Seville: modern tapas with exotic elements

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Some days in Seville were lovely and warm with 23C and sunshine. Those days were spent relaxing by the pool, enjoying the sun on my skin and a good book. So in the evening I would get ready for a stroll around town and a nice dinner.

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One such evening I made my way to El Pintón and was extremely lucky to snag a table outside without a reservation. After I got that table they turned away so many people. So make sure to book in advance.

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This place is different to the usual tapas bars around town. They do serve tapas at El Pintón but always at a table, so there is no busy bar area to hang out in. Instead it’s a civilised affair with only table service.

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A concept I was perfectly happy with. Just like I was happy to watch the world go by while sipping an excellent glass of cava.

But I had food too, of course. First a lovely egg dish with truffle. A combination I love. Add to that some crunch and a smooth potato créme. Mmm…

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Next up was the calamari sandwich with lemon aioli. Simple but lovely! And the squid was the most tender I’ve ever had.

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My last dish here (I wish I could have had more, but the portions were rather generous as you can see) was a recommendation from my friendly waiter; presa Ibérica tataki with sweet potato purée and pistachio sauce. The meat was exquisite and so so tender and the sweet but mellow flavours worked so well with the pork.

This; dining on excellent food al fresco, is partly what holidays are about for me. Pure joy!

El Pintón, Calle Francos 42, 41004 Sevilla, Spain

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Seville: lunch at the city’s oldest tapas bar

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My first day in Seville had an early start; I was had checked in at my hotel mid-morning, so after a little rest I set out exploring the city. It was sunny but not that warm, so I walked around taking in some of the sights on my way to lunch. And what better place to start, than from the beginning, with the city’s oldest tapas bar. It’s been around since 1670 and had as much charm as I had hoped.

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It’s quite dark inside El Rinconcillo, especially compared to the sunshine outside, and packed with people trying to order at the bar or grab a table along the sides. Everyone’s talking, eating and having a good time.

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I placed myself strategically behind two people at the bar that looked they were about to leave, and took their spot when they did. Then I ordered a glass of white wine while I studied the menu (the English version as I don’t speak Spanish). I started with some lomo (cured tenderloin from the acorn-fed Pata Negra pigs) and Spanish cheese. And bread, which you receive immediately. And my favourite; Jamón croquetas.

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I also made sure to look around and see what other people ordered. The locals always order the best dishes, and here I could see that the favourites were fried battered cod that looked absolutely delicious, but as I hadn’t fully recovered from my illness earlier in the week I avoided fried food as much as I could. But another very popular dish caught my attention: the espinacas y garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas).  The spinach was wilted and soft and tasted amazing with a hint of picante. Yum!

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When it was time to pay the tab was scribbled down with chalk straight on the bar counter so it was a quick process to settle the bill. And they accept cards, which is great.

While enjoying my lunch and soaking up the atmosphere I also made friends with my bar neighbours on each side and chatted to them about the food and the city. What I loved most about this place was the ambience and that it feels very authentic even though tourists come here too. It feels like a real Seville institution and is a MUST on your itinerary if you’re visiting. You will not be disappointed.

El Rinconcillo, Calle Gerona, 40, 41003 Sevilla, Spain 

All the food; both home cooking and eating out!

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Last week was rather full on, but in the best possible way! Monday I mainly prepped for the day after when I had my friends Gaby and Ro over for dinner after work. For once I wasn’t rushed and it was such a nice feeling. We started with nibbles; obviously Jamon Iberico and saucisson from Spain, nice olives and my homemade dill hummus with pitta chips.

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Then I served trout fillets with dilly new potatoes and a lovely sauce for fish and finished the dinner off with dulce de leche pannacotta. Gaby also brought a selection of canelés from Babelle that were amazing!

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My childhood friend Therése arrived from Sweden on Thursday evening and we had dinner together at mine while chatting away. I made a selection of tapas including the Jamon Iberico and saucisson, Nocellara olives (our favourite!), Manchego and Ossau Iraty cheese, padron peppers, calamari and my asparagus with wild garlic mayonnaise.

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On Friday we met after work and had a speedy but delicious dinner at Barrafina Drury Lane before going to the theatre around the corner to see 42nd Street.

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Saturday was lovely and sunny, so we put our sunglasses on and went shopping in Chelsea where we also had lunch. A pit stop at home to change and we were off to dinner. We had amazing sushi that I will tell you all about later and finished the evening with champagne at Kettner’s Townhouse.

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Therése’s last full day here we went back to an old favourite for lunch; La Fromagerie in Marylebone. The food, the cheese and the ambience is just a winning combination.

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In the evening I made us a nice chicken salad and we had ice cream and chocolate chip cookies for pudding. It was such a lovely weekend and I’m so grateful my friends make the effort to visit me while living abroad!

 

 

Recipe: baked feta with tomatoes

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I love feta. That salty tangy cheese is just heaven for me. But it wasn’t until recently I discovered how nice it is baked. Silly really, since I have baked plenty of camembert and brie in my day.

The feta doesn’t become as runny as those two types of cheeses though, but as it gets warm it becomes creamer and is simply delicious like this; baked with a splash of olive oil, some dried (or fresh) oregano and chilli flakes and some juicy cherry tomatoes.

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It works as a light supper, lunch or as a starter. Or why not serve it with olives, charcuterie and a salad?! And bread. You definitely need bread with this. I had flatbread but tortilla chips, pitta or a crusty baguette will work just as well.

Baked feta with cherry tomatoes, oregano and chilli flakes, serves 2

Inspiration from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

1 feta

200 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp chilli flakes

black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the feta in a small oven-proof dish. Add the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, chilli flakes and black pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, until warm and soft. Serve with flatbread or tortilla chips.

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