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15.11.10

El Tintero

One of the greatest restaurant and eating experiences I've ever had was in Malaga, Spain. Picture this: A huge, covered seaside area with lots of identical tables with cheap paper linen on them, a big half-open kitchen with displays of various types of fish and seafood and tens of waiters constantly pouring out of the kitchen carrying armloads of delicious smelling cooked servings. And the noise. The noise! In an ordinary crowded restaurant it's obvious there's some background noise, but in El Tintero the cacophony is almost infernal. Not only because of the customers - it's mostly because of the waiters. They're not bringing by order made servings to the tables. They're trying to get rid of the servings they're carrying by shouting the name of the serving to the crowd. And each waiter tries to outshout the next one.

Yes. El Tintero is a strange kind of a food 'auction', where the paying customers have to be quick if they want to get that particular portion the waiter is carrying. Once you raise your hand in a 'bid' towards a waiter who is carrying something you would like, he will bring you a platter. Don't worry: if the next table gourmands hoard all those plates of prawns that man was carrying, there will be more available in no time. The waiters keep coming out of the kitchen with a variety of sea-swimming and bottom-crawling creatures, sardines, swordfish, mussels, cuttlefish, lobster, you name it. Just attract the waiter's attention and pick what you like. Order a pitcher of Spanish beer or bottle of wine along the food. Don't forget to get some salad, and e.g.  papas bravas con alioli. And grab that last platter of sole that waiter's carrying over there!

The restaurant first seems to be like an infernal chaos with hundreds of people making hellish clamour, but it soon starts to appear having its own laws of nature. Everything works here fine, just like it should. Once you get the idea of 'bidding' for the food, a collection of empty plates starts soon piling up on your table, especially if you're not alone.You can't resist picking one more plate of chanquetes as you listen to the guitar player who adds in to the racket by wandering among the waiters and tables singing Andalucian folk songs. When you finally decide it's time to go, you must call for a waiter with a notebook in his hand. He takes a brief glance at the stockpile of empty plates, bowls, pitchers and bottles on your table and quickly calculates the total sum and writes it on your tablecloth!

Visiting El Tintero is indulging oneself in a hedonistic eating spree, where the emphasis is not on the restaurant's fancy setting rather than on having lots of absolutely great food in good company. El Tintero serves all your senses.



1 comment:

Divine said...

It seems that in the very near future I will visit Costa del Sol again. El Tintero is definitely on the ToDo-list. After writing this blog entry I've learned that there is also a meat version of El Tintero north of Malaga! I will certainly try to visit them both.