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What we learnt in the Pinchos Bars of San Sebastian

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What we learnt in the Pinchos Bars of San Sebastian

If you’ve never experienced a chaotic Pinchos bar before, it can be a pretty confusing and intimidating experience. Imagine a packed bar, counter covered with plates of amazing tapas, beautifully displayed, people reaching over you, grabbing things, wine being poured, money flying over your head, and not a queue in sight! Everyone seems to understand how the chaotic system works apart from you, and a few other bewildered tourists desperately trying not to make a social faux pas. 

 

Finally, you get to front of the bar. Nervous, you muster your best Spanish and ask for two glasses of wine and ask tentatively for a plate, hoping that’s the right thing to do. The barman looks at you with the warmest smile, mocks your Spanish accent with his perfect English, completely disarms you of all tension, and tells you about the specials they have in the kitchen. The encounter only lasts a minute, but you now feel like a Pinchos Jedi - and you have a buddy behind the bar. The bar is packed, but in that minute he gave you his full attention and changed your mood entirely. Five minutes later you're even get a mini check-back. There are three barman working in this bar with over a hundred people wanting service, and you still get great service. The atmosphere is bustling, exciting and fun. 

 

All but one of the Pinchos bars we went in we’re like this, bustling, full of energy and great service to boot. Ironically, the Pinchos bar which had the best food was also the one with the worst atmosphere. We get there as it opens, excited. As soon as you walk in you can feel the tension, the bar is packed but eerily quiet. We get to the front, the barman is distracted, stressed, his manager talking to him whilst he’s taking our order. No real eye contact. The food arrives - it’s amazing - though one of our dishes is wrong. More shouting behind the bar as we eat. I turn and I accidentally bump into the American lady sitting next to us - she looks like she’s going to punch me. We leave as soon as we can. 

 

What I find amazing about the former bar is how only three barman can completely control the mood of over 100 guests. That’s pretty impressive. Even if you run a counter-service company, the relationship of the people behind that counter sets the mood for everyone who comes in.  

 

 

 

 

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