Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Foodie Abroad: Barcelona - a whirlwind tour of tapas

This was our second visit to Barcelona and, to be honest, while I was tremendously excited to go, I was also slightly nervous that it wouldn't live up to the incredible memories of the first time.  Barcelona was where we went on our first ever holiday together you see, and it is imbued with all the kind of optimism and joy which comes at the beginning of a relationship.  Lot of water under the bridge since then, and could any city be quite as rose tinted as I remembered?

Turns out, it can!  Barcelona is fantastic.  If you haven't been, go.  Now.  If nothing else you NEED to see La Sagrada Familia, the astonishing basilica designed by the architect whose work is synonymous with the city, Antoni Gaudi.

Of course, one of the main draws for us is the amazing food.  In my (admittedly limited) experience it is extremely difficult to eat badly in Barcelona and extremely easy to eat very, very well indeed.  For all that D had done extensive research beforehand, on a couple of occasions we just wandered in off the street for a bite or five of tapas and were never disappointed.  The general standard of the basic produce is extremely good and the cooking style is unfussy, unpretentious and very respectful of the ingredients.

Being a city by the sea, the seafood is, as you would expect, fabulous.  I developed something of a passion for deep fried baby squid and proceeded to order it as often as possible.

One of the tapas highlights of the trip was a place called Tossa which was supposed to be famous for its croquetas - deep fried, breadcrumbed cylinders of flavoured potato or thick bechamel.

At Tossa they take these little babies really seriously - one of them contained foie, for goodness sake!  While they were all lovely - curiously non greasy and just the right side of stodgy - my personal favourite variety was cheese and ham.  For all I claim the moniker foodie, I have pedestrian tastes!

Another tapas based revelation, which completely passed us by on our last visit, was the "montadito" which appears to roughly translate as "things on toast".

Shot complete with D's elbows!
The nearest approximation is an Italian bruschetta, but whereas bruschetta I tend to think of as a dainty mouthful, these babies were pretty substantial.  From left to right above - goats cheese with quince, salt cod, duck, steak with a padron pepper and foie gras with sweet balsamic drizzle.  Oh my word, these were lovely.  Steak on toast - what on earth is there not to like?  And, back to point about the basic quality of food in Barcelona, even this one component part of one dish on the tapas menu was perfectly sourced and cooked - exemplary, blushing steak.

One of the unexpected tapa highlights occurred on the very first day, in a little venue in the corner of the main city market, La Boqueria.  Bear with me on this one - crispy coca bread, chocolate cream, olive oil and salt.

My one gripe about Spanish food after our last trip was the fact that I couldn't get on board with the puddings - and puddings, my friends, I take very seriously indeed.  No longer.  This particular combination, which we learnt later was actually a popular after school snack for Catalan children, is one of the nicest new taste sensations I've experienced in a while.  The chocolate itself was unapologetically bitter, so combined with the crisp toast and salt the initial impression is almost savoury, but then the fruity note of the olive oil swoops in and elevates it to something else. What can I say - smitten.

We were lucky enough to have a couple of seriously high end meals while we were there (of which more to follow) but I stand by my original statement - even at the cheaper end of the market (and let us take it as read that I am disregarding the ubiquitous fast food outlets when I say that) the general quality is absolutely outstanding and the style of food...well, I've sobbed a little over my keyboard while writing this, that I can't just pop down the road and indulge in a couple of perfectly formed plates of tapas perfection.

Incidentally, both husband and mother have told me to cut back on the cat pictures.  But I'm so proud of the little one who appeared to cope admirably with five nights in the cattery.  Her Mummy coped less well, and there may have been tears when we first dropped her off.  Hopefully the whole process will be slightly less traumatic for all concerned next time round.


  1. I say MORE cat pics!! And now (predictably) I want to go to Barcelona again, stat!!

    That chocolatey thing sounds amazing!!

    Lesley xx

  2. I second the vote for more cat pics!!

  3. I am sat here drooling at my desk!