Best for grazing…
Tapa is truly the perfect foodie invention – small serves to share so you can try everything is simply marvvy for a food envy sufferer like myself. Everything served everywhere throughout Barcelona, Seville, Granada and the Costa del Sol was delicious. From the small portions of fried pimentos, crispy empanadas and baked artichoke with Jamon enjoyed on our first day in Barcelona to the spicy pulpo (octopus), deep fried chipirones (baby squids) and rabo de toro estilo cordobés (cordovan style ox tail) devoured at PAPITU on the edge of the La Boqueria markets…
To traditional croquettes with fillings of seafood, mushroom or Jamon, and snack sized portions of chorizo, sizzling garlic oil gambas and surtido de empanadas…
Moving onto slightly larger sized plates of foie gras en tostada, gazpacho and the BEST aubergine tortilla I have ever eaten…the food was always incredibly fresh, tasty and seriously easy to graze on all day.
I thought the French knew how to do baguettes…well so do the Spaniards! From breakfast to dinner and every hour in between beautiful Spanish “barra” were served at restaurants, cafes, bakeries, supermarkets and even petrol stations. Rustic, crunchy and more sourdough-like that their neighbours’ it was either served with olive oil or rubbed with fresh tomato and a touch of garlic. Every morning at breakfast in Seville and Granada there would be a bowl filled with pureed tomatoes ready to drizzle over baguettes or toasted rolls, which were then finished off with a dash of crisp, stunningly sharp flavoured olive oil on top. In fact the best bread I encountered on my European travels was not savoured in France but in Marbella on the Costa del Sol. What’s more it was freshly baked and still hot out of the oven from “The Marketplace” in our resort – Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort! Yes, you read correctly, a global hotel chain supplied freshly baked bread for its guests, all day, everyday. The crust was wonderfully crunchy but not overly crumbly, the texture was dense but incredibly fluffy and oh the taste! Slightly salted and distinct in rustic flavour it was perfect with just a smear of butter on top (which started to melt immediately as I lathered it on).
Something more substantial?
Catalonian Style Salted Cod
I can still recall the moment I took my first bite of traditional salted cod Catalan style served with white beans and salty butifarra (sausage) at La Catalana Restaurante in Placa de les Olles on our last night in Barcelona. My knife crunched through the crispy fried salted skin and through to perfectly flakey white flesh that just tore away from the fillet. The fish combined with the garlicky white beans and flecks of tasty meat was an unbelievable combination. Enjoyed with a glass of smooth Casa Rosé it was by far my most memorable Spanish meal.
Dorada a la sal
This traditional Catalonian dish, which literally translates to “bream in salt” was absolutely divine. Enjoyed on a balmy evening in Seville and a specialty of Restaurante Doña Elvira it came out baked whole in a thick layer of salt and was served to my plate right in front of me. The waiter made dishing up look like a performance art! He impeccably cut the fish along the fillet and de-boned it – with only a spoon and fork. The fish itself was light and fresh in flavour and the white meat perfectly cooked – slightly firm in texture but practically dissolved in the mouth. And surprisingly not at all salty. Combined with a fresh green salad and wax potatoes it was a meal fit for a Real Alcázar king.
Traditional Paella Mista
Of course how can you visit Spain and not eat Paella?! I have a high standard when it comes to Paella…my Dad makes THE best and manages to accomplish a perfect crunchy bottom every time. Fortunately, La Cueva – situated in an adorable orange blossom lined plaça in Seville’s old city – managed to deliver (although sadly, no crunchy bottom). After ordering the traditional Paella Mista it came out stuffed to the brim with delicious clams, mussels and fresh king prawns, chicken thigh, succulent pork cubes and firm white flesh fish…as well as artichoke, green peppers and tomato. If only I had two stomachs! The seafood was incredibly fresh and added a lovely salty element, complimenting the tender pork and offsetting the still slightly firm texture of the rice. Hearty, wholesome and seriously filling my real Spanish Paella experience did not disappoint.
Surprisingly there was not a churro (or xurro) to be had! But boy are the Spanish big on gelati…my top picks would be the wonderfully nutty peanut and tart, zingy natural yogurt with raspberry from El Born Minyo Gelateria in the old town of Barcelona and plátano from Heladeria Los Italianos Granada. I kid you not it tasted like I had just peeled back the skin of a fresh banana.
Fresh fruit and smoothies
Another highlight and Mimi must if you’re travelling to Barcelona is the La Boqueria markets. It was the ultimate foodie destination stuffed to the gunwales with stalls of fresh fruit and smoothies, pastries and seafood, spices, nuts, chocolates and intricate marzipan figurine biscuits. Giant empanadas, prawn skewers and pancakes were being dished out left right and centre.
But I decided to zero in on the fresh produce stalls that lined the outer edges of the markets, which were just overflowing with pressed juices, smoothies, fruit cups, natural ice blocks, giant bunches of bananas and whole pineapples with their heads still attached. My choice was a creamy but refreshing banana and coconut juice and a mango and strawberry fruit cup – thirst quenching and vitamin packed I was ready to tackle Las Ramblas and the Barcelona sun.
Finally, as far as desserts are concerned you simply can’t go past the incredible cakes and sweet delights from Bubó. Each work of edible art is designed by a Barcelona pastry chef, made locally with the finishing touches applied in store – it’s worth a visit just to look! We poured over the glass cabinet filled with sugary treats and individual masterpieces, asking what everything was and what the favourites were. After much deliberation we finally managed to settle on the Llima Alfàbrega – a small, round dome of lemon and basil cream, parmesan and poppyseed sablée, mascarpone and vanilla. It was a serious taste sensation! Light as air and fluffy in texture it was like eating a sweet but lemony cloud sitting on a savoury cheesy-peppery biscuit. Everything in Bubó is simply WOW – and kudos to the genius that came up with the “BIG MAC-ARON”…
This place is MUST if you’re a coffee aficionado. Cafés El Magnífico was the only place found throughout my entire European journey that actually makes real coffee – the kind we in Australia take for granted! With freshly ground beans and drawn out milk frothed to the right tempetature and consistency to make the perfect cappuccino. It was such a relief to drink real coffee after having to survive on the unrecognisable liquid that was being entirely machine produced at a push of a button…milk, foam and all. You should note that this place is not open super early (but then neither is the rest of Barcelona) so sleep in and grab your caffeine fix as you head out for the day at around 10:30am.
I hope you enjoyed this little foray into Spanish cuisine!