Carlos Martín-Peñasco

Inspired by the Vaishnava philosophy and Ayurveda, an ancient system of Indian medicine that means the science of good living, Alberto and Roberto first went into business with a catering serving transcendental food. Sometime later, Gauranga, a small temple for senses, was born.

I promised British punctuality, but this Friday at noon I’m arriving late for my appointment in the narrow calle Angosta de Mancebos, No. 6, a few meters from the bridge on calle Bailen.

– Are you Carlos? Roberto asks when I reached the bar.

– Yeah, how do you know?

– Because you’re running!

That’s when I realize I’ve broken into Gauranga like a bull in a china shop. Upon entering, I didn’t notice the altar that pays tribute to Gauranga and Nityananda, contemporaries of Saint Therese that symbolize teaching and the guru, or the colorful cushioned seats, the wooden tables, the bar at the corner serving homemade cakes. Trying to put myself together, I make the first question to Roberto: what is transcendental food? “Before offering food, it is called bhoga. Once it’s offered, is called prasadam, which means an increase of mercy. Imagine your mother and a neighbor giving you a tupperware each with the same dish. Which one will taste better to you?” “My mother’s,” I reply. “Sure, because it has been offered with love. That’s the key.”

The daily menu, which is ayurvedic, vegetarian and homemade, is served at a scandalous price given the quality and quantity of it: 7.5 euros! An eclectic group of several generations comes in and Roberto welcomes them with kindness: “Today we have green cream and a combo plate with cucum rice, beet salad, vegetables and a vegetable casserole. The only thing guests can choose are desserts. Each one is responsible for the fat they eat.” Roberto is back to the bar and, while preparing the glasses for the lemon infusion they serve to dilate the guests’ tomachs, he continues telling me about the Gauranga philosophy. “Doing what we do, we go beyond the ordinary. Here we have a different conception of God. Instead of someone who takes care of you, it is someone you take care of.”

The daily menu, which is ayurvedic, vegetarian and homemade, is served at a scandalous price given the quality and quantity

Don’t confuse Gauranga with a bunch of freaks because they give the impression of having solid soil underfoot. “Alberto studied Fine Arts and I come from journalism, television and production. I ended up not knowing which one to choose and I finally quit my job during the economic crisis to help a friend with cooking for six months. Then it was the catering venture and now it’s Gauranga. I didn’t look for it.”

After finishing my food with an unmatched carob cake, I leave the team of this nice little temple and head for the front door in the opposite state I came in: absolute calm. Before leaving, I look askance at the festive altar of the entrance around the dancing figures of Gauranga and Nityananda. They must be laughing at the urban hustle and stress. In their determination to provide customers with love in the form of food, these guys only cook products “that are kind, free from suffering, organic products that respect the Ayurvedic principles, that is product from the nearby market”. In addition, Roberto tells me that the daily menu is chosen depending on the season and the weather of the day. “Sometimes midmorning we see a storm coming and we change the recipe right away”. At night, Gauranga offers vegetarian and vegan burgers, samosas and “freaky drinks” such as ginger beers, special teas (no alcohol is served here) and customized drinks. “If you have a cold, we give a kind of drink. If you are unmotivated, we give a different one. If you feel like you want to die, we show you where the bridge is so you want to jump off it,” he says referring to the viaduct next to them.