It was a magical evening. This place is run by Antonio and Maria, an old couple who maintain an establishment with standards that surpass eateries in Singapore that charge $150 to $200 per pax. We paid $35 per person. $35/person gets you a passable meal at chain restaurants in Singapore with centralised factory kitchens and waiters who are diffidently polite.
Antonio is the only waiter there is and he behaves like a Maître d'hôtel in a Michelin star restaurant. He holds his back ramrod straight and has warmly impeccable manners. He engages his patrons with an interesting mélange of top class professionalism and warmth. It was a strange (but very pleasant) experience of being both professionally served and warmly hosted.
Like the professional waiters we encountered in France, Antonio is not to be summoned. He comes to your table when it is the appropriate moment to spend time with you. One does not interact with him as with a servant but as Food Consultant. In this case, he is also the owner of the establishment, hosting his guests.
As such, he had the discretionary powers (and clearly the abstract palate) to add dishes (free!) to our menu when he felt that our selection was lacking in some flavours. We had selected a salty starter and a creamy one. He added a starter (on the house) to our meal that combined sweet, salty, sour and creamy flavours into one luxurious bite. That was as it should be. One really should start a meal with some sour.
At the end of the meal, we decided to skip dessert. Antonio materialised with small stemmed glasses of prune liqueur (also on the house) because he thought that our meal was incomplete without a lingering sweet taste in the mouth.
Antonio's intelligent and discretionary additions to our meal made a big difference to our enjoyment of the entire experience. Else, it would have been like listening to an orchestra with missing instruments.
You would think that in a Mom and Pop establishment, the behind the bar counter would have some unsightly clutter. Not at Taberna Luque. Every single glass was in its place and sparkling clean. Nothing was out of place. You could take that entire restaurant and plonk it into the St Regis Hotel in Singapore and it would not look out of place.
Antonio asked if we enjoyed the food and then he explained that it was always important to Maria (his wife) that guests loved her food. He came by after every course to ask and he asked about EACH dish! It was not just dinner. It was almost an intellectual experience where you had to think about your food and analyse what was going on in your mouth and then tell Antonio whether you liked it or not.
I think I just had the best meal of my life at a price that seems derisory in comparison to the quality of the experience.
Jamon iberico de bellota (possibly the most tasty ham in the world) made with black Iberian free range pigs that feed on acorns.
Salmonerejo (a cold soup made with bread purée, tomato and raw garlic)
The Husband's pork tenderloin... succulent and flavourful.
Little Boy's tenderloin steak (you have to pay through your nose to get steak that has such a perfect crust and flesh that melts in your mouth). In Singapore, we do not eat steak outside of the home. If it is edible steak, it is expensive. If it is cheap steak, it is inedible.
If you want to visit this restaurant, the address is HERE.