The Chicken Man.
There are aficionados of great food. There are great chefs with Michelin stars. There are ‘food heroes’ lauded by Rick Stein. Then there is the chicken man of Mijas. In truth, there is the chicken man (front of house) and his wife, who pops out from back from time to time.
The road into town begins at a small roundabout just three minutes from our front door. One passes the hardware shop, then two or three restaurant bars, one called ‘La Fuenta’ (the fountain). Their tables spill out onto the pavement, and always seem well attended. One of them usually has a charcoal barbecue on the go with one or two steaks sizzling in the afternoon heat. Already. one’s senses are beguiled with promises of good wholesome basic food, the pinnacle of which is for my money, the ‘chicken man’ selling ‘Pollos Astados’ (para llevar, to take away).
The shop front is tiny, unassuming and easily passed except for the fulsome aromas flowing out onto the street. There are no fancy flashing lights, no expensive signage, just a plain light brown awning stating ‘Asador de Pollos Fiesta’. The window has a small price list. Actually one price. It says “Pollo Astado 8 euros”. Stepping inside into the dark dimly lit postage stamp size shop front, one is greeted by a bank of rotisserie chickens turning and browning slowly to one’s left. At the bottom of the rotisserie is the gravy trough. I admit, it does not look enticing but do not be put off. When señor asks if you want gravy, the only answer is yes. All else is trivia, as you would show yourself to be the dilettante amateur. The counter is attended by Señor and Senora del Pollos. They also offer chips. Small yellow signs with curling edges on the wall inside offer beef stew and lasagne. These are merely sideshows, as offers for the non serious. Why go into a shop for roast chicken and ask for beef stew? Really…if you do not buy the chicken here, you might as well go to MacDonalds.
The chicken is taken off the skewer, while Señor then prepares it for the tin foil container. He snips at the wings and the legs so that it lies flatter. He then pours a ladle of gravy over it. At this point there are dogs salivating in Seville at the prospect and as the aromas hit one’s heightened and excited nose. A portion of chips, lightly skinny fried and large enough to feed Ghengis Kahn’s marauding hordes or Napoleon’s Grand Armee on its march to Moscow, is then placed into a tin foil container the size of a small bucket. Thus victualled, one can march home to gorge.
The meat melts in softness as it falls gracefully and without resistance from the bones. The bird is stuffed, properly stuffed, with lemon, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. The spit roasting has enfused every tiny fibre of its being with flavour. I’m dribbling with excitement as I pull meat from bone onto a plate. The smell is like no other, perhaps only challenged in ardour by the smell of the heavily perfumed cleavage of a pretty french Madame in Montmartre after an evening with music, decent wine and several cognacs (I would think). Smells such as this exist in Valhalla or some other heavenly place where hedonism and Epicureanism is not only allowed but positively encouraged. Food like this inspires the telling of tales about Gods and Conquests, of battles won, virginities lost and decent wine quaffed.
The chicken man and woman of Mijas deserve medals. I told them that their chicken is famous in England and that I’ll be writing a tripadvisor review. They beamed with delight, as well they should.
Now, perhaps a vino tinto to wash it down?