Poor Soria is little known outside Spain, and this is a great injustice because it is set in striking scenery, is a pretty place with some interesting buildings and a wonderful park.
When we arrived, we checked in to our hotel, despite the best efforts of Spain’s version of Basil Fawlty who was on Reception duty at the time. He did the whole sighing thing – not looking at us at all – when I cheerfully turned up at the desk to say we had a reservation. He snapped a Fawlty-like “Si?” at us as he continued to stare at his computer screen, then, throwing us an irritated glance before looking back at his CCTV screen, barked in an outraged fashion in Spanish “Did you go into the hotel car park?”. When I said yes he retorted, as if he just KNEW the answer was “no” and somehow combining smugness with scorn – “And did you book a car park place?”. When the answer was again yes, he said irritatedly “well, you’ll have to move it, you can’t leave it THERE”, jabbing a self-righteous finger at his CCTV screen as if I should know why that particular place was forbidden. He was at least looking at me now, though this didn’t feel like an advantage.
He sighed again, looked at a different screen and said, in capital letters, “PASSPORTS!”. Quick as a flash, being fluent in Fawlty, I realised that what he REALLY meant was “Welcome to our hotel, I hope you had a good journey, I am here to help you in every way I can. Might I possibly prevail upon your good nature to allow me to take some passport details from you?” Julia was wondering why I was trying not to giggle, so I said in English loudly “This man is being incredibly rude” and turned back with a charming smile to see a young girl receptionist looking at us in a concerned way; I wondered if she spoke English, but didn’t really care. When we checked out the following day she was on duty again and with a shy smile gave me a bottle of mineral water ‘as a gift’; I think she’d understood the “rude” comment.
Having arrived, we had a quick lunch in a square full of little tapas bars…..
… and, surrounded by the deafening buzz of Spanish conversation I introduced Julia to the joy of Champis! These are a very simple tapa in which three mushrooms are skewered to a slice of bread and drenched in a butter, parsley and garlic sauce. Heaven!
Then we walked round the centre of town, admired the splendid church of Santo Domingo – Romanesque on the outside
and with the typical Spanish surprise of Baroque on the inside – and met our friends for a cold drink in the very pretty park.
We took a trip to Numancia in the heat of the afternoon (more of that in another post), then after a short siesta we reconvened at a restaurant called La Cepa round the corner from our hotel.
We have had, er, mixed experiences with Spanish restaurants over the years. Simple food CAN be done well, as long as it is not messed around with too much, and we have had many delicious very simple meals with good ingredients. However, we have also had some awful meals where too much has been attempted with too little skill. This restaurant, judging from what we ate, is an EXCEPTION. The food was beautifully prepared and presented, the wine matched it well, and the service was knowledgeable and friendly.
The 2013 Ribera del Duero wine, Parada de Atauta, coming from the Soria side of that Denominación was delicious; it had a blackcurranty colour and even flavour at first, which developed into a fruity, minerally wine as you waited.
The prawns in Pilar’s prawn and avocado salad had been properly prepared, and were a perfect texture:
Julia and I had the “chipirones” (small squid), which were exceptionally good, exactly the right texture. So many places overcook squid until it becomes chewy, it’s no wonder people are wary of it in restaurants. Here it was a delight to eat, with a very light garlic mayonnaise garnish.
And Ernesto’s tuna was pink in the middle and had not been allowed to dry out:
After dinner we walked round the old town, had a relaxed digestif, eventually said goodbye to our friends and went to bed with a warm and fluffy feeling about Soria. It’s hard to say “you must visit it” because it really isn’t on many obvious tourist routes, and it’s not exceptional enough to warrant its own trip, unless you just want to explore Spain. I am sure that I will return one day, although to a different hotel….