Cava and uvas!
Here we are in a brand new year, and we managed to see it in in the best possible way, which is partly why we have been so quiet for a day or two.
Ian’s children, James and Lucie, and James’ girlfriend Hannah arrived on New Year’s Eve, slightly later than scheduled due to fog in the UK.
We had booked into a restaurant in nearby Dúrcal for dinner, with very little idea of how the Spanish celebrated the end of one year and the start of a new, other than they eat 12 grapes at midnight, consuming one grape with each chime of the bell. El Puente was the restaurant of choice, based both on recommendations and a couple of past visits for tapas. The restaurant had exactly the appeal we were after - an open fire, gingham table cloths, and a very welcoming owner.
So, due to delays, no sooner had the children arrived but we had to get ready to go out as the table was booked for 8pm.
Before I continue, I should explain that we went through a process to reserve this dinner table. On one of our tapas lunch visits to El Puente, Andrew and I had asked Gloria, the owner, if they had any tables available for New Year’s Eve. The reply, or so we thought, was that they may be closed in the evening, and would only take bookings for parties of 6 or more, and we mentioned that we would only be 5. Gloria took our phone number and said she’d ring to confirm what the arrangements might be.
A week passed, and no news, so just before Christmas I dropped Gloria an email asking if there was any update. Apparently, Gloria had tried to call us several times, but there had been no answer; we are so busy that we are always out! The upshot was that, yes, we could have a table for dinner and she attached a menu. Lucie is a vegetarian, so I had to mention this to Gloria in response to a fairly meat-heavy initial menu, and within 24 hours, a vegetarian menu was sent across for our consideration, devised by the restaurant’s fabulous chef. No further thought was given to what the evening might be like, but we looked forward to it.
New Year’s Eve duly arrived, as did the children, and we piled into the car to go off to El Puente. When we arrived, I was slightly concerned that there were no cars outside, and the front door seemed to be shuttered, although there were lights on inside. I was relieved when I saw Gloria through one of the windows. As we walked towards the restaurant, Gloria appeared at the side door to welcome us, and we stepped inside, with Andrew saying, “Oh, we are the first to arrive”, based on the assumption that the restaurant would eventually be full of other patrons.
There was the cosy restaurant, tables decked in gingham, and fire burning in the hearth, but only one table was set for dinner. It didn’t take long for us to realise that we were to be the only guests that night; we had the restaurant, the owner and the chef to ourselves!
The dinner was fabulous! A six-course feast of croquetas de bacalao, sushi de langostinos, briouats de cordero, ensalada de pato, solomillo de ternera ‘Avileña’ and a chocolate brownie! The steaks were the largest, tastiest and most tender pieces of meat any of us can remember having, and were perfectly seasoned. Lucie had her own vegetarian variations on the above theme, and we managed to get through a couple of bottles of cava in pretty swift time.
We were aware that we would probably not be expected to remain until midnight, as it was very clear that the delightful Gloria and her talented chef had stayed open just for us, but at no time were we ever made to feel hurried. The chocolate brownie probably finished us off, in any case, as it was deliciously rich and certainly not small.
So, we decided to leave Gloria, and her chef, to their own dinner. The restaurant does not take debit or credit cards, and between us we did not have enough cash. ‘No pasa nada’, came Gloria’s reply, just drop it in tomorrow (we did, just in case you were wondering!).
Such hospitality, having the restaurant to ourselves, knowing that the menus had been devised solely for us was all slightly surreal, and for some time afterwards we couldn’t quite believe how lovely an evening we had had. Gloria even recommended a fiesta in nearby Nigüelas where, if we felt so inclined, we could drink and dance our way into 2017. I am not sure any of us felt that brave, so we drove home and ventured into the village square to see if our own local villagers had assembled to scoff their 12 grapes; they hadn’t.
Oh well, we managed to catch the bells from Madrid chiming on TV as we welcomed in a brand new year, and the start of a really lovely couple of days.