I take it back. My remark about Spanish food culture and its influence on quality. It IS possible to eat badly in Spain. I’m not quite sure how, but the establishment we found on a day trip ‘across the border’ into Aragon managed to get just about everything wrong (including the bill which had at least two mistakes in it).
Before I get accused of elitism (Catalonia vs Aragon, which in the days of Catherine of Aragon were one kingdom, incidentally) I should say we were so hungry by the time we got there we decided to eat before climbing to the Casco Antiguo – the old quarter, which, it turned out, boasted a range of quality establishments, so ate at not the first place we saw…but the second, as it had a terrace and had a wood burning grill. So it was partly our fault.
But my point, which I stick to, is that up to that point, I have been to many similar – and ‘worse’ (run down/untidy) establishments and while the food has not always lived up to expectations, it has never been poor (see my previous post on Spanish food culture). Oh, and not just in Catalonia – Rioja (ok, that’s a given!), Asturias, etc., too. Here, however, the only good thing about the restaurant was the local Somontano wine, from the Enate estate (a best of breed, which I visited a couple of years ago), at a reasonable €12; though given the other wines were around €6…hmm now I think about it I remember bells going off in my head when I saw the prices of the wine, but figured – it’s local wine, we’re over in less affluent Aragon now, that’s why it’s so cheap, we may have stumbled upon a little gem here (oh how wrong can you be!)
Now normally, if you put some meat on a grill over a wood fire you cannot fail to make it taste great. These guys managed this spectacularly. First of all I think the rabbit must have been found missing a leg and starving in a barn somewhere as there was very little meat on it. It didn’t taste too great either and was overcooked (that made me suspicious too). The salad at least was fresh, and had some good local cured meats, but cutting some lettuce and opening a packet of ready sliced meat is arguably even harder to mess up. I’m sure people do manage it though so let me know if you’ve encountered this!
Wow, I’ve surprised myself in the torrent of negativity that I’ve just produced – that’s not like me at all. I normally give the benefit of the doubt and don’t like to criticise. Maybe it’s this blog and my public service duty coming out to warn you to look a little more carefully before diving in – no matter how hungry and tired you are!!