A Catalan Wedding

consell de cent

consell de cent

After several days of eating, drinking and celebrating, Jonas and Silvia’s wedding day finally arrived. It was a civil wedding, but they’d booked a spectacular venue – The Consell de Cent (Consejo de Ciento), the Council of the Hundred. Not long after the reconquest of Spain (from the Moors) the kingdoms of Aragon and Cataluña were joined by marriage – their government council was formed in 1249 (by King Jaume I) and from 1337 sat in this chamber until 1714, when it was abolished by Phillip V of Spain.

casa de la ciutat

casa de la ciutat

The Consell de Cent is housed in the Casa de la Cuitat (City Hall), which has a more modern, neoclassical façade (it looks good at night when the square’s not full of tourists). The Casa de la Cuitat is on one side of Plaça Sant Jaume, opposite the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya – in Roman times this square was the site of the Forum.

According to Catalan tradition the groom is given away by his mother. Silvia was given away by her nephew. The service was in Catalan, but there was no mistaking Jonas’ affirmation when he was asked if he took Silvia to be his wife – he replied with an extremely loud, “Si!”

It had rained heavily overnight and was still spitting at 10.30 when we arrived for the wedding, but by the time we came out the rain had stopped, much to everyone’s relief. It is customary here to throw rose petals or rice. On the whole, most of the ceremony seemed quite similar to an English wedding, but here there are no bridesmaids.

la festa de noces

the hidden factory

There was a short break between the wedding and the reception. most of which was spent toasting the happy couple in Almirall Bar, which is quite literally downstairs from the flat where I’d spent my first two weeks in Barcelona back in 1991. The reception itself, was in The Hidden Factory, opposite and just down Joaquin Costa from the Almirall. I know the street well but had no idea that behind what looked like a door to an atelier, there lurked an old garment factory on several floors, literally sandwiched between two shops with apartments above.

entremesos

entremesos

The reception started with cava and some more toasting.

amuse-bouche

amuse-bouche

We were present with beautiful looking appetiser platters of cheese, ham, figs, etc.

croquetes

croquetes

Little platters of croquetas arrived,

foie gras

foie gras

along with foie gras

vegetarian option

vegetarian option

and a vegetarian pastry containing roasted peppers.

the top table

the top table

I sneaked up to the top table before having a look at the kitchen.

cuina

cuina

I don’t remember the head count, but there must have been about 50 guests.

fish course

fish course

The chefs were hard at work trying to get all the dishes to the table.

llobarro amb musclos i cloïsses

llobarro amb musclos i cloïsses

This course being fish, was a large piece of sea bass in a sauce, with clams and mussels.

pork cooking

pork cooking

The meat course, pork, was bubbling away, unusually, in a paella pan.

pork and vegetable chips

pork and vegetable chips

When it arrived at the table, it was sitting on a bed of mash with crispy vegetable chips.

pa

pa

Here even the bread looked special.

chocolate mousse

chocolate mousse

There were two puddings – chocolate mousse

fruit and flowers

fruit and flowers

or fresh fruit and flowers on a sweet brioche like bread. Anyone feeling greedy could have had both!

vi negre

vi negre

You will be unsurprised when I say I drank quite a few glasses of Coto de Hayas, a Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Campo de Borja.

Following the lavish reception we retired to the first floor at about 6.00pm, for live music, dancing and a considerable amount of drinking (until we were kicked out at 1.30 in the morning). Jonas and Silvia were insistent that everyone go back to their place for more! A small group of us thought that an additional party might be too much of an imposition, so after a night cap of vodka at Betty Ford’s we took our leave. It was quite an extraordinary day and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier couple!

…and the song of the day was, A Better Place by Stereo Explosion.

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El Museu de l’Embotit

el museu de l'embotit

el museu de l’embotit

After lunch at Le Cinquante Huit, I did some work in Poblenou, before returning to Oli’s flat in the Raval. I barely had time for a cup of tea before it was time to go out again and meet the other guests who’d arrived for the wedding. Most of the new arrivals were from Sweden (Jonas‘ homeland). Tonight we ate in El Museu de l’Embotit (the museum of cured sausages). This is another traditional bar restaurant in Sant Antoni.

el museu de l'embotit bar

el museu de l’embotit bar

Like last night at La Bodega d’en Rafel, El Museu de l’Embotit does tapas, small portions of food that can be shared between friends. We practically took over the establishment and most of the tables had been pushed together in advance, in order to accommodate us. There were probably about 40 of us, a mixture mostly of Catalans, Colombians, English and Swedes.

menú 1

menú 1

Jonas took charge and ordered from the comprehensive hand written menús.

menú 2

menú 2

Click to read what was on offer. I grabbed a seat underneath a light, so as to get some reasonable shots of the food. As luck would have it, I was opposite my new Colombian friends from last night and next to some new Swedish acquaintances on either side.

boquerones en vinagre

boquerones en vinagre

The first dish to arrive at the table was boquerones en vinagre – fresh anchovies cured in wine vinegar, served in olive oil, with parsley and green olives. This was followed by:

pa amb tomàquet

pa amb tomàquet

No meal in Cataluña is complete without pa amb tomàquet – bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. We had many plates of this.

magret de pato ahumado

magret de pato ahumado

Magret de pato ahumado – thinly sliced, smoked magret de canard (the breast of a duck which has been reared for foie gras), drizzled with olive oil.

tortilla de patatas

tortilla de patatas

Tortilla de patatas – a classic Spanish omelette, made with potatoes.

patatas bravas

patatas bravas

Patatas bravas (tonight I managed to photograph them with the sauce) – chunks of fried potato drizzled with salsa brava, a hot chilli and tomato sauce (often mixed with mayonnaise these days).

croquetas

croquetas

Fantastic crispy croquetas – you can see from the irregular shapes that they are made en casa.

lomos de salmón ahumado

lomos de salmón ahumado

Lomos de salmón ahumado – thick cut loins of smoked salmon. I’ve had salmon cut like this from Hansen and Lydersen and definitely prefer it to the regular thin slices one generally gets in London.

pimientos de padrón

pimientos de padrón

Pimientos de padrón – little green peppers, originally brought to Spain from Mexico 200 years ago. They were adopted by the town of Padrón in Galicia, where they celebrate them with an annual festival in August. What makes these peppers special, is that most of them are sweet, but one in every five or so is hot. They are fried in olive oil and served salted. Eating them is like a culinary Russian roulette.

jamón asado

jamón asado con patatas

Jamón asado con patatas, a house specialty – herbed roasted ham with potatoes. I’d noticed the whole leg, earlier, coated with herbs and wrapped in foil.

morcillas de cebolla

morcillas de cebolla

Morcillas de cebolla – black puddings containing onion and sometime pine nuts. These are very popular in Cataluña and quite delicious.

mixto de jamón, embutidos y quesos

mixto de jamón, embutidos y quesos

…and one of the final dishes that arrived, mixto de jamón, embutidos y quesos – cured ham, sausage and cheeses. You can see how I nearly missed this one, it didn’t last long!

I had some interesting conversations in a mixture of Spanish, Catalan and fortunately the Swedes speak fantastic English. I was telling Silvia’s Catalan friend opposite me that I’d lived in Barcelona through the Olympics and how I keep coming back. She immediately replied, “Tú bebiste de la fuente de Canaletes” – you drank from the Canaletes fountain. …and she was right, I did, in 1993. Legend has it that if you drink from the Canaletes fountain on the Ramblas, you will fall in love with Barcelona and always return.

You will be unsurprised to hear that I drank rosado – it was a good one that I’ve previously bought in local shops. I recognised the label, but can’t for the life of me remember the name! I didn’t see the bill, but I remember that we all ate and drink copious quantities. When it came to paying, I believe that everyone put in €22, which was extremely good value. The service here was cheerful and attentive. We probably would have stayed here all night if the owners hadn’t wanted to go home to bed at about midnight.

El Museu de l’Embotit is at: C/ de Floridablanca 131, 0811, Barcelona.

As you can imagine, with the arrival of new wedding guests, the night did not end here. We walked down to Absenta del Raval, where I had 3 more glasses of wine and Silvia poured a glass of beer on my leg (last time Jonas poured a glass of red wine on the other leg) – at least beer doesn’t stain! When the bar closed, we settled up …and then the staff offered to lock the doors so we could keep on drinking. I believe a few people had already gone back to Jonas and Silvia’s, so it was decided that Jonas would go and buy wine and beer and the party would continue at home. The poor Colombian girls, who’d been out dancing until 9am, had gone to bed, but had to put up with 20 of us partying until 5am!

……………………………

No doubt I slept with the dead, but the next day I was awake before lunchtime and restored by an astonishing picante soup of bacalao, chickpeas and pimentón at the Victoria. In the evening I had supper with Dorian at Iposa – both of which are fantastic, but have been covered a few times before …so next stop, the wedding!

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Le Cinquante Huit

le cinquante huit

le cinquante huit

In spite of staying out nearly all night, I woke up feeling reasonably good this morning, which is just as well since I had to go to Poblenou to do a little consultation. Nookie was also working in Poblenou today, so we arranged to meet for lunch. Poblenou was once a village in its own right, it became the industrial center of Cataluña during the industrial revolution and a suburb of Barcelona. Nowadays many of the factories have been transformed into artists studios, galleries and even craft breweries – it has become quite a trendy barrio.

58 bar

58 bar

We went to look for somewhere good to eat on the Rambla de Poblenou, which runs down to the sea through shops, bars and restaurants. Oli mentioned Le Cinquante Huit (conveniently at 58 on the Rambla) when I left the house, but warned that it’s often busy. Nookie had also heard good things about it, so we went to have a look. I was half expecting a queue, but we arrived at about 3pm and had missed the rush.

58 interior

58 interior

Le Cinquante Huit looks like a small bar through the window, though there’s no doubt that it’s also a restaurant as it has four boards outside promoting the food. One walks through the bar and down a small passage, with kitchen on the right, to get to the restaurant. There’s even a courtyard with tables at the rear.

bacalao, leek and potato soup

bacalao, leek and potato soup

There was next to nothing written on the menú del dia board (outside on the right), so I wondered if they’d sold out. However, I needn’t have worried, the waiter recited four starters and mains, all of which sounded good. I chose a fantastic (and restorative) bacalao, leek and potato soup as my primer plato. The potato was just starting to crumble into the liquid and there were plenty of big chunks of salt cod amongst the strands of leek – it was delicious.

celeriac and scallop salad

celeriac and scallop salad

Nookie went off piste and ordered from long list of tapas on a blackboard that our waiter brought to the table. She had quite an extraordinary dish of scallops in a purée of céleri (celeriac) topped with a pretty salad containing little yellow flowers. I tried the scallops and purée – they were fantastic.

lubina

lubina

My main course was lubina a la brasa (grilled sea bass) with rice. Again this was excellent and the seasoning was perfect.

yogurt and honey

yogurt and honey

For pudding I had yogurt with honey.

carajillo

carajillo

I drank a very good house vermut when we arrived, followed by a glass of rosado. I finished, como siempre, with a carajillo de coñac.

The menú de mediodia, including 3 courses, a drink, bread and coffee costs €10.50 and is exceptional value. Le Cinquante Huit also does a long list of tapas at reasonable prices – it can be busy, so get here by 1.30 or come after 3.00pm.

Le Cinquante Huit is at: Rambla Poblenou 58, 08005, Barcelona.

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La Bodega d’en Rafel

la bodega d'en rafel

la bodega d’en rafel

After lunch in Lascar 74, we had carajillos in a café on the Rambla de Raval and then went to meet Hilary (from The French House) at Walter’s Bar in Plaça de Vicenç Martorell. I’m sure I had another 3 rosados before heading up to Oli’s flat at about 7.30. I had time for  cup of tea and then it was off out for supper (just as well, since the ceviche didn’t keep me feeling full for long)!

interior

interior

I went out to meet Jonas and Silvia at La Bodega d’en Rafel – this was one of several meals on the evenings leading up to their wedding (where friends of theirs were arrived from afar). Tonight we dined with 3 chicas from Colombia and a chico from Paris. La Bodega d’en Rafel is yet another fabulous old school bar in Sant Antoni which has a local clientele and serves excellent, inexpensive, tapes. Sharing food makes for a such good way of getting to know new friends.

llistat de tapes

llistat de tapes

We were seated at a long table at the back, along with other customers. Jonas and Silvia are obviously regulars here – the owner and staff were very very friendly. We were given a single menu sheet (above – click to enlarge) in Catalan and what one does is highlight the required tapas with a marker pen. It’s worth noting that this is not a tourist bar and they are unlikely to speak English. However, they do have a menu in English for those that need it.

pa amb tomàquet

pa amb tomàquet

Silvia made short work of marking the llistat de tapes and plates of food soon started arriving on the table. The first being uncooked items, such as pa amb tomàquet (Catalan tomato bread),

formatges variats

formatges variats

formatges variats (a selection of cheeses)

jamón

jamón

and jamón serrano.

croquetes

croquetes

Large, fluffy croquetas came next

seitons

seitons

along with seitons (boquerones – anchovies cured in vinegar and served in olive oil)

calamars a la romana

calamars a la romana

and some excellent calamars a la romana (calamares a la romana – crispy fried squid rings).

braves

braves

Somehow I managed to photograph the braves (patatas bravas) before the salsa brava (a hot chilli and tomato sauce, often mixed with mayonnaise these days) was poured on top – when everyone is sharing, one has to take the pictures quickly before the food is literally grabbed from the plate!

bunyols de bacallà

bunyols de bacallà

These bunyols de bacallà (buñuelos – salt cod dough balls) were excellent!

gambes

gambes

The above are large prawns, deep fried in breadcrumbs, not unlike something that one might have in a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant. I’m not entirely sure what they are called in Catalan, but the purple ink on the menu suggests that they are torpedos.

lacón

lacón

Aside from the pebrots (peppers) and pop (octopus) that failed to make it to the camera, the final two dishes were the above, amazingly delicate lacón (cured white pig shoulder) sprinkled with pimentón

cargols

caragols

and the very best hot, spicy caragols (caracoles – snails) I have ever tasted.

I drank vino tinto (red) here – this is the type of old fashioned establishment that only believes there are two types of wine. Rosado is not considered to be correct.

While I was enjoying the last two dishes, Nookie and Lena Diaz (famous New York butcher) arrived. This was a complete coincidence – Lena had insisted on taking Nookie to La Bodega to try their tripe and other offal dishes. This meant that I got to taste the tripe and catch up with Lena, who was leaving tomorrow.

hierbas

hierbas

When we got the bill, the total came to €69.50 between 7 of us – the owner only charged us for food, providing all the alcohol (quite a few red wines, beers and cava from a porron) as a wedding present! As is traditional, we were treated to shots of heirbas (a strong liquor from the Balearic Islands), as a thank you for our custom.

jonas

jonas

Jonas had just been telling me about someone who drank a whole bottle of heirbas here, thinking it was a non alcoholic drink – above, he lets the genie out of the bottle…

La Bodega d’en Rafel is at: C/ de Manso 52, 08015, Barcelona

Afterwards, Silvia took the Colombian girls out dancing and apparently they didn’t come home until 9am! I went to Bar Babia for a drink and catch up with Lena and Nookie, somehow ending up with them in a bar on C/ Ample until the madrugada. The manager is a friend and she locked the doors, turned out the lights and we were drinking cava until 5am!

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Lascar 74

lascar

lascar 74

On Wednesday we went for lunch at Lascar 74 in Poble-sec. Lascar 74 is a ceviche restaurant and pisco bar. Ceviche is a cured raw fish dish, where citrus fruits are used to “cook” without heat. Ceviche comes from Peru and is thought to have originated among the Moche, a pre-Columbian coastal civilisation. However, this style of fish dish may also have its roots in Ecuador and it’s become quite popular in Mexico too. Pisco is an amber coloured brandy which comes from the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile – it was created by Spanish immigrants in the 17th century. Pisco lends its name to the very popular cocktail, Pisco Sour, containing egg white, pisco, simple syrup, lime juice and bitters.

vermut

vermut

We arrived early, so I sampled the vermut del a casa, which is enlivened with pisco and ginger among other things. I was so impressed by the South American take on vermut that I drank two!

menú del dia

menú del dia

As usual, we were here for the menú del dia, where the set lunch comes with a drink from €10.

ostras

ostras

We’d arranged to meet Simon here and he brought Vanessa Fenton (ex lead artist with the Royal Ballet) with him. Somehow we got off piste quite quickly and in front of us were a dozen oysters and a bottle of cava.

enslada lascar

enslada lascar

After the brief interlude we were back to the menú, the first course being ensalada Lascar – a salad of spiralised courgette, green leaves, nuts, figs and ají.

rosado

rosado

Now on course we switched to drinking a bottle of rosado.

nikkei ceviche

nikkei ceviche

Oli pointed out that for an additional €2 we could order from the more expensive World Ceviches for our second course. I  jumped at the chance to order the El Japonés nikkei ceviche – tuna with leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), soy and sesame, edamame beans, shitake mushrooms and seaweed. This was absolutely stunning – I’d go back again, just for this dish alone.

brownie

brownie

…and finally we ordered a single sticky brownie and 4 spoons.

We got a bit carried away here, but the regular set lunch of ensalada Lascar, a classic ceviche and a drink (wine, beer or water) costs €10. A pudding added to the ménu del dia brings the cost up to €13. I consider this to be great value and the service here is excellent!

Lascar 74 is at: C/ del Roser 74, 08004, Barcelona.

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Romesco – October 2016

romesco

romesco

Back again in Barcelona, for a Catalan wedding, I had to go to Romesco, my favourite  nighttime restaurant. This place is literally, as cheap as chips, but very good with it. I have been coming here since 1991 and almost nothing has changed in all that time. The camarero and kitchen staff are the same friendly faces and have hardly aged one bit in 25 years! Romesco has a single window and door at the front which leads into the bar and open kitchen. The window itself is a glass fronted fridge, which displays today’s specials. Beyond the bar is the seating area, which is generally full.

croquetas

croquetas

We ordered croquetas to start – they are particularly good here, crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. Ordering allioli on the side is almost obligatory.

bacalao a a llauna

bacalao a la llauna

As a main course I had bacalao a la llauna – this is salt cod cooked on the tin. It’s a Catalan dish of desalted cod, floured, browned and then baked in the oven, with garlic, pimentón, white wine and parsley. Traditionally this was cooked in a tin tray, hence, “on the tin.” Mine was served with boiled potatoes and they generously gave me two large pieces! I particularly recommend eating this here.

patitas de calamar

patitas de calamar

Oli had patitas de calamar en salsa con patatas fritas – squid legs in a rich savoury sauce with fried potatoes. The squid was quite tender and the sauce was delicious.

vi rosat

vi rosat

We drank the house rosado with dinner – I noticed on the bill that it cost €4.70 for the whole bottle!

crema catalana

crema catalana

For pudding I had crema catalana (surprise surprise).

flan

flan

Oli ordered flan.

carajillo

carajillo

…and of course, I had a carajillo for courage, at the end. I raised my glass to toast Amanda with this one.

Romesco offers great food at a friendly price – the bill for two of us (including a large bottle of fizzy water) came to €29!

Romesco is at: Carrer de Sant Pau, 28, 08001, Barcelona

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Quinua

quinua

quinua

Today we had lunch at Quinua with Adrian in Poblenou. Quinua is Spanish for Quinoa, the popular gluten free grain which is grown in the Andes. They describe their food as traditional and fusion.

quinua interior

quinua interior

The restaurant is just off the Rambla de Poblenou and 5 minutes from the beach. It’s also just opposite Vell Poblenou, which similarly does a great menú del día. The layout is typical of a small Spanish restaurant – a window and door at the front with very little other daylight – this keeps the place cooler on a hot summer’s day. The kitchen and bar are at the back on the left. Quinua has about 11 tables inside and another 5 or 6 in the secluded courtyard at the rear.

quinua menu

quinua menu

As you can see above, the lunchtime menú is very good value and includes starter, main, pudding, bread and a drink for €11. I believe this establishment is run by a husband and wife team – he cooks and she serves the customers. I noticed a new family addition (to the side at the back), watching it’s mum and dad attending to the diners – I saw a couple of high chairs tucked away in a corner, so I believe it’s a family orientated locale (quite common in Spain).

arroz meloso

arroz meloso

We ordered the same starters and mains, commencing with a delicious arroz meloso con frutos del mar – a sticky rice (not unlike risotto) with fruits of the sea.

atún en lalaki

atún en lalaki

The main course was atún en lalaki con ensalada – a beautiful piece of seared tuna marinated in (I believe) fermented coconut sap (or sugar cane) with salad. I ordered mine pink in the middle.

crema catalana

crema catalana

For pudding I had my favourite, crema catalana – the Catalan equivalent of crème brûlée, containing orange or lemon zest and cinnamon. Like Trinity burnt cream, crema catalana is traditionally branded to burn the sugar and not heated with a blow torch.

rosado

rosado

I drank vi rosat with my lunch, while the others had beer.

carajillo

carajillo

As usual, I finished my meal with a carajillo de cognac.

Quinua is at: C/Taulat 42, Poblenou, 08005, Barcelona.

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