Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Oviedo - Bar Punto y Coma

Punto y Coma, Oviedo

Could this be the most perfect bar in the world?  Visiting Oviedo in June, in what was supposed to be the sunniest month of the year in northern Spain, left me in no doubt why the lush green Asturias region is renowned for its dairy products.  At such times finding a good bar is essential and a great bar can make even four days of unceasing rain bearable. Having practically lived in Punto y Coma, I doubt I will ever find a better bar.

If you're looking for stylishness or great music, you won't find it here.  So how did it draw us in?  Well, in the circumstances, opening hours of 06.30-01.30 was a good start.  Good value wines, Jabugo hams, great service and an instantaneous feeling that you are in good hands contributed.  Venerable, no-nonsense barmen moved like a ballet behind the long bar, never making body contact no matter how busy (and boy were they busy).  On our fifth visit we got our first smile.  We had proved we appreciated how they did things and were now as welcome as the locals.    

The food is entirely absent of artistry or gimmicks.  Dishes are simple and traditional, and I dare say haven't changed in decades.  We breakfasted on top-notch cafe cortado and perfect golden, chewy bocadillos stuffed with melting Jabugo jamon whilst waiting for the hands of the bar clock to reach 10.00.  This signalled the cooking of delicious, featherlight individual tortillas (tortilletis) within sight, and smell - completely irresistible.  Office workers and early shoppers drifted in and out continuously for their regular orders.  The heavier the rain came down, the more tots of rum found their way into the coffees.

A three-course lunch for 10 Euros can be easily found in Oviedo. Thanks to General Franco and his menu del dia (menu of the day), every restaurant in Spain is still obliged to offer a good, substantial lunch for workers for a small sum.  At Punto y Coma we ate Sopa de Pescado (fish soup) and a Fabada Asturiana (an Oviedan traditional stew of meat and beans).  Followed by main courses of Ternera Gobernada (a veal stew) and Parrochines frites con taquines de jamon (fried sardines with pieces of ham).  We somehow found room for Arroz con leche (the rich and creamy rice pudding with a caramelised topping).  A glass of decent wine and a cortado were included in the 10 Euro per person bill.  For quality ingredients cooked and served with pride it is amazing value.  There is a smart restaurant beyond the bar, but eating there you don't get the ever-changing parade which makes eating in a strange city so beguiling (for me anyway). 
The Asturias is a beautiful region and central Oviedo has plenty to see.  There are traces of occupation since the 1st century and King Alfonso II chose it as his royal seat in the 8th century.  A whole millenium of art from the 8th to the 18th century is represented and the architecture has Visigothic, Roman and Nordic influences.  The Pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostela runs through Oviedo.  The food is hearty and the region is renowned for dairy products, seafood, dried beans, and ciders (there are plenty of cider houses - Sidrerias - in which to slake your thirst).  Oviedo has an excellent small covered food market in the centre of the old town - El Fontan just off Plaza Ayuntamienta and backing onto the beautiful Plaza del Fontan.

Visiting Spain, rain was not in my plans, but I am grateful for the four day deluge.  Who knows, if it hadn't rained, I may never have found Punto y Coma - unthinkable.

Punto y Coma
Calle Suarez de la Riva 5, 33007 Oviedo, Asturias, Spain