El Refugio

Alfredo Castrelo y Fermín Fuentes
Alfredo Castelo
Country: Spain
City: 15173 Oleiros (A Coruña)
Address: Plaza de Galicia, 11
(+34) 981610803
Closed: Sundays and for three weeks in September
Price: 80/150 €

  • Anchoas con espuma de queso y vinagreta de pimientos
  • Anchoas con espuma de queso y vinagreta de pimientos
  • Merluza sobre emulsión de pimientos del padrón y berberechos
  • Merluza sobre emulsión de pimientos del padrón y berberechos

This restaurant continues to be what it has always been: a sanctuary for ingredient-centered food. And what ingredients! Impossible or, at best, very difficult to improve upon. This is its identifying mark, the source of its glory. People come here to eat the finest shellfish, in season, and the best fish from Galician waters, always simply prepared with respect for the ingredient. There are those who would like Alfredo Castrelo and Ricardo González, the duo in the dining room and kitchen, respectively, that runs this restaurant, to take a different approach and attempt a more complex cuisine… It could be done, of course, but it would never be a substitute for the establishment’s source of pride.

The shellfish is, without a doubt, exceptional. Served raw, the oysters and clams are always of awesome size. And in the symphony of the cooked—barnacles from the most treasured rocks off the coast of La Coruña, shrimp of spectacular caliber, flawless Norway lobsters, plump velvet swimcrabs, spider crabs… The spider crabs are a class apart, from the classic rock females to sand males caught once in a while that end up occupying a permanent place in one’s memory. Their doneness is more traditional rather than undercooked—most clients prefer it this way. And then there are dishes with shellfish, especially lobster (in this case, succulent), that have gained well-deserved prestige. The best is perhaps the salpicón (marinated seafood), generous in its quantity of crustaceans; the Galician lobster rice is also satisfying, although, as with all Galician rice dishes, it suffers from an excess of seasoning and flavor.

The great fishes are on the menu: from Celeiro hake (the finest quality hake from the port of Celeiro, Spain) to grouper, sole of impressive size, sea bass, turbot, sometimes of astonishing weights… Nothing beats ordering them in their purest, simplest forms: oven-baked, Galician style, etc. When in season, of course, a good white tuna belly is on the menu. And in the winter season, fine angulas (baby eels) are never absent, served in a small earthenware pot, nor are the Miño river lampreys, traditionally prepared (bordelaise) or in carpaccio form with escabeche (oil-vinegar marinade). The quality of the fresh meats is also worth mentioning.

As can be expected, the shellfish make for quite a bill; but you get what you pay for.