Five wonderful days spent catching up with my four closest girlfriends. They were marvellous eating companions! This was my first trip to Spain, and certainly to Catalonia. I was pleasantly surprised to find the language similar to French and Italian (I don't speak Spanish). The one Catalan sentence I perfected was:
Voldria akel sees plau, which means, I would like that one, please - very useful in bakeries, sausage stalls and other food environments!
As we are all university students, we couldn't afford to spend a fortune on meals. Knowing what a tourist destination BCN is, I was pleasantly surprised by how much affordable, excellent food there was. We rarely spent more than E12 per person for supper, and even less for lunch.
LUNCH and BREAKFAST
We generally stopped by the marvellous Mercato Boqueria for breakfast and lunch, both to save money and because we loved the place. Entering it is likely to drive any chowhound insane, but try to keep your head and don't buy the first thing you see; the stalls at the front of the market were more expensive than those in the middle and at the back. Lunch usually was bread (loved the oat loaf at the bakery next to fish section), several types of cheese, fruit, and cut meats. Fell in love with chorizo di pamplona (smooth texture, large diameter), and the local jamon.
Did have one lunch at one of the many barstool restaurants. Wonderfully fresh razor clams and small clams, and superb mushroom spinach croquettes.
Other Boqueria options:
at the very back right-hand corner, there's a vegetarian bar with pilafs, seitan croquettes and vegetable mixes. Good for a bit of variation.
The bakery along the left-hand wall had good savoury pastries. The tomato-vegetable pie was particularly good, and somewhat ratatouille-esque.
We tended to stick to tapas, only occasionally ordering a normal entree portion in addition to tapas. We left every restaurant full and satisfied, and we all have healthy appetites.
I had two suppers at Cerveceria Catalana c/. Mallorca, 236 (on cnr of Rambla de Catalunya), Provenca metro stop.
A really busy restaurant with a great tapas bar and very hard working servers. You can put your name down for a table, but I chose to hang around the tapas bar until a stool opened up. The house white wine was lovely, and I ordered by pointing at morsels behind the glass counter. I had, over two nights:
jamon and lettuce crostini
ham and potato croquette on toast
gratinated red peppers stuffed with potato puree
ham mayonnaise salad
shrimp kebab (brachetta di langoustini)
Fried baby cuttlefish (from the menu)
and the best crema catalana I had during my trip. The crema was cold inside and had a smooth texture, and the sugar bruleed crust covered the whole surface and was like a perfect sugar mini ice skating rink.
Per person: E12
We ate at TALLER DE TAPAS twice. This seems upscale and modern, with good lighting and waiting staff who are attentive but not smarmy, and was well-priced. Over the two nights, we had (repeating several):
crispy curly fried artichokes
sauted spinach, chickpeas and pancetta
chickpeas sauteed with baby cuttlefish
chorizo sausages poached in cider
sauted wild mushrooms
farmhouse sausages with white beans
smoked slamon scrambled eggs
bread with tomato and olive oil
blackberry yoghurt ice cream
Crema catalana and mushrooms were not outstanding; the yoghurt ice cream, sauteed spinach, artichokes and sausage dishes were our favourites.
Dinner for four with a bottle of cava (sparkling wine): E58
C. de l'Argenteria, 51
We had a fun meal at Origens 99'9%. Its food is based on local ingredients and styles, and it has a shop next door. We inhaled:
pomegranate, herring and apple salad
rabbit in chocolate sauce
wild boar stew
sweetand sour trout
toast with tomato, garlic and egg sauce
steamed artichokes with olive oil
spinach and potato frittata
taps (little muffins)
The onion, flan, toast and salad went down very well. Argued with my friends about the rabbit; I thought it was the the most chocolate-like savoury chocolate sauce I had ever had, but the others felt it should be more spiced. They adored the stew.
Had a nice bottle of rose along side! Roughly E60 for five of us.
On our final night, we celebrated my friend's 21st birthday, and aided by a generous parental donation, 'went large' so to speak.
We ate at LONJA DE TAPAS. We had:
Crumbed, fried camembert with mixed berry sauce
Raw norwegian salmon marinated in dill
Sea bream on a bed of potatoes
thistle mushrooms with parsley
seared foie gras on toast with mango sauce
cured tuna with salted almonds
manchego cheese with sultanas
seafood paella for two
maki of tiramisu with passionfruit sauce
three textures of chocolate with fleur de sel and olive oil
Timbal of crocanti with hazelnuts
fresh cheese with honey and pine nuts
Accompanied by cava and an orange-flavoured dessert wine.
The salmon, foie, mushrooms were superb, sea bream good but boring, and the paella was very salty (a problem I've had with other paellas in the past). We enjoyed the dessert wine, but in the way I enjoy hersheys cookies 'n cream chocolate- I know it isn't the good stuff (wine experts beware!), but I relish it all the same.
The tiramisu was our least favourite dish - fancy presentation but little flavour. The chocolate dessert had too much salt on it. The crocanti won hands down for yumminess.
We (or rather, the birthday girl's parents) paid E154 for five of us (cava was E28 and wine was E17).
Pla del Palau,7
I had the best pistachio macaroon of my life in an upmarket chocolate cafe two blocks down (down hill, closer to sea) from Mercato Boqueria.
XOCOA has six stores throughout the city. Expensive but wonderful chocolates. Didn't try their gorgeous baked goods, and found their truffles to be nothing special. But I did buy several of their beautifully wrapped chocolate bars - caramelized pistachio, raspberry, chili, thyme, rosemary, ginger. The thyme went wonderfully with red wine at a picnic. E2.75 per bar.
PAPABUBBLE, Ample 28, is an artisanal candy shop, with in-store demonstrations. The candies look and taste lovely. Enjoyed a free chocolate-filled peppermint humbug and a passionfruit sucking sweet. E4 for 160g.
GRANJA-XOCOLATERIA is a small, homey cafe with lots of seating and lots of locals in the seats. They offer local specialities - tigernut drinks, flans, a strange form of flan-like custard whose name escapes me, and of course the ridiculously rich xocolat caliente - cups of melted hot chocolate. Perfect hideaway when it started to rain! Shared a cup of chocolate and plates of xurros (E1.35 a plate).
Didn't make it to Cal Pep. When I went at 8pm sharp, they told me that they were fully reserved. I did not know that it was possible to reserve; can anyone confirm this? Oh, well. There will hopefully be a next time...