This Christmas we spent a week in the Manor house at Olmares, the Picos are beautiful now and ever so peaceful, the summer tourists are long gone and the valleys and villages are enveloped in a winter quiet. It's a perfect time for reading books by log fires and generally just getting far far away from it all.
There's snow on the peaks and the nights are cold and crisp so the trevide (our original Liebana fireplace) got some good use. The days were beautiful, with vivid blue skied sunny days allowing for the odd barbecue and lunch al fresco in the gardens.
The week flew by and before long it was time to head back to the bustle of city life, but on our way back to London from Santander airport we decided to stop off for one last lunch at a hidden gem in Santander called El Marucho.
Outside El Marucho
This is renegade seafood, and it's clearly where any Santandarino who knows his halibut from his hake goes to eat. The outside of the restaurant is rustic to the point of resembling an establishment more akin to peddling illicit substances than some of the freshest marisco (seafood) known to man, but don't be deterred as once inside you can see what the fuss is about.
The place is packed and an assault on the senses, with a rapid stream of pescatorial delights being fired out of the kitchen to hungry local punters.
Finally seated, (n.b. they don't take reservations), I asked our waiter Pedro what was good from the menu and looking at me like I was a lost child he simply said, todo (everything)!!
Grilled fish is really the speciality here, with wonderfully fresh hake, sole and sea-bass all on display, but they also are famous for their spider crabs.
Given it was percebes (goose barnacles) season we ordered a plate of these bizarre looking delicacies. To me percebes are one of the singular most delicious little morsels to ever come out of the sea. The only catch (excuse the pun) is that they can be expensive, sometimes reaching 300 Euros/Kilo. This is due to the fact that harvesting them is outrageously dangerous, and has to be done by hand from the bottom of the jagged Cantabrian coastal cliffs. Seas can be rough and powerful at this time of year and the harvesters have to work rapidly to remove the barnacles whilst dodging crashing waves (check out this link showing Gordon Ramsay's attempt at harvesting some). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R76pgQBpGuw
Pedro was right, everything here was delicious and if you love seafood I highly recommend stopping off here on your way to or back from Olmares. Get there early though (circa 1pm) if you want to avoid the queues.
Large juicy Almejas