Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

A long time ago I was taken by a friend of ours to Enrique’s bar in the Acera del Darro, for some reason also known as El Elefante.  I remember it well, as after a couple of bottles and wine and a few raciones I offered to pay.  I brought out fifty euros and was politely told that by my host that we were there at his invitation and that he would pay.  He dug one hundred and fifty euros out of his wallet and told the barman to keep the change and I decided I had better take a look at the prices of the raciones chalked up on the walls.

Enrique's fare

Enrique's fare

They were not that expensive, all around the ten euro mark, but I realised that we had enjoyed a good half-dozen of them, and that the wine we were drinking was a Reserva, and from a good bodega at that.  I must admit that it was one of the better afternoons of my life, made even better by someone else picking up the tab.  Since then I have visited Enrique’s many times, usually while I am waiting for Carmen to finish one of her mammoth shopping safaris.  It is an especially welcome place to while away some time as the beer served there is the creamiest, coldest and best in Granada, especially welcome on a hot summer’s afternoon in the high thirties.  People watching is a local pastime, and here it is made more interesting by the clientele which ranges from the elite of Granada, to bewildered, camera festooned Japanese travellers following a tapas route in their guide books, to an old ex-squaddie sipping cold beer in the corner and to the many wannabes trying to behave as if they are part of the scene.

The bar is unusual in many ways.  It opens at lunchtime and then shuts for the afternoon until it opens again in the evening. It is small, only about eight or ten metres deep by a couple or three wide.  In the summer and indeed in the winter too, a couple of barrels are placed in the street either side of the entrance to accommodate a few more customers.

Entrance to Enrique's

Entrance to Enrique's

  In fact, many people just stand around outside the bar to chat and to be seen, although in the winter this is not advisable if you are drinking cold beer and have a sensitive bladder.  The doors are always open so a good warm jacket is advised even when drinking inside.  The bar is old and traditional and has earned many accolades over the years.  It has a bar along one side which forms a ‘L’ at the end with a flap to allow access to the rear.  There are hams hanging from the ceiling, Pata Negra, of course, and an extremely good selection of wines.  There are half a dozen wooden casks of various sherries at the end furthest from the entrance, and behind the bar a watering can full of fino ready for quick replenishments, sitting in an bucket of ice.  Vermouth is a favourite of the patrons of the bar and the done thing at lunch and after work.  Personally I like my vermouth with a lot of gin and a green olive, but that is irrelevant. The toilets are accessed by lifting the flap at the end of the bar, or ducking under it if the place is full, skirting the sherry casks and going out through the back of the bar.  Once there you find the toilets to the right and beyond them a small private room for meetings of celebrations.  There is a staircase leading down to another, grander, function room beneath bar.

Jamon of distinction

Jamons of distinction

Enrique’s s unique in that it serves no tapas, probably the only bar in Granada that doesn’t.  However, the raciones are only of the finest quality, full mature cheeses submerged in jars of virgen olive oil, Pata Negra hams, fillets of tuna from the north of Spain, Norwegian smoked salmon and even pork brawn if you like that, and I do.  This is interestingly called Pig’s Cheese and that had me baffled until I asked what it was.  Luckily, Enrique himself was there that day and he cut me a slice to try.  He was delighted to find that I liked it and that my father had made it for us when I was a child, thinking that it was a Spanish speciality.  I was there the other day and again Enrique was there.  I asked which sherry he had in the watering can that day and he obligingly poured me a glass on the house.

Casks of sherry

Casks of sherry

  If he keeps letting me sample his goods this way, the next time I am there I will ask him how much money he has in the till and see if he gives me a slice of the takings.  The till, of course, is an old-fashioned brass affair with big ebony keys.

Enrique is probably in his fifties and inherited the bar from his father.  He is always smiling and makes time to talk to his clients, even if he is busy, which he invariably is.  There are a lot of photographs on the walls depicting the history of the bar, and many cuttings from newspapers extolling the virtues of the place.  Last time I was there Enrique had just returned from a couple of month’s off with a bad back, but that didn´t seem to have slowed him down at all, although he said that it had been extremely painful.  The two barmen have been there since I have been in Granada and although not as gregarious as Enrique, are quick and efficient.

I enjoy drinking there, especially in the summer as I am after all English and enjoy my beer.  In the winter I tend to go for the sherry or vermouth like the locals, mainly to give myself that satisfying inner warmth.