August 17, 2020

Cuenca

Tags: Travel, Restaurants, Spain

In May 2019 I spent a week in Cuenca just before it was time for me to leave Spain. This small city about half way between Madrid and Valencia, is only a hour from either of those cities on the comfortable high speed train. Despite the place crawling with Valenciano and Madrileno tourists over the weekend, it felt like a secret place. Perhaps because the whole place just seems to shutdown and is super quiet on Monday and to a lesser extent Sunday and Tuesday when the weekend tourists leave. Or maybe because it was the first place in Spain I visited where everyone else’s English was not better than my poor Spanish (although most people were at least as good).

Cuenca is a great place to spend a few days if you like living at a slower pace. The old city is pretty and there is plenty to look at with a few museums. The highlight for me was three walks that start in the old town and take you out into the surrounding countryside over the course of 5-10kms. It was pleasantly warm in May, although be prepared to walk up and downhill as there are a few steep hills (with the town itself built on the side of one of them).

Food in the town is at the extremes: many of the restaurants were uninspired tourist fare, but other were incredibly good. All were surprisingly cheap. The cuisine tends towards meat, don’t assume a dish has any vegetables except potato unless specifically mentioned. Two restaurants particularly impressed me, both with Michelin stars. Raff serves hardy fare with lots of game. Simple food, very well cooked, in large portions, with good service. It was hard to chose from short menu, it all looked good. Trivio served fancier food. It has no menu in normal sense, patrons just choose to have a 6, 9, or 15 course tasting menu, supposedly changed every day depending on what is good in the local markets. I had 9 courses and all were excellent and different (I especially enjoyed the red mullet with mushroom). There was a good amount of food and it was still cheaper than most other Michelin starred restaurants in Europe (only Raff & The Sportsman have been cheaper places I’ve visited).

My best photos from the trip are in a short slideshow available here.


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