The deep-fried fresh anchovies were worth a 10. | Andrew Valente

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When I had those inedible chips at the strikingly and architecturally beautiful Palma Blanc hotel, one of the waitresses to whom I complained mentioned that the chips in Café Pino in the Paseo Mallorca are worth trying. I had a very good meal at Café Pino a couple of years ago and I recalled the chips were delish and especially memorable.

The girgolas a la plancha were another 10.

Last week I went along to Café Pino to have a look at the menu and reserve a table. Their new menu is more streamlined and didn’t have their usual portion of chips on it. I asked about that and a waitress said they still do a portion of chips, so I booked a table for next day. She asked for my phone number but I said I never give it when making a reservation. She hesitated about that, but took the reservation as if she were doing me a big favour.

People in the trade tell me that quite a high proportion of those making reservations don’t turn up and don’t phone to cancel the booking. The restaurant people think that by having your phone number you are more like to show up…or at least to phone in with a cancelation. If I can’t make it (which is very seldom) I always phone to let them know.

Next day I was there earlier than the booking time because I wanted to eat inside (they have air-conditioning) and to find a table near a window, which is better for doing pictures. But the tables in that part of the dining room are those tall ones with tall chairs which I find far too uncomfortable. I ended up at an ordinary table near the door where the lighting was only passable.

As I was getting things out of my bag and basket before sitting down, I realised the volume of the background music was far too high for comfort. I asked a waitress to please turn it down because I go to restaurants to eat and talk, not to listen to music. But the background music remained at the same high volume. I went back to the bar area to talk to another waitress, but she said they couldn’t turn down the music just because one customer found it too loud.

The mishmash Russian salad was very nice.
The mishmash Russian salad was very nice.

“That’s fine,” I said, “so I’ll go to another place where there’s no background music of any kind.”

I returned to the table, put things back into bag and basket and headed for the door. By that time the music had been turned down to very low, but it was too late. I was on my way, mentally running through the other choices of restaurants in the Paseo Mallorca. A waitress called out in a weak and embarrassed voice “Hasta luego” (until later) but a considerable time will pass before I return.

There are so many other places that do splendid chips that I shan’t be returning to Cafe Pino until well into next year.

The roly-poly spongecake.
The roly-poly spongecake.

It didn’t take me very long to decide that I’d go to Meson Los Rafaeles, a few doors along from Café Pino, where they have never done background music.

If you order fish and meat dishes, this restaurant can be somewhat expensive, so I always stick to the tapas which are the simple ones and extremely good.

The meal we had was proof (if proof were needed) that the simplest of dishes are invariably the best. We had ensaladilla rusa (Russian salad), girgolas a la plancha and deep-fried boquerones (fresh anchovies), a splendid meal that came in at less than €45 for two — and without a single note of background music.

FOOD

Expect well cooked Mallorcan and Spanish dishes and if you’re on a budget go for the tapas. Try not to notice the surly waiters.

The verdict

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Meson Los Rafaeles has changed somewhat since legendary owner Jaime Pizá died on January 24 at the age of 79. He was popularly known as ‘el Menut’, a word that means short of stature. He was famous for his verbal battles with waiters and kitchen staff. Voices were raised to a very high pitch and the regulars loved it. It was a kind of show they expected to see and hear every day for lunch and dinner.

The regulars will miss ‘el Menut’ and some of them may become less than regulars: on Friday there were fewer customers than usual and Fridays were always an especially busy day. But the kitchen is still in the hands of the same cooks and they are still doing a marvellous job. The Russian salad was of the mishmash kind in which the potatoes and other veggies are mashed together. It was very much to my liking, although the Catalán friend I was with wasn’t so keen on it.

Girgolas, sometimes called oyster mushrooms in English, are absolutely delish when cooked properly and seasoned nicely. At Los Rafaeles they do them on a very hot plancha better than any other place I know and they were worth a 10. The fresh anchovies were perfectly deep-fried and were also awarded a 10. The brazo gitano, a roly-poly spongecake on a bed of custard, was most enjoyable.

The place

Meson Los Rafaeles, Paseo Mallorca 28, Palma. Tel:971-726240. Open every day for lunch and dinner. The dining room isn’t very big and this place can fill up easily, so it’s always best to make a booking.

The bill

Ensaladilla rusa, €5

Girgolas plancha, €10

Deep-fried boquerones, €11

Brazo gitano, €7

Basket of bread, €3

One caña, €2.50

Mineral water, €2.25

Total cost with VAT: €44.83

Poll

460 votes

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