In July 1967, smack in the middle of The Summer of Love my dad decided to take us on our first foreign holiday, the destination, Spain. Package holidays had just become common but we ended up driving from Leeds to Denia, a small fishing village at that time, on the Costa Blanca. This meant dad, mum and me (a hulking 6ft 17 year-old) squeezing into an MG 1100 along with a fortnight’s worth of luggage. Not the most comfortable of journeys.
I am sure that you will have twigged that the totally irrelevant first paragraph was to let you know about the first time I had ever sampled paella. It was also my first experience of brain freeze having downed a bottle of ice-cold coke on a ninety-five degree day on the Spanish plain. The ache is still with me.
At that time there were no Spanish restaurants in Leeds, so all of the food on offer was a novelty, but that is the joy of foreign travel. We were soon scoffing squid with the best of them but our favourite was paella. Just as well that we all liked it as they would only do it for two or more diners. You also needed a lot of patience as each dish would be cooked to order meaning a delay of well over half an hour. This tradition was being partially continued by Bomba on the day we called.
A street food stall in Leeds Kirkgate Market on a dull day in May is a far cry from a shoreline restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in a mid-summer heatwave but I have a good imagination. The other difference between the two locations is that people who use Leeds eateries for lunch want to be fed and watered within the time allotted for their break from work whereas the Spanish have hours to get through their meal due to the Siesta culture.
I had already had a perusal of the menu when I paused for a look a couple of days earlier so I had decided that I wanted the Paella Mixta, being a combination of the chicken-based Valenciana and the seafood version to replicate the ones we had all those years ago which invariably had the lot. Strictly speaking the Valenciana should have rabbit as well as chicken but the ingredients were listed on the menu so I knew what I was getting. The green beans and butter beans were in attendance which was great, as was the thyme. It comes in at a reasonable £6.50 a pop which, given the amount of chicken, was a bargain. Sadly the poultry was buried beneath the rice so not visible on the photograph. In true Iberian fashion the seafood paella was not ready and would involve a substantial wait, so I stuck to the single type.
In addition to the two paellas already mentioned there is a vegan version as well as a selection of tapas and bocadillos, Spanish sandwiches.
Disappointed as I was about the seafood not being available, the Valenciana was very good indeed and I would have no qualms in recommending Bomba as a good lunch spot. It is a worthy addition to the Market’s Food Hall.
The only other thing lacking from the 1967 experience was the strains of Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale coming over the music system. I think that it was the only record available in Spain at that time as it seemed to be played on a loop wherever we went.