Plaza Chica: A Life Under the Arcades

It’s Sunday. Not any Sunday, but a good autumn Sunday. It’s raining outside, but wine and electric braziers warm the dinning-room, and there are lots of happy faces around the counter,  deeply engaged in cheerful conversations, everlasting discussions or love talks. Hustle and bustle, smokers jam at the door. You have to run and keep the balance with the tray, dodging a pair of tykes that are coming into, looking for their croquettes.

Say hello, smile, say goodbye, write down the orders, pull some beer and serve some drinks. Take a stew from the kitchen, a dish of olives, a salad and some desserts. Then, add one of those quarrels kitchen-waitress/waitress-kitchen that makes this job so wonderful, and you won’t be able to stand it anymore at five or six pm.

But then, everything is a bit more relaxed. You go out, smell some fresh air, stop for a while under the arcades to see the rainIMGP6689It is great to be here.

Here, in the Plaza Chica (Small Square), the small centre of our small world. More than six hundred years watching how life runs under the arcades: business and markets, trials and weddings, melon stands, theatre, carnivals, Curro Jiménez and The Holy Innocents.

The Square, setting for cinema and life, is probably the older spot in Zafra. It was the centre of the medieval town, which grew around it until the 16th  century, because economic and political power were concentrated here. The weekly market was authorised in 1380, and there are evidences of the location of the town hall since 1430.

The arcades are a natural consequence of its commercial function: three covered parts, for sheltering trades and goods from sun and rain, and a free part for the Town Hall, later the Court (It is still having the jail bars), and today, the Music School. Nowadays, the Square maintains its rectangular plan, surrounded by white buildings whose facades end in brick arches. They have assorted columns and capitals as a result of the reuse of architectonical materials from former Roman and Visigothic buildings. Some of these columns, witness of the passing of time, hold etching words that talk about past ages. In addition, we can see some intertwined arches in one of the windows. They are typical of the Gothic-Mudejar art, but very rare in Spanish architecture.

There are some signs of this commercial past. The most famous one is the Vara, an old Castilian measurement (83 cm) colengraved on a column as a reference for buying fabric. Stands were gathered by products in this old market. As an example, bakeries were located in the arc that leads to Big Square, thas is still called Arquillo del Pan (Bread Arc). The Almotacen, the guardian of the market, lived just there. And in this same corner, small as the square, a tiny baroque chapel devoted to a virgin who, because of her size is called Little Hope (La Esperancita).

The market grew as the town did during the Early Modern Period, so part of it was moved to the other square and Plaza Chica lost part of its commercial function.  However, it kept being the political and judicial centre, and became the location for some taverns and inns. They were our precedents, the ancestors of all these bars and restaurants that fill the square with life, colour and delicious food. 

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Why should you visit Zafra?

You go out any day: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… Not necessary in August, Christmas Season, Easter or on a Bank Holiday. You go to the Town Hall for some paperwork and you find there a guide showing its Patio to a group of tourists. In Sevilla Street, you see a Swedish-looking couple who is looking over Cayetano’s shop window; and a family –say a German family- goes into the Parador carrying its baggage while you take off your car from the blue zone. Driving to work, you came across a group of pilgrims, riding their bikes, looking for the Pilgrims’ refuge, and even when you are parking, another guide introduce San Crispin and San Crispiniano, tenants of the Jerez Arch, to her group. Ok then: This is Zafra.

Now, you wonder ‘Why? What is the reason for this little town attracts so much tourists, visitors, and travellers? Maybe, when you live here, you can find beauty in any stone or in summer mornings light; in the smell of firewood burning in winter; in purple and yellow flowers blanketing the surrounding fields in spring or in the range of orange and brown colors that fall gives us. Perhaps just because you live here, you think that anyone find absolutely the same kind of beauty in their hometown.

Or maybe it is exactly the opposite thing: everyday routine makes you immune to the magic moment when summer night starts, while church bells lazily ring in the 40ºC thick air; also immune to the battlements outlined on the twilight horizon, to the singularity of tile house in Pilar Redondo square; inmune to the daily wonder of archs in both Squares, chasing each other for years ago. So you can’t understand why people come here.

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 This is Zafra. A little shopping town among lots of big villages which live off agriculture: olives and oil, wine, Iberian ham. It is a necessary stop if you go down to the South or up to the North, even if this is only to sit down at La Tertulia and enjoy an excellent Cocido Extremeño (Chickpea stew). If somebody eventually does it, he or she should make sure to get a pair of hours to stray under the arcade of the Squares, to walk to the Callejita del Clavel, to see the footprint of the quarry worker on the stones of the Jerez Arch, to wander around the castle…

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But as long as they are here, why not staying a bit else? A guided tour of the battlement, a look to the frescos at the Spouses Chamber, a walk down Sevilla Street enjoying an ice-cream from El Valenciano, a stop at the religious Santa Clara Museum and some pastries from the same convent are some of the reasons to visit Zafra.

Of course you think that you are looking after number one, but in a place like this you can’t help to be a bit patriotic. So then, welcome to Zafra.

Our Menu

La Tertulia opened its doors in Zafra (Badajoz) 25 years ago. During all these years, life has changed, we have changed and of course, our menu has changed. But we have always intended to stuck with some principles that we hold as fundamental: we work with first quality fresh produces, as local as possible, to create some dishes that you enjoy eating. Our cooking is based on traditional food, real and solid, but prepared in an original way; our own way.

Our menu is based on a fixed framework, in which some seasonal and special dishes are included from time to time, and some others are added every week in order to get a varied and rich experience for our customers (and also for our staff, why not?).

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Cickpea Stew

This is the skeleton of our menu:

STEWS

– Cocido Extremeño– Chickpea and meat stew, following the traditional recipe from Extremadura.

– Arroz con liebre- Rice with hare. It is a seasonal dish, prepared with game meat (For two people).

SALADS

– Ensalada de pollo y lombarda- Red cabbage and chicken salad, with pickles and carrots, dressed with mayonnaise.

– Ensalada de pimientos y atún– Red pepper and tuna salad, with black olives and fresh onion, dressed with mayonnaise.

– Ensalada de canónigos– Lamb’s lettuce salad, with bacon, soft cheese, almond and fresh onion, dressed with a kind of French dressing.

VEGETABLES

– Revuelto de ajetes– Scrambled eggs with garlic sprouts and chorizo.

Revuelto de espárragos–  Scrambled eggs with wild asparagus and ham (Seasonal)

– Alcachofas en salsa de almendras– Artichoke hearts in almond sauce (Suitable for vegetarians and vegans).

– Pisto con huevos fritos Ratatouille -fried vegetables and tomato sauce- with fried eggs (Suitable for vegetarians, eggs can be optional). 

 Habitas con cecina y hierbabuena– Baby broad beans sautéed with smoked beef ham and spearmint.

Gazpacho– Cold tomato soup. It is seasonal, just for summertime (Suitable for vegetarians and vegans).

CROQUETTES- All our croquettes are homemade, fried just before serving. 

– Jamón– Ham

– Espinacas y langostinos–  Spinach and prawns

Puchero– Stuffed with meat from stew.

Boletus–  Boletus edulis (Suitable for vegetarians)

CHEESE-

– Queso de oveja “El Prado” de Llera– Sheep’s milk cured cheese, dressing with olive oil.

– Torta de la Serena D.O.– Name Protected cream cheese made of merine sheep’s milkserved with toast for spreading.

 FISH-

– Bacalao con tomate- Cod in tomato and pepper sauce.

 Bacalao dorado– Scrambled eggs with shoestring potatoes and cod, dressed with coriander. It is a traditional Portuguese recipe, which is called Bacalhau a Bràs in Portugal.

– Bacalao ahumado Smoked cod served on toast bread and dressed with fresh onion and paprika from D. O. La Vera.

– Chipirones en salsa de cebolla– Baby squid in onion sauce.

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Eggs and Iberian Ham

MEAT-

– Jamón Ibérico D. O. Dehesa de Extremadura– Iberian Ham

– Paté casero– Homemade pâté made of chicken liver and Iberian fat, served with toast bread.

– Solomillo Ibérico– Grilled Iberian pork siroline, served with a sauce of blue cheese, pâté & port wine or Boletus Edulis.

– Carrilleras de ibérico en salsa– Iberian cheeks in sauce.

– Pastel de Berenjenas (Moussaka)– Mince and aubergine pie.

– Sartén de adobo de chorizo con huevos fritos– Chorizo meat with fried eggs, served in a saucepan.

– Sartén de morcilla de Miajadas con huevos fritos- Black puding from Miajadas, served in a saucepan with fried eggs.

– Cecina de León en chapata– Slices of smoked beef ham, original from León, served on toasts made of chapata bread and dressed with tomato, olive oil and garlic.

– Huevos estrellados con cecina de León- Chips and fried eggs with slices of smoked beef ham.

DESSERT-

– Helados– Artisanal ice-cream from a local shop. Flavours: strawberry, cream, vanilla, chocolate or nougat. Ice-cream is seasonal, just for summertime.

– Arroz con leche– Rice pudding (Homemade)

– Flan de queso– Crème caramel made of cheese (Homemade).

– Queso de cabra con mermelada de naranja amarga Goat’s sheep with orange marmalade.

– Trufas de chocolate– Chocolate truffles  (Homemade).