Galicia on Spain’s North West coast is often overlooked by people heading straight for the sunnier south, but for food lovers and even gardeners it’s a paradise not to be missed.
The rags to riches story of 19th century emigrants who travelled abroad to make their fortune and then returned home to north west Spain to build lavish mansions and gardens, is being retold in a show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (2-7 July) this summer.
The Dream of the Indianos, designed by Rose McMonigall for the Spanish Tourist Office and Turismo de Galicia, will highlight the history of these ambitious people and their turn-of-the-century gardens.
Visitors to RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival will be treated to a re-creation of one of these fantastic gardens. The Dream of the Indianos is the imagined front garden of a pink-hued Galician mansion.
From an imposing front door, a dramatic double staircase sweeps down to a clipped topiary, double circle parterre, surrounding a white marble water feature.
Two signature phoenix palms dominate the space, softened with traditional Galician plants -camellias and blue mophead hydrangeas Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as well as luscious canna lilies and yew.
And as for food, we got to sample the special Galician menu at one of our favourite Spanish restaurants, Iberica in Marylebone
Known as’the land of a thousand rivers’, Galicia’s landscape is green with miles upon miles of beautiful coastline and is famous for excellent seafood.
We kicked off our meal with Galician aperitivos with a Nordesia vermouth (with or without tonic) and signature Ginabelle G&T, served with lemon thyme, orange peel and naturally light Fever-Tree.
The wines from Terras Gauda are equally delicious – there’s the AlbariÃƒÂ±o tasting flight, with Terras Gauda, Mar de Frades & La Val
The famous Pulpo a feira*, a classic tender octopus a la gallega dish, came with’cachelo’ potatoes and was finished with deliciously tickly smoked paprika.
White asparagus topped with sea asparagus and grated egg was soft and creamy with marvellous interplay between the sweet asparagus and the salty samphire (sea asparagus).
Queen scallops in their shells with a rich vegetable sauce made with AlbariÃƒÂ±o wine and crispy serrano ham showed there’s more to do with this shellfish than pan fry it.
The Spanish all love hake and the Galician way to cook is in AlbariÃƒÂ±o wine (of course) and with mussels, peas and potatoes.
And we had to have an empanada or two, the Galician’Cornish pasty’, filled with tuna and vegetables and topped with fiery slices of pickled piparra peppers.
Galicia is great so don’t miss your chance to sample the gardens and the grub.
* By ordering the pulpo a feira, you’ll be supporting ASPNAIS, a Galician charity dedicated to developing work programmes for people with disabilities. The pulpo a feira is served on a wooden board made by people with learning difficulties. IbÃƒÂ©rica donates £1 to ASPNAIS every time a board comes to your table.