The autonomous region of Extremadura may not have the culinary fame of say Catalonia or the Basque Country but that’s not to say it can’t duke it out with the big boys. Travel to this side of Spain and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
From staple dishes like migas (fried breadcrumbs) and bacalao dorado (golden cod), to the mouth-watering delicacy that is Iberian jamon, Extremadura’s charming destinations are destined to get even the most stuffed patron salivating for more.
Coming up with a list of the top five restaurants and cafes in the region is no easy task. There’s a mountain of options! Hopefully however, you’ll be hard pressed to find better than these.
Tabula Calda, Mérida
The first time I visited Tabula Calda, in the beautiful Roman city of Mérida, it was on the recommendation of my CouchSurfing host Mariano. Entering inside I was blown away!
Inches from Mérida’s glorious landmarks like the colossal Roman theatre and amazingly preserved Diana Temple, Tabula Calda continues the theme of finery slap bang in the middle of town. Comprised of two main dining areas, bypass the cool black-tiled lounge and head for the courtyard at the rear. Here you can enjoy the gentle ambiance of the city while eating under Tabula Calda’s own Roman stone arches.
Eating here isn’t the most budget friendly of options, with mains ranging between 15 – 20 Euros, but it’s well worth one night of opulence if you can splash out. Its menu features all the staple dishes from the region including gazpacho (fresh tomato soup) and migas con sacramentos (fried breadcrumbs with fine slices of sausage) and its ingredients are as fresh as they come.
Top tip: Ask for the “tourist menu” or the menu of the day. For 24.50 Euros you can enjoy a two-course meal and a dessert. Great value.
Tabula Calda, C/Romero Leal, 11, Mérida
La Cacherreria, Cáceres
Living in Cáceres I’ve had the pleasure of eating at this Mediterranean-style joint a fair few times. You might even say it’s become one of my favourites!
Located right in the heart of Cáceres stunning old town, La Cacherreria will give you more than a mouthful thanks to its tricky name. And that’s before you’ve even started chowing down on some of the best tapas in town!
With its modern and sophisticated atmosphere, La Cacherreria is a far cry from the other laid-back small city bars that Cáceres boasts dozens of. Try typical Spanish dishes like croquetas de calamar (calamari and potato croquettes) or the mysterious sounding solomillo secreto con pimentón (secret paprika-spiced sirloin). Coming in at an average of 5 Euros, these mains are probably some of the best value dishes you’ll find in Cáceres’ famous UNESCO world heritage city.
Top tip: Nip in after a wander around the nearby Museum of Cáceres (free), where artifacts from Cáceres prehistoric and Roman past can be glimpsed in all their glory. La Cacherreria, C/Orellana, 1, Cáceres
Restaurante Succo, Plasencia
The small walled market city of Plasencia is just another of Extremadura’s must-see sites and features one of the regions best dining spots in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Restaurante Succo.
Based in the centre of Plasencia to the side of the old cobbled square, Restaurante Succo is a clean and modern establishment that looks a little like a Sushi restaurant from its smooth dark exterior. Step inside and you’ll feel right at home with its minimalist decor and zen design. Its a la carte menu (15 Euro) is top value. Pick two mains and tuck into a dessert and settle back into the atmosphere.
The dishes are too are pretty damn good to boot. Tuck into Succo’s famous kid stew with mushrooms, Andalucian gazpacho or even the long-titled pulpo con cachelos a la vinagreta de pimentón (octopus with potatoes and paprika).
Top tip: Restaurante Succo’s menu changes by the season so it’s worth checking out the excellent website at the time of year you plan visit.
Restaurante Succo, C/Vidrieras, 7, Plasencia
Zafra might be a bit off the map for most visitors to Extremadura but this tiny city is home to one of the best traditional Spanish restaurants in the region in that of Josefina.
This mother-and-son run restaurant has made a fair name for itself since it opened in 1986, attracting visitors from afar who stop in Zafra to enjoy its countless Roman villas and its pretty little Alcazar castle. On my last visit I was lucky enough to find Josefina after wandering in after checking out the Parador, its cool and airy interior providing a nice respite from the searing daytime sun.
If you like your meat (lucky you’re in Spain) then Josefina is really worth checking out. From suckling pig to flanks of veal in a white wine sauce, to its hugely popular oxtail and foie tenderloin, the mains on offer here are some of the juiciest in Extremadura.
Top tip: With mains averaging in at around 10-15 Euros you might as well splash out on Josefina’s killer cheesecake too. It’s been sending the locals loco for years. Josefina, Avenida Lopez Asme, 1, Zafra
I know you’ll probably thinking why on earth an Italian restaurant would make the list in Spain but stay in this region for long and you’ll notice that a decent one is very hard to come by!
Lucky then that Extremadura’s got Boccaccio in the heart of the regions largest city Badajoz. No it might not be much to look at from the outside but in the shadows of Badajoz’s ruined Moorish castle it’s hardly plain. When I visited at the busy weekend Boccaccio was doing a roaring trade with locals and tourists alike tucking into its oven baked pizzas and pastas.
Considering you’ll have to pay over 10 Euros from a takeway pizza place in one of Extremadura’s chains, the average 10 Euro main in Boccaccio is nigh on unbeatable in terms of value. Couple what with it’s family-run, authentic Italian vibe and eating at Boccaccio’s makes it a highlight of any trip to Badajoz.
Top Tip: After having a bite take a stroll down the banks of the river Guadiana that separates Extremadura from Andalucia and runs from Portugal all the way into the centre of Spain.
Boccaccio, Plaza las Americas, 7, Badajoz
So there you have it. Next time you find yourself travelling through the centre of Spain make sure you pay a visit to the quaint sites of Extremadura. There’s a whole host of culinary delights, and fine restaurants, to savour!