Taberna del Rio, Cordoba.


April 2018.

Some days nothing works. We were drawn to this deeply historic city because of its spectacular cathedral, originally created in around 1000 A.D. as a mosque but then taken over by Christians who somehow chose to build their cathedral inside the magnificent Muslim church. Current commentary emphasizes cooperation between the two great mystical religions, never mind they cut each other’s throats out routinely back in the day.

Anyway considering Robin’s broken foot, we naïvely drove past all the cops right up to the magnificent historic site (which was also the location of most of the Michelin-mentioned restaurants in town) and ended up crawling our car along narrow tourist-crowded cobblestone streets, absolutely no prayer so to speak of parking, drove a kilometre or so away to where the parking lots were, and realized there was no way in hell we were going to get ourselves back into the middle of the tourist scene without putting Robin in the hospital for a week.

Default: this place which was named by Michelin but outside the magic circle of tourism, and there was a parkade half a block away. (I should mention that Michelin remains my default in Europe and in parts of the US even though its blessing sometimes destroys otherwise lovely eating-places. I’ve almost never found bad food in a named restaurant.) We sat outside at a shady table on a warm sunny day and were one of two tables occupied. A nice young fellow with very limited English came over and gave us an English-language menu, full of mouthwatering delights including slow-cooked suckling pig or lamb, three varied interesting salads, and several other exotic meat dishes.

We shared three items. First, deep-fried aubergine was flour-dipped potato-chip-shaped pieces of eggplant beautifully hot and crispy, lightly anointed with flavoured honey and served with small chunks of a contrasting goat cheese. We gobbled these up, promising ourselves we would try this much-better-than-yam variation on french fries, at home.

Next, a carpaccio with rocket lettuce done with a sesame flavour, and then sprinkled with olive oil. This was delicious but as carpaccio often is just insufficient quantity-wise, but also more soft and bunching-up in consistency than the very best more granular Italian versions of this dish.

Finally, a chorizo and pork trotter light-pasta ravioli. This was a home run, although the ravioli with its delicious chorizo slightly overwhelmed the flavour of the chunks of pigs foot around the outside. The sweet and sour sauce with a sprinkling of sliced scallions was a nice foil for the chorizo. Again, it disappeared in a hurry, and we were both happy and satisfied.

The wine was a local white which was unfortunately corked and also off-dry and mediocre in quality. I would have sent it back but I was afraid of being an arrogant gringo prick in the eyes of our kind and humble hosts. They gave us a little glass of local syrah at the end, which was varietally spot-on if a bit two-dimensional.

€44 (about C$65) seemed a very fair bargain. If this place represents usual quality in town (which I doubt) Córdoba is not just home to a fabulous (and for us still imaginary) cathedral but also not a bad place to have lunch.

Food 9.0 service 8.5, ambience 8.2, value 9.3, peace and quiet 8.6 (nobody else there to make any noise)

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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