Literally across the street from the Bay of Biscay, Le Socowa is the French version of a beach front fish shack. With that in mind, you would expect that organization would not be a strong point, which it is not: they almost never answer the phone if you call for a reservation and as far as I can tell, they don’t have a website. Similarly, the service is a bit casual: the waiters are clearly stretched to cover all the tables on the terrace when the sun is out, chatty and easy-going when the clouds scare away the tourist hoards. But where Le Socowa punches above its weight is in serving very fresh, very simply prepared seafood sourced that day from the fishing boats docked at the port of Ciboure, 5 minutes away.
Consider the meal we had there this spring. With aperos, crisy croquettes a la morue, moist salt cod barely held together with béchamel sauce, then breaded and deep fried. To accompany a bottle of rosé from the Basque countries, a number of small plates including very fresh sardines grilled on the plancha with only a squeeze of lemon, slow simmered octopus with plenty of Spanish smoked paprika, and anchovy filets, house cured with white wine vinegar and olive oil. For the main course, a “parillada de mer”, a seafood mixed grill including head on pink prawns, merluchon (the arch-typical white fish of the bay of Biscay, a relative of cod that I think corresponds to “hake” in English) and chiperons (tiny squids cooked whole), all served with saffron rice pilaf and broiled tomatoes. To finish, a plate of Basque sheep’s milk cheese. All impeccably fresh and very very simple.
Le Socowa is the sort of simple, honest, regional restaurant it is a pleasure to run across when discovering a new city.
Address: 45 Av. du Commandant Passicot, 64500 Ciboure, France
Tel: (011 33) 05 24 33 37 05
Reservations: accepted but not really necessary outside the season…in July and August, why are you in a beach town anyway?