Following dinner at Arzak, we were up at the crack of dawn the next morning to catch the train to Barcelona. We stayed in our second GoWithOh apartment, in the Old Quarter or El Born area which was great location-wise for getting to most places. The apartment wasn’t bad either, with huge amounts of space and a washing machine. After almost two weeks without ready access to a washing machine, it felt like all our Christmases had come at once!
Before we arrived, I also booked us into a morning food tour with Aborigens Barcelona. I was alerted to them by Richard Cornish on Twitter, who was travelling around Spain at the same time as us and had been working with them. Just to be clear, we paid for the tour ourselves.
Whilst I had a lot of places saved in my Google Maps, I had heard that it can be difficult to find places to eat out in Barcelona on Sundays and Mondays, and one of the services Aborigens Barcelona offered if you booked a tour was their ‘Personal Foodie Advisor’ service. I hit them up for eating suggestions in the area we stayed that are open on Sundays and Mondays and they didn’t disappoint! At one point we also had a hankering for paella and tweeted them for suggestions again, which they were more than happy to provide. I’ll get to the actual tour a bit later.
So then, for the eating:
One of the first places we went to for dinner was Bar Del Pla. We went in with little expectations and came away highly impressed. I am still dreaming about the chorizo we had here.
To start, we ordered some croquettes – ham and roast chicken for me and squid ink for D. These were a revelation. They were deliciously crisp and crunchy on the outside, packed with flavour inside and not too oily considering they had just come out of a deep fryer. The ham and shredded chicken was amazing and a nice change from all the cheese and ham croquettes I’d had to that point.
The inside of D’s squid ink croquette …
That said, I was most impressed with the next course. It sounds SO simple – broken fried eggs, chorizo and potato. What’s so exciting about that huh? Well the chorizo was delicious. The egg yolk runny. The fat from the chorizo melded with the egg yolk. Oh my. We had some simple tomato bread on the side to mop it all up with.
For dessert I had the catalan cream while D had the chocolate. He didn’t know what ‘the chocolate’ was when he ordered it, but it turned out to be a brownie topped with chocolate ice cream, chocolate cream and dusted with cocoa. WHOA!
Seriously, if you are in Barcelona, you MUST MUST MUST go here. It is advisable to book though. You can thank me later.
I know we were in Spain, but we felt like a break in cuisine (and were hampered by what was open on a Monday night), so we went to Mosquito for some dumplings (oriental empanadas as they called them). They speak English but didn’t have the menu in English, so we asked them to translate and ended up choosing somewhat randomly. They were all good, especially the duck and the beef. The duck in soup (small bowl on the right of the photo) were exceptional and we went back for seconds.
We tried in vain to find churros a couple of times for dessert, but got told that it is more of an afternoon snack over there. We did try an ice cream shop who had lovely pictures on the wall of churros, but when we asked for them, the assistant went straight to the freezer and cooked them under the grill. What came out was not pretty, nor edible.
That said, we were determined to keep searching and found a nice little churros place called Churrería Granja Ruz where you could get a big plate of churros and hot chocolate for about five Euros. Winner.
Bomba at La Cova Fumada was recommended by Richard when we met up briefly in San Sebastian, and Kaiku was recommended for paella by the guys at Aborigens. So we headed to the Barceloneta area to try both.
Stepping into La Cova Fumada was like stepping back in time. Just locate the address and you’ll find it because there aren’t any signs out the front. It’s a no frills kind of place that appeared to be run rather casually by a family. There was a counter of food to choose from, or a small menu where you could order freshly made. The bomba was worth the trip – fried potato with a crispy outside, soft centre and covered in aioli.
I also ordered chorizo which came out as small sausages – think twiggy sticks – that were full of flavour (the chorizo at Bar Del Pla was still better).
D ordered squid which he was very happy with, although a little oily.
At our stop at Kaiku, we ordered the vegetarian paella. I felt sorry for D because he REALLY wanted a good seafood paella, but I just couldn’t do it. I tried to ask if it was possible to have it with chicken or chorizo instead, but the waiter looked at me like I was crazy. Despite the lack of meat, it was pretty damn tasty.
I’d also been led to believe that good paella needs to have a crust at the bottom of the pan to be authentic. Theirs had no crust in sight – in fact, not a single grain of rice was stuck to the bottom of the pan.
On our final day we had our food tour with Alex as our guide. Along with two American tour guests, Lou and Louise(!), we started at Mercat Galvany – a market nowhere near La Rambla and not a tourist in sight. Oh, wait.
Alex gave us a bit of the tour at the market, stopping at a few stalls to have tastings, which included jamon, tuna, cod balls and some local tomatoes that weren’t in season.
After the market we went to Tutusaus for some meat and cheese tasting. Here, the jamon sits atop the counter and is sliced by hand to order. We got a lesson in the difference between the shoulder and the leg (one is aged for five years, the other 18 months), before we sat down to eat.
We were also given a small plate of catalan cheeses to try – can’t say I really remember much about them. Sorry!
From there we went to Oriel Balaguer‘s shop for some sweets. You may remember me mentioning Oriel in my Mugaritz post. We arrived and the girl there had no idea we were coming. Apparently the message hadn’t been passed on or something. Needless to say, she didn’t have anything ready for us to taste. In some ways it was kind of nice to know that even on planned tours, things go wrong, as opposed to those tours where you don’t really know who’s actually paying who.
In the end, the girl gave us a pack of pastries to take away and managed to find a few extras in the freezer to take away for later. There was chocolate, strawberry and vanilla pieces from his ‘sweet cocktail’ range. All were delicious. We also bought some macarons and marshmallows. The marshmallows came in a variety of flavours and were delicious, the macarons not so much.
From there we headed to Flash Flash Tortilleria for tortillas, funnily enough. We arrived a little early – before the place actually opened – and while staff were having their lunch, but they let us sit at the bar and order drinks. Despite the copious amounts of cocktail paraphernalia sitting in front of me, I was ‘too early’ for cocktails.
So I ordered a vodka lemonade which they proceeded to serve in a large cocktail glass, so that I could ‘feel like I was having a cocktail’!
The place itself was pretty cool, decked out in wall art of people taking photos in various poses.
As for the tortillas, we had two – a traditional/plain one and one with chorizo. Both were delicious in their simplicity.
For our final stop of the tour, we headed to Bodega Quimet for anchovies and vermouth. Here they serve a dark vermouth, different to what you usually get. D really enjoyed the vermouth, but still said anchovies are just like eating pure salt. The whole idea was to eat the anchovies and chase them down with the vermouth. I did try it, but it wasn’t really for me.
All in all, we had a great time on the tour and loved the eating suggestions provided by the guys. If you’re headed to Barcelona and want to taste some local foods away from the hoards of tourists, hit Aborigens Barcelona up – you’ll probably learn a thing or two during the tour too!
Our final meal in Barcelona was at Moments restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. This was the last of the dinners I had pre-booked from home for the trip. I didn’t know much about the place going into dinner, other than a few blog posts had popped up in my research and it sounded quite nice. In hindsight, 90% of the menu is seafood based, so it wasn’t the best choice for me. The staff were great and asked the kitchen to make a vegetarian entrée which was lovely, but it was more about the not having many options to choose from that was the problem.
I am not going to write a full review, but I will mention the Iberian pork I had for main. The menu stated that all meats were cooked rare and I figured they couldn’t possibly mean for the pork too, right? Who serves rare pork? Well, they do. I’m usually hesitant to get meat cooked anything less than medium, otherwise I have to shut my eyes to eat it, but the staff told me to trust them, and given the place has two Michelin stars, I figured the chefs have to know what they’re doing right?
I’m pleased to say they did and I actually enjoyed RAW PORK! Good thing too, cause that’s a pretty big serve!
As for the rest of the food, it was a bit underwhelming. D had crayfish for entrée which he said was overcooked, and some kind of fish for main which was just ok. The desserts tried to do too much, and in the end we left a bit disappointed.
Overall, we ate pretty well in Barcelona and Tickets is coming up next before we head to Switzerland.