Sunday, 22 July 2007

Barcelona


In hindsight this city was easily my favourite food destination during our travels and it’s easy to understand why Barcelona is being touted as the new Paris. With exceptional produce that doesn’t need to be masked with fussy preparations, I can't think of a better city to spend your summer. From the fresh octopus doused in garlic and parsley at market tapas bars to afternoons of sangria and chorizo eaten while lazing in a sunny square, it is hard not to fall in love with Barcelona.



If visiting in the summer months it is far more enjoyable to spend your evenings bar hopping and sampling tapas and pintxos than settling down to a heavy three course meal.





Only on one evening did we do the latter and indulged in the obligatory paella. It gave us the opportunity to experience Can Cullertes, Barcelona’s oldest restaurant. The restaurant opens at 9pm in a city where it is shameful to be found dining before that hour. Fifteen minutes to nine there is already a queue winding its way down the lane. The paella is a little daunting in the warm climate but a sight to behold when the pan descends on the table.




Our preferred evening routine was to settle at a table in a sunny square. Our favourite was easily the Placa de Santa Maria where you can nibble on olives and sip beer while watching local Wedding festivities. We would then explore the city’s various tapas establishments of which there are no shortage. Most bars are lined with either pintxos (bread topped with everything from jamon to crab) or terracotta dishes filled with tapas. An almost unbreakable rule for both lunch and dinner is to sit at the bar. Not only are the prices better but you learn a lot from the local knowledge of your fellow diners and the staff. The staff at most bars were exceptionally friendly providing us with recommendations to other bars and restaurants and answering our questions on local wines and dishes by providing a complimentary taste. It is easy to spend an evening sipping local beer and nibbling away.






In an unprecedented move breakfast became my favourite meal of the day. As long as you steer clear of overpriced touristy strips such as Las Ramblas there is great delight to be found in perching yourself on a bar stool with thick hot chocolate and fresh, hot churros before you.



On other days we would head to what is perhaps my favourite place in Barcelona, Mercat de la Boqueria for Catalan pastries and coffee. The market is lined with stalls hung with an incredible assortment of jamon and chorizo, the freshest seafood offerings and a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.









Some of our most enjoyable meals were at one of the market Tapas bars, Bar Boqueria found at the back of the delicatessen stalls. Here you will sample the market’s freshest produce prepared simply such as octopus in parsley and garlic or grilled langoustines with a wedge of lemon.





It is hard to take more than a few steps in Barcelona without stumbling across yet another restaurant or tapas bar yet some of the city’s best food is to be had elsewhere. Slip into one of the city’s many delicatessens to select a picnic lunch of cheeses (the classic manchego and a semi-hard goats), quince paste, crusty bread and an assortment of jamon. We became addicted to sampling this Spanish prosciutto at every opportunity and enjoyed discovering the differences between regions and makers. It is worth trying at least a slice or two of the most expensive jamon in the market to taste the difference. Perfect to nibble as you wanter through the city. We almost never needed to use the metro as we saw far more exploring on foot.



We ventured out of the city twice. Our first excursion was a short train trip away to the beachside town of Sitges. With its white washed houses adorned with blue shutters and flower pot filled balconies it is an absolute delight to explore. After a day on the beach and wandering the hilly lanes we enjoyed a quick gazpacho before hopping on the train home before the summer showers drenched us.









Our second and unplanned stop was Girona, a medieval town filled with beautiful squares and bridges crossing the river winding through the old quarter. If you have more than a week in Barcelona it is well worth a day trip but if like me you fall in love with the city you will feel as if you could spend a lifetime there without needing to venture out.







We spent our days enjoying the art featured in the Picasso Museum and the palatial National Art Gallery of Catalunya. We wandered along the waterside of La Barceloneta and people watched. We explored the bohemian Gracia neighbourhood with its wonderful nightlife and the historic Barri Gòtic with its beautiful architecture. We sat in squares watching concerts and Spanish weddings and explored the city well into the night. We ate well and inexpensively although there was no shortage of more elegant establishments. As it was our first time in Spain discovering Catalan cuisine we were happy just enjoying the simple things.

Recommendations

Sagardi
Carrer de L’Argenteria 62, Barcelona
93 319 9993

A reasonably priced pintxos bar. These delicious bites featured on cocktail toothpicks are a great way to start the evening. Make sure to keep your toothpicks as the waiter will count them to calculate the bill.




El Rovell Del Born

Carrer Argenteria 6, Barcelona
93 269 04 58
www.elrovelldelborn.com

A modern pintxos bar with wonderful staff. Make sure to sit at the bar and save room for something from the outstanding dessert platter. I may have been partial to this place as when I asked the barman about cava (dry champagne) sangria his response was to give me a complimentary glass.



Mikel Etxea
Carrer Ferran 15 Barcelona
933 189 693
The wooden bar is laden with terracotta platters overflowing with tapas selections. Don’t be tempted to sit down for a meal as this is one of the pricier establishments due to its proximity to Las Ramblas. There is only one thing you’re here for but it is more than worth the visit; the chorizo wrapped jamon pintxos with its paprika juices dripping through the bread and a cold Spanish beer.



Els Quatre Gats (4 Gats)
Montsio, 3 bis Barcelona

Picasso’s famed hangout with a beautiful old world atmosphere and charming staff. This place can be a three-course tourist trap so take in the atmosphere over a coffee or if you want the more glamorous night service the large appetisers make for ample mains. Share the mussels and cuttlefish and leave room for a dessert. The staff were charming and gave us complimentary champagne with dessert.





Can/Casa Culleretes

Carrer Quintana, 5 Barcelona
93 317 3022

Founded in 1786 this is the oldest restaurant in Barcelona and the second oldest in Spain. It offers a wonderful selection of Catalan dishes at excellent prices. Make sure you get in early as there will be a queue when the restaurant opens at 9pm. Although the interior is not that familiar to the original 18th century diners there is a clear sense that this is a Barcelona establishment. Catalan matrons staff the restaurant providing a smooth service. The menu is filled with a mix of hearty meat dishes, simply prepared seafood and quintessential dishes such as gazpacho and paella. The gazpacho is excellent featuring superb produce. Closed Sunday and Monday.

19 comments:

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hey Truffle, you're back! Your posts have been missed and what a way to return. Sounds like you had an amazing time. My husband will be over the moon with how you feel about Barcelona. He thinks of it as home having grown up there, even though he's not Spanish, and his parents live about 20 minutes drive from Girona. We'll be following in your footsteps within the month as we head off for our Summer holiday.

Thank you so much again for your wonderful gifts. They were enjoyed by all. xx

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Barcelona looks absolutely beautiful! I loved your descriptions of the foods and the places! Makes me want to buy my ticket tomorrow! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

katiez said...

Ooooh, you make me soooo farsick for Barcelona! When we lived in Andorra we used to drive down for a day or two often! It's my favorite city - so alive and vibrant. I want to go NOW!
Great photos! I'm going to go sulk now!

Nora B. said...

Welcom back!!! What a fatastic review of the gastronomical delights of Barcelona. You managed to transport me to the a table in a sunny square there although I'm wearing a jumper and a scarf at the moment.

Looking forward to your posts about the other cities you visited.

Cindy said...

Welcome back, Truffle! A fascinating post for me - I made my first visit to Europe last year, and sadly didn't find time for Barcelona. Looks like breakfast could have become my favourite meal too. :-)

Anh said...

What an exellent holiday Truffle! I have always wanted to visit barcelona because of a foodball club called Barcelona (Barca). But I know this city has much more to offer, as depicted in your post.

Welcome back!

Lucy said...

So pleased you're home Truffle.

Beautiful photos; beautiful food. Barcelona is pretty high on my list of places to see - it's just a little bit higher up the list now...

How was the Picasso museum? Pleased you enjoyed yourself as you evidently did! Always a shame to have to come home, isn't it?

Truffle said...

Hi Amanda- Thanks so much for your recommendations. They were brilliant, especially the tapas places in the market. I thought Girona was lovely and The Writer and I would absolutely love to live in a little apartment in Barcelona. Well that's the dream anway. Have a fantastic holiday!

Jenndz- it's a wonderful holiday destination. I can't recommend it enough! An incredibly vibrant, romantic, beautiful city. Can you tell I'm in love with it?

Katiez- that must have been wonderful being able to visit so regularly. I feel the same way now as I look over my pictures. I am desperate to be back there!

Nora B- that's very kind of you! Even thinking of it now almost helps me escape the cold Melbourne winter.

Cindy- Thanks so much! I've always missed out on Spain on previous trips to Europe but having finally made it I can't encourage you enough to go there next time you're in that part of the world.

Anh- Definitely try and visit some day. Between the football and the food what more could you want?

Thanks Lucy! I do feel a little miserable being back here but am already planning my next dream trip to comfort myself. I thought the Picasso museum was wonderful. It's in a fantastic location and set out beautifully but I actually preferred the older art at the National Art Gallery of Catalunya which is housed in the most beautiful hilltop palace.

thanh7580 said...

Barcelona looks like a cultural and dining heaven. The food looks so good, only to be matched by the scenery. It's definitely going to be a place that I will visit one day.

So how does the Spanish food there compare to what we have in Melbourne?

Serenity Later said...

Truffle thanks for the great pix and descriptions! Barcelona has been a dream destination for me for sometime primarily for its reputation as a gustatory heaven of sorts. You photos confirm why that is the case! *swoon!*

One day! One day, i'll make the trip out! Btw welcome back!

Johanna said...

wow - I wish I had read this before I went to Barcelona quite some years ago when I didn't speak the language and had so much trouble with working out what was vegetarian I ended up consoling myself with chocolate and churros! It is a truly beautiful city and I loved reading your descriptions!

Truffle said...

Thanh- I've only been to a couple of Spanish places in Melbourne but I found the main difference was the simplicity and honesty of the dishes there. They relied on excellent produce. The other difference was the price- you can have a great night there for a lot cheaper than a night at Movida!

Serenity Later- thank you! Definitely do go! It's such a lovely city that certainly deserves it's reputation. I know I'll definitely be going back :)

Johanna- that must have been so difficult! I only had a year of school Spanish but luckily most of the vocab I remembered was food related. If you ever go again I've noticed a lot of travel guides like the Lonely Planet phrase book now include a food chapter with a special section for vegetarians to help them order and understand what's on offer.

Wendy said...

Weird, thought I'd posted on here already! Must be going mad!
My parents are off to Barcelona in a couple of weeks time so I will print off your recommendations. Thinking about a wee trip myself now too!
Once again, welcome back. :)

Mel. said...

That looks absolutely fantastic. I have to say, everybody I've gotten to know in my program here, many of whom are european, say that Barcelona is one of their favourite Spanish, if not European, city. With food like that, I can't blame it. It's definitely on my next list of places to go in Europe. Till then, I always have your pictures to peruse! Hope you're having a fantastic (and romantic!) time xx

Truffle said...

Thanks Wendy. Your lucky parents, I wish I was still there! I'd love to see some more of Spain but Barcelona was a wonderful way to start.

Mel- thanks! I'd heard mixed things before I went but it exceeded all my expectations. I think it's probably my favourite European city so far :)

M's nemesis said...

Hey Truffle- we missed your posts and it's so good to see you back blogging!

Oh gosh, those photos are wonderful...Thanks for helping us experience a little bit of barcelona with those mouthwatering pix of food! :)

The Cooking Ninja said...

The architecture of the buildings are simply too beautiful.

missnoma said...

hello
wow! how amazing is barcelona! reminded me of my trip and all the wonderful food :)

Truffle said...

M's nemesis - it's lovely to be back and to have you reading :)

The Cooking Ninja - it's a pretty fantastic place. I'm glad you like it!

missnoma - it's wonderful, isn't it? I simply can't wait to go back!