Erreguina Restaurant at the Hotel in Banca, France
Some folks drive a long way to partake in the unique Basque provincial cooking at the Erreguina Restaurant Banca. Presumably many go away with a warm cosy feeling in their belly, but quite a few complain. Certainly the restaurant is quite rustic, even a tad idiosyncratic in a Basque way. Maybe the plastic covers over the gorgeous woven tablecloth does not help. And the restaurant is a bid of a bivouac for many of the locals after a hard days work. All very laid back and casual. Not threatening, but maybe not quite what some city slickers have in mind for the height of back country Basque cuisine.
It was all pretty cheery the night we decided to tackle the Basque “wild boar stew”. Even the waiter was getting into the swing of the party. Hold on the waiter is the youngest son, who is the manager – get the picture? As a prelude to the “wild boar” we were enabled to try a special dish not yet on the menu, a spicy local black pudding. Often seen and avoided in our eastern European family functions, we could not think of a way out of the tasting. Thank goodness. This was a dish to be relished. Certainly it was fresh, reasonably light and full of great flavour accentuated by a range of high mountain bush herbs – particularly thyme. And then it was on to the “wild boar stew” a well integrated burst of basic earthy flavours with a slow and long cooked hunk of pig again featuring the local thyme.
We have no problems with the flavours in any part of the meal, in fact the “wild boar” is not actually “wild” but a special breed of Basque/Pyrenees porcine quadrupeds and is thus not particularly “gamey” as some wild pig can be. But maybe a little more attention could be applied to presentation of “the stew” and such ephemera as the accompanying vegetables. This all seemed a little disjoint, but maybe it is a Basque thing? Finally, the regional wines especially selected to bring out the best of the local tucker, could be best discarded since neither the local white or red actually had much body or character. A full bodied Rioja would be just the drop, and with a bit of generational change, we could work our way back up to Banca in a year or two for a real feast.