It’s late afternoon and as I sit reading in my courtyard I can hear my next-door-neighbour Manolo shaving in the outhouse at the back of his house. Through the dividing wall I catch the swoosh of water as he rinses the soap from his brush swiftly followed by the rhythmic tapping of his razor against the bowl.
Everyday around now the village rubs the sleep from its eyes, slowly stretches and wakes up for the evening. The silent streets slowly come alive with the minutiae of village life.
Women wash their doorsteps and water their plants; water sloshes down streets so hot that the water dries as it disappears with a swirl into the drain down hill. Wherever you are in the village there is always a downhill, so welcome when you finally stagger to the summit!
Shop shutters are rolled back; bartenders begin to set out more tables and chairs for the evening trade. The Bin Man trundles empty bins down the street to replace the overflowing bins at strategic spots around the village, his truck follows behind picking them up. A mini rush hour occurs as people set off to the supermarket or to return to work. Somewhere in the village a cement mixer starts up again slowly churning away in the distance.
I am on a mission to find boquerones fritos and have arranged to meet friends as Pajuelo’s at 7 pm, knowing Antonio does a good boquerone. The bar is closed: like so many others in the village Antonio has decided to close for a couple of hours late afternoon so we decide to walk up to Portesuelo where we hear the new chef is good.
A little out of the centre of the village where the narrow streets open up into a wide avenue leading to the pabellón, Puertesuelo is on an interesting corner from which to watch the world go by. Ruiz Galan, the supermarket next door is doing a brisk trade, cars full of boys cruise past stereo’s pumping, a quad bike buzzing. When we arrive that bar too is closed but as we perch on plastic chairs outside pondering on our next move, the Chef arrives and hastily bustles around us opening up the bar. A few minutes later the owner – yet another Antonio – arrives on the scene and takes over whilst the Chef disappears into the kitchen to rustle us up an appetiser.
The plate of bruschetta he sends out is vast enough to be a meal in itself but having virtually forced the bar to open early we feel that the least we can do is stay and order more food. Sadly boquerones fritos are not on the menu!
The new chef is rather endearing, so eager to please and keen to make his mark as he hovers at our table describing his menu.
We gorge on a casserole of mushrooms, ham and shrimp; a plate piled high with different cold vegetables and salad leaves and not one, but two plates of smoked salmon with gem hearts and vinaigrette. We don’t want to offend but simply cannot tackle another course so ask for the bill.
Previously a bit rough and ready, Portesuelo is clearly reinventing itself and I hope that this bold move for them is successful…
All images © Pip Art