The traditional menus
Fine dining gourmet style in the Ribera del Duero had been a bit of a challenge over the years as most restaurants had limited their menu items to the very traditional Castilian classics: the area’s acclaimed (and succulent) baby roast lamb, baby lamb chops grilled over vine shoots, lamb sweetbreads (mollejas), steak (chuletón) and roast suckling pig (cochinillo). Times have changed, but it would still be a mistake to come to the Ribera del Duero and not sample the region’s most popular and beloved dish, the cordero lechal or lechazo, a quarter of tender, melting off the bone, suckling baby lamb, roasted for 2 to 2-1/2 hours in an adobe oven fired with Holm oak and served in earthenware casseroles. You can enjoy a memorable roast lamb feast at any one of the numerous roasting taverns or hornos de asar in the countryside, as well as in Aranda de Duero (Burgos), which claims to be the “cradle of roast lamb”, you will find a dozen excellent hornos de asar from which to choose.
We have sampled the fabled lechazo at two highly acclaimed temples of roast baby lamb, two of the top roasting houses in all of Castilla y León.
The first was Restaurant Mannix in Campaspero (Valladolid), just south of Peñafiel. It’s rated the region’s number one asador in the reliable Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía guide. The enthusiastic master roaster, Marco Antonio García, served us the most tender lamb we’ve experienced to date. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch only.
The second was at Javier Cristóbal’s celebrated Asados Nazareno, the area’s “roast lamb palace” (open for lunch only), sitting next to the medieval walls at the top of the village of Roa (Burgos), with panoramic views of the countryside from its lively, and always packed-to-the-rafters, upstairs dining room.
The new menus
A more creative dining spot in Roa, adjacent to Bodegas Páramo Guzmán, is the restaurant in the Hotel Raíz, which reopended in mid 2017 after being closed for several years, and is now in the hands of chef Belén Cuesta from Cantabria, offering her vision, a fusion of Castellian and Cantabrian cuisine.
We also enjoy the striking brick and stone restaurant housed in the former flour mill in the Posada Fuente de la Aceña, in Quintanilla de Onésimo (Valladolid) with one Repsol sun in 2018, and whose kitchen is in the gifted hands of chef Pedro de Rodrigo. There is a 20€ lunch menu available Monday-Friday.
Lunch at Bodegas Cepa21, Castrillo de Duero, can be part of your day of wine touring and tasting.
Taller Arzuaga, in Bodegas Arzuaga-Navarro, is the gastronomic project of Bodegas Arzuaga and Michelin stared chef Víctor Gutiérrez from Salamanca. There is also a GastroBar in the Taller restaurant, with views of the vineyard or the interior of the winery, and a more traditional restaurant offering lechazo.
Castilla Termal Monastery in Valbuena offers both traditional and modern cuisine, with a tasting menu for 49€, or enjoy the haute cuisine in their Winery of the Monks.