Winning tip: El Yantar, Pedraza, Segovia
The picturesque medieval village of Pedraza, in Segovia, is 75 miles north of Madrid and popular at weekends with Madrileños who pack the numerous asados (restaurants specialising in roasts). My favourite is El Yantar on Plaza Major, serving traditional Castilian dishes but specialising in cordero lechal (milk-fed leg of lamb for a minimum of two people) and cochinillo (suckling pig), both of which are cooked slowly in a wood-burning oven for three hours. Wash it down with Ribero Del Duero, a decent red, and look out into the square – the Four Musketeers was filmed in the 1970s.
• It is essential to book a table and choice of roast in advance, elyantardepedraza.com
Arxiduna, Archidona, Andalucía
Andalucía has amazing tabernas and tapas places throughout but I’ll go for Arxiduna, in a pretty courtyard at the foot of the otherwise rural Sierra de Gracia. The food reflects its surroundings; typical to the region with inspired flourishes – deer loin with chocolate beans, deep-fried aubergine with treacle. You can sit in the plaza, the garden terrace or in the deep stone cellar.
• On Facebook
El Monestir de Sant Pere de Casseres, Catalonia
For me, the setting is incomparable: the monastery sits atop a promontory with water on three sides, the sublime reservoir of Sau to the east and to the north and west the Ter river. Uninhabited for centuries, access is via a modern, functional (ugly) council building that houses a spartan restaurant. From a wide choice, we ate a half roast chicken, slowly cooked and moist with asparagus and romesco nut and red pepper sauce. There is also a variety of griddled vegetables with aioli and local bread.
• Closes at 7pm in summer and 5.30pm in winter, santperedecasserres.cat
Tetería Baraka, La Alpujarra, Andalucía
Tetería Baraka is a culinary echo of the Moorish past in the beautiful La Alpujarra (the lower slopes of the Sierra Nevada). Run by Muslim sufis, this chilled place offers tagines, ajoblanco (chilled garlic and almond soup), amazing salads, shawarma and falafel, plus homemade lemonade and ice-cream. Soak up the vibe at a mosaic table and watch the world go by at the weekly local market. Nestled in the rural town of Órgiva, it has a loyal following – and rightly so.
• Three courses around €13, teteria-baraka.com
Domus Real Fuerte de la Concepción, Aldea del Obispo, Salamanca
Seconds after crossing the border from Portugal, we came across this ruined fort-cum-hotel/restaurant. Visitors walk in via the old bridge and archway into the open courtyard, which forms the centre of the peripheral elegantly furnished rooms and the hotel’s restaurant. We ate inside the bright cavernous restaurant but had we eaten here in the evening as well, we would have taken advantage of the starry night sky and the seating outside.
Casa Juanín, Pendones, Asturias
Casa Juanín is a simple stone cottage in the village of Pendones, with smoke rising from a log fire inside its restaurant. It welcomes walkers who hike up here to see the magnificent views of the Picos de Europa. The food is hearty and homemade, once catering for hungry Asturian forest workers; €15 will get you (almost) bottomless bowls of wild boar stew with beans or braised goat or venison, cooked by Juanín and served by his daughter. Fill up then head back down the hills.
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Montimar, Estellencs, Mallorca
From Palma, take the coastal road along the west of the island, through the picturesque villages of Valldemossa, Deia, the pretty town of Soller and on to the monastery at Lluc, stopping at the miradors to admire the sea and cliffs. On the way stop for lunch at Montimar. Sit outside on the terrace and eat bread covered in olive oil and tomato, robust soup with cabbage, bread and garlic, frito (diced lambs liver with potatoes, onions, peppers and garlic) or the tumbet (layers of potatoes, aubergines, peppers and garlic). Have an extra glass of the Binissalem wine and stay at the Hotel Rural Nord (doubles from €88) in the village or take a walk down the hillside to the small shingle beach for a swim.
• On Facebook
El Rinconcito de Hilario, Las Zocas, Tenerife
Imagine a small fish restaurant nestling in a small unobtrusive village straddling a mountainside in Tenerife. Now imagine that same restaurant is packed with local families all tucking into freshly caught, simply cooked local seafood. You have just imagined El Rinconcito de Hilario, a place where you are shown to your table and minutes later the waiter shows up with a large basket of today’s catch and you are asked which one you’d like and how you’d like it cooked – fried with garlic, grilled with herbs, salt-baked … it’s up to you.
Algo Así, Cañamero, Extremadura
Algo así means “something like that” but the offhand name belies the attention to detail that characterises this restaurant. The Swiss owners grow many of the ingredients in their own gardens, and everything else comes from the local markets. There is no menu – instead the dishes are planned once the markets have been inspected and on arrival the waiting staff explain what has been prepared for each of the five courses that day. The waiters are all local, as is the artist who makes the ceramic cups, plates and the art displayed on the walls. The setting is beautiful, and as rural as it is possible to get.
• Reservations essential, on Facebook
Toc Al Mar, Begur, Catalonia
If you love tender octopus cooked on a wood fire, creative salads using local fruits and vegetables, chilled rosé and the Mediterranean lapping at your toes then go here. We turned up at midday in early October and it was empty. Half an hour later it was packed with locals and travelling Barcelonistas.