A cider bar, sundry shop and egalitarian meeting point where rich and poor are equals, if only for one night. These are all accurate descriptions of a chigre, an emblematic type of establishment for which the northern Spanish region of Asturias is famous.
In a building dating back to the mid-18th century, in the heart of Born, directly beside the church of Santa Maria del Mar, El Chigre 1769 is the brainchild of chef Fran Heras of the well-known gastro taverna Llamber. El Chigre is a product-focused, tradition-respecting restaurant that offers the bounties of the Asturian mountains and coastline, as well as the classic flavours of Catalunya.
El Chigre is a sidrería y vermutería (a cider and vermouth house)—a homage to both regions and a delicious marriage of cuisines that rely on pristine ingredients, of which Chef Heras has many on hand. El Chigre 1769 displays the day’s selection of iced, sustainably-caught Cantabrian fish, and the vest-clad waiters push little cider-pouring stations around the tiny dining room under original 18th-century ceiling beams. Oh, and they don’t serve coffee. “This is a small place,” Chef Heras tells me, rationalising this glaring omission, “and we had to choose between putting a coffee machine behind the bar or a cheese refrigerator.” They chose the latter and I’m not complaining. Asturias is known as the ‘land of cheese’ and the offering of raw-milk Asturian cheeses is excellent. And of course, the bread is special as well; a delicious spelt loaf from Panes Creativos by Daniel Jordà, studded with walnuts, raisins and pungent Cabrales bleu cheese.
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There is sawdust scattered across the bar floor, as in a traditional Asturian chigre, to soak up any errant spillage as Chef Heras dramatically pours the crisp cider from above his head into a glass he holds at waist height. They provide Catalan and Asturian wines exclusively, with seven vermouths on the list as well, including the curious and potent Roxmut, made with a base of cider instead of wine. Among the dishes listed on the attractive, oversized, vintage menus are gems like octopus bombas (potato croquettes), crispy flour ‘airbags’ (a play on the Asturian tortos de maíz) with lamb stew, whole-roasted blood sausage rice, charcoal oven-roasted, organic Pyrenees beef T-bone steak, and, of course, the famous Asturian Fabada stew of beans and pork.
El Chigre 1769. Sombrerers 7. Tel. 93 782 6330. Opening Times: Mon-Sun 12pm-12am