Last weekend we had 2 dinners in 2 different towns – vastly different settings and menus, but each one was a truly memorable experience.
On Saturday night we stayed at a small parroquial (parish) refugio in the church grounds in Viana. We climbed up and up the stairs to the little reception desk, hoping there were a couple of spaces for us, because the other, larger auberge in town had triple bunks! The welcome we received from the hospitalleros (wardens/hosts) was the warmest and friendliest ever, and as an added bonus, they had room for us. We knew instantly that we would like staying there. 14 pilgrims slept on mattresses on the floor in 2 rooms, and shared a meal prepared by the hospitalleros. We went to mass at 6pm, then back to the auberge for dinner. The meal itself was quite simple – green salad, huge vat of pasta with a tomato-based sauce and yoghurt for dessert, but it was prepared, served and shared with such kindness and generosity of spirit that I will remember that evening for a long time, maybe forever.
The next night we stayed in Navarette in a hotel on the outskirts of town. Our guidebook mentioned that the bar Deportivo had good tapas, which sparked my interest, and Greg went hunting online to see if anyone else had written anything about it. Someone had said that they had the best meal of their camino there … and so did we. Well, so far, but it will be hard to beat.
The bar Deportivo is located on the top square in the street above the main street, just below the church. They do have excellent tapas, which can be eaten either inside or outside at tables on the square. However the little restaurant behind the bar is the real jewel in the crown. 2 little rooms with a total capacity of around 20, plus a tiny kitchen where all the magic happens. 3 course menu del dia with wine for 12 euros each – what a bargain, especially considering that our worst meal of the trip so far, in Estella, was a plate of 2 fried eggs swimming in oil, ham, chips and bread that cost us 9 euros each.
At bar Deportivo Greg had Chickpeas with Spinach, Slow-baked Pork with Tortilla and Arroz con Leche (Rice with Milk, ie Rice Pudding), and I had Green Salad, Pimientos stuffed with Fish and Arroz con Leche which Greg ate most of ‘cos I was so full. Okay, so anyone reading this, especially anyone who has been to Spain (waving to Barbara & Bryan), will probably be thinking at this point that there’s nothing too special about the dishes I’ve just described, they’re pretty standard Spanish fare. True, but a few added little extras transformed the ordinary into something else altogether. The green salad had a centrepiece of half a peach topped with a tuna/onion mixture, drizzled with a balsamic glaze and scattered with large flakes of sea salt so every few mouthfuls I’d get a crunchy taste of salt which offset the sweetness of the peach. Yum. The pimiento with cod was served in a creamy squid ink sauce. I haven’t eaten that dish before, so I’m not sure if that’s the standard presentation, but it was delicious. The Arroz con Leche had fresh cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Anyone planning to spend a night in Navarette should definitely consider having a meal at Bar Deportivo.