This beautiful unaffected place is up a quiet cobbled street in the middle of the charmingcentral town of the Rioja wine region. The town either manages to hide its touristic aspect, or doesn’t really have much and is the genuine low-key family-aristocratic agricultural article. Unless it is the latter it fooled me sufficiently.
The restaurant opens at 830 but they let you inside, and we stood around with a dozen other customers at the tapas bar waiting, and at some point managed to get the guy behind the bar to understand we wanted to start a bottle of wine. I signed to him to show us the wine list, but he just pulled out a 2003 Rioja and started opening it. I was getting a little nervous, having in mind being able to choose one of the producers that I knew, but I could also see Robin setting her jaw in anticipation of a repeat performance of the previous evening where I had exploded over bad service and walked out of a pretentious place in Barcelona. I shut up and drank the wine. Boy was I not disappointed.
What a beautiful balanced little red, and when the bill came: €12! Lovely evolving empyromatics and old fruits, and an unassuming balance that said to me, accustomed to bitter awkward B.C. reds for over $40, “What’s-a ya problem? Anybody around here can make a near-perfect wine for under 20 bucks.”
The room was complex with multiple little alcoves, warm and hundreds of years old, and although we were left more or less to our own devices, there was virtually no sense of awkwardness or disappointment.
Dinner was jammed with flavour: black pudding with preserved soft red pepper, and a falling-off-the-bone roast baby lamb. And that wine! A completely genuine regional experience that knocked our socks off. Food 8.6 service 7.2 ambience 8.3 overall value 8.4.