Go into any bar in the old part of San Sebastian and more often than not you´ll find a vast array of pinchos covering every inch of the bar. Yet I´ll rarely ever take a pincho from there. Even if it’s the visual feast that draws me in, it´s normally the blackboard behind the bar which maintains my attention once there.
Not that I think they look bad or anything. Quite the opposite. They normally look bloody great. Especially when an enormous prawn is perched on the top. I just wonder what’s in there now, that wasn´t when it left the kitchen. I´m a purist you see. I want my pintxos as the chef intended. I want to avoid the 45 minutes of exposure to drops of wine, smoke and of course, the phlegm of impassioned debate and the spittle animated chatter. Not to mention whatever else may fall from an outstretched arm over the bar.
Now of course there are exceptions to this. And the prime example is in Paco Bueno. But mainly because their “bar-top pintxos” have the life expectancy of a big mac in the hands of big daddy. They are rarely on the bar long enough for them to cool down enough to eat let alone be contaminated by any alien substances.
Sometimes if you do something well, you don’t really need to do much more. Beckham would have got a game in most teams just to take the free kicks. At the restaurant le Relais de l’Entrecote in Paris you sit down and they bring you steak and chips cause that´s what they have. Fantastic steak and chips. Paco Bueno pretty much just does deep fried prawns. And nobody is complaining.
It´s a Donosti classic. An iconic pintxo of the old part. I see it voted as the 2nd favourite pintxo in todopintxos.com (see it here>>>). They call it scampi, but I prefer the literal translation “Prawns in their Raincoats”. They sell bucket loads of them. It´s fast food at it´s best. The continual stream of people don’t spend more than 3 minutes in the place and it´s always full. For the amount of prawns they get through I can only imagine they get delivered in an enormous dumper truck, early on Saturday morning.
Paco Bueno is an unpretentious, no bollocks, typical old part bar. The place where fathers bond with their sons, a meeting point for men, a haven for people alienated by trendy new wave basque miniature cuisine. Where A Fuego Negro has obviously had the influence of a team of interior designers planning every colour, stool, font and space, Paco Bueno adorns its walls with photos of boxers and props rugby balls on shelves behind the bar with the enthusiasm of a 15 year old putting up posters of his favourite bands, footballers and FHM gals.
And that´s great. Cause sometimes, you just want to stop all the fannying about and have a deep fried battered prawn on a toothpick. Or three.
Bar Paco Bueno, Nagusia Kalea 6, 20003 Donostia.