Waking up at 9.30 in a luxury apartment in the trendy Born area of Barcelona was just a dream. After a late night flight in and couple of glasses of local red a good sleep was just what I needed. The next thing needed was a coffee and some breakfast....
This is a little story of a 4 day food and wine adventure in Spain, in all there were six of us, although only four in the Fiat. Obviously. Myself, my wife M, brother in law G and his wife J. Other brother in law K and his wife MM went by train.
|Mercat Santa Caterina|
So to breakfast. Cortado, some bread, iberico and manchego from the shop. Simple enough, well until you turn the corner to see Mercat Santa Caterina in front of you it was. Breakfast became brunch as myself and J engaged in a shared favourite pastime. Getting a market fix. This place is phenomenal, being typically Catalan housed in a building of stunning architecture and understated elegance. Inside there must be a dozen fish stands, each with their own regular customers standing waiting their turn and chatting politely. Each one had a couple of ladies with infeasibly large knives deftly and delicately gutting and boning everything from the tiniest anchovy to the largest swordfish. Generally without looking! There were Iberico stalls with every quality of ham, sausage stalls, cheese stalls, stalls selling beef, pork, chicken and one that only seemed to sell offal including tripe, trotters, brains, heads. I'm sure if I looked closely enough I'd have found cock and balls. The vegetable stalls were of such a bright and vibrant colour. This is the sort of place where you come just to watch the world go by, to observe and gasp in amazement. Which is exactly what myself and J did for half an hour over dos cortados as the others waited and wondered where breakfast was. The bread, iberico and manchego eventually arrived, along with a little pocketful of saffron to return to Glasgow.
I love Barcelona, it's such a difficult city to explain because it is all at the same time coastal, suburban, affluent, poor, historical, modern. Above all it is passionate and stylish and a wonderful place to eat. G&J had arrived earlier the previous day and had found a little bar they loved. So when we eventually found El Xampanyet, a traditional Barcelona bar fom 1929 on Carrer de Montcada we decided to stop for a coffee. Except by now it was time for the locals to open the cava (or is it xampanyet, I'm unsure?) so myself and M followed suit. Coming in a litre bottle with an old fashioned milk bottle top you could be forgiven for thinking it would be homemade cheap rubbish. In fact it was remarkably stylish, a fine mousse, good acidity and light biscuity, appley fruit. Definitely a lunchtime fizz and sitting surrounded by 1920s tiling, marble bartops drinking from a traditional champagne glass and listening to the chatter of the local Catalan language you could easily sit here all day. The bar covered in tapas of all kinds from plates, tins, jars was equally inviting. Chorizo, olives, peppers, various seafood and cured meats and fish.
And as it was around noon we decided that they would become lunch. Potatoes with allioli of wonderful fresh garlic; bacalao (salt cod) and cured salmon served with a little tapenade; cured sardines, the ubiquitous Catalan bread of toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic and fresh tomatoes. Each of them delicious, with intense fresh flavours of the sea and the land and the sunshine. You have to love the way the waiter pours two glasses when you order dos coppa but leaves the bottle as he knows chances are you'll finish it. This little place was what Spanish food means to me. It was small, bustling, full of chat, informal, full of history, the smells were unbelievable of garlic and seafood and olive oil and the service was quietly brilliant. After a couple of hours here it was time to move on. This was definitely a Catalan appetiser for the five senses, the holiday had begun and the C32 south to Communitat Valenciana and the wonderful port of Burriana beckoned.
Go to Day 1 continued, Burriana