Wednesday 25 June 2008

Barcelona: the last day: Tapac 24. Finally!

Since it was the last day we had to go to Pinotxo for brunch. 2 plates of chickpeas, some aubergine, anchovy and peppers and some padron later we headed off through the Gothic quarter to do some shopping.

One of my favourite places to stop off, sit, people watch, read and drink caipirhinas is a place called Antiquari on the Placa del Rei. They do a mean cortado and if you are lucky a very tasty bocadillo with jamon. We then headed to the Born area stopping of at Taller de Tapas for some tapas. Given this is a chain we thought it was actually not that bad.
We then sat and celebrated Choiti and Rachel's purchases with a bottle of white Rioja and some jamon La Vinya del Senyor.

We had to get to the airport for 7pm so we thought we better have one last meal and so we finally made it to Tapac 24.
I love this place. I wish we had found it on Friday night.

We had the patatas bravas, just and excuse to eat very good chips with aioli and spicy sauce,

The Mcfoie burgers R and C loved these but I could only manage a bit as they are so rich

However the Bikini 24 loved loved loved this. Cheese, jamon and truffle in a toasted sandwich. Yummy! So much so I took one back to the hotel for HI. Talk about that for home delivery!

The entrana con chimichurri was also excellent.

R and C shared some calamari which was declared excellent and we shared some pan am tomate.

I would go back here like a shot if only to have the bikini. The next time we are in Barcelona this is going to be my first stop off as I want to work my way through the rather cool menu which comes as a paper bag, in which your cutlery is provided.

A winner, and a fitting last meal for a spectacular weekend.

Barcelona: Part V: Can Fabes or the most expensive bread in the world.

This was our splurge meal. The only other 3 star that HI and myself have eaten at is RHR and that was about four years ago. In fact, I think it was what started our foray into the world of fancy food. Since then we have been to other high end places such as Per Se and unfortunately at this end of the price spectrum I always come away feeling that I was expecting a bit more from the food. This was no different. (I feel the need to add an amendment: having realised that Michelin have been to New York now, both Per Se and Le Bernardin are 3 starred..)

We took the train from Barcelona Sants and after figuring out how to buy a ticket got the train to Sant Celoni. 50 mins later we wandered round the very sleepy Monastery town. It's kind of an odd place to find a 3 star Michelin restaurant but I guess it didn't start out that way. Given it was Sunday everything was shut apart from one little cafe which saved our lives. It was very hot and we had an hour to wait till our 1.30 pm reservation. R and C had not had churros so despite the fact we were about to have a very expensive tasting menu they ploughed on in. You gotta love those girls..

The restaurant itself has an old fashioned bit and a more modern bit. We got sat at a table right in front of the perspex fronted kitchen which was a great experience.

I was very pleased about this. The menu was in Catalan but our waiter tried hard to explain it and we opted for the summer menu. We got a bit stung by saying yes to the bread which we worked out ended up costing us £28. For bread!! In total our bill came to £152 each including 2 gin and tonics, the bread, 2 bottles of wine and 4 tasting menus including cheese. You get a lot of food for this. So much so that by our first pudding I think we were about to burst and wanted to get up and walk about.

The service is what you would expect-unobtrusive, choreographed, attentive. The napkins are mysteriously re-folded and fresh for you when you come back from the loo. All that was missing was a seat for our bags.

Foie gras with fig, the foie had a flavour to it that I couldn't pick out. It was pleasant but not special. Again, you can have too much Foie Gras.

A beautiful selection of fruit canapes each with it's one savoury twist.

The bread! and butter and oil. Notice the lovely orange Baccarat water glasses.

Our first starter, thinly sliced octopus with truffle.

A smoked cod dish that I ate all of but didn't actually like.

The standout carrot, cebolla and prawn dish

A very good salmon dish, barely cooked again but with salmon that is a good thing

Hake, gnocchi and mushrooms

Suckling pig, with the little ribs still in, had too much fat and paled in comparison to the version at Hisop. I left most of it.

All said and done, it was a pleasant way to spend four hours but although the food was more the style I prefer, it was not that exciting and there was only one dish the carrot, onion and prawn dish, that stands out..As you can see the menu was quite heavily fish orientated, reasonable for a summer menu but, I prefer more meat. Again, I am glad we went but don't think I would make the trip again.

Barcelona: Part IV: Pinotxo & Hisop & Headcheese

One of my most favourite dishes in Barcelona has to be the Cigrons or Garbanzos from Pinotxo in the Boqueria. I first had them two years ago and dream of them often.

Imagine my delight then, when both Rachel and Choiti fell in love with them too and insisted that we have them at least once a day. True friends they are.
We had these little beauties with butifarra, pam amb tomate and the essential padron.

This set us up nicely for a bit of shopping along the Passeig de Gracia. If I had been thinking I would have realised our close proximity to Tapac 24, which evaded me all weekend until the last day, when indeed it was our last tapas stop.

That night after drinking some very good albarino on the roof terrace we headed to hisop which turned out to be one of our most favourite meals. Again, modern minimalist interior, a very helpful waitress who spoke excellent English and helpfully translated the menu for us. We opted for the tasting menu which at 48 euros seemed a good deal and also removes the harrowing issue of what to order.

We started with the mackerel with mushrooms which was lovely

The cuttlefish with cacao which I didn't like on account of textural issues

The cap I pota with prawns. Actually the prawns were used to make a ravioli which is then filled with the headcheese. Always wanted to use that word. Headcheese.

My beautiful John Dory with truffle, this was very good.

This was roast suckling pig, which was excellent. The skin was crispy and the fat had become one with the meat allowing for it all to be devoured.

The hake with morels

then there was cheese, which went so fast I forgot to take a picture.


Strawberries cocoa and roses (with a little olive thrown in for good measure!! I think they thought we wouldn't notice..)

I really enjoyed this meal in particular my John Dory and the suckling pig, which would turn out to be better then the one we had at Can Fabes. I would hope to come back here and have the Dory and Pig again.

By the end of the meal we were all quite tipsy and headed back to the hotel We three girls went round the corner to Bar Lobo which I think is part of the Tragaluz group.
It is situated in a square has outdoor tables and is perfect for people watching.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Barcelona III: Paco Meralgo, Dry Martini

Well, you would think that after the mammoth lunch we had at Alkimia we would have given up the ghost, oh no not us!
That night we headed off at a very respectable 9pm to Paco Meralgo which was not only the first of our tapas places but one of our favourites. I don't know if it was the calm surroundings or the mixture of cold and hot tapas, but my companions seemed to like it.
I think our waiter had drawn the short straw it that not only did he have us, with my pigeon Spanish and Catalan, he had some but also some folks from Japan and Germany.

We ordered

Jamon, Pan amb tomate, pimentos de padron, grilled summer veg, summer asparagus with garlic,

solomillo with pepper, steak tartare and chupitos which I think are breaded veal chops.

My favourites were there solomillo with pepper, steak tartare and pimentos. Little did I know that they were to be star guests on our next trip!

We then hit Dry Matini a favourite of mine and HI.

We spent a couple of hours here drinking some very fine cocktails which passed muster even by HI standards. It is very old school, lots of wooden paneling, cocktail waiters in black and white, and that air of sophistication that is lacking in any other venues. It reminds me of The Algonquin, in New York.

We then optimistically left for the Ideal Bar which HI had come across oon his research. Amusingly it seemed to be a Scottish themed bar with old school charm.

Rachel should have known better when she ordered a French Martini and the guy had to check with the bar, what she ended up with was essentially a dry martini which was really the last thing she needed. Choiti on the other hand got the most stonking marvellous moscow mule we have ever seen, since we were 19..

I stupidly had marked Tapac 24 wrongly on my map and after spending ten mins or so looking for it we admitted defeat and ended up in Ciudad Condal which seemed to get ok reviews online and was certainly packed. Given it was midnight and we were than a bit tipsy, it hit the spot..

Barcelona: Part II: Alkimia: or 'curious eater' my ass..

Now, HI have often debated our preferences when it comes to modern vs traditional, and I have come to the conclusion that I am an old fashioned girl at heart. However, I will try out places that will push my boundaries just in case I am wrong. But generally I think I know what I like. Just like the most satisfying meals and not the most expensive, the more cutting edge does not mean the most tasty. In fact it might mean the least tasty, but anyway..
Alkimia, for me was one of those meals. I liked some dishes, was peturbed by others and at the end knew I wouldn't come back. But it was an experience and I am glad I went. It is owned and run by Chef Jordi Villa, one the the champions of modern catalan cuisine, which to most people would be exemplified by Ferran Adria at El Bulli. For us we have our boy Heston back home. Again, the Fat Duck is a place I would like to try but have a sneaking suspicion I would come out of wanting an MIC..
So Friday lunch came, Rachel had been good and went on the bus tour whilst the rest of us hit the roof top terrace we then made our way to Alkimia for our 2pm reservation.
As with other restaurants at the fine dining end it had a cool, minimal interior which was the ideal antidote to the sunny blue 35 degrees outside, and agin it doesn't have a website that works. We had a large round table at the back of the restaurant and our waiter helpfully translated the menu into English for us. Unfortunately, I did not ask for a copy of the menu nor did I take notes, so that along with the two bottles of wine we had, means that some of the dishes may be lost in translation..

To start what may be the best olives of the whole trip and bread sticks

Then the infamous de-constructed pan amb tomat-good

Foie gras with apple-good but just as you can have too much cava you can have too much Foie Gras, the best version of late has to be at Glenapp.

Escalivada, I think, it was a tower of anchovy, pepper, onion and I think there was salt cod in there somewhere..good
then there was the most memorable, least favourite dish of the whole weekend
oyster, clams, percebes in blue soup.

Very fresh and ozoney, but not something I or any of the others wanted more of..interesting but not moreish.

Tuna with olive and strawberry. It is something that I have not come across often, the use of strawberries in savoury dishes but it was a combo that seems quite popular at the moment in Barcelona. I was dubious but have to admit happily that it worked.

Choiti had gambas with arroz con pimento as she is allergic to tuna

This was clever. Bacon foam for the white, the yellow yolk was actually the white, coloured (with tumeric?), and inside was a soft runny yolk. Lovely.

Pork made to look like roast beef, I think, served with goat's cheese and some crunchy stuff that we can't remember what it was.. It was tasty anyway.

Langoustine cooked on a fragrant salt bed, with clove, cinnamon and lime.

Again slightly on the undercooked side for our ( maybe, unsophisticated) tastes, and mine was pregnant which really put me off!
This caused the first of many exclaimations of 'curious eater my ass".

You know what they say about blue food, or grey for that matter... which is a shame really as the sauce was lovely.

The monkfish, generous in portion, and again under-cooked with cauliflower cous cous, lemongrass and coconut sauce.

Pigeon with cherry and a foam that didn't taste of much..

melon, mint, lemon spongy thing

vanilla, xuxu, and apple sauce yum yum

Petite four-the best thing was the blueberry ice cream bon bon. Very sharp and refreshing

The bill came to 95 euros each including water and tow bottles of wine. It was a very pleasant dining experience but in comparison to other places maybe not one I would repeat. Maybe that says more about me than the venue..