Babalù isn’t an easy place to find, but it’s an even harder place to leave, mainly due to owner Lazaro’s generosity with the ‘chupitos’, those free drinks at the end of a meal that are such an important part of Valencian dining that they should really be legislated.
Lazaro has been in Valencia since 2005, and has been running Babalù since December 2008, after turning a gutted premises into a tastefully decorated little tavern, preserving the old Arab brickwork, the beams, and even part of the old Arab wall, to be seen behind the bar.
Lazaro hails from Cuba and Babalù specialises in Caribbean cuisine with reasonably priced menus.
We sampled a wide and abundant range of typical dishes from the land of sugar cane, including spicy seafood with perfumed rice, salads, Cuban rice with olives and mincemeat and a mixed grill that drove the final stake into the heart, staring up from the plate with an expression that said “so why order me if you’re not going to eat me?”
There were also aphrodisiac dishes on offer as part of a special Carribean menu at 14.95, although I’ve always found that copious meals put me to sleep rather than inspiring athletic feats.
Lazaro is a bit of a polyglot, speaking Spanish, French and English, and is one of those people who is always propping up drunken diners with his charm and friendly smile, or at least that’s the impression I get every time I see him and need somebody to lean on.
It’s a long way from the village of Palma Soriano in Cuba, which he left more than 20 years ago, and where he studied tourism. He later studied art in Paris, which accounts for the tasteful décor no doubt.
Lazaro will always give you a warm welcome, whether you deserve it or not, as well as a substantial meal, and probably a chupito or three if you are lucky enough to stagger into his delightful little place just around the corner (impossible you might say) from the Plaza Redonda, with its quaint verdant terrace in the summertime in C/ Cerrajeros 17. 961148754.