It was our last day in Sevilla. Our trip had, unfortunately, come to an end. We only had one Andalucían meal left to enjoy, so we chose to have it at a restaurant recommended by my boyfriend´s old Erasmus buddy and local Sevillan. He had assured us that the price to quality ratio and authenticity of the cuisine at this place would leave nothing to be desired. And based on the delicious tapas we had had at some bar named La Azotea that he had taken us to the night before, I trusted him not to lead us astray.
Meson Don Raimundo is a traditional Andalucían restaurant located inside of the Hotel Convento La Gloria, a beautiful 15th century building that was once a convent, then the first post office of Sevilla, then a high school and then the residence of cultural activist Don Raimundo. The interiors of both the hotel and the restaurant´s dining room feature original Andalucían tiles and religious artwork, along with beautiful wooden furniture, which – I imagine – make the building a great place to hide out from the red-hot heat of the midsummer sun. The eatery is located next to the cathedral of Seville, within the touristy Santa Cruz neighborhood in the historic center. But it´s also pleasant tucked away on a narrow alleyway off Calle Argote de Molina, right next to another restaurant named Bar Cuesta del Bacalao, which takes up the terrace of the main street and diverts most of the tourist attention off Don Raimundo.
Along with their wide selection of a la carte offerings, they have several set menus available for lunch or multi-course tastings. As it was too difficult to choose just one first course each, we decided to order a bunch of things to share. Their menu included all the Andalucían classics, some dishes originating from Moorish cuisine and others with Roman influence: tortillitas de camarones, huevas de chocos (cuttlefish roe), oxtail, salmorejo, fried fish, stone fish, caldereta stews, chanquetes (fried transparent goby fish)…
I had to get another salmorejo, of course. This was a dish I just couldn´t get enough of during our trip. I had a total of 4 in 4 days, each of them slightly different from the others. This version was a bit soupier and lighter in flavor than the ones I had before, with the natural sweetness of the tomato dominating over the sting of the garlic. The surface was sprinkled with delicate shavings of hard-boiled egg and ham, both providing nice textural contrast to the smooth liquid. Although a bit wetter than the other versions we had had, this salmorejo was still thick enough to scoop up with bread, which is exactly what we did as we waited for our warm dishes to arrive. It would be my last authentic Andalucían salmorejo for a while… a fact I tried my hardest to ignore while enjoying every delicious spoonful.
We also ordered some berenjenas fritas (fried eggplants) served with honey and some of that famous bitter Seville orange marmalade I´ve heard so much about. Apparently the latter is not too popular locally and most of it is exported to other more marmalade-mad markets like the U.K. and the U.S.. These fried eggplants were different from those we haf at El Olivo in Córdoba in that they were cut into round slices and coated with a thicker batter, one I imagine was made with the chickpea flour and beer that the traditional Malaga-based recipe calls for. The batter was more pillowy, fluffy, thick but very light, rather than grainy and sandy like the batter made with breadcrumbs. The eggplant inside cooked all the way through and stayed very delicate in texture, its signature flavor balanced beautifully by the bitter orange and sweet, floral honey drizzled over the top.
Jabalí came next, a big plate of wild boar short ribs seasoned with a ton of garlic and rosemary and served on a bed of crunchy fried onion strings. Each bite was relentlessly tender, if a bit too fatty (which I never mind). The onion strings did perhaps carry a tad too much leftover grease from their deep-frying, which led to them becoming soggy here and there when they cooled down. Otherwise the dish was fantastic – not the lightest option on the menu but very substantial and with good, robust flavors to satisfy your appetite.
Our favorite element of this wonderful meal was the Pimiento Relleno a lo Mozárabe. The dish was originally invented as a tapa in the Triana neighborhood, but can also be found in larger plato versions throughout Sevilla. On the plate in front of us was a green pepper stuffed with ground meat, breaded and fried, served with a creamy, bright orange sauce known as mozárabe. The dish´s namesake sauce is an example of Al-Andalus or Hispano-Arabian culinary tradition, which first began to form in the 7th century and which gradually evolved to become a cuisine that was, by the 13th century, more refined than what could be found on the rest of the Iberian peninsula.
Some dive-tapas-bars take the lazy way out and make this sauce with prepped mayo and ketchup mixed together. But the voluptuous thickness and whipped up, frothy texture of the sauce topping our stuffed pepper was clearly fresh and homemade. This version, as far as I could tell, was the real deal, traditional version made with butter, onion, garlic cumin, coriander, paprika, sweet wine and cream. It was wonderfully balanced and complex in flavor, cool and creamy against the palate and the perfect contrast to the coarse, grainy fried coat of batter beneath it.
Under the golden-brown and crunchy batter, the pepper caramelized and became wonderfully tender. Slicing into it unveiled the dense log of steamy ground pork, which my boyfriend referred to as “farce,” no doubt reminded of the ground meat stuffing usually prepared with poultry during Christmastime in France. The meat was very nicely seasoned, perfectly cooked through, but not too stiff or chewy in texture. The natural liquid in the pepper had hydrated the meat as it cooked inside of the vegetable, keeping it beautifully moist until the very end.
No dessert after this meal, just a coffee and a moment of sitting, relaxed, and enjoying what was left of our Andalucían vacation. Our dinner that night would be a sloppy and overpriced “croque monsieur,” a sad little hot dog and a “Tuscan salad” with melted clumps of blue cheese stuck to tired leaves of cardboard-flavored lettuce at the Vueling terminal of the Sevilla airport, before a 3 hour delay on our flight back to Barcelona. And as I munched halfheartedly on my boring ham and cheese bocadillo at lunchtime the next day, I daydreamed about the flavors and textures I had encountered in southern Spain – the crunch of crusts fried in good olive oil, creamy and thick yet light and airy mozárabe and pil-pil, cool, smooth soup with garlic zing, and the freshness of everything that appeared on my plate.