Just to show that I´m not always as crabbit about mindless mirth as I was in my last post, here are some pics of my favourite, fiesta chiringuito.
La Cueva de Antolín is on Alcalá´s Calle Libreros which eventually becomes the Calle Mayor, the main artery of the city´s historic centre.
When I first came across this bar and restaurant fifteen years ago it was doing a superb job of living up to its name, the cave. Large and irregular, scruffy and noisy with the plainest of rancho (grub) it was popular with everybody on a budget, particularly the soldiers from Alcalá´s BriPac (Parachute Brigade) who landed in at lunch time in large, hungry, macho squadrons.
The BriPac left Alcalá, which was perhaps just as well, since the restaurant was later completely refurbished in a manner perhaps too watery for the land and sky-lubbing BriPac. Elegantly kitted out in yachting style, the Cueva now comes complete with brass portholes, marine lamps and sedate seascapes in oils.
As for me, I like the new Cueva since it´s become the perfect place for a ladylike pitstop in the middle of a downtown shopping trip. And I´m never nostalgic for its old, rough and ready character because at fiesta time the grubby old cave comes screaming back to life again in the shape of its chiringuito.
Set up right outside the bar and with a small scrabble of plastic tables and chairs, it´s not designed for leisurely lingering, thoughtful conversation or fine dining but for blocking the pavement, deafening the Casco Viejo and boosting the takings into the stratosphere – all on three or four basic dishes.
“Come on, stuff your face with seafood and join the party,” is definitely the philosophy!
And since you can´t get past for little concentrations of people with prams, walking sticks, crutches, animals, bikes, the best thing to do is to think of your tummy and stop for a drink and a ración.
And really, the seafood aroma and the decibel-defying music make it the perfect place to stop for a very short (but very pleasant) period of time.
So that´s what Malassie and I did these fiestas. There´s not much variety on the menu but what you get is really tasty: calamares, gambas, mejillones or jamón serrano (squid, prawns, mussels or serrano ham), a basket of bread and a drink, ranging from 8-12 euros.
Everybody was having a ball. Even the alsatian in the photo above was sharing in the feast with its owners. Our ración de calamares was huge and not only did we leave some uneaten, we skipped lunch too (almost unheard of in our family). Not that we lingered. The chiringuito´s all set up for speed – you order and pay at a little checkout and take the ticket to a waiter.
It was almost like old times. On the one hand, since we were outside, people puffed furiously on cigarettes but on the other, progressive hand, the counter had lots of little plastic-lined bins for customers to put their prawn-peelings in.
But what really rounded out the stop at the Cueva for me was a rowdy, bawdy song, Chupa la gamba, blaring from the sound system. (If you don´t believe how loud it is ask my husband who used to work right across the road from it).
During the fiestas she goes off with Pepe and Armando for a cocktail of king prawns in which she provides the almeja, the clam.
Of course, the song´s not really about seafood since the langostino (king prawn) and the clam, symbolise ……. well, I´m sure you´ve guessed it!
So maybe it was just as well we ordered squid.
You can listen to the song, complete with slurping sounds, here.