Finally, after 3 cancellations and a couple of time changes, I’m back in Barcelona for some work and gastronomy! I’m staying with my friends Jonas and Alicia and on Friday it was her father’s birthday, so we went for lunch at O’Retorno 2, a fabulous Galician restaurant.
Normally we’d sit outside, but it was a dull day and they found us a large table indoors next to the bar and kitchen. I sat opposite Xavi, Alicia’s dad, who was very keen to discuss food with me.
Xavi took charge of ordering and we started off with two plates of Pernil de Gla (Catalan) also known as Jamón de Bellota – this is the finest acorn fed, air cured ham, which practically melts in the mouth. The fat in Iberian pigs that have been fed a diet of acorns is very high in oleic acid, which is also a major constituent of olive oil.
We drank a few bottles of Sumarroca Nostrat, a delicate white wine produced locally.
The next dish to arrive at our table was the classic Galician Pulpo con Cachelos (pop amb cachelos) also known as pulpo a feira. This is octopus, cooked until tender, served on boiled, sliced potatoes, with pimentón picante sprinkled on top. This was probably the most tender octopus I have ever eaten!
At roughly the same time our bread arrived – Pa amb Tomàquet (Pan con Tomate), traditional Catalan rustic bread rubbed with garlic and tomato then drizzled with olive oil.
When we were just about finished with the octopus and jamón, our first large plate of fish arrived. Graellada de Peix (parrillada de pescado) – mixed grilled fish containing, salmon, hake, swordfish, tuna, squid, etc., drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley. All of it was cooked to perfection!
At this point, I thought I’d better take a group portrait, before I got too fat and drunk to move! Left is (according to Xavi) Peruana (Cris), Iron Man (Xavi jr.), Xavi and Nuno (centre). Alicia and Vikingo (Jonas) are on the right. My new name is Normando, as I come from the Norman kingdom of England!
When most of the fish had been demolished (more on that later), three puddings were ordered to share. Above is the excellent Tiramisu.
Pastís de Formatge Casolà (cheesecake) is homemade and one of the best I’ve ever tasted!
Xavi received a Pastís de Santiago (Tarta de Santiago) with bonus birthday candles and the customary glass of Pedro Ximénez wine. Tarta de Santiago translates as cake of St. James, synonymous with el Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, but, as testified by Claudia Roden, it’s an adaptation of a Jewish Passover cake!
When pudding was over, we ordered our carajillos of choice – mine being the customary carajillo de cognac.
The bill came in at €200+ and once paid, we were rewarded with shots of hierbas.
…and then, we walked back down through Eixample, in search of the best Gin and Tonic and I think I found mine in the Galician Nordés gin with Fever Tree tonic. Afterwards we returned home to watch La Grande Bouffe – no kidding!
So what happened to the leftover fish? I put them in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes at high pressure, with an onion, stick of celery, a few cloves of garlic, a tomato, thyme and pinch of fennel, with a pint of water and a glass of white wine to make stock for a venison gumbo.