The Lagar de Isilla Restaurant is perhaps the most famous restaurant in Aranda de Duero to have "lechazo," lamb quarters roasted whole in a clay-fire oven and served in their own delicious juices. Lunch is a complicated affair so I'd recommend making reservations ahead of time. Or, if you're a heavy diner like me, you can usually find a place for dinner since most Spaniards prefer light dinners and don't opt for lechazo at night.
We started by sampling some of their recommended wines at the bar and munching on some pintxos while waiting for the table. We ordered grilled sweetbreads as a started and they were addictively good: sweet and creamy and unctuous. Perfection! Then the lechazo: we got a whole lamb leg roasted in the oven with bread and a simple salad of lettuce onions and a sharp vinaigrette which was perfect for cleaning your palate of the fatty lamb. It was one of the best meals I can remember. Dinner for two came out to be around 100 euros for the lechazo, sweetbreads, appetizers, and a bottle for very, very good regional wine. It's for special occasions, yes, but you can't leave Aranda de Duero without trying it!
The Mesón de la Villa is perhaps the first restaurant you'll see as you pass through the archway from the bridge to the historic center and the Plaza Mayor. It's a testament to traditional, home-style Arandino cuisine, based around seasonal ingredients, traditional flavors, and a home-away-from-home atmosphere.
The bar area is full of elderly locals swilling aperitifs and munching on ham, cheese, and seasonal wild mushrooms: a good sign. We opted to try a few tapas at the bar rather than a sit down meal and we were pleasantly surprised. We let the bartender suggest the wine and plates, which was good choice as we got a few off-menu items. We had minced chorizo with saffron milkcap mushrooms (a pricey, local variety called "niscalos" which are picked wild in the mountains), and a plate of lamb sweetbreads and oyster mushrooms that was just fantastic. To top it off, we had a plate of fire-red fried chorizos which left us quite full.
The prices are very reasonable (3 large plates plus wine for 30 euros) and the atmosphere is cozy and friendly. Everything you'd want from a mountain tavern! This is a great place to go if you're tired of "lechazo" and looking for something a bit cheaper but no less delicious.
If you're in Aranda, your first stop for food should be getting some tasty "lechazo" (fire-roasted lamb) at one of the places on C/ Isilla in the historic center of Aranda. If you're in the mood for a snack and drink, though, try El Somatén in the Plaza Mayor. It's a casual pinchos place and, if you're not familiar with Spanish pinchos, the premise is simple: order whatever you'd like to drink and take whatever looks tasty off the platters lined up on the bar. Make sure to keep the pincho toothpicks for the bill at the end.
You're in Aranda, so make sure to order wine. I'd suggest the rosé ("rosado" in Spanish) which is just great. They had traditional-style pinchos including Spanish omelets, chistorra, fried pancetta, goat cheese and fruit jam, cured fish, and lots of cured meat. It's really cheap at only 1euro per glass or wine and only a tad more for the pinchos.
This is, in my opinion, the best roast lamb to be had in Aranda de Duero, and that's no small feat. The entire region in lamb-crazy and take roasting "lechazo" very seriously. Let me tell you about our meal. First things first, if you're planning on going for lunch, you need to make reservations. Dinner, though, tends to be less crowded.
We started with a bottle of Finca Cardaba, a young red from the Ribera de Duero. It was recommended by our waiter and he hit it out of the park. We've been scouring our local wine stores to try and find another bottle ever since! Then, we ordered a plate of grilled kidneys. I know, I know...gross! But no, they were delicious! They're marinated in garlic and parsley and caramelized on the outside, all culminating in a deliciously meaty flavor that was perfect.
Then, the main course: roast lamb. As you enter the bar, you're greeted with a clay wood-fire oven that warms the whole place and fills it with a heavenly aroma. The lamb leg was large, meaty, and cooked to perfection. The meat fell off the bone and there way plenty of mouth-wateringly unctuous pan gravy to go around and sop up with the typical "torta" bread of the region. The lamb came with a simple salad of lettuce and onions in vinaigrette, a side so simple yet so perfect to cut through the fat of the lamb and refresh your palate.
All in all, it was the best meal we had in Aranda de Duero and probably this year. It was worth the trip alone. Go there!
Arte y Vino Aranda is a modern bodega right next to the main cathedral and entrance to the Cellar of Souls in downtown Aranda de Duero. It's a wine shop specializing in regional wines from the Ribera de Duero D.O. and they have everything from young wines less than 6 months old, to crianzas, and barrel-aged wines.
They hold tasting by appointment, but we just went in there and had a drink. She bartender poured us four of their featured wines and explained a bit about the wine itself and the creation process. They have a full range of wines by the glass (I'd take the recommendations of the bartender) and bottles for purchase. The prices are actually very good considered the quality of these wines (among the best in Spain, no easy feat!).