I was in Barcelona at the invitation of our Consulate-General to make a speech on gastronomic culture day at the event Portugal convida (Portugal invites) with a display of Portuguese modernity in the area of design, cinema, gastronomic culture, art, thought and music. Congratulations to our Consul-General, Mr João Ribeiro de Almeida, for the success of these events.
The gastronomy event took place in the Food Culture area, which I will dedicate a special article to, as well as to its mentor, the artist Antoni Miralda.
After my experience in Rome and Madrid, where I know excellent restaurants, I opted for another street adventure, wandering aimlessly in search of restaurants whose menu and atmosphere interested me. First, my host invited me to dinner in a top restaurant with a Michelin star. We went to GAIG which is located in a hotel, in calle Aragó, 214 (on the corner with calle Aribau). The atmosphere was pleasant, with well-set tables and table service of an increasingly rare quality. I had sardine over a coconut crust, seafood and vegetables escabeche, grilled striped red mullet and an innovative crema catalana. The wine was the Rioja, Caves Artadi 2008. An excellent meal.
Having been invited, it would be inappropriate to mention the price, but the prices I saw on the menu seemed appropriate and in line with the quality of the cuisine. Interestingly, when the silverware for the mullet was placed on the table, in addition to the fork, there was a meat knife and other one for fish. I doubt that the chef had read about my dislike for fish cutlery. Of course, I used a steak knife.
People who usually read my chronicles know I don’t usually mention establishments where I was less happy. I prefer to ignore them, never going back, and only mention those that were pleasant. So, I will mention only two places that were worth visiting, or at least that were better than average. Strolling about, I came across a tasting menu, and only then did I notice that it was a hotel. I went into the H10 Universitat Hotel in Ronda Universitat, 21 and the Urban restaurant. I ate asparagus with anchovies, cod on toast with olive oil and parsley, creamy crawfish rice, finishing off with strawberries and chocolate cream.
I ordered Castillo Perelada rosé. Surprisingly, it only cost twenty-six euros. Another good meal (I try to forget all the others) was the result of the urge of a common tourist. I went to Las Ramblas and after looking at seven or eight restaurant menus, I came across one that looked very good and the menu had paella, which I felt like eating.
I had thought of going to the port area but then I would go to those restaurants which I remembered fondly. But I’d decided to go to restaurants I didn’t know. So I went to 111, which is the restaurant’s door number. It is well decorated, the service is pleasant, it has WMF silver cutlery, and I ate another torricado with tomato, salmon tartare with avocado, paella marinera and crema catalana con sus Barquillos. I drank Castillo de Perelada rosé again.
I paid a total of forty euros and forty-eight cents, which was good value. Funnily enough, as I was leaving the restaurant I discovered that it belongs to the Hotel Meridien. It was interesting to see the information on dishes that are vegetarian, gluten free, low calorie, and those with nuts. And to think that there are people who aren’t very keen on “hotel food”.
Now I’d like to recommend a visit to the Mercat S. Josep - La Boqueria market. The way everything is presented, the colours and the variety is very impressive. You can also eat there and I recommend three places inside the market, where you can enjoy a snack or have a proper meal, Marcos, El Cochinillo Loco and Petit, each one of them with their own specialties.
Ending on a high, let's visit three very sweet and traditional places. Still on the Ramblas, we have the Escribá pastry shop (founded in 1820), which boasts unusual décor and the most traditional Catalan specialties, alongside more modern creations. On the other side of the Ramblas, in the city’s oldest neighbourhood, El Barrio Gótico, down Calle Pino, at number 16, we find a place that specialises in chocolate, Fargas. The establishment’s windows are tempting, to say the least and I spotted a sweet that was a kind of an orange ball on a chocolate base.
Wondering what it was, I was told it was a tangerine undergoing a slow process of crystallization, so that the inside remained half liquid. The chocolate base was sixty-five percent cocoa. They kindly cut my tangerine in quarters, which I ate whilst marvelling at the texture of its interior. Eating the tangerine with the chocolate is an unforgettable pleasure. A real must. My dessert itinerary came to an end at Caelum on Calle de la Palla 8, which only sells produce from monasteries and convents, while offering tremendous variety, selling liqueurs and books to boot.
In the basement there’s a cafeteria with other titbits. Essential.
A return to Barcelona awaits.
© Virgílio Nogueiro Gomes