After such a long time living out of a suitcase, my clothes were in shreds, my hair wild, and my posture a little stooped from nights spent rolled in rugs on the desert sand and the crooked shapes I forced my body into during the hours and hours spent aboard public transit. While none of this really seemed to matter in Morocco, the return to the continent was a bit shocking and I found myself longing to go home, back to a private bathroom, a fresh change of clothes, and my own kitchen.
I imagined we were a sorry sight, dragging our baggage through the door of our hostel in Madrid, already weary of the idea of spending just one night and hopping back on the plane in the morning. When we asked Bau, the receptionist at Way, where we should eat for dinner, I was already resigned to the idea of being shuffled of to somewhere backpacker-appropriate.
On an old piece of scratch paper, he drew us a little map to Naia. After a few wrong turns, and a lovely little tour of the neighborhood, we found it.
And my jaw dropped.
This is not a restaurant for dirty backpackers. In fact, it's not really a restaurant for clean backpackers either. It' seemed more like a place for smartly dressed urban socialites and fine diners. For a moment I thought I was back in Portland, and though I smelled a bit like camel and still had sand leaking out of my shoes, I immediately felt right at home.
Not only is Naia beautifully designed with mismatched wooden tables, antique accordion lamps stretching out from the walls, beautiful menus and bespectacled waiters dressed in denim aprons that fasten in the back with a button, but the food is good.
Confit of suckling pig with wild mushroom ragout, mint and garlic chimichurri and a new potato.
Monkfish over creamy truffle and egg risotto.
Croquettes of Ibérico ham and romescu sauce.
After dinner, house digestivos, and the struggle to finish everything off with a giant cookie served straight from the oven in a skillet, I didn't feel quite so grungy anymore. In fact, I felt jim dandy.
Funny what wonders a good meal can do.
Thank you, Bau!
P.S. I thought the French ate late, but it's nothing compared to the Spaniards. We were starving by the time the restaurant opened at 8.30, but we dined alone until nearly 10pm, when a line began to form at the door. I don't know if I'll ever get used to this!