Food in Oviedo and Asturias
Danielle is in her fourth year studying Hispanic Studies with English, and spent her year abroad 2015-16 in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain, working as an English Language Assistant with the British Council. Here is her guide to the foodie words, Asturian etiquette and the best places she found to eat in Oviedo and Asturias.
1. A foodie word guide
Pinchos: Bite-size to sandwich-sized snacks, with the ‘pincho’ said to refer to the cocktail stick holding it all together, this could be a tortilla española, a filled baguette, slice of pizza, tostada or a mini empanada, among other things. You’ll usually find a small, free, morsel of something tasty, for free, offered up, free, alongside your drinks, for free.
Menú del Día: Lots of places offer a two to three-course set menu, for around 8-12 euros, (or around 16 for something really fancy), served at lunch and sometimes for dinner.
Merienda: This is another little meal that the Spanish like to squeeze in between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, or both. So typically around 6pm, you might be invited for a pastry and coffee, or a slice of home-made tortilla for example. Take up the offer.
Ración: In Asturias this is an even larger portion of the traditional tapas (see below), to be ordered and shared amongst a group of friends.
Sidra: Cider – but more than just a drink, this is what brings Asturians together. You’ll see waiters ‘escanciar la sidra’ meaning they pour it from a height, with cider splashing everywhere, then they’ll brusquely hand it to you expecting you to down it and pass the glass along
Tapas: Note, these are nothing like what you might find in La Tasca, or anywhere else I’ve experienced in the UK. Generally, Asturian tapas are beyond-generous plates of tasty treats; order a few to share between friends. (I definitely made the mistake of ordering five dishes to share between two and we were so defeated by the food that we had to leave half before waddling back to the taxi rank).
Menus will feature Asturian specialities, so don’t miss out on these delights:
- Arroz con Leche: rice pudding, but better, under a blanket of burnt sugar
- Cabrales: the strongest blue cheese on earth
- Cachopo: like a schnitzel, but wrapped in cured meats and cheese before frying
- Fabada: traditional stew of meats and beans
- Pitu de Caleya: wild-reared Asturian chickens
- Pixín: Rape - Monkfish
- Tortu: Greasy fried maize cakes served with spiced meats and eggs
2. Asturian Etiquette
Asturians are hugely proud of their food. Any meal is a big family occasion. It is normal for kids to eat galletas with Cola Cao for breakfast, basically biscuits with chocolate milk, and yet they'll turn their nose up at the thought of an English breakfast. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, cafés over the city are full of baked goods at all times of the day, think palmeras, pastries, Spanish pies and fresh bread.
Lunch is a full on event with family and friends. Schools finish around two in the afternoon and offices and shops close for a long lunch break until around four or five, before heading back to work. (Take note of your local opening times to save you from that hungry 3pm search around town). Dinner is a smaller affair usually comprising leftovers, a salad or a sandwich at home.
Vegetarian and vegan food is scarce, Asturians really love their meat. So watch out when you order a pizza vegetariana and enjoy trying to convince the waiter that even though it’s ‘just jamón’ that is still a meat; my go-to for a meat-free meal was patatas con salsas. If you like to cook, Oviedo’s market (El Fontan) is full to the brim with amazing local produce.
If you're going for drinks with friends, don't expect to meet them until the late evening, and be aware that clubs don’t usually get going until one or two in the morning.
Listen out for '¿Comiste?' (the Asturian way of asking if you're hungry – instead of the typical ‘¿has comido?’) Unless it's a big group of people or an expensive meal, tips of the leftover change usually suffice.
3. Not to be missed in Oviedo
- Patatas tres salsas, crunchy but soft potatoes doused in salsas 'bravas', cabrales y aioli, perfect shared, paired with a freshly grilled Pincho de ternera y cebolla in Solera, an addictive, friendly café on the famous Calle Rosal. This place is such a local gem that it doesn't even have its own website.
- Pincho de queso de cabra, cecina y cebolla, in La Corte de Pelayo.
- Particularly the tortilla de gambas, merluza, and pixín/rape dishes were heavenly, but really absolutely everything at El Fondin is worth the slightly bigger price tag, save this for a special occasion, just off of the Fontan market, this is a tiny, up-market, but quaint restaurant, with super slick staff and the best food in the city.
- La Genuina, just off of the Fontan market, serves an array of rice dishes. My tip is to order a drink at the quirky bar, with which you'll be given a taster helping of rice. That will probably convince you to sit yourself at a table and order a plate or two; recommendations include the de montanes and de la huerta, if you're feeling like a meat-free dinner. The side-serving of freshly baked bread is really good.
- 26 Grados serves every kind of pincho imaginable, they do takeaway which is great to enjoy in the park, and they all come between a euro or two. Their bread is freshly baked daily.
- The best biscuits you've ever eaten, moscovitas, can be found at El Rialto, they're made of almonds and sugar dipped in chocolate and exist just to make you happy.
4. Take a trip
Fabada in Hotel Sotres, the perfect meal to devour after a day hiking in the stunning Picos de Europa, it's big and hearty, full of meat and beans and served with crusty bread; if you want to taste the soul of Asturian home cookery then this is the place.
Hotel Posada del Valle, in Arriondas, is a great base for walking in the hills or visiting the coast, and the family run a working farm which supplies almost all the food served in their restaurant, the quality, flavour and creativity is just amazing. You can even have a wander around the gardens, see the animals and explore the vegetable patches before you dine.