Monday, 2 August 2010

Barcelona...such a beautiful horizon

A slightly belated post as we actually went to Barcelona on the May bank holiday weekend. I've been meaning to post for a while but I we ate so much in Barcelona I felt so overwhelmed every time I sat down to write it! So, I have decided to provide a kind of abridged version but I have a feeling it's not going to end up very abridged! I think I may get carried away...

Our first evening, Saturday night, was a wet one (as was much of the weekend). We dumped our bags in the hotel and headed straight out to Cerveceria Catalana. This place is so popular there's always a queue for it so we decided to sit outside, under the umbrellas as no-one but Brits would put up with that.

We had the usual tapas to ease ourselves into the trip: patatas bravas, gambas, pan con tomate, manchego, jamon and more.
The highlight of the meal was the coconut 'flan' which was like a coconutty creme caramel and was absolutely delish. The last time I had flan in Spain I thought I was put off it for life when I found a rogue broad bean in it but this has turned me back on to it!

On Sunday, having visited the major Gaudi buildings and walked for miles, we headed over to Barceloneta. I'm so glad we decided to do this on a Sunday as the atmosphere down there was incredible. Such a buzz and bustling with Spanish families and tourists alike. Time Out had recommended a place called Kaiku so we wondered past all the obvious over-priced sea-view restaurants to a more rustic place, full of Catalans, tucked away right at the end of the promenade. We couldn't get a seat outside but we were lucky to get a seat at all.

This modest restaurant with paper tablecloths specialises in paella, so of course we ordered one. Surprisingly, there was a starter of a foie gras salad with blueberry vinaigrette. When there's foie gras on the menu, the Neal girls never say no (yes, I do feel guilty saying it!)! Even more surprising was the innovative presentation of the salad: if you look at the photo you see that it looks like the salad is covered in breadcrumbs. These are in fact shavings of foie gras! I think they must have frozen the foie and then grated it. I will have to give it a try, as you can make a little go a long way.

Next up was the paella with squid ink, wild mushrooms and mixed shellfish. This was a proper paella and not a red pepper in sight!

All washed down with a chilled bottle of red, this was the perfect way to spend a Sunday in Barcelona!

Tom Aikens and the Cloudy Bay Shack, Parson's Green

Last weekend saw the arrival of Tom Aikens and the Cloudy Bay shack in Parson's Green. This was a pop-up beautiful old-fashioned van serving Tom Aikens' food matched with Cloudy Bay wines. I won't talk much about the wine as I was a bit hungover at the time!

Deep fried paprika squid with garlic and paprika aioli. Yummy squid with spring onions, coriander and chilli, a bit like the garnish of Thai-style salt and pepper squid. At the back is Dorset crab with chilli and ginger, served on a leaf of endive. I only tried a tiny bit but apparently it was good.

7 hour braised lamb with sweet braised onions. Looking at the picture, the lamb is probably not the one you think. The onions look more like a rich stewed lamb and the lamb looks far too light! In fact, this was a kind of summery version of braised lamb. It came apart in long light strands, which sounds horrible but had incredible flavour. The only thing I felt it lacked was something to mop up the juices, eg mashed potato or even a spoon. This was paired with a delicious Pinot Noir.

I do think they missed a trick not offering a dessert, but perhaps Cloudy Bay don't feel their wine matches sweet dishes. All in all, a nice thing to do on a summer's afternoon, watching Tom Aikens hard at work, listening to jazz, dog-spotting and whiling away an hour or so in the sun.