Arcade & Vigo (Galicia), Spain August 2021

For a while now I’ve wanted to try Vigo oysters. A Spanish chef I saw on tv claimed they are the best in the world so; I have long wanted to compare them with my favourite Cancale oysters. The waiter whom we met a few days ago and who seemed to know this part of Galicia well (despite originally having come from the Angel, Islington) suggested the Arcade oysters are as good, if not better, than the Vigo ones and so it was that we headed towards Arcade (which is pronounced ar-kah-day).

The weather in Galicia was set to deteriorate within 24 hours and it suited us to continue south through Arcade and Vigo towards the warmer weather. So, we drove through Sanxenxo and then on down the coast road with a view to having lunch in Arcade and dinner in Vigo. Another person we met on our travels had provided us with the address of an aire in the centre of Vigo which would suit our needs.

Arcade is a relatively small fishing town (about 5,000 inhabitants) on one of the less well known pilgrimage routes to Santiago (the Portugal Way) and as such the place has not yet been badly affected by tourism. It is not a pretty town but it has a genuine feel about it and the people seem very welcoming. There is a basic but large parking area down by the harbour and nearby are a number of pleasant looking cafe-restaurants all of which were open and advertising oysters as we arrived. We had a brief wander around the town (to exercise the dogs as much as anything) before returning to the cafe-restaurants for a light lunch.

And so to oysters, otherwise known as the truffle of the sea. Although I hadn’t heard of the place before, Arcade is famous for it’s oysters, so much so there is a world famous oyster festival here on the first April weekend of every year. What sets these apart from so many others in the region is, I am told, the confluence of freshwater coming from the Verdugo River and salt water coming from the Ria de Vigo. These water conditions are, it seems, “perfect for farming the particularly succulent, soft tasting mollusc that is the Arcade oyster”. The Arcade is small, no more than 5 or 6 centimetres, with a shell which is almost circular in shape (although nowhere near as rounded as the Cancale oyster). They were served raw with lemon on the side and went superbly well with my Albarino wine. I’d most certainly have them again (and again and again and again) but, for my part, they don’t have as much body and taste as the Cancale.

And Vigo? Well, shortly after settling in to our aire in Vigo (and that was a saga in itself but for another time) it started to rain. Not to be deterred (that’s not true; it was so wet and miserable outside of the Van that I and the dogs would have been happy to stay put but, Vanya insisted) we set off into Vigo for some oysters. Forget it. It was a wet, dismal Sunday night and; while there were a surprising number of people out and about, all prepared to sit and eat under dripping umbrellas, only a few restaurants had opened (and none of those did oysters – we were in the wrong part of the city). No matter, we did what was necessary (burgers washed down with the ubiquitous Albarino) and we made a good fist of it. After all, we are for somewhere else tomorrow – Portugal!!

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