Barcelona: the Round-Up I

Sunday, 3 February 2013



Welcome to the City Gourmand v2! It was probably about time (it's only been a year and a half haha). With a little help I have rejigged the design of my little blog. Hope you like it! Today I thought I'd share with you just a few of the eateries I managed to try out during my fleeting time in Barcelona. I already miss it so! I have well and truly been bitten by the travel/foodie bug and there is only one cure...

As we progressed through the trip, I came to the (rather awful) realisation that I could only manage 2 'largish' meals a day instead of my usual 3 (or 5 if you count grazing). Even with all the walking we were doing I could only do 2 servings of shaved Iberíco ham per day. Shock horror (but still so good)! Ready? Here goes...

Cuines Santa Caterina

Mercado Santa Caterina, Avda. Francesc Cambó 16 08003 Barcelona

If you ask me, this is a most ingenious idea. The premise (during day trade) is that you buy whatever fresh produce you like from the market; meats, seafood, veg (whatever floats your boat really), bring it over to the Cuines and they will cook it for you right there and then! It's just like having a personal chef except you have the pleasure of doing your own food shop ;) I have no idea why more places don't do this! At night, the Cuines turns into a more civilized à la carte affair (with an expansive menu) with attached bar displaying the most fabulous looking tapas to drool over whilst you sip your cava. Tough life!


Cuines Santa Caterina has a somewhat 'designer mess hall' feel to it. Large communal tables dot the large space. The Christmas decorations lent it a special vibe, including a model train that does laps of the restaurant.

Taking refuge from the chill after visiting Fira de Santa Llúcia (Christmas markets), Cuines Santa Caterina is a hop, skip and a jump away. The menu placemat has a huge array of dishes, laid out in tabular form. Feel like a dish from the charcoal oven? Check. Or maybe 'Mediterranean' is more to your taste? The health freak in me was thrilled to see that they offer freshly squeezed juices. I chose a papaya, grapefruit, raspberries and lime juice for myself, though they were a bit on the pricey side (6,30). Eep! 

Assorted seasonal tomatoes and loin of tuna (left) and Artichokes with ham and clams (right). The ingredients were treated very simply as to massive their flavour. I can't fault them for that. The heirloom tomatoes were beautiful and fresh, smeared with some black olive tapenade. The clam and artichoke hot pot was nicely flavoured. A very generous helping to share with your fellow diners (or not)!

The KISS principle: Catalan sausage with baby beans and foie. You really don't have to mess about, it speaks for itself.

Golden oldies: tira misù and tarte tatin. The tira misu looks beautiful and pretty much hit the (sweet) spot. Though I could always do with a more intense coffee hit in there. The apples on the tarte tatin had great caramelization but I found the pastry a bit dense (by this point I was also bursting).

The Cuines is a great little spot, especially with such a big menu and friendly staff. I felt very welcome here, I think Christmas was in the air! The food here was simple, tasty and no-nonsense. You might even have time to pay more than one visit!

Matamala

Rambla Catalunya 13, 08007 Barcelona

The problem with eating out on Xmas eve is that you're hard pressed to find anywhere that's open! I have bad memories wandering the streets of Roma trying to find a place to eat (tourist trap central)! Luckily, our helpful concierge at Hotal Praktik Rambla (a great hotel btw) recommended Matamala to us, to sample 'cuina catalana'. So, onward! ;)


How con-weenient: the restaurant happened to be on the same street our hotel was. Perfect! The super high wattage of the light display was very pretty but probably unnecessary!

Surprisingly, the restaurant was rather busy! We were lucky to get a table as walk-ins. Local Barcelonians sat with several generations of family to share a meal together. In Spanish custom, Christmas Eve is when families gather to exchange presents, decorate the tree and eat (read: feast) together. My ears pricked to other twangs of English (American, maybe?) emanating from nearby tables  which made me smile. The restaurant has a modern bistro design with lots of white leather booths and bar seating. It may not look it, but the Matamala family has been proudly promoting Catalan cuisine for 3 generations. They have a commitment to serve seasonal produce, sourced locally whenever possible. Their philosophy also translates to the foodstuffs they have available for sale on their walls.


Rabbit from Baldomar, vermouth, olives from Aragón. Am I massive nerd to be reminded of the LOTR character? Anyway! Rabbit legs nestled on a bed of boiled potatoes and the biggest olives I've ever seen. The dish was very tasty, the rabbit nice and tender without a hint of gameyness. Rabbit done right. It's all I ask for ;)

Continuing on the 'unusual' we have the boneless pig's trotters with dried fruit and apple from Girona. The trotters, cooked for hours were gelatinous and delicious. The apple and pork like ying and yang. On the side (right) we had the  spinach salad, crunchy bacon, toasted almonds and mustard vinaigrette. The perfect accompaniment to out meaty mains and dressed well

Dolce (but of course)!

Catalan custard 'traditional and renewed'. Two little rammekins with a twist on the traditional crème Catalan. The custard (left) was quite tart, I'm actually not sure if it was supposed to be like that and a bit too thick. The new styley (right) was a foam, I preferred this version much more. The biscotti were a nice dipping implement but slightly superfluous

Matamala has expanded my 'Catalan' food vocabulary no end (from non-existent anyway). Here in Barcelona, amongst hundreds of really top notch tapas bars, they've figured out a winning formula. Good food served in casual modern surrounds = full house! 

Thanks for reading! xGourmand

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