On then to Toledo. A walled city surrounded by a rushing river. It looks very magical, and it is easy to imagine the rich history that Toledo has. There is much to see, Toledo is a rare place where historically Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in harmony alongside each other. There are ancient mosques, synagogues and an impressive gothic cathedral too.
Like much of Spain, Toledo is home to traditional and religious celebrations, and was dressed up for the Corpus Christi parade when I visited. Toledo is host to one of the biggest and oldest Corpus Christi processions (along with Granada which I happened to see many years back). The narrow winding stone streets had deep burgundy banners overhead.
Toledo itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, and wandering the narrow streets up and down steep hills and steps will give you much pleasure (and exercise). There are El Greco artworks, and a Caravaggio in the cathedral. Look up as you walk in to see the ancient decorative hats that the cardinals wore suspended above their graves spread throughout the cathedral under the floor. If you prefer something livelier, you can zipline across the river (I gave that a skip, I was focussed on the food!).
Toledo is the Spanish capital of gastronomy for 2016. For this they have created the Toledopass Gourmet (a passport to drinks and tapas at a series of locations throughout the small city) and terrific value set menus at Toledo’s best restaurants.
For lunch, we travelled just outside the city to El Carmen de Montesion for lunch. Opened in 2010, it received its first michelin star under chef Ivan Cerdeño in 2013. A 5 course lunch menu costs just €27.50, and an 8 course menu with matched (and excellent) wines is €43. Surely one of the best value michelin starred restaurants in Europe? The food is very impressive here, they also catered excellently for a lactose free diet, which is always good.
We started with some stuffed olives with anchovy cream and a spiced butter, washed down with a spiced aromatic house vermut. Some sugar syrup was infused with lemon rind and cinnamon, before adding to white wine and vermut. Buñuelo de queso, a contemporary twist on the traditional cheese bun or fritter was served Asian style in little steamer baskets, delivering a small gorgeous explosion of liquid cheese.
Purrusalda is a typical Navarran dish rendered regal here. Leeks with tender egg yolk, truffle and butter. Divine textures, and while not the prettiest, the erupting egg yolk was a delight
The partridge bon bon served on a truffled biscuit base with a bright sharp apple puree was sublime. Pluma is one of my favourite cuts of pork, from the iberico pig, served rare and so rich and tender. Pluma Iberico de Bellota a la Brasa here was served with fantastic black yucca and potato gnocchi.
Dessert was Recuerdos de Toledo (memories of Toledo). A gorgeous goat’s cheese ice cream topped with saffron foam.
Another restaurant participating in the Toledopass Gourmet is Locum where we had an 8 course tasting menu for €40 per person. In downtown Toledo in a 17th century house near the cathedral, Locum is atmospheric, and serves some more La Mancha favourites with contemporary and delicious twists.
Galleta Oreo was stunning and indulgent. An oreo inspired sandwich made from foie gras with manchego cheese cream in the centre.
Potato cream with lobster and lamb sweetbreads was gorgeous. Gentle and intense at the same time.
Toledo is famous for marzipan, El Pastel de Mazapán for dessert showcased this wonderfully. A hot marzipan cake with molten marzipan oozing from the centre, with a cheese and passion fruit cream.
Toledo is a brilliant little city rich in history, just a short train ride from Madrid (just 20 minutes on the high speed train). But don’t just go for the day, Toledo deserves more. And so do you!
El Carmen de Montesion, Urbanización Montesión, Calle Montesión, 107, 45004 Toledo, Spain
Locum, Calle de Locum, 6, 45001 Toledo, Spain