I'm taking a day off from my vaguely student-themed MoFo to post about a recent trip to Valencia.
Valencia's Spain's third largest city behind Barcelona and Madrid, both of which I've visited before and both of which I loved. But Valencia? Well, I didn't know much about it. Mr Flicking the Vs suggested a break there just before my last exams, and with so little brain space available to think about anything that wasn't anatomy, I agreed without thinking whether or not I might like the place.
Happily enough, I really did love it. It's a city that may not be on your must-see list, but I think a few days spend here is a few days well spent. We spent a lot of time strolling the old city, stopping for a beer in a square somewhere, checking out the local museums, and taking day trips to Sagunto and Xativa. For somewhere I previously had no big wish to visit and knew nothing about it, I was surprised about how much I enjoyed the place, and can't recommend it enough if you're looking for an off the beaten track destination in Europe that ticks all your city break boxes.
But what about the food, I hear you ask? Is the food good?
Yep, it is. Whether you're looking for high-end meals or down-and-dirty scran, Valencia has an option for you.
We rented an apartment for the week and we spent a lot of time cooking for ourselves, but we did get to eat at a few of Valencia's restaurants. Our first stop was Oslo, one of a chain of vegetarian eateries in the city that all have Nordic names: as well as Oslo, there's two other restaurants called Copenhagen and Malmo, and a bar that serves food called Helsinki. They're all veggie with a lot of vegan options.
Oslo is in a nice bit of the city, and given how good the weather is in the city, we had dinner on one of the pavement tables. As well as the rare chance to eat outdoors, Oslo's booze selection put me in a good mood. If you're of a mind to check it out, you can find the menu here.
We skipped starters and went to mains: I chose a brown rice number with mushrooms, courgettes, and tofu.
It was fine, if unexciting: the mushrooms were deep fried and oozing oil (which I actually didn't mind, grim little creature that I am) while the rest of the veggies were well cooked. The rice had some ginger and cardamom flavours running through it, but the rest of the food wasn't overburdened with taste. The tofu for example was unflavoured, though nicely crisp - that's no bad thing if the rest of your dish is heavy on the spice, but when it's all a bit underflavoured, it just adds to the blandness. The only real whack of flavour was from the chutney type arrangement under the tofu, but chutney felt out of place in a dish that drew on Asia for its inspiration.
A slab of rich, flavourful, yet still moist bonfire-smoky tofu, good quality ketchup and mayonnaise, and wedges that are soft in the middle with a crisp outside, that manage to pull off the impressive trick of staying that way even when they're not fresh out of the oven. Granted, putting only two of them on the plate seems a bit parsimonious, especially when they're really tasty.
I didn't get a snap of Mr Flicking the Vs' hummus wrap, but it was way better than I would have expected: the wrap looked homemade and crisp, the filling was generous, and the hummus was augmented by chunks of really good seitan.
The service was also really generous: despite us finishing our mains after the restaurant's closing time, they still offered us dessert and didn't make us feel rushed while we ate. I chose a tiger nut mousse with chocolate sauce and granola, and hoovered it down in two minutes.
MioBio isn't a cheap place, but it does the basics -- and more -- really, really well.
If you're looking for a cheap place that does good food, Valencia has one of those too. It's called The Nature where, for €7.50, you can eat as much as you like from an all vegan buffet. There's a mix of Asian and Spanish food, as well as mains and dessert dishes, but drinks are extra.
If you look on Happy Cow, you'll see a mixed bag of reviews, and I can understand why. If you're offering a buffet, it's hard to keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold - some of the deep fried options had cooled and grown chewy. It's an inherent buffet problem really, so if you avoid the deep fried options unless they're fresh, you'll be fine.
Besides that, there's a lot to enjoy at The Nature, not least the fact you can refill your plate as often as you like. If you're fancying a starter, there's some good gazpacho. If you're after a side salad, there's lots of good fresh veggies to let you make one, as well as readymade salads like coleslaw or a creamy spinach and chick pea arrangement that I went back for seconds of. There's also bread for when you need some carbs topping up.
The main dishes are fairly evenly split between Asian and non Asian dishes - there's a lot of lovely different versions of tofu and vegetables in soy-based sauces, as well as tempura, spring rolls, crispy fried seaweed, and even sushi, as well as noodles and rice to make up the numbers. For European-type food, you could avail yourself of things like patatas bravas and paella.
If you're still able to fit in dessert after all that, load up on fruit, banana fritters, or mochi.
The Nature's food isn't high-end, and it's not perfect. But it's well priced, filling, tasty, and varied. Any students looking for a meal out in Valencia won't be disappointed, and neither for that matter will anyone else.