One of Santiago’s main attractions is undoubtedly its gastronomy. Galician cuisine’s fame is practically universal: apart from the well-known quality and variety of its fish (lamprey, sea bass, monkfish, sole, hake), the same can be said of its seafood from the Galician coast, especially Costa da Morte. The most common species that can be found in Compostela’s seafood restaurants are Euroupean lobster, crayfish, goose barnacles, scallops, clams, oysters or locust lobster, among others (depending on the time of year and the close seasons). Some of them are kept alive until they are prepared, in small hatcheries and aquariums that are generally displayed at the entrance of the restaurants, which is one of the city’s most characteristic features as far as gastronomy is concerned. Of all the species, special importance is given to the scallop or “Shell of St. James”, since it is one of the symbols of the Way and pilgrims and, by extension, of the Galician capital. There is also the attraction of exquisitely prepared meat (especially the certified “Ternera Gallega” or Galician Beef brand), in recipes with a long tradition.
Special mention should be made of the city’s desserts. The most popular one is called tarta de Santiago, which is an almond-based cake. Another outstanding dessert is called “Croquiños del Apóstol”, hard biscuits made with chocolate and nuts, whose name refers to the so-called saint of the croques (head butts) in Compostela’s basilica. So-called “Piedras de Santiago” are especially popular among those who want to take away a sweet souvenir from their visit to Compostela.
Not to be overlooked are Galicia’s fine wines, especially the so-called bottled gold or Albariño, which is marketed under the “Rías Baixas” designation. Also worth mentioning is the popular Ribeiro, as well as the excellent wines of Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei, all of which have their own certified designation. If we prefer another kind of alcohol, we can also choose one of the traditional liqueurs, from the popular eau-de-vie to other similar ones that add different fruit aromas.
A great number of Santiago’s restaurants and cafeterias are located in the old town, mainly in the streets called Franco and A Raíña. In addition to restaurants serving traditional Galician cuisine, Compostela also has a high number of establishments that skilfully combine typical produce with touches of designer craftmanship, to the delight of new cuisine lovers. Many of these initiatives have been promoted in part by the Superior Hotel Management Centre of Galicia, located in the city outskirts.
The usual eating times, established socially, are similar to those in the rest of Spain. Eating is divided into four different meals, the most important of which is lunch, followed by dinner. It should be noted that a large sector of the population has to adapt its eating habits to their working day. Normally, Santiago’s cafeterias offer the possibility of ordering a meal at any time of day.
- Breakfast: from 7 am to 12 noon
- Lunch: from 2 pm to 4 pm
- Afternoon snack: from 6 pm to 8.30 pm
- Dinner: from 9 pm to 12 midnight
A most of the customs making up the Western lifestyle, as regards the field of gastronomy, are followed in the city of Santiago. However, some restaurants specialised in food from other regions and countries cater to foreign customs.
In addition to eating inside air-conditioned premises, Santiago, like many other cities, offers the possibility of eating outdoors, in special areas outside restaurants.
Some restaurants offer a “maitre” service that provides advice on different aspects. Restaurants usually reserve the right to refuse admission. Municipal regulations, in accordance with superior legislation, permit the entrance of guide dogs, as long as their owners show the corresponding documentation. A small number of establishments also accept pets, although these are normally forbidden.
In relation to prices, each establishment has an official price list verified by the Xunta de Galicia. Unless otherwise stated, prices do not include value-added tax (VAT). A small tip is usually given, although it is not compulsory.