Last year my favorite restaurant/bar to visit in Santiago de Compostela was Café Casino, a meeting place of society for more than a century. A return visit, to celebrate the completion of my Camino, was a massive disappointment.
Last year Brigitte Käse and I had a fantastic evening at Café Casino, and it was the lovely cakes and especially Cuban music that made it such a special evening. We celebrated completing the 21-day Camino Frances, and started talking about the next one. Whilst I had forgotten its name, it was the recent Facebook post of Pam Stern, who had just completed her Camino, that I was reminded of the name, and promised myself a return visit.
I arrived just after the Pilgrim Mass, and as it was still warm outside, almost every visitor to the Café sat outside, at Bistro style chairs and tables. I chose to sit inside, at the same table as last year, with only one other table occupied.
Waiter Enrique dropped off the menus at the table, with no greeting. He then returned, abruptly asking me what I would like to order. As he had brought a cocktail list in Spanish, I asked him for the Food menu, and did he have one in English. He brought it to me, and told me abruptly that I would have to sit in the bar to eat off the Food menu, deeper inside the Restaurant, no bar being visible as such.
As one enters the restaurant, one sees a Carte d’Or ice cream freezer, and then their cake display. Nothing in the food menu appealed, so I ordered a slice of Tiramisu cake (€5), a pot of Earl Grey tea (€2,70), a Jameson on the rocks, and a bottle of water (€7,60 for the two combined). Enrique brought a basket of chips and of peanuts, all of which I ate, despite not eating such snacks at all, and increasing my thirst due to the salt.
The problem in the restaurant really started with the WiFi, or lack of, Enrique giving me a slip of paper in which the WiFi name and password were pre-written. The WiFi name did not show, so the password was useless. Enrique was dismissive of the problem, telling me in sign language that the WiFi is up and down, variable in its operation. To me this was not good enough. Enrique withdrew, now suddenly only speaking Spanish, so I asked if a colleague able to speak English could assist me. The waitress said that the WiFi reception was poor in the area in which I sat, and moved me closer to the bar area, near the piano, which appears more decorative than instrumental. Here all the WiFi problems suddenly were solved, and I asked why Enrique could not have explained this to me, and moved me to the new table. I asked her for his name, and he proudly came by my table, telling me his name too, arrogantly. When I later asked to speak to the manager, he said that he is in charge!
I had asked the waitress the name of the Cuban music playing, and it was as if it was jinxed thereafter, she never returning with an answer, and then there was silence. Then a completely different style of music was played, followed by silence, and so it went on whilst I was there, never returning to the Cuban music. As I am visiting Cuba after the completion of the Camino, the original Cuban music played transported me to the country already.
i had my beverages, snacks, and cake on the table, and when I finished the tea, I asked Enrique for another pot of hot water. I received a tiny milk jar of hot water, and then a second one. Enrique clearly did not like this, and returned with an updated bill, adding two further teas to the bill, at €2,50 each. This is when I snapped, and told him that I refused to pay for the water, and he begrudgingly came back with an amended bill, which I paid immediately, and left. The Tiramisu cake was more cream than biscuit fingers, and I tasted no liqueur in it.
It was a most disappointing revisit, the magic of a year ago missing, with barely any customers inside, which to me reflected that Café Casino has lost its charm and custom due to the arrogance of its Manager Enrique. I definitely won’t be going back again, should I return to Santiago de Compostela.
Café Casino, Rúa do Vilar 35, Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Tel +34 981 577 503. www.cafecasino.gal Instagram: @Cafecasinosantiago Open daily from 9h00.
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Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein