Those of you who read my Weekly Don Quixote post a couple of days ago will know that I absconded with my friend Maria to Alcalá de Henares earlier this week, a town located ca. 35km northeast of Madrid. Like Toledo, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not quite as scenic and arresting as Toledo or Segovia, but still fairly respectable.
Maria and I had a really good time, but one thing that will forever be etched into my memory about this visit is a rather unsatisfactory cake experience.
After a morning’s wandering about and taking photos, we treated ourselves to a tasty sushi lunch. However, as is so often the case in Asian restaurants, the dessert choices left much to be desired, and so we decided to go elsewhere for coffee and cake.
This should be easy enough… unless you’re in Spain. They do have nice cakes, but these tend to be sold in bakeries/patisseries not equipped with coffee machines or tables, and are strictly take-home only. It was no different in Alcalá, where we’d been ogling sumptuous pastry creations in bakery windows all morning.
Eventually, we spotted a place that seemed to offer the whole package: delectable cakes and a coffee frother inside, as well as tables and chairs outside. But, would you believe it, they were closed for lunch! (Many shops still follow traditional business hours, and this means a siesta-conducive marathon lunch break lasting from 2pm to 5pm).
Maybe, just maybe, this is not the absolute smartest strategy if you’re in the business of selling coffee and cake, but seeing as there was no suggestion box, the owners may never cotton on to the revolutionary concept of giving people what they want when they are most likely to want it. Sigh.
We tried the restaurant next door, asking if we could have a coffee and a dessert, but we were promptly told no. They were serving either a full lunch or nothing! Paradoxically, the place was flippin’ empty, and it was 3.30pm, which is the tail end of Spanish luncheon time. What famished last-minute hordes were they expecting to pile through the doors at this hour?!
I’m constantly being told that “customer service is a lot worse in the South”. To be honest, I cannot imagine that. Nor do I want to.
In the end, we settled for a place on the main street where they were happy to give us a table outside in the sunshine. Unfortunately, although the coffee was top notch, the cake, a gooey choc brownie concoction, was crap. It sure looked promising enough on the plate, but it turned out to be afflicted by that characteristic aftertaste of having been deep-frozen 😦
I shall leave you with some pics of the town…