Updated: Sep 18
Venta de la Virgen
Avenida de Murcia, 15, Baños y Mendigo
Date of Visit: 15/09/2023
Since my last couple of culinary outings for Sunday Roast and Fish and Chips, I've been desperate to realign my tastebuds with something a little more local. So in spite of the dark, looming clouds and weather warning for heavy rain and storms, my wife and I venture just up the road for a date night at Venta de la Virgen.
Venta de la Virgen can date itself back to 1429. It's characterful, with rough textured walls and traditional floor tiles. Jamóns clamped into their stands sit on the bar and Luzón wine barrels serve as tables. It's quintessentially, authentically Spanish.
Conversely, the storm now beginning to rage outside is authentically British. But it does add to the warm, cozy atmosphere inside.
The casual, relaxed feel of the restaurant extends somewhat to the menu - roast meats, steaks, paella, but all presented with flair, cleverly creating a finer dining experience without being in anyway ostentatious. You definitely feel like you're out somewhere special, but somewhere where shorts and a T-shirt are still acceptable.
It's the same with the service; professional and attentive, but still with a smile and time for a friendly chat.
As is common in Spain, we start our meal with pan y aioli. The bread is warm and incredibly fresh, effortlessly tearing into pieces for dipping into the beautifully pungent homemade aioli that doesn’t so much realign my tastebuds, as punch them hard in the face.
We go on to share a selection of croquettes - oxtail, Iberian ham, and squid and prawn. Handmade, huge and voluptuous. The contrast between the crisp, golden casing and its squidgy béchamel middle, accompanied with a smidge of tomato jam is devilishly moreish.
As the thunder reaches a-little-bit-scary level, our mains arrive. Slow cooked leg of lamb, sat on top of what is described as Murcian Potatoes; sliced potatoes cooked with garlic and stuff (!), slightly resembling Potatoes Boulangere. It's a hearty pairing, completely fitting for the tempestuous weather outside.
How to describe the lamb without regurgitating the same old foodie adjectives? Tender, moist falling off the bone? Yes, it's all of that. And more. Succulent. Delicate. Melt-in-the-mouth. Call it what you like. It's bloody good. I consider picking up the stripped bone and gnawing at it like a starved caveman, but then I further consider what my wife would do to me, so instead flip it over and with no more noticeable decorum, use my fork to dig and scrape at any remaining meat futilely hiding underneath.
My wife opts for braised venison loin, cooked perfectly pink and presented beautifully on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, accompanied with confit fennel and finished with a richly fruity berry sauce studded with green peppercorns. So she tells me. Usually we share bitesize 'tasting forks' of each others dishes across the table, but this evening I'm not offered anything from her side. It must be good.
Dessert we do share. We're full, but we're not particularly excited about venturing outside into the stormy night. A homemade millefeuille gives us a tasty reason to stay inside and keep dry. Light, flaky pastry layered with custard and cream, gloriously topped off with a warm, gloopy chocolate sauce that every few mouthfuls treats us to a lumpy clot of chocolate that's not yet quite fully melted. Mmm.. Absolutely worth staying for even if it's not raining.
I really can't recommend Venta de la Virgen highly enough. It's the kind of place you find yourself staring at the other diners meals as they are brought to the table. I may have even rudely pointed at them a couple of times. I definitely need to return soon to try the rest of the menu. This is Spanish cuisine at it's very best. Simple yet somehow spectacular.
The croquettes were €3 each. My lamb was €24.50, and the venison was €20. The millefeuille was €4.50.
Booking is recommended. Call 651 64 40 90.