Sunday, January 18, 2015
Form and function
The majority of Spanish bars and restaurants are very everyday. There's seldom any attempt to do what they've been doing with Irish style pubs for twenty five plus years in the UK - fishing rods, sewing machines and soap adverts or what all of those coffee shops that sell lattes, mochas and espressos do with overstuffed bookcases, creaking floorboards, chesterfield sofas or roaring log fires. They try to add a certain style. Ambience, well ambience not centred around handwritten notices for lottery tickets, crates of empty bottles and piles of detritus by the cash till, is in short supply in most, though not all, Spanish bars and restaurants. Bear in mind that I spend most of my time in Fortuna, Culebrón or Pinoso rather than Madrid or Barcelona.
On Saturday, as a birthday treat, Maggie took me to an eatery that we have never dared venture into before - partly for price and partly for the Porsches, Ferraris and two a penny Beamers and Audis parked outside. It's in Pinoso and it has a reputation province wide, food guide wise and nationwide amongst cognoscenti for being a temple to the local rice dish made with rabbit and snails seasoned with wild herbs and cooked over burning bundles of scent giving twigs. The restaurant sees no need for a sign outside and makes do with a discreet nameplate so that diners know they have found the place.
The inside of the restaurant was nothing special. The tablecloths were cloth, the cutlery and glassware were clean and the servers were smart and civil but it looked like thousands of other eateries in Spain. I think it had tiles half way up the wall but then it had the stippled paint, it's called gotelé here but it's like painting over anaglypta in the UK. I wouldn't have been too surprised if there had been a telly on the wall showing the Simpsons. I don't think you could get a similar reputation for being quality eating in the UK without doing something about the decor. Different philosophy.
Down the road, in one of the villages, there's another restaurant with a growing reputation for rice. They have glass walls to the kitchen so you can see the paella being cooked, they have a printed menu (we weren't offered a written menu) and I think the waiters have some sort of modern uniform. The whole place looks like someone had a concept in mind when they talked to the builders and furnishers.
It was a good experience in Pinoso though. We had a good time and although the prices were high they were not frighteningly so. We saw another couple stick to beer and water, a pair of simple centre of the table starters, the rice of course and coffee and they got to pay with a single fifty euro note. Perfectly reasonable. To be honest though it wasn't the best rice I've eaten - a bit over salty and a bit greasy for my taste. The bread and ali-oli, also one of my yardsticks, was good but not exceptional and the salad was served a tad cold.
Now I have an idea for a place that looks great, has good looking young staff and serves only variations on egg and chips. What do you reckon?