. Arroz Caldoso is a Galician seafood rice, similar to a paella but more soupy (caldo means broth in Gallego), and with no chorizo, chicken or paprika. It is tomato and saffron-based, and it conjures up the aromas and flavours of the sea on a platter.

Rocio’s version, with prawns, clams, squid and mussels, was by far the best Arroz Caldoso I tried during this entire trip, and I got to order it at every restaurant I visited after eating hers. Rocio was kind enough to share her recipe with me, which I include at the end of this post.

Another wonderful Galician dish we got to cook was Empanada Gallega. Unlike other empanadas (small meat pastries), the Galician type is a family-style pie, made with a simple flour and yeast dough, stuffed with a variety of cooked fillings. At Rocio’s class, we used tuna, red peppers and onions.

More interesting though was an empanada we tried earlier that day with a delectable filling of cooked mussels, and pastry made from corn flour. The corn brought out a crisper texture to the pastry and a more interesting flavour.

Michelin-star Dining in Cambados, O Salnes

Moving from home cooking to the glitz of Michelin-starred dining, the picturesque town of Cambados in the O Salnes region is home to the exceptional restaurant Yayo Daporta. The chef is a local celebrity, having been a judge in the Spanish version of Masterchef, and has held his Michelin star since 2008.

We had a fabulous seven-course tasting menu, priced at just €50 per person. In addition to the 7-course tasting menu, there is an option of any 4 dishes from the a la carte menu at €45 per person (2 starters, 1 main and 1 dessert). 

One outstanding dish for me was Yayo’s terrine of foie gras served with a delectable quince raviolo filled with yoghurt.

I also enjoyed the chef’s use of Japanese ingredients in his cooking as in his steamed hake dish with seaweed, mollusc jelly and clams, and the grilled mackerel with dashi broth and wakame.

Equally impressive was the selection of wines offered. The chef’s wife, Esther Daporta, is one of Spain’s top sommeliers. It was here that I tried a magnificent Xión 2013 red from Attis Bodegas y Viñedos in Rias Baixas, one of the rare red wines of the region. In fact 90% of the wines made in Rias Baixas are whites made from the Albariño grape

Yayo Daporta is an elegant restaurant offering great cooking at very reasonable prices, and I highly recommend a visit.

Hearty Fish & Seafood Cooking and Sparkling Albariños at Ribadomar

Also in Cambados, Ribadomar was another noteworthy fish and seafood restaurant we visited. Family-run, Ribadomar offers excellent set menus ranging from €21 to €36 for a 6-course fish and seafood feast, with Albariño wine included!

After some excellent croquettas, I shared a big bowl of Arroz Caldoso (Galician seafood rice) and a super fresh, salt-encrusted, oven roasted seabass served with potatoes, which were delicious.

At Ribadomar I had my first sip of Mar de Frades Brut, Spain’s first sparkling Albariño wine. This had delicious white and yellow fruits, and was quite creamy with a refreshingly dry finish.

The food at Ribadomar is hearty, honest and unpretentious, portions are generous and the fish and seafood are of top quality. If you get to visit, I also recommend ordering the sparkling Albariño Mar de Frades here.

Where to Go Wine Tasting in Rias Baixas

Where there is good wine, almost without fail there is good food. Many of the wineries in the region have restaurants where you have the opportunity to combine a wine tasting with a lunch of some local delicacies. 

Adega Eidos

One of these places was the state of the art winery Adega Eidos. We had a superb al fresco lunch here overlooking the Galician countryside.

We kicked off with Queenie scallops with parsley, garlic and lemon, paired with their entry level Albariño 2016, Eidos de Padriñán.

Next came clams in a rich marinara sauce, with a great depth of flavour, matched with a 2015 Veigas de Padriñán also made from the Albariño grape.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the main course arrived – slow braised pork cheeks cooked in a sauce of tomato, mushroom, potatoes and radishes was heart-warming and nutritious. The pork cheeks were partnered with Eido’s 5 year old 2012 Albariño Contraaparade, one of the winery’s top labels.

A Few Words on the Albariño Grape

The region of Rias Baixas in Galicia is synonymous with Albariño – 90% of wines here are made from this single grape varietal but they present different characteristics due to varying vinification (winemaking) and climate conditions.

Not quite an aromatic grape, a good Albariño will however share many characteristics with other aromatic varietals like Riesling and Gewürztraminer – bracing acidity, citrus and tropical fruit tones and ‘sweet-smelling’ aromas of almond paste and flowers. It is a great wine to go with food, particularly with fish and seafood and Asian cooking.

Not surprisingly Albariño is one of my favourite white wines, and one I always order whenever I spot it on wine menus in London. My first taste of it though was in Portugal where it is called ‘Alvarinho’ and is one of the grapes in the refreshing Vinho Verde. Galicia is bordered with Northern Portugal and the two regions share many commonalities including the language – the Gallego language is similar to spoken Portuguese.

There is never a better way to learn about a wine than visiting the regions where the native grape originates – be it Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Burgundy or Champagne, Viognier from Condrieu in the Rhone, Assyrtiko from Santorini in Greece - there is something quite memorable and distinctive about the experience itself that will stay with you forever.

If you want to drink the best Albariño and learn about this wine, Rias Baixas in Galicia is the place to go. The region has a large number of wineries and the wine-tourism infrastructure is some of the best I have seen anywhere in the world.

The ‘Pazos’ of Galicia

Pazo Baion

Many Galician wineries are housed in centuries-old mansions known locally as ‘Pazo’ - sipping a glass of Albariño at one of these historical buildings makes for very special tasting, as we discovered at Pazo Baion in Pontevedra.

With a gorgeous location, surrounding gardens and vineyards, Pazo Baion has one of the slickest set ups I have seen in Europe. It is a top winery housed in the beautiful Galician countryside.

Pazo Baion’s Albariño wines were refreshing and easy drinking, and the perfect accompaniment to the local cheeses and charcuterie we enjoyed at the winery.

Pazo de Rubianes

Another stunning vineyard that is well worth a visit was Pazo de Rubianes in the region of O Salnes.

The Pazo is a 600-year old Palace built in 1411 and rebuilt 300 years later. It is still inhabited by the current Lord of Rubianes, the only lordship in Galicia, although nowadays he lives in Madrid.

The palace is surrounded by beautifully tended botanical gardens planted in the late 17th century. The gardens’ multi-coloured Camellia flowers attract as much interest to Pazo de Rubianes as their Albariño wines.

Visitors can enter some of the rooms within the palace and admire the exquisite artworks and furniture.

We had a tasting of their Albariño Pazo de Rubianes (€32/bottle) at the end of our visit. I found the wine surprisingly aromatic with tones of orange peel and pineapple, and aromas of white flower.

Visits to Pazo de Rubianes are free of charge but they must be booked in advance. For details on how to contact them, see the Travel Essentials section at the end of this post.

Palacio de Fefiñanes

Back in Cambados, in the beautiful region of O Salnes in Galicia, the 17th century Palacio de Fefiñanes is another unmissable historical destination. Albariño wine has been made here since 1904 with their first commercial vintage dated 1928.

Another magnificent Pazo, behind the mansion there are the orchards where some of the 150-year old vines predating the phylloxera epidemic can still be found. 

In the gardens, there are parts of an 18th century maze with two Baroque fountains and a large tower with great views of the town of Cambados. In the walled enclosure, there is also a forest, with rows of boxwood and hundred-year-old trees.

Bodegas Gil Armada

It is also possible to visit the rooms within the palace and to end the tour with a wine tasting at Gil Armada Winery, housed within the Palacio de Fefiñanes.

I loved Gil Armada’s refreshing Albariño wines but was even more impressed by their fortified fruit liqueurs, particularly the one made from Albariño grapes. I bought a bottle to enjoy back at home.

The Rias Baixas Wine Route

The Rias Baixas Wine Route in Galicia is an internationally recognized itinerary containing dozens of excellent wineries, restaurants and hotels. The wine tourism infrastructure here is second to none and is a great place to discover and enjoy the Albariño grape. For information about Rias Baixas Wine Route, visit their website: http://rutadelvinoriasbaixas.com/

In addition to the region’s wines, O Salnes in Galicia is a fascinating destination for its history and culture, for its beautiful natural scenery, not to mention its local delicacies Arroz Caldoso and Empanada Gallega. I can’t wait until my next visit.

Arroz Caldoso  - Galician Seafood Rice 
Recipe by Rocío Garrido Caramés of Cocina de Mi Abuelo 

Ingredients (serves 4 people):

300g arroz bomba (bomba is a type of short-grained rice that is typical of Valencia, the paella region of Spain)
10 medium-sized prawns
200g squid
150g clams
150g mussels
6-8 razor clams
2 tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 spring onion or chives
2 garlic cloves
1g saffron
1l fish stock or reserve water from steaming the mussels
Olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley


1. Wash and steam the mussels to open them up and set aside.

2. To make the fish stock, peel the prawns and sauté the shells in a sauce pan with a dash of olive oil for five minutes. Add water and let simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile wash and finely chop the vegetables: the red peppers, tomatoes, garlic and spring onion.

4. Put the paella pan on the stove with a small amount of oil and add the vegetables as follows: first the onion and garlic and then the peppers and finally the tomato. Let it sauté well

5. Clean the squid and cut it into slices.

6. Add the squid to the sautéed vegetables and then the rice. Let this cook while stirring for a couple of minutes, add the saffron and the fish stock. Let it cook for 10 minutes then add the clams and the razor clams. Then add the prawns.

7. Cook for another 5 minutes and then place the mussels on top. Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Add a little bit of milled pepper and chopped parsley. Turn off the stove and let the rice rest for a few minutes before serving.

The #InGalicia campaign was created and sponsored by the Spanish Tourist Office and O Salnes Tourism Board in partnership with iambassador. The London Foodie maintains full editorial control over all content published on this site as always.

Discovering #InGalicia via @TheLondonFoodie Instagram Page:

Travel Essentials

For information about Rias Baixas Wine Route, visit:

For information about Rias Baixas Wines, visit:

For more information about Wine Tourism of Cambados, visit:

Hotel La Quinta de San Amaro
Calle San Amaro 6 
(exit number 14 on Salnes motorway, Meaño direction)&nbsp
Meaño- Pontevedra
Postcode 36968

Galician Cookery Class 
with Rocío Garrido Caramés

Yayo Daporta Restaurant
Rúa Hospital, 7
T 986 526062
E: restaurante@yayodaporta.com

Restaurant Ribadomar
Calle Valle Inclán, 17 
Cambados, Pontevedra

Adega Eidos
36960 Sanxenxo
Pontevedra, Spain

Pazo Baion
Abelleira 4,5,6 - Baión
CP 36614 - Vilanova de Arousa
Pontevedra (España)

Pazo de Rubianes
Rúa do Pazo 7, Rubiáns, 36609, Vilagarcía de Arousa
Tel: +34 986 510 534/619 261 847
Email: info@pazoderubianes.com

Palacio de Fefiñanes
Plaza de Fefiñanes 
36630 Cambados, 
+34 986 542 204

Bodegas Gil Armada
Praza de Fefiñáns
Tel: +34 986 524 877
Email: gilarmada@pazodefefinans.com


  1. Now what shall I do? First Galicia or Basque Countries? They were both on my list already and I added Asturias recently. It seems I need to take a long trip in the North of Spain :D

    1. Hi Muriel, both regions (Galicia and Basque) have their unique qualities - I love Galicia for the fish, seafood, Albariño and great beaches and history, but the Basque Country is where San Sebastian is, and this is one of my favourite places in the world for food alongside Kyoto and Tokyo. Tough choices!

  2. Just 2 things that are wrong in the text: Vigo is not the capital city of Galicia but the biggest city. Santiago de Compostela is the capital. Gallego is not a dialect but a proper language on its own at the same level of Portuguese and Spanish. Apart of these two little things i really like the article!

    1. Hi Anom, thanks for pointing these out! I have checked these and updated the text accordingly, thank you!

  3. Just a few points. Mar de Frades ‘espumoso’ isn’t the only sparkling Albariño available. It’s true that it was the first but there are quite a few now, Eidosela brut nature from the Condado subzone is another good example of “Atlantic bubbles”. :-) Galego is a language rather than a dialect. In Spain there four officially recognised languages: castellano, catalá, euskera and galego. Castellano is also known as español, particularly in Spanish America. The historic and cultural capital of Galicia and seat of the regional parliament is Samtiago de Compostela. Vigo is admittedly the largest city in Galicia but the provincial capital is Pontevedra. Congrats on the article, you must have had a fab time here... . :-)

    1. Hi Adrian, thank you for taking your time to write to me and for your helpful corrections! I have made these updates in the text, good to know someone out there is reading my stuff. Hope all is well in Galicia!


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