Casa Robles, Seville 24.10.10
Posted by Lisa Hill on October 24, 2010
We arrived in Seville late last night, made later by an interminable delay in unloading the bags – only to find the city in the middle of a grand concert, which made accessing our hotel a bit of a problem for our taxi-driver. At the first road block we were turned away and sent off in a different direction, but at the next road block he made an impassioned plea to the policeman(presumably about the strong probability of his tourists getting lost) and we were let through.
After we checked in we ventured outdoors to find some very late dinner. It was well past eleven o’clock but the streets were still full of people and the restaurants and bars were still open. No problem said our charming host here at the Hotel Alminar, but it was, because everywhere we asked there were no tables and we ended up picking at a sorry ham and cheese roll at a sort of gelataria…
But by the time we’d reconciled ourselves to chucking most of it in the bin, the restaurant almost next to our hotel had begun to empty. We ventured in for a restorative glass of wine, and found ourselves in a veritable temple of gastronomy, dedicated to the fruits of the sea. We decided then and there that we would have lunch there the following day.
The after-party for the concert went on and on and on, and (despite the ear plugs) it must have been two o’clock before we finally drifted into sleep. (The hotel doesn’t have double-glazing on the windows, a feature that has made most of the other city hotels we’ve stayed in impervious to street noise.) So it was a later-than-usual start this morning, and the bus-tour was a bit of a disappointment because it was a bumpy old bus that made taking photos almost impossible. (Travellers’ tip: check out the age of the bus before you buy your ticket. There are always two or three of these companies offering more-or-less the same tours so it pays to be choosy.)
Still, we saw some interesting features of the city that we would never have otherwise seen. The buses can’t navigate the narrow streets of the old city so they go across the river to where Seville hosted an expo in 1992. The temporary exhibitions are all gone of course, but these expos offer an opportunity for a city’s architects to build all kinds of innovative structures and Seville’s are no exception.
So there are all kinds of fabulous new buildings of architectural interest, and the bridge that crosses the river is an engineering marvel. It’s called the El Alamillo Bridge, and it works by balancing the spar against the span using massive cables. You can’t really see it properly in my photo so click the link instead to see good photos of it by day and by night. Apparently the architect wanted to build another ‘matching’ one on Seville’s other river but ‘financial difficulties’ put paid to that. What a pity, it would have been a grand sight….
But alas we did not see much of the old city except for its bullring (about which the audio guide waxed lyrical much to our disapproval) so we decided to have lunch at Casa Robles and then visit the cathedral and the fine arts museum. We had a splendid lunch, and cannot understand why there are so many grudging reviews about this eatery on Trip Advisor. Yes, it’s true they don’t speak much English but that’s not a criteria for judging a restaurant and to whinge about it says more about the whinger than it does about the restaurant. Apart from anything else the menu is in four different languages and it provides very detailed explanations about what the dishes contain.
It’s also true that lobster dishes are expensive. That is because the world price for lobster is set in Japan, and lobster (crayfish) is now very expensive wherever you go. The days when we could buy a cray for $20 at a fish-and-chip shop and eat it on the beach are long gone. It is a luxury food which commands a luxury price. Whinging about that is like whinging about caviar being expensive or expecting French champagne to cost the same as Italian spumante.
We consider it a very good sign when most of the diners are locals not tourists, and Casa Robles did not let us down in that respect at all. We had traditional Seville seafood at a very reasonable price, and we could have fed four people with the very generous serves. The seafood rice and broth was similar in appearance to the one we had at Cafe Nicola in Lisbon (rice, prawns, clams, mussels and fish in a tomato broth flavoured with saffron) but here they use a little more garlic, their local wines (as I’m sure the Portuguese did too) and they don’t add mint. It was delicious and Chef Tim is going to experiment at home to reproduce it.
Having left my Spanish phrase book at the hotel and lost a little of my bravura after four days in Lisbon where the speaking of Spanish is a grave insult, I muddled my way through conversation with the waiter – and he must have been pleased with the efforts of la tourista Australiana because after I had paid the bill and a generous tip, we were given delicious little sweet nibbles made with pistachio and some type of marzipan and sour cherry liqueurs. So we had a lovely time at Casa Robles and we would recommend it to anyone!
Alas, it was as we were waiting for the bill that we discovered our foolish mistake. The fine arts museum is only open till 2.00pm on Sundays…
Ah well, off to the cathedral now!