Eat, drink, Barcelona

It wasn’t intended but our trip to Barcelona turned out to be completely food-centric. That doesn’t mean we didn’t do the usual touristy things but we really stopped and ate a lot. Oh and you know when I said I just wanted to have a relaxed time in my previous post? That completely went out of the window because R was just so keen to explore the city and we ended up walking, walking and walking most of the time. I must admit that wasn’t at all easy for me at this stage of my pregnancy but hey I’ve lived to tell the tale.

We caught an early morning flight from Bristol and arrived in our Barcelona hotel by mid-afternoon. The first thing we did after dropping our bags was to go to a small supermarket just around the corner to get some drinks and snacks. I always love visiting supermarkets whenever I travel to a different country, because they can tell you so much about the natives’ diets and lifestyles.

Bimbo obviously has a very different meaning here in Spain. We couldn’t resist chuckling and taking a photo of the brioche this company makes. Along with water and juice, we also picked up some traditional potato crisps (produced in Spain, we checked) and some Filipinos – a brand of chocolate biscuits for R’s Filipina colleagues at the hospital. Apparently, the Filipino government was quite pissed off with the Spaniards in 1999 for allowing these biscuits to be produced and named Filipinos – something they found offensive.

We were hungry by 7pm but discovered that Spanish restaurants didn’t open till 9pm! So we first snacked on some delectable mini-pizzas which were priced by weight. I think this is such a great idea! You just tell them how big a slice you want and they’d weigh it for you. Food in Spain is often available in small portions (I love their montadito – mini sandwiches!) and that’s absolutely perfect for me since I can’t eat a lot at one time.

Still feeling peckish, we chanced upon a lovely tapas bar in Las Ramblas serving a large variety of open sandwiches. We took a plate and picked what we wanted and stood around the crowded premises to savour them. They all cost 1.80 euros each and the staff counted the number of toothpicks left on your plate to total your bill when you were finished.

I have no pictures to show but the amazing Mercat La Boquiera nearby has completely left me in awe. They have the freshest and most handsome looking fruit and vegetables on display, including torpedo-sized avocados, giant grapes and beautiful tangerines. I bought a cup of passion fruit gelato there and it simply is the most delicious ice-cream I have ever had. You could really tell it was made using all natural ingredients because I could taste the fruit’s sharpness, sweetness and its signature pungent fragrance all in a mouthful! It was so good that I had to go back again for another serving on the last day of our trip.

So anyway, having finally stuck it out till 9pm, we headed for Restaurant Culleretes for some traditional Catalan cuisine. It is according to the Guinness Book of Record, the oldest restaurant in Spain, having been established since 1786. Catalan cuisine is often very rustic and rich. Fish and seafood are popular here and so is the pairing of meats with fruits. I ordered goose with apples as my main course. It was beautifully cooked – the skin was slightly crispy and the meat was tender. The only problem I had was that my goose had a lot of fat (but that’s how the animal is) so I spent quite some time cutting away the fatty bits. The apples were a good complement, perfect for taking away that greasy taste in the mouth.

On the second day we checked out the quirky Gothic Quarter in the centre of the old city Barcelona. I enjoyed strolling down the cobbled lanes and sitting down in Buenas Migas to enjoy a lovely slice of Catalan sausage foccacia. In the evening, we hunted down a vegetarian restaurant, L’Illa de Gràcia, recommended by the guide book. Sadly, we weren’t at all impressed by the food. I had the stuffed avocado as the starter which was not too bad, but it got a bit too salty and overwhelming toward the end. R’s spinach tart turned out to be just spinach with mushrooms, with no tart! My main was brown rice with grilled tofu and raw vegetables. It was very, very bland and although I kinda like that fresh, detox taste, I don’t think many others would appreciate the dish. We’ve both had better quality and better value vegetarian food, especially in Singapore, so this meal was quite a disappointment.

Our stay at the hotel didn’t include breakfast, which was just as well, because it was an interesting experience to have breakfast with the locals in a small cafe on our way to Sagrada Familia. Our meal of a cup of coffee (espressos are very popular here, just like in Italy, and the other coffees are always strong and good) with three mini croissants (I love Spain for everything mini!) cost 2.50 euros. The croissants were crunchy and fluffy and I especially liked the one with a custard filling. Very delicious and unusual. Savoury sandwiches were also popular with the locals and I spotted one table enjoying a bowl of olives as they downed their coffees and sucked on their cigarettes. (It’s okay to smoke in cafes and some restaurants).

In the afternoon we explored Borne, another interesting old part of Barcelona near to the Gothic Quarter. The first thing we saw when we got off the Metro was La Colmena, a traditional patisserie with an amazing display of cakes in their windows. We pressed our noses on the glass with huge eager eyes like hungry children. Submitting to temptation, R went in to get a hazelnut meringue for 1.50 euros which we shared. I could distinctly taste the egg whites used to make the meringue and enjoyed the generous serving of hazelnuts. We walked on to Parc de la Ciutadella, the city’s central park next to the Catalonia Parliament. The park would be a wonderful place to visit in warmer weather. But as it was raining when we visited and I was particularly tired from the walking we did that day, I felt I didn’t really have the opportunity to truly admire the beauty of the place. Never mind, that’s always a good excuse for another visit.

My favourite meal in Barcelona was in La Muscleria, a restaurant just around the corner from our hotel. Mussels are its specialty, but it also serves up a variety of seafood. Mussels are very popular in Spain. On our last night in town, I ordered pan-fried mussels with prawns (11 euros) and it came with hand-cut fries. The mussels were very fresh and I liked the garlicky sauce it was cooked in. I never realised until reading a leaflet in the restaurant while waiting for my food, that mussels are an excellent source of protein, they are low in calories and fat, they contain a number of vitamins and minerals and are easily digested, not to mention they are highly inexpensive and good value for money. They also contain iodine, which is good for my thyroid condition. I’m now a total mussel fan!

Before we headed home, we visited Mercat de la Concepció, a market near our hotel, because I wanted to get some chorizo sausages. The fruit and vegetables were not as impressive in size and quality as compared to the market in Las Ramblas, but it was nowhere as crowded, which made browsing a lot easier. I spotted a whole skinned rabbit at the butcher’s which I felt sorry for and this was followed by a pang of guilt and disgust for being a meat-eater.

I must admit now as I look back to our trip, that I really had a good time! It sure didn’t feel like that when I was dragging my feet and my bump around and the weather was drizzly and gloomy. But it was just brilliant to be able to learn about the differences in culture (I’ve decided eating at 9pm doesn’t work for me), savour so much gorgeous food (Tapas rules!) and visit the interesting Gaudi buildings (He’s a genuis!).

I love Spain!

Explore posts in the same categories: Food, Life, Relationship, Travel

One Comment on “Eat, drink, Barcelona”

  1. sc Says:

    hello dearest. how do you look now?! we haven’t been meeting up much over here. heh. careers moving fast tho! your barcelona trip looks AMAZING. now B and I really miss europe lor.

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