Diego popped the pulpo and potato canapé into his mouth, rolled his eyes.
“Está de muerte,” he sighed.
It was the first time I’d heard the expression that pretty much translates as ‘it’s to die for’.
Because it was the first time I’d heard it, the exact time and place has remained fixed in my mind. It was on the terrace of the San Pelayo Restaurant in Niembro near Llanes in Asturias. The weather was glorious, the canapés from the hands of chef Miguel Naves… well to die for and the scenery was of the sort that attracts film-makers by the bus load. (BTW -The logo on Miguel’s tunic isn’t a fish head in a clam, it’s a bishop’s hat and represents the Camino de Santiago – St James’ way.)
The nearby Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores with its atmospheric 200 year old cemetery overlooking Playa de la Entrada where the Niembro River reaches the sea is one of those ridiculously scenic spots that postcards were invented for.
All in all a special combination. And yet I haven’t written a word about it until now. What’s more neither have any of the travel bloggers who were enthusiastically discovering Asturias with me… as far as I know.
The Restaurant San Pelayo is a member of the Mesas de Asturias; a mark of quality and a heads up that you’re guaranteed a good meal. It’s also recommended in the Michelín guide. It’s exterior is deceptively nondescript and there’s even a touch of the Hi-de-Hi’s about it. Basically, if you didn’t know about the San Pelayo’s reputation you could easily drive past it without a second glance. It would be your loss.
Inside, the décor is as fresh and pleasing as a cooling sea breeze on a summer day; a style that is perfect for a restaurant specialising in fish and seafood. The menu matches the contemporary marine design by taking classic seasonal ingredients and jazzing them up with a touch of 21st century pizazz.
Our lunch consisted of Cantabrian anchovies that came with a sublime salad of roasted vegetables; monk-fish married with small squid to create a brochette bursting with marine flavours and moscancia (a type of Asturian black pudding) mixed with puréed onions and apple and served inside a crispy filo pastry parcel. Each dish not only looked pleasingly pretty, the flavours more than lived up to the promise of their art gallery good looks.
It is the sort of creative cuisine that might have you nervously hoping you’ve got enough dosh in your wallet to cover the bill and yet a standard menú del día comes in at around €20 per person; surprisingly good value for such a high standard of cuisine.
But if it was so good why has no-one written about it? The answer to that lies in the very nature of blog trips. When travel writers and bloggers are exposed to unforgettable experience after unforgettable experience, sometimes the ones that aren’t at the very top of the WOW scale can get overshadowed. So post trip, the skydiving, luxury train travel, swimming with sharks etc. get top billing whilst the little joys that most of us enjoy on our holidays – such as a long and delightful leisurely lunch at somewhere like Restaurant San Pelayo – get shoved to the back of the mental files marked ‘wonderful travel experiences’… until one day a picture sparks a fond memory.
If you’re passing through Niembro make sure you pencil in a stop to photograph the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, and then take time out to enjoy a long, delicious lunch at a lovely little restaurant with a fantastic chef because the food is…well… está de muerte.
Buzz Trips got to munch on some delicious goodies at the Restaurant San Pelayo as a guest of the Asturias Tourism Board but the views are entirely those of our taste-buds.