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HomeAfricaThe Pulpeira de Melide, the tavern in A Coruña run by the...

The Pulpeira de Melide, the tavern in A Coruña run by the guardians of the ‘á feira’ octopus | West Observer

Gorka Rodríguez comes from a long line of pulpeiros, or octopus chefs. His great-grandparents founded the family business over 80 years ago, with his great-grandmother being a baker from Melide and his great-grandfather a carter from O Carballiño. They settled in A Coruña and opened a tavern that became famous for its pulpo á feira, or octopus fair-style dish. Gorka has continued the family tradition by opening A Pulpeira de Melide in 2011 with his parents, aiming to enhance the traditional pulpería experience. The restaurant, located in the heart of the city, offers a range of dishes alongside its signature pulpo, such as sea urchin toast, Galician artichoke, and Betanzos-style omelette, all made with fresh products from A Coruña’s markets.

Gorka Rodríguez, the owner and manager of A Pulpeira de Melide, studied culinary arts in Galicia and has trained in some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants like Mugaritz, El Celler de Can Roca, and Noma. After experimenting with more sophisticated dishes, he realized that the simplicity of pulpo á feira was what made it so beloved. He now focuses on enhancing the natural flavors of the ingredients and allowing them to shine in his cooking. Gorka believes that there is no better way to enjoy octopus than in the traditional fair style, as even in other cuisines like Japanese, the texture and taste of the octopus are not the same when cooked differently.

At A Pulpeira de Melide, there is no secret formula for cooking octopus perfectly, according to Gorka. The responsibility falls on Begoña Rodríguez, his mother, and Alba Naya, his wife, who prepare up to 250 kilos of octopus a day in the summer. The quality of the octopus is determined by factors like the time of year it is caught, the fishing grounds, and the depth at which it is captured. While they prefer Galician octopus, they do not shy away from using imported octopus from Morocco if necessary. Gorka emphasizes that the proximity of the fishing grounds does not necessarily guarantee better quality, as he has had both good and bad experiences with octopus from different origins.

In addition to serving delicious octopus dishes, A Pulpeira de Melide showcases artwork dedicated to the beloved cephalopod, including drawings from well-known comic illustrators from around the world. These pieces were gifts to Gorka’s father, Antonio Rodríguez, in appreciation for his dedication to organizing octopus-themed events at the International Comics Fair in Granada. These events are just one aspect of the family business, which has grown over the years to become a popular spot for various occasions, from family gatherings to business lunches to romantic dates, catering to a wide range of customers.

As A Pulpeira de Melide approaches its 13th anniversary, Gorka takes pride in creating a restaurant that caters to diverse audiences. The tavern has become a gathering place for people of all ages and backgrounds, from executives sealing deals to retirees enjoying a meal alone, young couples, and even kids spending their weekly allowance on octopus. Gorka’s parents, who will soon retire, have insisted on maintaining affordable prices to preserve the essence of traditional pulperías and ensure that everyone can enjoy the experience. The restaurant’s success lies not only in its delicious dishes but also in its ability to create a welcoming atmosphere that appeals to a wide range of patrons.