Most people don’t know that Spain, after Switzerland, is the most mountainous country in Europe. This has had a profound effect on demographics, as people in the north have moved from an economy based on agriculture and tending livestock in the hill country to a service economy in cities and towns.
This is what the Barrero family decided in the early 1970s. Born and raised in a small village in the mountains of the province of Soria, near the border with La Rioja, the family moved to Logroño to make a living and soon opened a bar on the Travesía de Laurel which they named ‘El Soriano’ (the man from Soria). It’s easy to find it because of the scores of people waiting to go inside to order a hothouse mushroom tapa, the bar’s specialty.
El Soriano is unquestionably Logroño’s most famous tapas bar, written up in newspapers and food magazines in the USA, Germany, the UK, Sweden and other countries. Every journalist that I took through the old town for 15 years has sampled the mushrooms, taken pictures and inquired about the recipe for the sauce, a secret that brothers José María, Ángel, Santiago and sister Marisol guard more closely than the gold in Fort Knox.
Several other bars attempt to make a mushroom tapa like the one in El Soriano but so far, none can even come close to imitating it. My wife and I think that the main ingredients are olive oil, garlic and lemon, but we haven’t got it right yet and the owners of the bar aren’t telling!
My recommendation: don’t be intimidated by the number of people waiting outside. Go inside to the far end of the bar where you will see chef José María cook the mushrooms on a hot griddle, spear them three by three with a toothpick,add a small shrimp, coat them with the secret sauce and serve them with a slice of bread. Eating this delicacy has its own secret, too: make sure you lean forward so you don’t spill the sauce on your clothes! Just ask for “un champi y un crianza”.
The owners tell me that they serve 7,000 tapas a week, or over 330,000 a year, more than two tapas for each resident of La Rioja!
Bar Soriano, Travesía de Laurel 2 Logroño Tel. 941 22 88 07. Closed Wednesdays.