Navarre – or Navarra as the Spanish call it – is a region way up in the north east of Spain, on the border with the French region of Aquitaine. Best known outside the country for its capital city – Pamplona, where they hold the 'running of the bulls' during the San Fermin fiestas in July – the area prides itself on its diversity. Although the Pyrenees in the north are inhospitable, the flatter plains of the River Ebro in the south allow for the cultivation of a range of local produce including, wheat, vegetables, vines, and olives, while the cultural influences of France and the Basque Country have led to a varied gastronomy.
If you don't want to travel all the way to Spain to discover for yourself how tasty Navarre cuisine can be, for the next few days you have the chance to do just that in London, where Navarra Pinchos Week is in full swing. The culinary maestros of the Pamplona establishment Bar Fitero have devised a tempting menu of eight savoury pinchos and three desserts which is being served at Tendido Cuatro, Tapas and Grill, 108-110 New Kings Road (Parsons Green underground).
The savoury delights range from chard stuffed with ham and cheese with onion rings to a foam of Navarran cheeses with prawns coated in dried fruits to sole in bechamel with fresh garlic and prawns. The ingredients of the other dishes include anchovies, sweet red piquillo peppers, asparragus, Iberian pork, foie gras... And afterwards, in addition to Navarran cheese, there's pacharan sorbet (sloe and aniseed liqueur) and cuajada, a typical curd dessert. Available until 11th November, the complete menu is served along with a half bottle of fine Navarre wine and costs just ￡35 a head.
Of course, sampling Navarre cuisine in the UK is just a fraction of the story, and there's far more to the region than food. The natural diversity of the geological landscape coupled with its environmental wealth make it a marvellous destination for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers. There are all kinds of active tourism options available, including the usual trekking, horse riding, cycling and golf, as well as more advenurous options such as caving, rafting and hang-gliding.
Nearly half of the region has some kind of nature classification, and the range of wildlife habitats includes dense oak forests, lakes, mountains and gorges. Well over 300 species of birds visit the area, which is an ecological crossroads and migratory paradise, so it's a marvellous place for birdwatching, too.