La Tasca de la Vasca

la tasca de la vasca

At the back of Calella’s Market House, there’s a fantastic bar called El Nou Bar del Mercat: La Tasca de la Vasca. The bar is run by Ana Biurrun, from Donostia (San Sebastián) in País Vasco (the Basque Country), a region famous for it’s cuisine, Michelin starred restaurants and pintxos.

morcilla pintxos

Pintxos are like tapas (which originated in Andalucia and are said to have been small snacks on dry bread to keep the flies out of a glass of wine or sherry), but coming from the foodie capital of Spain, they tend to be far more elaborate. Pintxo comes from the verb pinchar, to pierce – most pintxos come with a toothpick piercing the topping to hold it on to the slice of bread underneath. Bar staff often count the empty toothpicks in order to calculate the bill. Pintxos and tapas alike, are not really supposed to constitute a meal – originally they were just intended to be a snack or appetiser with a drink. However, when small dishes are this good, it’s hard to resist having more than one.

jamon pintxos

I’ve spent time in San Sebastián and the pintxos in every bar are out of this world. I dropped a small fortune on bar hopping in order to try (nearly) all of them. That said, I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was to learn of a small Basque bar in Calella, doing a special pintxo deal on Saturday lunchtimes. I was not disappointed – one look at the counter and I knew I was in for a treat.

el nou bar del mercat

La Tasca de la Vasca sits in the middle rear of the market, with one side next to the vegetable stalls (above) and the other side (top picture) facing the back door. The bar was busy, I probably could have found a table, but as I ogled the pintxos, a stool became vacant at the bar, so I grabbed it quickly, in order to watch and chat to the staff.

jordi vertiendo sidra

I ordered Basque sidracider is very popular in North West Spain. It is traditionally poured from above the head (as Jordi demonstrates above) to aerate the drink and enhance the flavour. This is done for every single glass!


To go with my first glass of sidra I had a fantastic pintxo of chopped jamón and allioli with a little piece of jamón skewered on top (left). This was salty, creamy and garlicky, all in one. While I scoffed that down, Jordi warmed up the morcilla (center) sitting on a slice of red pimento – roasted red pepper, with the burnt outer skin removed, which gives it a sweet smokey flavour. Far right is a spicy chistorra sausage pintxo, which was also heated up for me.


Hungry for more, I ordered a tigre and a couple of croquetas (below and to the right). Tigres are steamed mussels, which have been chopped up, mixed with a béchamel like sauce, breadcrumbs, white wine, onions, tomato sauce, etc. The mixture is returned to the shell and the whole thing is deep fried, breaded side down for a couple of minutes, until golden brown.

croquetas y tigre

Above is the deep fried tigre (left) and the delicious croquetas, squid ink (rear) and mushroom front.

bolas de patatas

Temptation had me ordering more sidra and a bola de patata con txampis al txakoli – a purée potato ball with mushrooms and txakoli wine.


Txakoli is a dry, slightly fizzy white wine, produced mostly (but not exclusively) in the Basque country. It’s drunk young, up to one year after bottling and is poured from a height (for aeration) like sidra.

bola de patata

The bola de patata is deep fried and served with a little Mary Rose like sauce on top – it’s crispy on the outside and light and fluffy inside.

cangrejo pintxos

One more sidra and Anna brought out cangrejo pintxos – unbelievably delicious crab mayonnaise with a large pierced prawn on top. This finished me off, but what a great way to go!


I had to pass on the Basque Idiazabal raw milk sheep’s cheese


and a beautiful looking Greek moussaka – I wasn’t expecting to see that!


You will be unsurprised to see me finish my lunch with a carajillo de cognac – it really does pick you up after a good feed.

This has not been my only visit to La Tasca de la Vasca – I have been suitably impressed each time, especially as the pintxos change each Saturday and the staff are lovely. All the above, including 4 glasses of sidra cost €14.

El Nou Bar del Mercat: La Tasca de la Vasca is at: Carrer de Sant Jaume, 130, 08370 Calella, Barcelona.

La Tasca de la Vasca is open Tuesday to Friday 07.00 – 15.00 and 06.00 – 16.00 on  Saturdays.

About Mad Dog
This entry was posted in Barcelona, Calella, Drink, Eating Out, Fish, Food, Meat, Restaurants, Spanish and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to La Tasca de la Vasca

  1. Eha says:

    Oh Mad, there I would truly have loved to have sat next to you ! Somehow, having loved tapas all my life, it seems I became aware of pintxos relatively recently . . . and that in spite of often creating my whole meal from first courses and visiting degustation menus with their small helpings whenever I can! Loved your first plate but was even more interested in the tigres and their prep here: my favourite Australian chef Adam Liaw but yesterday introduced us to an almost ‘same’ variation in his Hunanese presentation: a small world again. . . . and please, I’ll just have to skip reading the impossible prices . . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha – you have to go to San Sebastián to see hundreds of beautiful pintxos laid out in all the bars – it’s amazing. About the impossible price – I didn’t expect it to be expensive, but at the same time, I half expected it to be €30!

  2. Conor Bofin says:

    We had a great experience of the region last autumn. We ate extremely well all across the Picos. However, I couldn’t get what anybody sees in that overly dry, largely flavourless cider. I would pour it straight into a drain, from a great height or otherwise. They know how to serve great wine which made up for my cider dissatisfaction.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Ha ha – well it’s definitely much better than that sweet fizzy stuff that supposedly comes from Ireland!

      • Conor Bofin says:

        Too true. Though we have some great small producers. I do gag at being asked for €6 for a 300 ml bottle though.

        • Mad Dog says:

          I’m glad you enjoyed the Basque food and wine. I like the sidra, but it’s all down to personal taste.
          Alcohol prices in Ireland and the UK contain a punishment tax and bad behaviour from over indulgence seems to be far higher in the UK than in Spain where it’s cheap. It makes no sense at all, though a recent study suggests that alcoholism is lower in countries that have more sunshine.

  3. Ron says:

    What a great lunch and experience and such an informative post. I loved the NYT article, but then I watched the YouTube video that was over the top. Hard cider is very popular these days in Sweden, but if you think the punishment tax is high in the UK and Ireland, you should see what we pay. Was supposed to reduce consumption here, not working. Thanks for sharing your fun lunch with us.

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  5. San Sebastian really is an amazing place and , oh, the pintxos! What a wonderful feast you had though without having to travel. I’m not a huge cider fan but I love the ceremony of the pouring and the chucking out of the last “culin”!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Tanya – indeed I love San Sebastián and having a part of it in Cataluña is absolutely brilliant!
      I was never keen on cider when I was younger, but it has grown on me. There used to be whole street of Asturian cider houses in Barcelona, which did chorizo flamed in aguardiente. Sadly there are only a few left now.

  6. Karen says:

    We were so disappointed that we had to miss San Sebastián this past fall, so much for the best layed plans when traveling. The pintxos that you had at the market all sound fabulous.

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