Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Barcelona Roundup

Barcelona Buoy
With great architecture and museums, good food and wine, and even a beach, Barcelona pretty much has it all. In my last posting on Barcelona I spent so much time telling you about the delights of the Mercado de Santa Catarina that I didn't get round to my other finds.  Here's a brief round-up to tempt you to go to this fabulous city.

I briefly mentioned places in the El Born district close to the Mercado you could check out, such as the venerated and influential tapas bar Cal Pep just north of the Plaça de PalauThis is the daddy of Barcelona tapas bars and has been such an influence on the Hart brothers' Barrafina in London's Soho.  You probably won't be offered a menu at Cal Pep but the barman's recommendations are generally a good guide.  However, be warned, the fish dishes can be expensive.  It will be fabulously fresh - the trifasic (fried whitebait, squid and shrimps) is a must, and the deep fried tiny fish with a freshly fried egg, chopped and mixed into the mass, sounds odd but tastes great.  Botifarra sausage and beans is a local speciality.  My tip is not to join the queue which forms before the shutters go up - these are tourists and will be moved on quickly.  The second wave is much more welcome.

In the same area, don't miss the atmospheric old grocer Gispert with lovingly displayed preserves, wooden tubs of dried fruits, roasted nuts and coffees and spices including genuine high quality La Mancha saffron.  It's close to the starkly beautiful Basilica Santa del Mar and the Catedral La Seu, as well as the wonderful Museu Picasso.

You cannot visit Barcelona without taking in the inspiring Antonio Gaudi architecture.  Everyone visits the Sagrada Familia church but both Gaudi's Casa Batllό townhouse and La Pedrera apartment block are on Passeig de Gracia.  They are spectacular and unmissable. At the top of the street, on the corner of Av. Diagonal, are the Jardins del Palau Robert, a lovely spot to cool down.  You'll also find a tourist information office here.

Close by is the Passatge de la Concepciό (off the Passeig de Gracia) and the buzzing Mordisco, one of the latest ventures from Grupo Tragaluz, owners of the Hotel Omm round the corner.  Entering through the shop and cafe, you graduate to an art space and a sleek white bar before reaching the light-filled conservatory dining room.  Upstairs are lounges to encourage lingering over a drink.  Expect dishes such as Smoked Sardines with Sweet and Sour Aubergine, Foie Gras with Fig Brioche, and mains of Roast Beef on Toast with Onion Confit and Chargrilled Mixed Vegetable Tatin.  Puddings might include Grilled Wild Strawberries with Black Pepper or Mordisco Cheesecake with Raspberries. 

Emerging from the Passatge onto Rambla de Catalunya, you will find Hänsel close to the junction with c/Provenca.  This is a stylishly fitted-out, friendly small bakery and coffee shop.  The cafe cortado is fine, the bread, particularly the Flauta is good but the Palmeras are exceptional – the burnt sugar edges are deliberate and delicious. 

A further five minute stroll down the Rambla de Catalunya brings you to Casa Vives, a traditional Catalonian bakery.  Amongst the array of cakes and chocolates are delicious tuna, onion and red pepper Empanadas, little oblong cakes similar to French Financiers and, when we there, light as air Bunyols (Lenten doughnuts).  Perfect for a picnic in Gaudi's Parc Guell or on Barcelonetta beach.

Cal Pep
Placa de les Olles 8

c/Sombreres 23

Passatge de la Concepciό 10

c/Provenca 237

Casa Vives