One of the most appealing things about Spain is the food, as I’ve already described here and here. And the epitomy of Spanish cuisine is the Menú del Día.
The Menú del Día (or Menu of the Day) is offered by a lot of restaurants and bars. It typically consists of an appetiser (or primero plato), followed by a main course (or segundo plato), accompanied by bread and a drink. For the final course, you usually get a choice between a dessert (postre) or a coffee.
But having the Menú del Día is like playing a game of Russian roulette. The result can be very good. Or absolutely disastrous….
If you look carefully, you can often find a Menú del Día for about 10 Euros, which is pretty cheap, considering what’s included.
I’ve had a couple of amazing selections. For instance, on Sunday, I went to this place, where I had a fantastic paella for an appetiser, followed by a hearty chickpea dish for main, and then a coffee.
And in Cuenca, I stumbled upon a bar in the main street which had a wonderful vegetarian stew for the first course, and a gluten free cheesecake for dessert. Plus a free glass of liqueur at the end!
But this paled in comparison to the homecooked Menú del Día which my friend Liz created. Her Menú consisted of salad for a first course, with chicken stew and tortilla for seconds, and then churros for dessert. Yum!
However, let’s not pretend that everything is fine and dandy in Menú del Día land. It isn’t. Sometimes, try as you might, you end up having something which is both poor quality and overpriced.
My first Menú del Día fell into this category. I went to restaurant in my street, feeling proud of myself for supporting a local business. Whilst my first course (a soup) was nice, my second course (fish) had clearly been hanging around the bain-marie since the early hours of the morning, and was-how shall I put it?-a bit overcooked.
But even that pales in comparison to the infamous Toledo experience…
A couple of months ago, I went on a day trip there with my friends. The city was festooned with banners, proclaiming it to be the culinary capital of Spain. This got my taste buds working, and although it was only 11 o’clock when we got there, the Menú del Día was immediately on my mind.
We had a look at a number of restaurants, and eventually decided upon one which was affordable and seemed to be incredibly popular (think queue snaking out the door).
After waiting 30 minutes, we were finally allocated a table. Except that it was for two people, not four. The waiter was not happy when we asked if we could have another table, acting as if it was a personal insult that we all wanted to sit down. But still, no worries. We looked at the menu, and made our selections. The first course was bad. It was spaghetti (FROM A CAN!) or chorizo soup (which was a gluggy mess of congealing bread and a single piece of chorizo).
The second course was little better- some kind of meat (????) accompanied by lukewarm chips.
But the dessert was the real tour de force. When we went to order, the waiter looked at his watch, declared that it was 3p.m., and thus, time for his break, and sat down at the bar to tuck into his lunch. Finally, one of the bartenders came and helped us, and our desserts arrived presently.
I had ordered ice-cream, and my expectations were low. However, even I was surprised when I was presented with one of those dinky little cups with the wooden spoon in the lid, rather than ice-cream in an actual bowl.
Still, it was what one would call a “learning experience.” And it’s true that the sub-par experiences make the best stories. I know I’m going to be dining out (boom tish-sorry, that was bad, even for me!) on this for many years…