Just 30 minutes from Pamplona, Navarra's capital and Hemingway-freak magnet, lies the village of Tafalla, population 11,390. Dusty and uniformly beige, it's a lively Navarran village that doesn't get to much attention from foreigners. Save, that is, its famed restaurant Tubal, a hallowed hall for Navarran vegetable worship that has been run by mother Atxen Jiménez and son Nicolás Ramírez for over 30 years.
Many of these years were topped with a bright, shiny Michelin star. Although Tubal doesn't currently hold one, son Nicolas is in the kitchen daily, producing the same star-worthy cuisine that puts great ingredients at the forefront (example: the classic salad of partridge, Ibérico charcuterie and foie, above).
What can you expect? Homey, yet perfectly executed, stews, dishes that give the local vegetables the starring role, excellent lamb and an average spend of €50-60 a head. A small price to pay for the perfect pochas and guindillas (fresh beans and flash-fried peppers, above) and the borage crepe with clams (below).
Tubal is a restaurant that truly changes with the seasons, so you will revel in the menu variations that smell of spring, summer, fall or winter. Of course, you will also revel in the mille-fuille of potato and foie, because yes.
Tubal, besides being a family-run restaurant, is a family-friendly one, too. See my nine-year-old's sort of amazing steak and french fries. Ah, Basque Country, that place where a kid's meal beats out any $40 entree in America.
Nicolás really knows how to play to the tastebuds, disdaining fussier preparations to make sure that those incredible piquillo peppers have an entire, gooey egg fried in a crunch coating. This is a dish that surely will be served in heaven.
And of course, the lamb. There are two must-orders on the menu, and they are vastly different: Corderico al chilindrón como lo hacía mi madre, pictured below, is a very famous Navarran dish. Lamb, stewed in peppers an its own thickened sauces, which Nicolás does according to his family recipe, passed down from generations. The second is a dish that has nearly fallen off the menus of Navarra, yet used to be one of the most popular: Patorrillo Plato tradicional “menudicos de cordero” (pictured at top of post). It. Is. Everything. Literally: intestines, trotters, curdled blood, stomach, brains, kidney, liver—ok, now I'm just arbitrarily naming gross animal parts, but I'm pretty sure they are in this patorrillo, a dish that traditionally used up all those 'extra' lamb parts. It's also a dish that was so ingrained in the taste memories of rural folk that they now travel far and wide to get a taste of it at the hands of the masters (and those who are able to source all those parts, now that most Navarrans don't participate in the slaughter of the sheep). It's a must try for the curious, and there is no better place to give it a go than Tubal.
This is one village restaurant that is worth a stop in Navarra. Locals from around the province reserve it for their special occasion and Sunday meals. While it may be off the beaten track, its surrounded by a slower pace that befits a long, relaxed lunch around its tables.
Plaza Francisco de Navarra, 6
Tafalla, Navarra 31300
+ 34 948 70 08 52