Llamber

llamber

llamber

I’ve wanted to visit Llamber ever since I tried their fantastic crab ball with beans at the Vi Nouvelle wine festival back in November. The restaurant is in the same square as Mercat del Borne, handily close to La Ribera, where we’d just been shopping. Llamber has been open for  just over 3 years and is a partnership of Eva Arbonés Tomás (interior design, front of the house and cellar manager) and Francisco Heras (Asturian head chef who previously worked in many top restaurants including the legendary, El Bulli). The food here is perhaps a mixture or Asturian and Catalan cuisine fused with the magic of Ferran Adria.  To quote from their website, Llamber is a gastronomic tavern focusing on fresh seasonal products as well as friendly and attentive service.

menú de medio día

menú de medio día

For €15.50 one gets everything on the Menú de Medio Dia (above). That’s 5 courses with water, bread, wine or beer and coffee!

canelon de calabacin

canelon de calabacin

The first dish was canelon de calabacin – little cannelloni made from shaved courgette, stuffed with chopped tomato.

papas arrugadas

papas arrugadas

The second course of papas arrugadas con mojo picon is a dish from the Canary Isles, where their tiny new potatoes are very early in comparison to Northern Europe. These potatoes are cooked so their skins wrinkle and are served in a spicy garlic sauce.

arroz con bacalao

arroz con bacalao

Third came arroz con bacalao, a savoury fish risotto dish with a perfectly cooked piece of bacalao (salt cod) on top. Traditionally a small amount of salt cod is shredded into arroz con bacalao to make an economical family meal.

butifarra "esparracada"

butifarra “esparracada”

Fourth was a dish of butifarra “esparracada” – ragged butifarra, a typical Catalan sausage, cut into pieces and cooked in an unctuous stew.

pa

pa

Even the bread here, which I assume is baked in the kitchen, is excellent!

momento dulce

momento dulce

Our pudding was aptly called momento dulce – sweet moment, a rice pudding with caramelised sugar on top – it almost took me back to childhood and my grandmother’s house on a Sunday afternoon.

rosado

rosado

The included glass of wine wasn’t quite enough, so we ordered a bottle of the excellent Quatro Pasos rosado, from Bierzo.

carajillo

carajillo

…and of course, I finished with a carajillo.

The addition of a bottle of wine cost €15 on top of the €15.50 each for the menú. The food was exceptional here and the waiters were attentive without being intrusive. We even had a little light entertainment from two heavily tattooed punk buskers singing about the joy of death! They were very funny and much better than the average street musician.

Llamber is at: Carrer de la Fusina 5, 08003, Barcelona.

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La Ribera (venda a l’engròs)

la ribera

la ribera

We headed over to El Born for lunch at Llamber today. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table, so we did a little shopping to pass the time.

mercat del born

mercat del born

Both Llamber and La Ribera (top picture) are in the square that houses the Mercat del Born, once a public market and apparently the largest covered square in Europe. The commercial market closed in 1971. The building was scheduled for restoration in order to house the Biblioteca Provincial de Barcelona (the Barcelona provincial library), but when medieval remains of the city were found underneath, it was restored and turned into a museum.

la ribera counter

la ribera counter

La Ribera is a wholesale food company for restaurants, dating back to 1941. No doubt there were businesses like this all round the old market until a few years ago. Fortunately they are not exclusively wholesale and are happy to sell to the general public. Note that La Ribera is named after the area it’s in – Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera de Ciutat Vella, the lower part of which is referred to as El Born these days.

olivas

olivas

La Ribera sells more than 30 types of olive,

pescados

pescados

10 or so different cuts of bacalao and tinned fish,

herbs and spices

herbs and spices

large containers of herbs and spices (including curry powder from London), wines, hams, cured sausages, vinegars and olive oils.

caixa

caixa

I really loved the old fashioned shopping method of taking an item to the counter for  ticket, which one then takes to the cashier’s window (caixa) in order to pay. Oli bought some artichoke purée and a tub of herbs.

La Ribera S.A. is at: Plaça Comercial 11, 08003, Barcelona.

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Iposa (la fórmula)

bar iposa

bar iposa

I wrote a post on tapas in Iposa (at nighttime) about 5 years ago. It’s a small restaurant bar just behind the Boqueria, with a decent chef and menu, plus exceptionally charming staff. One evening, a few years ago, after visiting the Cavatast in Sant Sadurni, we stopped at Iposa for a glass of rosado on the way home. Our friendly waitress suggested that we buy a bottle, to save money, rather than a glass each, knowing that one is never enough. Oli asked what would happen to the bottle if we didn’t finish and our hostess said she’d get us a cork so we could take it home. We were sold and drank the bottle plus another glass each!

la fórmula

la fórmula

Iposa’s menú del dia is a formula neatly displayed on a blackboard outside. It works like this – you get soup for the first course, followed by two tapas (left) or one of the chef’s specials (right) for €9 including bread, a glass of wine or beer and a coffee.

sopa

sopa de verduras

The soup was thick vegetable and I almost thought chicken, but in actual fact it contained lots of sage, which I normally put inside a roast chicken and therefore associate the two flavours.

tartar de buey

tartar de buey

The tartar de buey (steak tartar) is excellent here – I’ve had it before. The tartar comes with a salad and lots of mustard, plus even more bread, which is from a good bakery. I’m with Anthony Bourdain, who believes in giving customers decent bread and not being mean about it – it makes us come back!

vi rosat

vi rosat

I had a second glass of the excellent local house rosado from the Penedès. If I remember correctly it cost an additional €2, which is very reasonable.

carajillo

carajillo

The addition of brandy to my coffee (a carajillo, to toast Amanda) was on the house.

I sat at a barrel – left in the top photograph. There are three additional tables outside and opposite the restaurant. Inside there’s seating for about 30 people. We come here a lot and recommend it without reservation.

Iposa is at: C/ Floristes de la Rambla 14, 08001 Barcelona

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Casa Petit

casa petit

casa petit

En route to Can Vilaró the other day we came across Casa Petit on the corner of Mercat Sant Antoni. I love these traditional delis and had to have a good look in the windows. We used to call these stores, “tin shops” because their windows are full of tinned food. One should not be fooled by all the tins, in Spain, where the weather is hot for substantially long periods, there is a long tradition of preserving food in cans and jars. These are not cheap products, like one would find in a British supermarket, indeed, one can find extremely high grade tinned tuna here along with canned sardines which improve (in the tin) with age. I couldn’t help noticing some very posh looking cans of partridge in the window and after eating the wonderful quail in escabeche at La Platilleria I had to go back to Casa Petit and have a proper look.

casa petit interior l

casa petit interior left

As you enter the shop, the left hand wall and center are full to the brim with almost every liquor under the sun. I notice Kahlúa on the tops shelf (the drink we’d been looking for yesterday). Below the drinks are literally hundreds of cans of fish and the counter is covered in panettone, turrón and chocolates. Cured hams (jamón ibérico) hang above the center counter (above right) along with more than a dozen cured sausages.

casa petit interior right

casa petit interior right

To the right (inside the front door) there’s a cheese counter, full of local cheeses and on top sit baskets of sausages and sliced meats. The shelves behind the cheese contain jars of pesto, artichokes, pulses, mustards, etc. To the right there’s a glass case containing teas, with small brandy barrels above that and below, another glass case containing cavas. To the left of the cheese, two hams rest in jamoneras, in the process of being carved quite finely. You might notice a girl behind the counter (left) wearing a red jacket – just behind her is a door leading to a private dining room. These are not uncommon in older delicatessens and wine shops – they are available to the general public for private hire and functions.

perdiz roja

perdiz roja

Just behind and right of the lady in red, I saw a shelf containing boxed tins of perdiz roja en salsa de escabeche – red partridge in escabeche sauce. I asked if I could look at the tin and then the price. It was a little expensive at €16, but weighed 800 grams – the shop owner proudly told me it contained a whole partridge. To be honest I was sold when I saw the box in the window!

Later, I noticed a perdiz roja en salsa de escabeche in Carrefour on the Ramblas – it was half the weight and about €11.95, so I think I got a much better deal.

Casa Petit is at: Carrer del Comte d’Urgell 1, 08011, Barcelona.

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Pollo Rico (rich chicken)

pollo rico

pollo rico

After eating lunch at La Platilleria we met some friends for a carajillo and a glass of wine at the Victoria. We were searching for a bar with Kahlúa to make an Espresso Martini for Dick Bradsell. This proved to be quite hard, but in the end, our friend and chef Alfredo Marcus kindly obliged, mixing us the cocktail himself.

After all that wandering around in the Raval, Oli mentioned that he was hungry, being close by, I suggest Pollo Rico. I expected a protest, but instead Oli marched off in the direction of the restaurant – who was I to stop him!

rotisserie

rotisserie

Pollo Rico is a cheap bar and restaurant that specialises in rotisserie chicken (which of course goes with fries). This place has been here forever (long before I lived in Barcelona back in the early 90s) and is very popular with the locals. The rotisserie (above) used to be in the window and after admiring the chicken and the chef’s attention to basting it for several months, one day I went in to try it…

croquetas

croquetas

We were both starving and ordered the same food. Croquetas, which are very good here

allioli

allioli

and allioli (of course).

pollo con patatas fritas

pollo con patatas fritas

When our chicken and chips arrived we had to order more allioli – we got through 3 dishes of it in total! The chicken was moist and tender – as expected and remembered. The thick cut fries were nice and fluffy inside. As you can see from the photo above, we drank another bottle of rosado.

Pollo Rico is open 7 days a week and closes late. Sit at the long metal bar, left as you enter, the food costs more if the waiter has to walk upstairs and serve you at a table. Pollo Rico do a “cheap as chips” menú del dia at lunchtime for less than €9. Half a chicken and fries costs €8 at any time. A whole chicken plus fries and salad to take away is €11. This part of the Raval is still a bit rough (but nowhere near as rough as 25 years ago) so keep your wits about you.

Years ago, my girlfriend lived almost opposite in C

Pollo Rico is at: Carrer de Sant Pau, 31 Barcelona, 08001

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La Platilleria

la platilleria

la platilleria

On Sunday we went to La Platilleria for lunch. It is a small corner bar, towards the top of Poble-sec, an area which is fast becoming a new foodie destination in Barcelona. Oli had been here before and was raving about the platilleria – little plates of food.

La Platillera is run by an Argentinian couple – the very charming Mariela Di Stefano, front of house and chef Fernando Silva, who’s previously worked for top Catalan (Michelin stared) chef, Jordi Cruz, so I was expecting some very good little dishes!

la platilleria interior

la platilleria interior

I would describe La Platilleria as a tapas bar – somewhere that serves small portions or rations of food. Tapas come from the South of Spain – originally they were little snacks given away free when one bought a drink. The story goes, that they started off as pieces of dry bread (covers) to keep the flies out of your glass of wine or sherry. As time passed, bar owners elaborated on the tapa, probably leaning towards salty ingredients that encouraged customers to order more drinks. In Andalucia this tradition of tapas continues and one can almost eat for free, but at the cost of a resaca (hangover). Internationally tapas bars have become very popular as somewhere one pays to eat a series of tapas as lunch or dinner, so in spite of the fact that Cataluña does not have a tradition of serving tapas, the tapas bar has become part of Barcelona food culture over the past 30 years.

menu

menu

The menu here is simple and I applaud it – doing a few things well, is far better than trying to do a lot of things to a mediocre level. The menu is written on two little blackboards (above) and all the wine and beer is displayed on the bar with a little price label around the bottle. Mariela takes the orders and serves the drinks, while Fernando is hard at work (solo) in the small kitchen behind the bar – we could see him painstakingly preparing all the dishes.

nuts

nuts

On arriving, Mariela presented us with mixed savoury nuts

oliva picantona

oliva picantona

and I chose some oliva picantona (olives marinaded in hot pimentón) while we perused the menu. I realised afterwards that they have their own vermut, which I should have been drinking as an aperitif – doh!

cepell

cepell

Instead we drank rather a lot of local Cepell rosat (an organic rosé).

mojama

mojama

I suspect we ate half the menu, starting with thinly sliced mojama on coca bread. Mojama is air dried tuna – almost like a Serrano ham.

burratina

burratina

The burratina or burrata is the Italian word for buttered – it is a delicious pocket of mozzarella filled with soft curd and cream. Here it’s served with a green salsa and rocket salad.

pa amb tomàquet

pa amb tomàquet

Pa amb tomàquet (or pan con tomate) is a Catalan invention – fresh or toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and then the inside of a tomato is squeezed on top. This is drizzled with olive oil along with a pinch of salt.

cordoniz escabechada

codorniz escabechada

This fantastic codorniz escabechada (quail in escabeche) comes in a jar with a pomegranate salad.

the quail escapes

the quail escapes

Cooking quail or partridge in a vinegary sauce (escabeche) is an old fashioned method of preservation – brought to Spain by the Moors. Fish or meat cooked in this way can be sealed in a jar and kept for weeks in a cool place – the dish improves with age too!

cecina de leon

cecina de león

Cecina de León is delicious air dried beef, cured in a similar manner to jamón serrano.

patatas bravas

patatas bravas

Patatas bravas are a staple served in most Spanish bars. Here the chunks of fried potato come with a salsa brava (hot tomato sauce), mayonnaise, thin slices of green pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. I’ve noticed (since I lived in Barcelona during the 90s) that mayonnaise is now added to the dish. I don’t know if this is an idea that comes from Dutch potato fries with mayo or if it has originated in Spain…

pop

pop

Pop (in Catalan) is Fernando’s take on Galician pulpo à la feriaboiled octopus, served with potatoes and sprinkled with pimentón.

polenta y rabo

polenta y rabo

Polenta y rabo is slow cooked oxtail served on a bed of polenta. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the oxtail tasted quite similar to my own recipe.

mandonguillas

mandonguillas

Mandonguillas (Catalan) or albondigas (meatballs) – yet another classic Spanish dish done to perfection here and served with broccoli.

crème brûlée

crème brûlée

Crème brûlée is the one pudding I can’t resist – especially not here, where it is served with raspberries on top.

naranja

naranja

When we’d finished and paid, Mariela took a bottle of Naranja out of the fridge and poured us both a glass. This is an astonishing dessert wine, made with Pedro Ximénez and Zalema grapes, plus sun dried orange peel. It is somewhat like a bitter sweet orange sherry.

Expect to pay about €30 per person for food. Most of the wine seems to be about €18 per bottle and beer is around €2.50. I recommend sitting at the bar, where the very attentive Mariela will charm you while you wait for your next plate. It was fascinating to watch chef Fernando Silva hard at work producing all these little food marvels.

La Platilleria is at: c/Roser 82, 08004, Barcelona.

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Can Vilaró

can vilaró

can vilaró

It rained this morning, but we got lucky – it started to clear up in time for a lunchtime rendez vous with Jonas, Sylvia and Sabina at Can Vilaró.

mercat sant antoni

mercat sant antoni

Can Vilaró is on a corner facing Sant Antoni Market, designed by Antoni Rovira i Trias and built between 1872-82. The market is in the process of being renovated – this has been a slow process that started in 2009, finding Roman remains beneath it has hampered progress, but it now looks like it might be completed within a year or so. In the meantime the market is housed in a prefabricated structure on Ronda de Sant Antoni.

can vilaró bar

can vilaró bar

Can Vilaró is a very traditional, family run Catalan restaurant which serves a lot of old school offal dishes (quite similar to Gelida).

jonas looking content

jonas looking “at home”

It has a long thin interior, quite common in older places – daylight comes in from the glass front door. Jonas is a regular and had reserved a table towards the front. The restaurant was packed – it’s obvious that locals love to come here.

plats del dia

plats del dia

We were faced with a problem right from the onset,

plats recomanats

plats recomanats

we were presented with two menus (both in Catalan, above) – plats del dia (today’s specials) and plats recomanats (recommended dishes). However, on close inspection there was some overlap and variation on a theme. For instance, there were several botifarra (Catalan sausage) and cap i pota (calves head and foot) dishes. It’s a good job there were five of us feeling very hungry!

sardines amb torrades

sardines amb torrades

Sylvia’s starter came first, sardines de la costa amb torrades – sardines from the coast with toasted bread. In spite of being simple I thought they looked very stylish.

estofat de vedella

estofat de vedella

Jonas had estofat de vedella (veal stew with potatoes) and Sabina had a plate of verdura amb potatoes (vegetables with potatoes), not photographed.

cervells a la romana

cervells a la romana

Oli and I both had cervells a la romana (deep fried calves brain). Note the slice of fried aubergine, which was yellow from the batter.

brains

brains

These were without doubt the best brains I’ve ever eaten

allioli

allioli

and went exceptionally well with allioli.

blanca i negra amb guarnició

blanca i negra amb guarnició

Our main courses arrived as follows. Jonas’ came first, botifarra blanca i negra amb guarnició – black (blood) and white botifarra sausages with garnish (samfaina – a Catalan ratatouille).

cap i pota

cap i pota

I had cap i pota – a traditional Catalan stew of calves head and feet with red pepper and chickpeas. Quite delicious and sticky from all the gelatine.

fetge amb ceba

fetge amb ceba

Sabina ordered fetge amb ceba – calves liver and onions.

bacalla a la llauna

bacalla a la llauna

Sylvia had bacalla a la llauna – floured salt cod sautéed in olive oil, before baking in the oven on a tin tray (llauna), with garlic, tomato, white wine and pimentón. Here, it comes with mongets (small white beans).

galtes de porc

galtes de porc

Oli chose galtes de porc – pig cheek with vegetables,

cheek bone

cheek bone

which he made short work of.

cremadet

cremadet

For pudding Sylvia and Sabina had cremadet – something I’d never seen before. It’s a bit like a soft creamy crème brûlée.

mel i mato

mel i mato

Oli and Jonas had mel i mato – a fresh cheese with honey.

crema catalana

crema catalana

I had my favourite – crema catalana.

pere pujadas

pere pujadas

Throughout our meal we drank the house white – Pere Pujadas.

While drinking our carajillos and trifasicos, Sabina got out paper and pencils for everyone and had us drawing ideas for sculptures. She really put us through our paces – good job we’d been drinking!

la cuenta

la cuenta

When we finally asked for la cuenta (bill) the price was astonishingly cheap – €113.05 for five of us, including 5 bottles of wine, 4 beers and 4 coffees with brandy! Oli pointed out that the pa i vi (bread and wine) is itemised together (see above).

chupitos

chupitos

Once we’d paid, our jovial host (who is the happiest looking restaurateur I’ve ever come across), offered us chupitos on the house. Sabina had heirbas, while the rest of us drank a coffee liquor. We really had a wonderful time at Can Vilaró – the food was delicious and the service was great. I can’t wait to go back!

Can Vilaró is at: C/ Comte Borrell, 61, 08015, Barcelona.

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