Food & Drink, Travel

Things to do in Valencia: Top 3 Brunch Cafés in Russafa

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In hipster district Russafa, the ever-shifting concept of brunch is producing some weird and wonderful results

It’s Saturday morning in Valencia. Get your beanie hats on, tie up your top-knots, prune your beards and bring your Apple Mac chargers: it’s time to visit three of the best brunch cafés in Russafa.

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An early reference to brunch from an 1896 edition of Punch magazine. Even the prude Victorians enjoyed a lie in.

A Quick History of Brunch

Brunch as a concept has been through quite some journey. It’s believed to have originated around 1885 as a Sunday morning hangover cure for English hunters. It then adopted Mimosas and Bloody Marys in Chicago through the prohibition era of the roaring 1920s before experimentation flourished in the 90s within gentrified areas of New York.

The gradual anglicisation of European cities has perhaps triggered this fourth wave of brunch popularity. In a district teeming with cafés and restaurants, this breakfast-lunch hybrid is serious business. High competition has led to ridiculously good value with increasingly creative and unusual twists.

Option #1 – Bluebelldsc03569-4

Selling points: quirky flavours, beautiful interior, artisan coffee

Bluebell serves up some of the most bizarre flavour combinations you’ll ever see. Whilst not ideal for fragile stomachs, the beautifully constructed main dishes are always impressive. Previous examples have included: chicken waffles in mint sauce; salmon pancakes; fish pudding; and poached egg in curry sauce.

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A coffee-lover’s Mekkah, Bluebell specialises in artisan coffee brewed using on site ‘micro toasters’
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Chicken waffles served with mint sauce
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Chocolate parfait

Brunch includes:

  • Parfait
  • Lemonade/ Mimosa/ Bloody Mary
  • Dish of the day
  • Coffee/ tea
  • Guaranteed bearded man on Apple Mac
  • Expats/ students trying to impress parents with ‘off the beaten track’ locations

 

Option #2 – Guayoyo

dsc03658-2Selling points: fresh juices, art exhibitions, yoga, dog-friendly, vegetarian/ vegan friendly

Guayoyo’s brunch menu is based on fresh, clean, locally sourced ingredients. Unlike other cafes, the ‘DIY’ system offers you a much wider choice whilst still representing incredible value for money. Healthy eating is key to their philosophy whilst still acknowledging that everyone needs a bit of cake in their life.

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Salmon and avocado tostada served with chia seeds & lemon juice
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Guayoyo’s ‘Do It Yourself’ brunch allows you to select: a fresh juice combination, fruit & chia seed yogurt, main course (tostada/ sandwich), coffee/ tea and a slice of cake

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Option #3 – Dulce de Leche

Selling points: wide menu, massive portions of cake, terrace, great service, value for money

Located dangerously close to the local gym, Duche de Leche is quickly developing a cult following among locals and international students due to its wide selection of quality cake. Despite the onslaught of caffeine/ sugar deprived Valencians, the service is surprisingly slick. Their brunch sticks to much safer, popular combinations than Bluebell & Guayoyo but it’s a winning combination none-the-less. Catch them on a week they’re serving bacon for a magnificent, bacony hangover cure.

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Tomato, goats cheese, aubergine & spinach tostada
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Typical brunch includes: fruit yogurt, fresh orange juice, tosada/ sandwich, mini-croissant, coffee/ tea

In New York and London, brunch has received much criticism for its association with white, middle class gentrification. It inspired columnist Shawn Micallef to write a book called ‘The Trouble with Brunch’ and was somewhat hyperbolically labeled by The Guardian as ‘a potent symbol of urban cultural decline.’ Luckily these arguments do not apply here.

Brunch suits the Spanish late start to the day as well as its sociable café culture. It’s therefore no surprise that these cafés attract a diverse range of citizens (of all ages) from across the city. Russafa has evolved into the gastronomical capital of Valencia and its establishments seem more than happy to embrace the  tried-and-tested yet experimental traditions of brunch.

Happy brunching!

 

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Travel

“Aquíííííííííííííííííííííííííííí!!!” scream the selfish Valencian children

King’s Day, bigger and better than Christmas, seen through the eyes of a teacher

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The greedy masses anxiously await their delivery of caramelos

As an overly-cautious teacher – still very much fearing my first full-on student uprising – I distribute sugar-based snacks to adolescents very rarely. When I do, it is preceded by a thorough reminder of the conditions: eat after the lesson has finished, don’t snatch, say thank you, and put all wrappers in the bin. As the swarm of children began to descend upon Plaza Ayuntamiento for the annual Cabalgata de Reyes Magos (King’s Day Parade), I braced myself for a complete and utter disregard for my guidelines.

On the 5th of January every year, the Three Kings (whose Biblical gift choices called into question their perception of target audience) are paraded through the streets of Valencia, hurling sweets into the screaming faces of children and the bewildered faces of pensioners. As Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior are wheeled along the street they are treated like rock stars. Each had their own unique football-style chant sang at them as they progressed with Balthazar seeming to be the most popular for some reason (was he the one that brought gold rather than the notably worse ones?).

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Pic credit: visitvalencia.com

The entrance of the Kings was preceded by a bizarre range of rituals: the booing of the Roman soldiers; the shouting of ‘guapa’ by middle-aged fathers towards scantily-clad dancers; the parading of a giant, ginger naked baby; and the solving of the puzzle ‘which racial stereotype is this float trying to convey?’ However my favourite float was the man dressed as a giant tube of toothpaste, wielding an impractically large toothbrush at the crowd. His well-intended message was not received by all as a desperate-to-please mother barged me out of the way whilst lurching for a stray caramelo by my feet.

So what lessons did the children of Valencia take away from the event?

  • Territory is key – the weak children in the parade were unable to throw their sweets far enough, thus greatly benefiting the first two rows.
  • Strangers are Gods if they dress up and throw free stuff in your general direction.
  • Ignore and possibly scorn those who offer nothing – the elaborate jellyfish costume is impressive but meaningless without gifts. Force them to make apologetic gestures as they potter along.
  • Throwing surplus sweets at less-fortunate children at the back is a fun demonstration of power.

The parade confirmed for me what I already suspected was true: that Spain’s dream of a socialist utopia is indeed buried under a sea of plastic wrappers. Cabalgata de Reyes Magos is an ‘every child for himself’ environment. Resources are greedily hoarded with the weak going home empty handed. Some may say this is a great bit of fun, tradition and Spanish culture. However, as an educator who witnesses the development of these young people on a daily basis, it’s clear that events such as these are rotting away the gums of society that the toothpaste man tries so valiantly to protect.