Sunday, 6 November 2011

Barcelona - August 2011

We try and go away to a European city for birthdays instead of buying each other gifts. So far we’ve had great trips to Paris, Munich, Stockholm, Madrid and Rome. We love to travel, to visit places that we had only ever seen in photographs or on television, to experience different cultures and to eat great food. We had been talking about visiting Barcelona for a long time before we finally booked our trip for my last twenty-something birthday in August.
As I started doing my research on various foodie discussion boards, I discovered that maybe August wasn’t the best time to visit Barcelona, since most restaurants close down and locals leave the city. It was too late for us to cancel our trip so I did LOTS of research and found a few places that were going to be open. This however, did not include Tickets, Ferran Adria’s tapas restaurant. This news nearly broke my (nearly year older heart) but we will hopefully get back to visit it another time. 
So, the below is a few lines about where we did go….

- We got checked into our hotel and headed straight out to La Boqueria Market which was an assault on the senses, in a good way of course! We walked around to get a feel for the place and then made a beeline for El Quim. We weren’t sure how this actually worked. Some people were literally standing right behind others seated at the bar breathing down down their necks to hurry them up so they could take a seat. Others were nervously and patiently queuing to be seated, this seemed to be the best option as the staff were keeping an eye on who was waiting and for how long as I witnessed other inpatient people being asked to get up to make space for people queuing. Eventually our patience was rewarded and we were seated. We were given an English menu and a pencil and we could tick the dishes & drinks we wanted. We had patatas bravas, mussels, tiny baby squid & iberican ham. All were very good. The staff kept note of when you were finishing one dish before putting the next one on to cook so not everything came in one big rush.

Dinner, we had planned on having dinner at Lolita Taperia and our hotel told us we had reservations but when we arrived it was closed, which was more than disappointing.
Lunch – Alkimia 
We have rated this one of the best meals of our lives and we have eaten in some really great places. We opted for the lunch tasting menu, which is the bargain of the century at 37.50 euros. Each of the courses has a choice, so we tried each of the options for each course and all were faultless. To start we were brought cured sausage/salami maybe and tomato essence. The next course was octopus carpaccio with an orange & cauliflower puree. The next were the courses we ordered, I don’t know if I can remember or describe in great detail but I will list what I can of the main element of each course but not in order - squid, turbot, steak tartare, veal sweetbreads, chocolate brownie & coconut ice-cream, petit fours. We drank the house wine, which is specially blended for the restaurant. The service, food and wine were absolutely faultless from start to finish and if we had only travelled to Barcelona to eat here we would not of been disappointed.
Dinner – we were still pretty full from lunch so only really needed a snack, so ate nearby our hotel at a chain restaurant called Tapa Tapa I think. It was truly awful. Tepid, tasteless food. Please don’t go there.
 Lunch – Taller de Tapas (Argenteria branch)
We picked this restaurant out of our guide book, we got seats in the lovely courtyard, I had the special paella menu for 10.50. Which was gazpacho, paella & creme catalan. Chub had the sardines, salt cod with tomato and olive & few other dishes that I can’t quite remember. All very good and generous portions. The staff were friendly and the service was very good.

Dinner – Paco Meralgo
. I had heard good things about this place on a few foodie boards. It was ok not amazing. We arrived ten minutes before our reservation and the walk-ins in front of us got kicked of the table they had just been seated at so we could have it. It was busy both with locals and tourists. The waiter looking after us was brusque to the point of being rude. We were given an English menu and were ready to order but we were told to order more as we hadn’t ordered enough. We had pimientos de Padron, stuffed courgette flowers, gazpacho, cod fritters, prawns with garlic, tomato bread, mussels and various other things that I can’t remember as nothing was outstanding. Everything pretty much arrived at the one time. I felt we were being rushed as they wanted the table back. I think we were finished a lot of food plus desserts, a bottle of wine and 2 glasses of cava within an hour and 15 minutes of arriving the restaurant. I wouldn’t recommend this place unless it’s in your neighbourhood.
- We had lunch at the other branch of Taller de Tapas (can’t think of the name of the location, but it was near Santa Maria Del Mar), we ordered lots of tapas, none were really as good as the Argenteria Branch. The pimiento de Padron peppers and chorizo in cider were burnt. The service was not nearly as good or friendly as the other branch. For a mediocre meal and 4 beers we paid 70 euros.

Barcelona really is a great city, there’s just so much to do and see. We spent lots of time visiting the various Gaudi buildings are. I can't even begin to explain how Sagrada Familia is, we spent hours exploring it, Chub was in his element with millions of photographs taken. So if you only get to one Gaudi building in Barcelona, it should be this one, just make sure to book your tickets online. 

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