You will notice here that the restaurants and cafes are often very busy at lunchtime, often more than the evenings. For the Spanish, the meal in the middle of the day is the biggest and most important. In fact, whereas in the UK we generally have three meals a day, the Spanish tend to have five, and these are spread out over the whole day, from early morning until late at night.
Lunchtime is generally a relaxed meal, maybe with a beer or a glass of wine, followed possibly by a siesta or just a chill out before returning to work or starting a late afternoon activity.
I have heard different versions of how Menú de día came about so here is the most widely accepted. Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from the 1930s until his death in 1975, wished to promote Spain to the developing tourist trade in the 1960s. He decided a Tourist menu should be available from all restaurants that offered some of the best of Spanish and local cuisine. The menus were prominently displayed on pavement signs or in the windows. The idea was to offer two or three courses plus drinks for an affordable price. It was actually a great idea and it still works today, although it is no longer the law for restaurants to have to offer it. Menú del día is in fact ridiculously good value and the reason why locals and expats tend to meet for lunch rather than dinner very often. Well that and the fact that it is steaming hot in July and August at 2pm so it’s a great way to get out of the sun.
So what can you expect? The idea is to offer a small range but something that will appeal to everyone. Generally the standard of the cuisine is very high, home cooked and locally produced.
If you are a person with conservative tastes, it may not be for you. Stick to the pizza or burger and chips. But, if you want a real taste of Catalonia and Spain, definitely try the Menú del día.
You will be offered a choice of first plate, second plate, occasionally a small apetizer, then a dessert. The first thing to note is that these are not a starter and main course. If you order a salad then a meat dish, for example, it will not be a piddly little bit of lettuce then a huge chunk of meat and veg. The dishes will be the same size. One of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is healthy is that they eat more dishes but they tend to be smaller. Makes sense doesn’t it?
The first plate is often salad, pasta or beans followed by a meat, fish and maybe chicken option. Vegetarian options on Menú del día can be limited so you need to ask the questions.
Locally to us English isn’t widely spoken. On the coast in the more touristy restaurants they will speak English and often have English translations on the menus. Some of the Menú del días here are only verbal, which is even more interesting. Make sure you have Google Translate on your phone and ask the staff to write down the options if stuck. Just beware the pig’s trotters! I have ended up with this presentation of bone and gristle a couple of times by mistake. I probably wouldn’t give it to my dogs. Depending on the restaurant you will get a bottle or glass of wine or beer as part of the deal. You may be able to swap for a soft drink but sometimes a Fanta or coke is extra. Fear not, you will still be eating a great meal that will not break the bank.
The reason Menú del día is so popular is that it is superb value for money. Three courses and a glass of wine for anything between €9 and €18 a head. That’s from about £8! How much is a soggy sandwich, can of pop and a packet of crisps in a UK shop? Exactly. Also you may pay considerably more for the same food in the same place that evening if ordering a la carte. You really can’t go far wrong eating out at those prices.
Where do you find this Menú del día? If you are out locally to Móra, ask us. We know a few places. To be honest, most restaurants are good, they just vary in price. A couple of tips. Don’t dismiss a run down looking place with no signs and marketing. Is it busy? Then it’s good. The locals won’t eat rubbish. Some of the little back street bars and swimming pool cafes offer excellent food. Many don’t even look like they do food. Just ask. The nearer you are to the sea, and Barcelona, the flashier the place and the resort, the more it will cost. The food will still be good, you will pay more for the view and it will still beat UK prices hands down. Go on treat yourself, and try something new!!