Barcelona: Plaça Catalunya and amazing lunch at Bar Cañete

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Our last day in Barcelona (three days was the perfect amount of time for a city break here) was a bank holiday (just like in the rest of Europe) and all the shops (apart from one shopping centre) was closed. It wasn’t warm enough for the beach either so we walked around the city some more (we accumulated lots of steps this weekend!).

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Up to Plaça Catalunya and along Las Ramblas. The former was pretty quiet but Las Ramblas was packed with people. Why we weren’t sure as there’s nothing much to see and apparently lots of pickpockets.

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We also walked around El Raval, the neighbourhood of our lunch restaurant, Bar Cañete. It was a little run down, but it probably looked worse with all the shops closed. The shop windows are covered by a metal door, usually covered in graffiti, which doesn’t look all that pleasant but obviously serves a purpose.

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Our reservation at Bar Cañete was for 1pm, when the restaurant opened for lunch and when we got there a few minutes before 1pm there was already a queue of foodies outside.

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We got seated straight away and the restaurant was full in minutes! Our waiter was very efficient without stressing and really helpful suggesting dishes and wine. The ambience was great from the start and the food blew us away.

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The pan con tomate arrived to the table shortly after having ordered it and it was the best we ate in Barcelona! The bread was flaky and crusty but still a little soft and it was just the right amount of tomato, garlic and olive oil. And love the large portion size!

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The white asparagus cooked to perfection and recommended by our lovely waiter was amazing! So fresh and loved the subtle flavours.

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As you may know by now, I can never resist a good croqueta and the two types on offer here were certainly worth trying. The round one with jamon iberico was seriously nice, but the oblong lobster croqueta was even better. Absolutely delicious!

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The next dish was this “meatball” as it was called on the menu. We didn’t really know what to expect but we were both surprised and delighted to realise it was their version of patatas bravas, but with pork. The ball was made from mashed potatoes with bits of pork mixed in, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, then covered in a mayonnaise sauce and a spicy tomato sauce. OMG – it was incredible! So nice in fact we straight away ordered another one!

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The green been and shaved asparagus salad with nuts was also really nice and worked really well with the creamier dishes.

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We also had these lovely fried artichokes, but the portion was so large we couldn’t finish it. So sad.

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To finish off our meal we had the suckling pig with potato mash and the most delicious sauce. I like to finish a tapas meal with a main course-like dish as it fills you up differently than the more snack-y bits. This was really heavy but absolutely amazing. No pudding required.

This was the perfect way to end a perfect (apart from the not so warm weather) weekend in Barcelona with the perfect travel buddy!

Bar Cañete, Carrer de la Unió, 17, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

 

 

Barcelona: La Pedrera and tapas lunch at Cerveseria Catalana

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One of the highlights on our long weekend in Barcelona was definitely La Pedrera. A colleague of mine recommended it and we found it really interesting.

The building, designed by Gaudí in the beginning of the last century, is so different to anything I’ve seen. It’s part wacky, part beautiful and part ugly in my opinion but definitely interesting!

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Even the doors are very different. It’s refreshing to find out that this building was designed over a hundred years ago as it still feels modern.

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The best part of the audio tour that was included in our ticket was definitely the rooftop. Unlike other rooftops there’s no greenery or seating area. Instead you can walk around in this art installation with crazy chimneys.

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It’s such an experience and the views are breathtaking.

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Especially this perfect view of La Sagrada Familia.

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Just look at the proportions. Pretty cool!

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Back inside there’s a small exhibition about Gaudí’s work and techniques that was interesting, but entering a flat furnished exactly like it was when the building was built was more interesting to me.

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The crazy features are toned down, but you can see Gaudí in every detail. The door frames, the handles, the metal features outside of the windows. And somehow it works with the traditional furniture.

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Back on the ground floor you find this impressive art installation. So different. Although it’s a museum, people still live in the other flats in the house today. I cannot recommend this enough. Even if you’re not a Gaudí fan (I’m not), or that into art or architecture you’ll still find this interesting – I promise. It’s just a completely different perspective.

La Pedrera,  Provença, 261-265, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

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After this cultural experience it was time for lunch so we walked to the much talked about Cerveseria Catalana. It’s touristy but authentic and insanely busy. I’ve had it recommended by friends and they all love it.

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I certainly see the appeal. The only downside is the waiting time. They don’t take bookings so you put your name on a list on arrival and they’ll shout your name when the table is ready for you. Or, you can just hover by the bar seats and snatch them when somebody leaves, as there is no list for those seats. That was a lot faster and what we ended up doing.

I like the vibe sitting at the bar counter, especially in a busy tapas bar at lunch time. That’s where the action is.

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The first two dishes we had were these gambas (prawns) in olive oil and garlic and padron peppers. Both nice but not that special.

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But the tortilla, that blew us away. It’s seriously good. Just perfect in every way and tasted divine. I would come back just to eat it again.

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These mini beef burgers with cheese and sautéed onions were also amazing!

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Lunch at the bar counter, this was our view. As you can see they have some dishes lined up at the counter as well so you can order just by pointing if you’re not sure what’s what.

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I pointed to this pinchos with crab, mayonnaise and corn. So good, just incredibly filling.

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I also had these razor clams, that I didn’t see on the translated menu, but our bar counter neighbours had ordered them so we did the same. Yum!

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We were too full for pudding, but I like the dessert menu displayed like this.

Cerveseria Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona: cocktails at Old Fashioned and late supper at Bar Mut

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After our fab (but early; we sat down at 7pm) dinner at Bodega 1900 we found a nice cocktail bar called Old Fashioned to chill in. It was small and cosy, had nice music on but you could still talk and an extensive cocktail list. Lovely! Also, all the staff were bearded men with white shirts and suspenders. Cute!

I went for a Gin Tonica, the Spanish version of gin and tonic served in a large glass on a stem. I tried one with strawberry notes and it was served with a dried strawberry slice. Really nice!

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Emma asked for a fruity drink and received one with strawberries and raspberries. It was good fun sitting here chatting and people watching for a bit.

Old Fashioned, Calle Santa Teresa nº 1, Gràcia, 08012 Barcelona, Spain

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Until we got hungry again and headed to nearby Bar Mut that I was drying to try. I so love that the restaurants here are open late.

At Bar Mut there’s no printed menu, but some dishes are written on the board and your waiter will tell you the rest. You can also choose your fish and shellfish from the iced counter. Everything’s fresh and seasonal. Simple, but not too simple.

We started off with white asparagus that were perfectly cooked, and served with a light mayonnaise, nuts and leaves.

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I’ve never been able to resist croquetas and this time was no exception. These big ones with iberico ham were amazing!

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Our last dish (I mean, we had had a proper dinner earlier that evening) was a this lovely beef dish with morels and a delicious sauce.

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We walked out happy and full, heading back to the hotel in our taxi for another full day of exploring Barcelona the next day.

They don’t have Uber here but other similar taxi companies (the one we used had its own fleet and all cars had free water and wi-fi – so good!) that we used a lot, especially in the evenings when we were tired from walking all day.

Bar Mut, Pau Clarís nº 192 (Diagonal), Barcelona, Spain

 

Barcelona: amazing dinner at Bodega 1900

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This trip was my second time in Barcelona. The first time I visited with my dear friend Carina we had dinner at Bodega 1900 one night, and I liked it so much I booked it again for this trip.

The restaurant is owned by Albert and Ferran Adria, the brothers behind legendary and now closed El Bulli restaurant. Now they have a whole empire of restaurants in Barcelona and Bodega 1900 is one of the least fancy ones.

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The decor is rather austere and the lighting a bit dull, but don’t let that fool you; the food is seriously good and the waiters really friendly and very professional.

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The house cava is amazing – so I highly recommend you start with that. And these “olives”. They look like olives and taste like olives but it is in fact a little wiggly balls of olive juice. Divine!

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Next we had these juicy and sweet red prawns that were almost buttery, that we dipped in sea salt. A-ma-zing! I could have had several more portions of these. Yum!

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Instead of the regular jamon our charming waiter recommended the more flavoursome Iberico loin. Really good!

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We also had the pan con tomate which was very good!

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We also had these squid hotdog which was just as lovely as I remembered it from my last visit!

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This time they also had a mini pork burger on the menu; filled with thin slices of cooked pork full of umami. It just melted in the mouth. Incredible!

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The quail with potatoes and a very fluffy mustard sauce was perfection! And it was nice with a more substantial dish towards the end of our meal.

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But we weren’t quite full yet so we ordered the peas and mushrooms in this very rich broth and some extra bread. Full of flavour and very comforting. A beautiful if yet very simple dish.

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With twenty minutes to spare before the next sitting we shared the perfect wobbly crema de catalana (mum, you would have loved this one!) and had some coffee.

It was a lovely meal and great evening! I love this place and urge you to book a table well in advance of your Barcelona trip. You can thank me later (maybe with a bottle of that cava?!).

Bodega 1900,  Carrer de Tamarit, 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain

More tapas: Croquetas de jamon

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I really wanted to make croquetas de jamon (Spanish ham croquettes) when I made the other tapas dishes, but sadly didn’t have time. But that didn’t stop me. Instead I made them the day after when I had more time on my hands and served them appropriately as a starter snack with a nice bottle of cava.

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It was the first time I made croquetas and it wasn’t difficult at all. Much easier than I expected actually, and lots of fun! But it does take a while to make them. About 45 minutes to make the bechamel, three hours to rest and then another 30 minutes to fry them. But it’s completely worth it.

I halved the recipe from the book Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy, making 12 instead of 24 croquetas, but they are quite large so you could easily make 16 from the recipe.

Croquetas de Jamon, makes 12-16

Adapted from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy.

25 g butter

1/4 onion, finely chopped

35 g cured ham, preferably Spanish Jamon Iberico, chopped

400 ml whole milk

30 plain flour 

grated nutmeg

1 tsp salt

a pinch white pepper

1 egg

breadcrumbs 

500 ml neutral oil for frying

Melt the butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and ham. Cook for a few minutes until the onion turns translucent but not coloured. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring the milk almost to the boil and set aside. 

Add the flour to the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until the flour has toasted a bit. Add the hot milk little by little, whisking all the time, to make a thick roux. Keep going until you have added all the milk and you have a smooth and silky bechamel. When it comes to the boil reduce the heat to low and add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for about 40 minutes, whisking to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 

Line the bottom of a baking tray with baking parchment and then pour the bechamel into the baking tray. Spread it out and then immediately place a layer of cling film directly on top, making sure the cling is touching the surface of the bechamel as this will stop a skin from forming. Transfer to the fridge and chill completely. 

After three hours the bechamel should be firm enough to handle. Peel off the cling film, turn the bechamel out on to a floured surface and carefully peel away the baking parchment. Sprinkle with more flour and use a knife to cut the bechamel into 12-16 equal squares. Dust hands with flour and roll the squares into balls between your hands.

Beat the egg in a bowl and pour the breadcrumbs out onto a plate. Dip each ball in the egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs.

Heat up the oil in a large deep pan until it reaches 180C. Fry the croquetas in small batches until golden and crisp (takes about 1 1/2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel before serving.

Tapas at home

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We had some wonderful summer evenings in Sweden and on one of them, we pretended we were in Spain, eating a few homemade tapas dishes. Washing it down with a glass of rosé it was easy to imagine us being near the Mediterranean, instead of the Baltic.

We started with a few pinxtos with salmon and mayonnaise. I’ve eaten many of these in Spain, but they look a bit different in the Basque pinxtos bar, with the salmon chopped and mixed in with the mayonnaise. Flavour wise they’re the same though, and the reason I skipped the shopping was because I was already hangry and prolonging the intake of food would just make matters worse.

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I also made my first ever tortilla! It tasted wonderful, but it’s much flatter than they usually are because I halved the recipe as it was for 6 people. I recommend you make the full recipe so it looks proper though, and the leftovers are yummy to eat the following day too.

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My dad LOVES chorizo so we decided to fry some and serve it with soft peppers in oil. This worked perfectly together with the eggy tortilla.

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Another favourite of ours is the garlicky prawns we order every time we have tapas. This was the first time I made them at home and thought they tasted ‘right’, which just proves how good the cookbook I found the recipe in actually is. Large prawns are best for this dish, but as Sweden has lots of the smaller cold water prawns we used mainly those and it still tasted great!

We also had some other nibbly bits like olives, cured ham (sadly not Spanish Jamon but prosciutto works too) and pickled garlic. I had the intention of making ham croquetas as well but they take a while to make and we were out and about during the day. Instead I made them the day after as a starter and they were divine. Recipe to follow in a separate post.

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Tortilla de patatas (Spanish tortilla), serves 6

Adapted from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy.

4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved 

1 onion, peeled and halved 

8 eggs

sea salt 

400 ml olive oil

Thinly slice the potato halves, cut  side down. Do the same with the onion.

Pour the olive oil into a deep frying pan and add the thinly sliced onion. Place over a high heat. Once the onion starts to sizzle (this should take about 5 minutes), add the sliced potatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they are soft and cooked through. The potatoes and onions should have browned on the edges. Remove the potatoes and onions from the pan and set aside. 

Break the eggs into a large bowl but don’t whisk them. Add the hot potatoes and onions to the eggs season with salt while the potatoes are sitting on top. Carefully mix through; use a fork to break up the eggs but don’t over-mix – just give the mixture a few loops with a fork. If you can, leave the mixture to rest for half an hour to allow the flavours to develop. 

To make the tortilla place a non-stick pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the pan is hot add the egg mixture. Do not stir the contents of the pan! 

After about 3 minutes you should be able to ease the tortilla from the edge of the pan using a spatula. At this point, cover the pan with a plate (it needs to be larger than the pan). Hold firmly with both hands and flip the pan over on to the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan for the other side to cook. Place back on the heat for another 2 minutes (the inside will then be a little runny, but if you want it cooked through, just lower the heat and cook for a few more minutes). 

Chorizo with peppers, serves 3

1 chorizo ring 

oil for frying 

1/2 jar grilled peppers in oil

Remove the skin on the chorizo and cut into 7 cm long pieces. Cut in half lenthways and fry for about 5 minutes on both sides in some oil. Drain the peppers and cut into strips. Add to the chorizo in the pan until warm. Transfer to a bowl and serve. 

Gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns), serves 2

Adapted from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy.

12 raw king prawns 

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

100 ml olive oil

3 dried chillies (I didn’t have any so used a pinch of cayenne pepper instead)

sea salt

1 tbsp chopped parsley

Peel the prawns and sprinkle with salt. Add oil, garlic and chilli to a frying pan and place over high heat. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add the prawns. Cook for 1 minute on each side, until they just turn pink. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and served immediately in a bowl. Preferably with some bread to dip in the lovely oil. 

Dinner at Bodega 1900, Barcelona, Spain

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In June (where does the TIME go?!) Carina and I met up in Barcelona for a weekend of sunshine. It was fabulous hanging out on the beach in 30C, sipping Sangria and eating tapas.

Before I went I had quizzed my Spanish colleague about restaurants and got some recommendations from a friend of his. The one that jumped out at me was Ferran Adria’s (famous for El Bulli) casual tapas place,  Bodega 1900.

Bodega 1900 is quite a humble place; it’s not decorated in a fancy way and it’s not expensive, it’s just really nice tapas the Ferran Adria way.

We ordered some of the very traditional tapas dishes (above) and it was all nice but I have had better jamon and pan con tomate elsewhere and was a bit surprised. The patatas bravas were also just good, but didn’t wow us. But bear with me, because then things changed.

The jamon croquetas for example were fabulous and absolutely perfect.
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And once we tried some of the more innovative dishes, like the calamari hot dog recommended by our waitress, we were blown away. It was so so good!

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And these skewers of Iberico pork were the most delicious pork I’ve ever eating. I’m salivating now just looking at the picture.

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We also had these, pretty-as-a-picture pinxtos with seafood (left to right: snow crab; glazed salmon with horseradish and tuna with peppers.) And they were absolutely amazing. Next time I go to Barcelona I’ll definitely pop back in.

Bodega 1900, C/ Tamarit nº 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain