menu of the day or menu of the house in Spain

The true story of the menu of the day in Spain

In Spain we had breakfast early. However, to the despair of hungry tourists, we don't have lunch until 14:30 p.m. and have dinner after 21 p.m. So are our traditions and we are proud of them. In this sense, today we want to talk about one of our favorite customs and our inspiration to launch easyPick, the today's menu, house menu or lunch menu.

How and where did the menu of the day originate?

This food format exists for several centuries and has a curious history We want to let you know. The word "menu" comes from Latin minutus, which means "small." Also, its origins date back to the Middle Ages when the noble diners in the Council of Counts chose from a wide list of dishes according to their tastes and desires, something similar to what is now called "menu" or "menu."

It is considered that the first menu in history, understood as the list of dishes that are to be served at the table and used as such, was created in 1849 by the German Duke Enrique de Brunswick on the occasion of a banquet offered in honor of Count Hans de Montforte. The latter, sitting next to the Duke, watched how from time to time Enrique de Brunswick consulted a written paper that he had stored with the menu items. Later, in the XNUMXth century, handwritten scrolls began to be hung with the gastronomic offer of the day in such important places as the Palais Royal restaurant in Paris.

Also, in the nineteenth century, hostels and inns began to serve several dishes at an economical and fixed price. This custom is cited in important works such as «Montes de Oca» (1900) by Benito Pérez Galdós. 

The menu of the day was an idea of ​​Franco

Many do not know that the most direct origin of the menu of the day in Spain comes from a tourist menu imposed by Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Minister of Information and Tourism in the 60s of the former Franco government. During this decade, Spain experienced a tourist boom: it went from receiving 2,9 million tourists in 1959 to 11,1 million in 1965. To entertain them, Franco established promotional policies under the slogan Spain is different

menu of the day in eixample barcelona
A menu of the day for € 13 in Barcelona

Specifically, in 1964 the so-called “tourist menu" This consisted of the obligation on the part of the restaurants to have a menu composed of different dishes. A first with hors d'oeuvres, soup or cream, a second dish of meat, fish or eggs with garnish, a dessert of fruit, sweet or cheese and a quarter of a liter of country wine, sangria, beer or water.

The hoteliers they had to place their menu in a visible and prominent place, offer it to diners and serve typical products and dishes of the area such as Spanish omelette, paella, Madrid stew, fried “pescaito”, Among others.

Although the initiative seemed a success proposal, at the beginning, it was a failure. The waiters of the restaurants advised the clients to ask "a la carte", since they affirmed that the quality of the tourist menu would be much inferior. This led the government to force restaurants, in 1965, to include the menu on the menu and set maximum prices. These varied according to the category of the restaurant: deluxe (250 pesetas the menu), first (175), second (140), third (90) or fourth (50).

A menu for the poor?

The ABC newspaper warned at the time, “the tourist menu should not be confused with a menu for the poor. It is simply a protected menu and whose price is fixed by the Administration. It is the customer who makes it. ”

However, at that time it was considered a problem for the hotelier. The rigid regulations made restaurants have to have a good amount of varied dishes every day. Small restaurants were made very uphill keep the economic management of your business. In practice, some restaurants made their tourist menus with worse quality ingredients. Some used reheated versions of the less appetizing dishes of the menu and small portions to be able to withstand the pull of all that cooking preparation.

midday menu in Spain in Barcelona restaurant
In general, eating a menu of the day in Spain is cheaper than ordering "à la carte."

Marginalized by gastronomic critics who considered him the lowest ranking of gastronomy, today the menu of the day in Spain offers an extraordinary challenge: three first and three seconds (to choose), drink, dessert and / or coffee. Also, according to a survey conducted by El Mundo to 156 restaurants in all provincial capitals and autonomous cities, it is estimated that The average day menu in Spain costs 11,64 euros

In turn, over time there is more supply, more variety and less fried than before on the menu of the day of Spanish bars and restaurants. This happens especially in new stores or in those that are committed to healthier options.

From the tourist menu to the menu of the day

In the 70s different newspapers of the time began to extol the menu of the day with advertising campaigns. Some of the slogans they used were “a good listener, menu of the day”Or“ I like to eat well (…) so let's ask for the daily menu ”. Little by little the name of the tourist menu was changed to the menu of the day.

advertising on the menu of the day in Spain in the 70s
One of the advertisements exhibited in the newspapers to promote the menu of the day in Spain in the 70s

It would be necessary to wait for 1981 so that the price control was eliminated. The menu changed its name to be called House menu, but the concept of the tourist menu based on regional dishes was maintained. Similarly, it ceased to be mandatory in top and luxury restaurants.

Is it mandatory to offer the menu?

The answer is No.. Upon arrival European directive 2006/123 / CE forced to review the tourism legislation in Spain, which in 2010 the mandatory law was repealed.

At the moment the competitions in this matter correspond to each Autonomous Community, that in some cases yield to the city councils. It is for this reason that different interpretations can be found. Most communities have removed the mandatory menu of the day. However, Asturias, Aragon and Navarra still maintain it for the lower category restaurants.

On the other hand, there are other communities such as Madrid, the Basque Country and Castilla-La Mancha that do not currently have a specific regulation. Also, if you have a restaurant and you don't know if you have to offer a daily menu, you should check it in the regulations of your autonomous community and town hall. It may not be mandatory, as it is not a nationally imposed legislation.

dish of the day in Barcelona restaurant
In Barcelona many restaurants highlight their menu of the day at the entrance of their establishments

The best menus of the day in Barcelona

Do you know the restaurants that offer the best lunchtime menus in Barcelona? From easyPick we have toured the districts of the city to recommend places where to taste full lunches at a great price. Meet the best menus of the day in Eixample, Soon we will add more recommendations!


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  1. Pingback: 5 restaurants with menu of the day in Barceloneta - easyPick

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