When we arrived at Ezcaray, it was already well past 2 in the afternoon. Desperate for a decent lunch, we wandered around the streets trying to find a restaurant or cafe which was still open. By sheer coincidence, we parked our car at the parking lot in front of the village cathedral, and notice an elegant stone building right across the road. To our delight, it is a restaurant which serves regional cuisine.

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(See the building behind the trees? That's Hotel Restaurante Echaurren, one of the most interesting restaurants we have ever visited in Europe.)

 

The manager greeted us at the entrance to the restaurant and show us to a table next to the window. The interior of the restaurant has a very elegant, classy touch, and the wine list is impressive (nor surprising given that Ezcaray is in the heart of Spain's most famous wine region). We had fish soup, salads, pork and wonderful croquettes that are crispy on the outside and melt in the mouth. Hearty country cuisines coupled with a good bottle of La Rioja red wine, what a good way to spend an afternoon.

Hotel Echaurren also has a very elegant bar/lounge with a beautiful fireplace and classical decor, where you can have a drink before dinner or simply enjoy a good cup of cafe con leche on the sofa. The cafe con leche served by Hotel Echaurren is so good, my father and I went there every morning after breakfast just to have a good cup of coffee. During our one week stay in Ezcaray, we became well acquainted with the family that runs the hotel and the restaurant, as well as most fellow workers  because we were there everyday. They said we were the very first visitors from Asia to their restaurant, and everybody was curious about where we came from.

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The lounge of Hotel Echaurren looks like a stage set from a period drama. It is a very warm and comfortable place to have a cup of coffee anytime during the day.

We also had lunch at the second restaurant of the hotel, El Portal de Echaurren, located on the left-wing of the hotel complex. The food was very good (a bit pricy though), with very creative fish and seafood dishes. However, it was not after we had left Ezcaray that we realize El Portal de Echaurren is actually a very famous and well-respected restaurant in La Rioja, being the only establishment in the region to have a Michelin star to its name. This explains in part the somewhat pricey menu (but it is still a lot cheaper than some not-so-highly-regarded restaurants in Paris or London), so all in all it is still a very positive surprise that we actually had lunch at a Michelin place without knowing it!!

Copyrights 2009. All Rights Reserved. All text and photos by YC Cheng.




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