Jose was methodically opening bottle of bottle of wine. ‘I’m just getting prepared,’ he explained to us, ‘A couple of hours from now, it’ll be absolutely frantic in here and we need to save every second.’
I arrived in Valencia from Madrid this morning, on the high-speed train. A fabulous paella at La Rua was the obvious way to kick off the visit while those of us who had got there first waited for the others in our group of travel writers and bloggers to arrive.
After lunch, I was mooching around the city with Rich Whitaker, the guy behind Brilliant Trips. He has also set up a site to make it easy to follow what we’re all doing on the blog trip. Check it out here
We popped into the Bar Pilar, also known as La Pilareta, for a beer. It was around 6 pm and Valencia was sweltering. I love this bar, which has been going for around a century and is a real landmark in the city. The big speciality is mussels, but they also do wonderful, huge, butter beans, slow-cooked in a herby stock. ‘It’s all about the stock here, for the beans and the mussels’ said Jose, continuing to line up his bottles. ‘The ladies who cook here have used the same recipe for decades.’
This is about the only time of day when the bar is quiet. It’s usually jammed all along the counter, with every one of the low, hexagonal tables occupied over and over again, both at lunchtime and in the evening. I remember when people used to throw their mussel shells onto the floor, so that you crunched them underfoot as you elbowed your way through the crowd, hoping to find a space somewhere, but health and safety regulations mean that there are plastic troughs on the floor these days to catch the falling detritus.
Patatas bravas, squid, ensaladilla… there are no fancy gourmet tapas here, and La Pilareta has no aspirations to revamp itself as a gastrobar, thank goodness.