Jerez | Hotel Palacio Garvey

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The Palacio Garvey was originally built in 1850 as the residence of the Garvey sherry family and still retains its neo-classical architectural style, but is now equipped with all the conveniences of a modern 4-star hotel. Located in the old town of Jerez, just off calle Larga, one of the main shopping streets. It’s a great base for exploring, visiting one of the many sherry bodegas or the famous horse show.

The 16 rooms are spacious and uniquely decorated, with a choice of either a “dark” or “light” theme. Each comes with a modern bathroom equipped with a hydro-massage bath, and have wenge wood floors, flatscreen TV with satellite channels, music system and free Wi-Fi. Downstairs the Patio Andaluz provides a relaxing open air space with plenty of greenery for taking a coffee or reading, and meeting rooms are also available. The two-floor building has several other comfortable common areas with lots of colourful quirky art throughout, mostly Andalusia-related subjects (flamenco, bullfighting, etc).

The La Condesa restaurant serves modern Mediterranean cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (room service available until 11 pm). It has a lovely terrace that runs alongside a part of the old roman city wall.

palacio garvey (2)My first-floor double room (a light-themed one) was the only one in the hotel with twin (90cm) beds. It had beautiful high ceilings and tall windows overlooking the patios. Modern and traditional are combined nicely in the attractive restored furnishings and sleek electronics. The spacious bathroom came with two sinks, spa bath and shower, nice toiletries and exceptionally fluffy towels. Possibly due to the set up of the rooms my WiFi reception was inadequate, but this was my only complaint (though it was a rather important one). The continental breakfast at 12€ will certainly set you up for the day, with a selection of artesanal breads and pastries, spreads, ham, cheese, fresh juice and excellent coffee. A nice touch is having table service rather than the usual buffet-style. The staff are very helpful, professional and friendly. Recommended.

Hotel Palacio Garvey
Tornería, 24
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel: +34 956 326 700

Jerez | Hotel Asta Regia

asta regia (1)

The Asta Regia (named for the nearby Roman town) is a relatively new hotel just off the Plaza Arenal, the main square in the centre of the old city. It’s also near the Alcázar Palace and just a five-minute walk to the central Market, with plenty of good bars and restaurants nearby.

The building was once a palace, but has been completely renovated to provide all the modern services which you’d expect from a four-star hotel, including swimming pool, sauna and gym, while maintaining some traditional touches – lots of those horseshoe arches, for example. The rooms (31 of them) are spacious, and include twins, standard doubles, superior doubles and junior suites, all with TV and free Wi-Fi. Aside from an attractive dining area (open for breakfast only) there is also a lounge/bar in front of reception. If you want a room with a street view, opt for a superior. The standard double rooms are all interior and open onto the patio.

asta regia (2)Room decór is clean and modern, and is consistent throughout the hotel. Our double superior room, which faced onto the street, had two larger than average (and very comfortable) 105cm twin beds, a desk, plenty of closet space and a mini bar. The bathroom was attractive and well-equipped, with a shower/bath, two sinks, toiletries, and a hair dryer. My only small niggle was the insufficient number of electrical sockets to plug in our devices. But it was a very pleasant stay, with helpful and friendly staff. I highly recommend the Asta Regia for comfort and location.

Hotel Asta Regia
San Agustín, 9
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel: +34 956 327 911

Copa Jerez 2015 National Finals

copa jerez spanish finals  (1)Last week I was invited to attend the Spanish finals for the 6th Copa Jerez international food and sherry pairing competition, which will be held in April 2015. I had been at Copa Jerez 2013 and so I was very excited about seeing the finalists in action, preparing and presenting their three-course meals matched with three fabulous sherries. Expectations were high given the stellar reputations of the three participating restaurants: 41º Experience, Atrio and Venta Moncalvillo. The jury of four top Spanish food and wine experts was equally impressive: Beltran Domecq, Paz Ivison, Fernando Córdoba and María Isabel Mijares.

The competition lasted about three hours and we were allowed access to the kitchen as well as the chance to try both the sample dishes and the sherry (though there was more of the latter than the former on hand). Then the judges had the very difficult task of deciding who would respresent Spain in the grand final. Their choice was Atrio (two days later Cáceres was chosen the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy 2015, so if Atrio wins the Copa Jerez it will be quite a  year for the city).

copa jerez spanish finals  (3)Judges and winners!
Chef Alberto Montes & sommelier José López-Montenegro from Atrio.

Afterwards we were invited to Bodegas Tradición for an elegant lunch prepared by the Jerez Professional Catering School (where the competition had taken place). But first we were treated to a tour of the bodega and its private art gallery by Head of Wine Tourism Activities, Daniel Martínez Becerra. Although I had recently been to a wine tasting there, it’s such a unique experience that you can easily go several times and get something new from it, especially as the paintings change from time to time.

copa jerez spanish finals  (2)The lunch was delicious and each course was paired with sherry from the Sherry Regulatory Council and Bodegas Tradición. I was thrilled (and a bit intimidated) to find myself seated next to Regulatory Council president Beltran Domecq. I was also a bit sorry to have to tell him that I wasn’t from *that* Hennessey family, but he didn’t seem to mind, even later when I referred to my brandy as cognac (oops!). As usual with this type of event, it was a great opportunity to see friends and colleagues again, and also to meet new people. And as always when it comes to sherry, everyone connected to it is both passionate and generous. No wine snobbery or secret societies here. Instead there is a genuine desire to share knowledge along with their exquisite product, which I find refreshing.

Vendimia de Jerez 2014

vendimia 2014The Fiesta de la Vendimia (Autumn Festival and Grape Harvest Fair) kicks off today in Jerez de la Frontera with activites for all ages. The programme includes open days and visits to wineries, master tastings, grape stomping, children’s entertainment, concerts, tapas and wine pairing, routes through the vineyards of Jerez, conferences, exhibitions, concerts, competitions … and don’t miss the gastronomy fair in the Alameda Vieja.

vendimia tapasCheck the official programme for more details.
Vendimia 2014 Programme

Jerez | Hotel Bellas Artes

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Given its 4-star rating, some nice photos on the website, and a few good reviews/recommendations, the Hotel Bellas Artes turned out to be something of a disappointment. There was nothing wrong with the location in a little square near the Cathedral in the old city, and I’m generally a fan of small hotels (19 rooms in this case) in historic buildings (an old palace), but the Bellas Artes seemed somehow uncared for, almost down on its luck. Though it does photograph well – even my pics here have it looking nicer than it actually was.
hotel bellas artes (2)The first two rooms we were offered on the top floor were small and dark, and the promised “Cathedral view” was laughable… if you leaned out a side window in the bathroom, yes, you could see the Cathedral. The room on the first floor, where we eventually stayed, though larger, and with a nice view onto the square (spoiled by windows so dirty you could barely see through them), was still a bit depressing. More seemed to have been spent on acquiring the necessities for extra stars (eg the out of place wall-mounted flat screen TV, a Nespresso machine on the already cluttered small desk), than on cleaning and maintenance. Curtains were discoloured and frayed, the toilet seat was chipped in several places, lamps had burned out bulbs, hallway carpets were badly stained. Sad.

There is free Wi-Fi, but the connection in our room was patchy. A small roof terrace with a jacuzzi has a nice view of the Cathedral, and there’s a small breakfast room. Service was friendly enough, but a little lacklustre. We wanted to change hotels but were told that because we’d booked online they wouldn’t refund the second night. So we did our best to stay out as much as possible and just use the hotel room to sleep and shower. This really shouldn’t be a 4 star hotel. Not recommended.

Hotel Bellas Artes
Jerez de la Frontera
Plaza del Arroyo, 45
Tel 956 348 430

Sherry Tasting in Jerez de la Frontera

Although I’ve long been a fan of fino and manzanilla, and dabbled a bit in olorosos and amontillados, some of you may remember that just over a year ago I kind of underwent a sherry conversion, which ended up being the inspiration for starting my own Introduction to Sherry tours. I wanted to give others the chance to experience sherry the way I felt it should be enjoyed – poco á poco, together with food and friends. But although my knowledge of sherry was enough for a “beginners” tour, I was keen to learn more. So when I found out that I wasn’t able to get into this September’s Sherry Educator course (though I’ve been promised a place for next year by the Regulatory Council) I was feeling all disappointed. And so of course the obvious thing to do was go to Jerez and start educating myself!

sherry marathonThe whole three day adventure came together in just a few hours. Hotel was booked, train tickets reserved, and four fabulous bodega visits were set up. My friend Peter Tatford @SVQconcierge came along with me as he was also interested in finding out more about Jerez (both the city and the wine).

Other than the regular tourist visit we did at González Byass when we first arrived the rest were all private tours, and I felt both honoured and privileged that the people at these very special wineries made me feel so welcome. It was not only super educational, it also felt like entering a whole other world, and as much as I learned (which was a lot!) the main thing I learned was that I still have a lot more to learn. I asked each person to take me through the sherry making process from the beginning, in their own way, and left myself in their capable hands. Each bodega was unique and everyone I spoke to was incredibly passionate about their work. In fact, it wasn’t like a job for any of them, it was a way of life. Here are the bodegas I went to in the order we visited them (click on the images to see bigger versions)…

Continue reading “Sherry Tasting in Jerez de la Frontera”

Tabancos & Tuna in Jerez

RUTA DE LOS TABANCOS Y EL ATÚN DE ALMADRABA  gastronomía  Guía de Cádiz - Mozilla Firefox 22072014 113426

Yesterday I was thinking about spending a few days in Granada as I haven’t been there in a couple of years, but my usual research tool (Twitter) wasn’t giving me any inspired ideas, so I suddenly switched gears and am now leaving tomorrow for an impromptu Jerez Getaway… and I couldn’t be happier. Seems I am hitting many of the bodegas before they go into serious “summer schedules” and I also get to enjoy this! A special route of Tabancos & Tuna… made to order. Tapas and a drink (sherry of course!) for just 3 euros.

Still looking for accommodation – stay tuned and follow @AzaharTravels and @AzaharTapas for a full report on Jerez in summer, great places to stay, things to do, and … tapas! Hashtag #JerezGetaway

Jerez de la Frontera | Nuevo Hotel

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I had been invited to Vinoble in Jerez de la Frontera, which meant having to stay over at least one night. I had told a friend that I was looking for somewhere “cheap & cheerful” where I could lay my head for a few hours – I knew I wouldn’t be spending much time wherever I stayed. And The Nuevo Hotel turned out to be perfect. At 25€ for an individual room with a single bed you obviously wouldn’t be expecting the Ritz, but I was very pleasantly surprised at my cheerful clean room and comfy bed, with a balcony that opened onto a small side street. My room was on the first floor of the two-storey hotel, and I was happy there was a lift as I was still on crutches due to a recent accident. The bathroom was small but serviceable, with a small bathtub and shower.

nuevo hotel  (2)

Nuevo Hotel is centrally located just off the Plaza de Arenal, near the Alcázar, and is about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station. There are plenty of good tapas bars nearby and it felt like a nice cosy neighbourhood. Breakfast at the hotel is 5€, served in a big bright dining area on the main floor, but I’m always happier going out to find a small bar. There are a couple of charming common areas and excellent WiFi connection throughout the hotel. The hotel staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful. I would definitely stay again.

Nuevo Hotel
Calle Caballeros, 23
Jerez de la Frontera
Tel 956 33 16 00

Copa Jerez 2013

copa jerez
A last minute decision found me in Jerez earlier this week to attend the 5th Copa Jerez (Sherry Cup), an international bi-annual competition that aims to demonstrate sherry’s tremendous versatility as a wine to pair with food. It’s organized by the Regulatory Council of the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and during the international final chef and sommelier teams compete to create the perfect sherry and food pairing. This year the Danish team from Clou won the coveted prize.

For me it was also an opportunity to meet up with old friends and sample exquisite sherries from 15 select bodegas, along with fabulous jamón Ibérica de bellota and Andalusian cheeses. It also whetted my interest to finish my own sherry education in order to be able to start my Introduction to Sherry tapas tours.

ajo negro

After the competition I was invited by Gonzalez-Byass to a wonderful lunch at Ajo Negro.