When I walked into Spanish Churros Master for the first time, I was a little worried that my concerns about its location had been valid. It sits on Cowane Street, sandwiched between a couple of drab flats, and opposite a set of billboards. The nearest business sells blinds; the nearest food shop is a nasty chippy.
Although within walking distance of Stirling’s centre, I was worried that not many would venture far out enough to be confronted with the cafe’s confidently yellow exterior, particularly considering the abundance of pleasant little coffeehouses that are situated at a more convenient distance from the city’s main attractions.
The place appeared completely empty when my companion and I entered, making me think that the poor choice of location might indeed end up being fatal for such a small, independent business. An older gentleman swung around from the kitchen and took our order.
This, we later discovered, was Juan, the eponymous Spanish Churros Master. His new cafe, or churreria, has only been open for three weeks. He’s been in Scotland for a while longer than that, though – he made churros at the Waverley Station food market in Edinburgh for a while before coming to Stirling.
He was the only member of staff in his churreria at that point, and after spending some time taking our order (his English isn’t fantastic), he vanished back into the kitchen.
I had ordered something called sobrasada in a panini. When I asked him what this was, he brought a thick chorizo-like sausage from the kitchen and explained that it was a sort of paste made from this. My lunchmate asked for the fried squid and aioli (referred to as ‘ali-oli’ on the menu) tapas. We both got bottles of water to drink, although canned refreshments, tea and a few different forms of coffee were also available.
As we were enjoying our excellent food, a pair of men entered. They struggled with getting Juan to understand their slightly thick Scottish accents, and ended up just ordering what I was eating by gesturing towards me.
Then a man and woman came in and ordered takeaway churros. Then two girls came in for tapas and churros, and then a man and his son came in for lunch. Before long, all four tables were full and Juan’s churreria was at capacity. As each new customer came in, he would rush around from the kitchen and hold up an apologetic finger before returning to his work.
Unfortunately, this unexpected wave of people knocked Juan a little off his feet, and it took a while for him to get round to serving the man and his son, who thankfully were quite patient. Clearly, I was wrong in my initial misgivings. Word of the Spanish Churros Master had been spreading around Stirling in the three weeks since he opened shop, and it was leading more and more people to his door.
We waited for things to calm down a little before doing the inevitable and ordering some churros. Juan, thinking that we had asked for them when we arrived and that he had forgotten about it, was very apologetic. We were quick to reassure him, but it was clear just how much he cares about his customers’ happiness.
I won’t mince my words here – the churros are exceptional. They’re crispy, light and completely identical to each other. The Churros Master is entirely deserving of his title.
Before we left, a Chilean woman, who I think was named Fran, arrived. She was another member of staff, working the till, and her English was comfortably superior to Juan’s. I was grateful on behalf of Juan for the easing of pressure that she provided, even if it was a bit belated.
It turned out the man who came in with his son was the owner of a company called Iberico Foods, based in Springkerse Industrial Estate, and that this was the company that imported the Spanish food used at the churreria. He was there to see how his imports were used in Juan’s dishes, and he was impressed.
If I hadn’t met the man who imports the ingredients, I might have left Juan’s cafe unappreciative of the authenticity of his delicious dishes. Clearly, he takes his role in bringing the flavours of the Mediterranean to a dull street in Stirling seriously.
You can tell. Here’s my advice: get yourself to Spanish Churros Master before everyone else finds out about it.
Spanish Churros Master is open from 7.30am to 6pm Tuesday to Friday, and 9am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.