Even her dog (LA mongrel mix by the name of Malinki) was unusual. A small enthusiastic scrap with a pronounced underbite. So what did she mean?

She said she'd book Phil in for a massage (lucky him I was thinking...). After that we'd go eat in her favourite Santa Monica tapas bar.

Well, actually as it turned out a Brazilian in LA is not quite the same thing as a Brazilian in NZ, and after two hours of Sebastian, the Mexican-born hairdresser's, strong arm ministrations and what he insisted was a superior formula to what is available at home, my unruly hair had been expertly straightened to within an inch of its life and I was assured that for at least the next three months my hair would wash and wear to a straight glossy shine so long as I used the accompanying shampoo and conditioner. Just the thing for 7 weeks of travelling really.

Phil floated in and we headed to the very lively Bar Pintxo - brainchild of a chef called Jo whose other eponymous restaurant is also worth a look.

Bar Pintxo is not big - it has a bar which seats a few people and half a dozen high tables best occupied by no more than 3 people each. We were just in time to secure ourselves the last table and soon were gazing at their very appealing menu.

What to have?

My friend no longer eats meat (she read 'My Year Of Meat' about the American beef industry soon after she arrived, and that was it for her), so we didn't order plates of jamon and the usual porcine fare, instead heading for:

  • White asparagus with paprika marcona almonds and ailoli
  • Squid with potato sprinkled with smoked paprika
  • Whole piquillo pimientos stuffed with crab topped with a herb and lemon sauce
  • Snap and English pea tendrils with Romesco sauce
  • Mussels and piquillos with a sherry vinaigrette
  • Cubes of Manchego cheese skewered with quince paste and rocket rolled in chopped Marcona almonds

All very tasty - accompanied by a bottle of Spanish red - of course!