The chef-owner of De Locos Tapas looks at each of my children, one by one, until his intent gaze forces their eyes to meet his. He advises them to banish their phones. If they don’t, he will – because they are here to engage in conversation with their parents, and share and enjoy the food that he will bring us.
Half-laughing (is this a joke?), the kids’ smiles turn a shade nervous as they realise that the chef is not amused, or even trying to be amusing. They do as they are told.
So do I. I feel like a small child hiding a secret as my hand slides my phone under the table and onto my lap.
(Hence no photos yet except for the first one from outside).
We are tucked upstairs in one of Ronda’s best tapas bars. It’s tiny, with just four tightly packed tables, but we’ve heard big things about this pueblo blanco eatery, and it’s taken us two attempts to secure a reservation. There’s an air of expectation amongst the assembled diners (we’ve all been granted a slightly early Spanish dinner time of 7.30pm), and when Guillermo (the chef-owner) bustles back with our drinks and the menu, we sit up to hear what he might say next.
He gives us his softer side now – his passion, as he takes us through the dishes and daily specials.
I sense this might be a good moment to ask permission to use my phone as a camera – to photograph Guillermo’s food.
“Of course.” he nods, and passes our youngest child some pens and colouring paper with a wink, “I know how hard it is to be the youngest. I am the youngest of 5 children!”
Taking Guillermo’s advice, we order a few dishes to start with. He says, “Smell them, taste them, share them. See what you like, then order more.”
So we do. And soon a succession of creatively presented tapas is delivered to our table, each placed before us with a Guillermo flourish. They taste as good as they look, probably better.
Then comes the boiled egg with toast. The top of the egg is sliced off, revealing a perfect runny yolk, and Guillermo grates shavings of truffle over it as we watch.
Delicately delicious, it disappears far too quickly – for how do you share one little egg between six? So we order more, just as Guillermo suggested, along with other tapas.
Including some foie gras. Guillermo persuades me it is very good, and who am I to say “no gracias” to the boss (even though I’m not a foie gras fan)?
But he’s right, and I’m glad I listened. Served grilled, with a passion fruit sorbet on the side, it’s surprising and inventive, and tastes sublime.
We ask Guillermo if we may have pudding, but we are too late – the late shift of diners is waiting outside.
As we leave, we thank Guillermo’s wife, who has been rustling up kitchen magic while her husband has run the show. Outside in the cold, the next guests shiver and ask us what the restaurant is like. So we tell them about the first rate fusion tapas served with a sense of theatre.
But we don’t tip them off about hiding their phones – that would only spoil the fun.
How to find De Locos Tapas
Although it lies on the outskirts of Ronda’s central tourist area, holidaymakers and day trippers still manage to smell out this bite-sized tapas bar. Interestingly, Spanish voices are heard less often at its tables – a local tells us that Spanish people don’t like change much. Guillermo is from Bilbao in the Basque country, and his take on tapas is certainly different (de locos tapas means crazy tapas).
If you find yourself in Ronda, and fancy some truffled egg with a slice of theatre, walk the town’s old lanes from the beautiful Puente Nuevo which spans the spectacular El Tajo Gorge and head southwards to the 13th century Puerta de Almocábar. Once at the old gate, spin around 180° to find De Locos Tapas nestled right inside the city walls.
Just don’t forget to make a reservation and take your best manners with you. And maybe leave your phone at home.