I read somewhere recently that Barcelona has 11,000 restaurants and cafes. Judging by the proliferation of Paellador pre-cooked paella and other ‘typically’ Spanish oven ready dishes being advertised outside so many I pass I would make a good guess that many of this number are not worth setting foot in to try out.
Thankfully, the Cuina del mercat tapas and tasting area at the ‘Mercat del Mercats’ gave us the opportunity to sample some of the offerings from 12 of the best the city has to offer. Those involved and their head chefs were:
Restaurant LLuçanès – Àngel Pasqual
Saüc – Xavi Franco
Comerç 24 – Carles Abellán
Bar La Torna – Josep M. Sancerni
Restaurant Suquet de l’Almirall – Quim Marquès
Bar Kiosko Universal – Benjamín Domínguez
Restaurant Cuines Santa Caterina – José Santiago
Restaurant Koy Shunka – Hideki Matsuhisa and Zhang Chao Xu
Bar/Restaurant El Velòdrom – Josep Lorenç
Bar Nuri – Núria Castellà and Jordi Anglí
Bar El Quim de la Boqueria – Joaquín Márquez Durán
Restaurant Avalon/Freixa Tradició – Ramon Freixa
As with most civic events like this, no cash changes hands for food or drinks. There was a range of tickets on offer giving you the option to taste cavas, tapas plates, or in our case, a couple of tapas plates and a soft drink or beer. In the jostle and bustle of the crowds I haven’t managed to note exactly which dishes came from each establishment but here is a selection of some of what tickled our taste buds.
My first plate was a stew of cuttlefish, salxitxa sausage and prawns from seafood reataurant Suquet de l’Almirall. This is an example of what Catalans call ‘mar i muntanya’ (sea and mountain), we would call it ‘surf and turf’, the joining of seafood with meat. Even to my usual fish loving palette this leant a bit too far to the ‘fishy’ side for me, but that’s down to personal taste rather than a bad dish. It could’ve suffered from being really salty but wasn’t and even though I personally didn’t love it I still gobbled it down whilst forcing my way through the crowds.
As I munched on my stew I sneakily stuck my spoon into my friend’s guacamole with salmon and sesame seeds. Smooth, rich, slightly lemony guacomole was topped with tiny pieces of smoked salmon and a sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds. Tapas envy kicked in as I wish I’d chosen that.
I spotted said friend’s boyfriend happily chewing on a pintxos, I’m guessing this was form one of the stalls hosted by the bars rather than the restaurants. I have no picture but imagine a skewer of soft grilled pork, tinged orange from spices, unsurprisingly I managed to procure a little nibble of that also. The offering from Comerç 24 was a quintessential Spanish tapas dish of ensalada rusa. Now this is something I would never be interested inordering in a bar, the idea of cubes of potato, carrots and peas in a mountain of mayonnaise just doesn’t appeal. I also have a student whose loathing for this dish is unsurpassable. However, there’s ensalada rusa and there’s ensalada rusa. This was a large quinelle of pureed potato containing pieces of the vegetable ingredients, a dribble of mayonnaise piped across the top and finished with a sprinkling of gherkins and some hand made crisp breads. Much more refined and much more delicious.
Japanese restaurant Koy Shunka offered a break from the traditional local fare and gave us some neat sushi rolls with a flack of wasabi on the side. Unfortunately we didn’t taste these but they were very popular, as was their Sunday demonstration.
After seeing someone wandering around with what looked like some delicious chorizo stew I went to hunt that down. I was mislead and instead found Bar La Torna servinga couple of varieties of tripe stew and some impressive looking bread. Thus far I’ve not been able to learn to like tripe so gave it a miss but many souls were enthusiastically handing over their tickets and heartily tucking in.
However my favourite dish has to be the poached egg with fried lardons of onion and bull blanc sausage. The eggs, cooked in their shells in a water bath were then delicately peeled and sat on top of the crispy onion and sausage and finished with incredibly finely chopped chives. Oh, for a water bath so that making poached eggs no longer eludes me. The chefs were working a fierce line here to keep the dishes filled with the artery clogging fried mixture, eggs peeled and unbroken and cute final dishes finished.
Other stalls offered huge prawns simply poached, another friend sampled a risotto, the flavour of which I can’t remember. Our vegetarian friends were a little under represented so chose to purchase from Organic a vegetarian and vegan restaurant and Boqueria stall in the city. Sadly they were underwhelmed by the burrito wraps they had and complained they were bland. I also had space for a little something else, the tapas was fun but I was a hungry chica so I wandered to get some coca. As I’ve mentioned here before this is a water and oil dough similar to that of pizza which is very common here. Often served with red peppers, ham, cheese, or fish toppings on this day I found one reminiscent of a pasty, stuffed with spinach, sultanas and pine nuts. Rather sweet but a great combination. Once again my photography fails me and I’ve pictured the whole item but not split it to show you the insides. Note to self: Must slow down and not let stomach lead me to rushing to get my teeth stuck in. For 3€ this was very filling and finished my off my remaining, gurgling hunger.