Barcelona: Paella to Parc Guel

Following the recent tragedy in Barcelona, I wanted to share this piece about my experience of the beautiful city that is one of my favourite places to have visited.

Back in February I took a city break to Barcelona to explore not only the works of Gaudi but also to try out the food. A chance to see where the best places to eat are and where to go for authentic Spanish food. It is a City renowned for great food from Tapas to Paella it was a place I had always wanted to visit.

When walking through the streets of Barcelona you aren’t short of choices of places to eat. As great as this is it can be difficult to know where the best place to go is. A city filled with stunning architecture and many places to walk you’ll soon work up an appetite. This makes choosing where to eat all the more important.

To point us in the right direction we asked at the hotel one evening as to where they suggested we eat for authentic Spanish food and he advised we try La Tramoia. With ‘Tramoia’ meaning intrigued it is certainly a restaurant you need to discover for yourself, until then intrigued you will be. Situated along the main road just off Las Ramblas, the road known for its selection of designer shops, it is perfectly located to stop and refuel after a hard day shopping.

As you walk in you are greeted with a mix match environment, beautifully presented with a homely feel as though you’ve walked into someone’s – very large – kitchen. We ordered the seafood paella filled with prawns, clams, calamari, and mussels – all the flavours of the sea. You can taste the olive oil, rich tomatoes, with the rice absorbing all these flavours to create a fragrant and thick slow cooked rice dish.

Certainly filling, but you’ll still be left wanting more, for the combination of flavours is something you’ll want to last. The beauty of the city extends to its food, the mosaic detail of Gaudi’s work in Park Guel is reminiscent in the paella with each individual piece of rice merged together to create a piece of art. Something so good you’ll be going back for more.

Staff were friendly, spoke their best English although, at times, communication can be a little on the difficult side. This can be quite refreshing as it makes the restaurant feel genuine. Something I always tend to look out for is who is eating in the restaurant, here there were many Spanish families and friends all enjoying the food. This, to me, is a sign of good food, if the locals are willing to eat here too then it must be of a good standard. But try yourself and let the food do the talking.

To drink, we asked for a glass of the house wine, to which the waiter prompted we try the Catalan wine. It is clear that many traditional restaurants within the area are potentially biased in that they push for you to have the Catalan wine, after all, it is their wine essentially. This is a nice touch as you can truly experience dining in Barcelona as a local, with locally sourced produce. He was however nothing but friendly and not pushy to the point you felt forced to try this.

IMG_7181.JPGWhen it comes to dessert it is something I may not always have room for, but, when I saw they served my favourite, Catalan crème brulee I  had to try it. It was different to the crème brulee I have had before, it had a hint of cardamom in it. Usually, I am not a huge fan of cardamom – it can work in some dishes and it did in this one. It was an interesting combination of flavours and although I did enjoy it I wouldn’t search high and low for it again. For me, the traditional flavour works well enough on its own it does not need too much adjusting, if any. It was accompanied by a cantucci biscuit, the almond flavour created a nice contrast with the dish and the added texture was a great touch.

 

We spent our last morning at the Picasso museum, admiring his many pieces of work. On our stroll back to the hotel we were exploring through the back roads of the city. Here we discovered a rather large local indoor market, but not the kind of market typically found in England. Filled with fresh fish, cheeses and cured meats, it was pure heaven. All the ingredients you need to make a great meal, from fresh vegetables with vibrant greens and reds to the smell of fresh fish making you feel as though you are by the sea. So, of course, as you do, we brought manchego and pecorino as well as some salami. This is the kind of place where they know their food.

 

It was off the beaten track – away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was the kind of place locals seemed to stop on their way to work to grab a coffee or bite to eat. Being lunchtime, we ordered some tapas to share, with some advice from the waitress as to which anchovies would be best, along with patatas bravas, and serrano ham, accompanied by a side of bread.

The patatas bravas were crispy on the outside and fluffy inside, accompanied by aioli, a garlic mayonnaise style dip. It was also contrasted with a spicy tomato sauce, both flavours work well together and create a nice balance, the cool mayonnaise with added spice from the tomato sauce. I suppose in comparison the English version could be the roast potato, with this idea of a crispy outside and soft centre. For me, I would always choose patas bravas when having Tapas in the same way I would only have roast potatoes with a roast dinner, how could you not? Though they may be heavy, the small portions served with the tapas works well. The anchovies were marinated in a white wine vinegar and olive oil style dressing.

IMG_7185.JPGThis is where the bread is used to soak up all the olive oil and white wine vinegar. Lastly, the serrano ham, delicately thin but full of flavour. Add to the bread to combine the great flavours.

 

Barcelona was certainly a great city to visit, though you may be surrounded by many tourists here and there it is not hard to escape away and find yourself in the heart of the more traditional Barcelona. This is where you will find the best food and eat like a local. For true Spanish cuisine, the price is not as expensive as it is in restaurants targeted at tourists.

Nevertheless, there is still great food on almost every corner, just be vigilant when choosing where to eat, to make sure you are getting only the best flavours. For a quick getaway break it certainly made a lasting impression with the eyes as well as the taste buds, and is without a doubt a place I will explore again.

Advertisements

Turkish: Kervan Sofrasi – North London

If you’re looking for great Turkish food at a reasonable price then this your place. The portion size will be sure not to leave you hungry – and there will probably still be leftovers, which I always bring home. I love restaurants that focus less on the fancy dinning wear and more or authentic flavours. With its simple interior and traditional food Kervan will give you everything you need for your dining experience.

There are 3 Kervan Sofrasi’s in North London, 2 in Edmonton and 1 in Southgate, (click to visit to website). They all serve the same food but I think the Southgate restaurant is their best one. Value for money is great and when I go with friends or family we often get some platters to share, the Kervan Special which is just £32.50. These contain a bit of everything Lamb and Chicken chops, wings shish and donner, you name it and its there, also served with rice, cous cous and bread.

I rarely order starters as they provide you with bread and salad free of charge, sometimes i’ll order hummus as it goes well with the bread. One dish I definitely would recommend the Lahmacun as a side, it’s a thin piece of crispy dough topped with onions, peppers, tomato, chilli and parsley, incredible flavours and irresistible taste. If you love meat then you’ll definitely be able to find something great on the menu.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been here as I’ve lost count, it’s probably one of my go to restaurants as its not too far nor is it too expensive, I’ve celebrated birthdays and different occasions and they’re great at serving large parties.

Rating: 5/5