On a dark and dreary Wednesday morning in February I left Ali and our little zoo behind to head for Barcelona with my parents and little-bigger brother. After our trip to Rome last year we decided to make it a yearly event to get away together. Unfortunately Ali couldn’t make it this time due to work commitments but we soldiered on! Upon landing in the Catalan capital we hopped on the Aerobus from El Prat airport and arrived in the Placa de Catalunya just 20 minutes later. We still had a few hours to wait before we could check into our appartment so we sat down for some breakfast in a little Italian cafe just off the Passeig de Gracia. The plan had been to get the metro from Placa de Catalunya to Diagonal but before we knew it we had walked to the Diagonal metro stop! With an hour still to wait we sat down on the Rambla de Catalunya and ordered some booze. Throughout our trip the wine was wonderful. I would never be able to live in Barcelona for that reason, it’s taste and price would instantly render me an alcoholic.
Our appartmant was located in a residential area of Gracia surrounded by small business’, bakery’s and restaurants. We had a rest before heading out for some dinner. We walked down to Las Ramblas and after a quick look around the Boqueria food market we decided to eat in the close by Cullera de Boix. The paella here is wonderful. I ordered the Valencian which consisted of pork, chicken and rabbit with the usual rice and vegetables. The meat was tender and the rice well cooked but it was the smokey flavour that I most enjoyed. The host told me that it was cooked for 10 minutes over fire and 10 minutes in the oven and although over fire could mean anything, I would be willing to bet that there’s a wood fired stove or oven involved here. Delicious.
Thursday, after a walk to the Sagrada Familia, we continued down into the city again. After sitting down and admiring the dogs (it’s a very dog friendly city) in the Ciutadella Park we walked towards Via Laietana and found a buzzing restaurant for lunch. O’Marulo is a very popular lunch time restaurant on Carrer d’Ortigosa. When we arrived it was just starting to fill up but by the time we were leaving there was a que for tables. There are two clear reasons for this: the food is simple but excellent and it is amazing value! 3 courses plus a drink and tea/coffee for €10.45 is a treat that could be afforded everyday. I had a delicious paella, followed by fried fresh anchovies and finished with a crema catalana (similar to a creme brulee). We found ourselves back in the area on Friday and again dropped in for lunch. The most impressive thing was that the menu had completely changed from the previous day.
After our monstrous 3 course lunch I decided to make use of our kitchen and cook something light for dinner. For ingredients we went to the Santa Caterina Market where I picked up some langoustines (after a mis-translation of price: I mistakenly thought they were just €12 per KG but after handing in a 50 and recieving just €16 back, I soon realised my error. Nevermind, we’re on holiday after all!), garlic, tomatoes, jamon iberico and some beautiful fresh bread. I cooked this and it went down a treat, perfect after such a big lunch!
On Friday morning we took the metro down to the marina and after a look around the maremagnum we found ourselves looking for lunch. We decided to go back to O’Marulo again as we had enjoyed it so much the previous day and on the way we stumbled upon a farmers market selling everything from meats and cheese to bee wax moisturiser and honeycomb. I picked up a kilo of hard goats cheese and some honeycomb before heading off to O’Marulo. I went for stuffed peppers for starter while we all went for the rabbit casserole for mains and it was delicious. If you find yourself in Barcelona give this place a try for lunch, highly recommended. That night we had a good look around the Gracia area and went for a late dinner in La Cigale. We had great nachos to start with and even better burgers for mains. If you’re looking for a great burger in Barcelona this place has to be on your list. They have a pretty exhausting alcohol list too!
Saturday was match day (Shane and myself got tickets for FC Barcelona vs Malaga) so we were taking it easy from the start. During another good look around Gracia we stumbled upon the Mercat de la Llibertat. It was a little calmer than La Boqueria and the Santa Caterina and so the vendors could show a little more personality, epitomised by their attempts to make faces during my picture taking! This was my favourite of the three markets we were at, it gives more of a glance into the catalan food habits than either of the other two, We stopped for lunch at a not so great cafe close to our apartment before heading off for the Nou Camp.
After the match ( a dreadful 1-0 loss), we walked back into Gracia and got ready for dinner at Cal Boter. This is a charming restaurant specialising in Catalan cuisine. We had tried to go on Friday evening but it was full so we made a booking for our last night. I had pigs trotters with shrimp which was wonderful while Shane’s duck dish was so good that he ordered it again for dessert! A nice last supper in Barcelona. After a few glasses of Rioja it was time for bed, to be ready for our early flight home.
The fun wasn’t over yet however. After buying 4 bottles of Rioja in the duty free I stuffed them into my bag and boarded the plane. All was fine until we landed in Dublin and I put my bag down to put on a jacket. The bag rolled and after joking that I probably broke a few bottles we set off for passport control. While waiting in the que Shane pointed out that it’s easy to know we were back in Ireland as the airport seemed to smell like an off license……as we looked down and saw a trail of red wine behind my bag. Delightful.