Archive for the ‘Breakfast / brunch’ Category
Posted in Breakfast / brunch, Cafes, Gracia, International cuisine, Vegetarian morsels, tagged almond, Breakfast / brunch, granola, Les Tres a la Cuina, Ottolenghi, pistachio, rocket on February 16, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Only yesterday I read an article in Barcelona Metropolitan about a Gràcia cafe, just a stone’s throw from my flat, where the owners outlined that much of their inspiration came from Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi? Did you say Ottolenghi? Ooh I was going to wait all of, ooh, 24 hours before heading down there to see what this was all about.
For anyone not familiar with Ottolenghi, although if you know me or read this blog regularly you are sure to have heard me evangelising and generally being a bore about their food, Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi and Palestinian business partner Sami Tamimi own a series of vibrant, enticing cafes in London and Yotam has become something of a print and TV celebrity over the past year too. Their food is characteristic of their Middle Eastern upbringing and is notable for its bold yet complimentary ingredients, strong colours and in my opinion outstanding flavours. I could literally gush all day.
Let’s be clear Les Tres a la Cuina is not trying to emulate Ottolenghi. You won’t find the lavish window displays or lively counter of rainbow salads and baked goods. However, what you will find here is excellent, both in flavour combinations and ingredients that hint to their inspiration and in terms of quality, friendliness and incredible value for money.
Not knowing what to expect we came for a coffee or plate or two and unintentionally ended up having brunch. It was too good to turn down. Three dishes, yes you read that right, three dishes, and a huge café con leche for, wait for it, 9 euros! Lunch time menus and single plates are available during the week too.
To start we had home made granola with Greek yogurt sitting on a layer of either raspberry jam, also made in house, or honey. The yogurt was wonderfully creamy, the jam and granola not too sweet. Fabulous and filling.
Next came a single slice of toasted sourdough from the Reykjavik bakery, rubbed with tomato, topped generously with sweet jamon York (or Yorkshire ham where I come from), a thin layer of cheese, slices of ripe avocado, a pile of rocket, a runny fried egg and a splatter of rocket pesto. For vegetarians there was an option with mushrooms instead. It was so good it was gone far too quickly. They say (good) things come in threes and this was certainly true here. We made space for an amazingly moist, almond and pistachio cake with a delicate layer of water icing and crushed pistachios and possibly a hint of orange zest. A definite hint to the Middle Eastern inspiration we discussed earlier. This was simply divine and as a cake baking aficionado I was slightly envious its simple perfection.
If I was to be slightly critical of Les Tres a la Cuina, and this feels difficult to say after such a fantastic brunch, it would be that a few cushions to make the seating more comfortable and taller tables that were more conducive to eating rather than just having a coffee, wouldn’t go amiss. I have to wonder why they don’t open Sunday for brunch and close Monday instead of the other way round at the moment although I don’t begrudge them their day of rest. I would also have been more than happy to pay 9 euros for a choice of two of the three dishes including the coffee and would certainly have left more than satisfied rather than stuffed. I for one never thought I’d ever utter those last seven words. What has come over me?
Les Tres a la Cuina, Sant Lluis 35, Gràcia
A combination of visitors, a bad back and frozen hands in a cold flat (the worse thing about a Barcelona winter) have kept me away from the laptop of late. If you’re freezing and need the perfect place to get cosy through the next couple of months, you’d be silly to not try out Elsa y Fred.
I’m not quite sure how it’s happened that I’ve been writing this blog for over two years and have only merely hinted at Rekons up to now. It’s a true Argentinian treasure that needs to be shared and not locked in my secret chest. The counter of empanadas , embutidos and enticing cakes, muffins and alfajores seduces you to enter and what was previously a small space has recently been ‘renovated’ (read ‘bashed a wall out’) and has opened up the capacity downstairs. If full there’s also the terrace outside or a shimmy past crates of milk and beers to some upstairs seating. It’s also the only place I’ve ever been where I’ve had to sit sideways on the toilet.
Not sure if it’s the Yorkshire genes or limited budget but regular readers of this blog will know I like to trumpet places that offer great food at reasonable prices and there are few places I’ve come across that achieve that more successfully than here.
Starting with a fruity glass of red I went for the grilled chicken sandwich leaving off the cheese, just adding a dollop of mayo. Unless you are seriously hungry then order the half sandwich, you’ll also pay less than 3€ for this beauty. When I have a sandwich like this I always wonder why on earth international chains with their fake bread, warm limp salad, soggy breaded chicken and not exactly bargain prices are so popular.
My companions shared a plate of varied empanadas, one of beef and pumpkin with an unusual but complimentary sugary topping, another of celery, roquefort and walnuts and the others that slip my mind but the full selection is available on the menu here. Each costs between 1.50 – 3€ depending on your choice and they still have a crispy, flakiness after reheating which is a failing of some of the empanada joints in the city.
What I haven’t captured here are the mountainous, varied salads they serve which have a plethora of ingredients that work even when you sometimes think they wouldn’t. Check out their ‘rekomendaciones’ here for more tantalising options.
A bouncy sponge with a fluffy meringue topping drew us to dessert and had an unexpectedly pleasurable hint of orange running through the sponge and filling which left us with that uncomfortable moment in dessert sharing where noone wants to take the last spoonful but secretly everyone’s hoping it can be theirs.
You can easily enjoy lunch or a light supper, some dessert and a glass of wine here for under 10€, so now my secret’s out go forth and enjoy the riches of Rekons.
Rekons, C/Urgell 32 (corner of C/Floridblanca), Sant Antoní
Posted in Breakfast / brunch, Raval, tagged Australia, Caravelle, Italian, Italian sausages, Mediterranean, peperonata, pulled pork, The Unemployable Chef, Zim Sutton on September 20, 2012 | 2 Comments »
I have been enjoying following the trials and tribulations of Zim, who I only really know as The Unemployable Chef , for the last few months as he has given us his humorous (for us) anecdotes about trying to find a suitable local for opening a new restaurant. Thankfully after 18 months of a bumpy ride he is now the self-employed chef rather than the unemployable one and has finally found and opened Caravelle in my favourite corner of Raval. I couldn’t wait to go along and check it out.
Five weeks ago this was a dusty old bodega with barrels on the walls, now it’s a refreshed, still “work in progress” which felt light, airy and spacious even on the grey, dank day outside.
I was pleased to see local beers from Montseny, I love this Lupulus blond beer, perfect for perusing the short but enticing lunch menu and for chatting with Zim and some familiar faces on his new team.
Zim, an Australian with many years of London behind him, brings us a menu with Italian, Mediterranean and Australian influences, especially where breakfast is concerned, and some recent London hits, such as pulled pork sandwiches which seem to be the flavour of that metropolis these days.
After he told me they are making there own sausages and bacon in-house my indecision was conquered and I went for the salchichas caseras con alubias, trufa y peperonata, homemade Italian style sausages with white beans, truffle and stewed peppers. This didn’t stop me looking longingly at the vibrant heap of beetroot, feta, lentil and mint salad nor the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw I saw being brought out to fellow diners as I waited for my order.
There was no need for food envy, I’d chosen wisely and I absolutely loved this plate of food. Bulging, fennel spiced sausages burst onto the creamy, comforting white beans set against the sweet peppers and the salty parmesan just finished it brilliantly. I was smiling inside as I ate.
As I tried to eat slower to make it last longer, I saw two loaves of brioche that we’d been discussing coming out of the oven and went to take a nosy. Zim gave me a slice from a cooled loaf to try, which was delicious, slightly chewy and I didn’t hesitate to use it to mop up the remainder of my sausage and beans, feeling like a child at home again.
Not satisfied with just making charcuterie, their brioche and sourdough are being made in house with other breads coming from the brilliant bakers at Baluard although more home made doughs are sure to follow once they get settled in. I really wanted to try a dessert but the main course and the beer were pushing my stomach to its limit, but when the word alfajore was mentioned and that the maker of them was currently doing a patisserie course at Hofmann I decided I could probably find a small pocket of space. I love alfajores and this didn’t let me down. It was buttery, flaky yet not powdery like some I’ve tried, had a generous layer of dulce de leche and I liked the extra colouring it had acquired in the oven.
Caravelle is open Tuesday to Sunday with the menu changing daily, for breakfast there are offerings such as banana bread with chocolate and dulce de leche, pancakes, eggs and bacon and dinner gives us the options of ‘small’ plates and ‘big’ plates, I like when things are so simple in this complicated world. And they call a pudding a pudding.
Zim and his team have certainly got a lot on their big plate now the long search has ended but as they say, good things come to those who wait, and I urge you not to.
Caravelle, C/Pintor Fortuny 31, Raval
I tend not to make a habit of writing about places I haven’t enjoyed. I don’t get much pleasure out of editing photos and putting words to copy if it doesn’t bring back good memories of the meal, nor do I want to slate the efforts others are making in setting up new business ventures. However, I’m going to make a brief exception with Mama’s cafe as it was a real disappointment despite seeming to hold such promise.
In the post Federal world it seems every new opening is made up of muted colours and pared back furnishings. I’m not against this, it lacks a certain originality but is soothing and relaxing and does set the right tone for breakfast and brunch. Mama’s cafe was appealing the several times I passed by and the internal patio is an inviting extension to the main eating space. So, where did it all fall apart? In short, rock hard toast on all orders, overly fatty bacon that seemed like the slices hadn’t even been separated when removed from their packaging, broken poached eggs accompanied by a slightly huffy “well they will take longer” when ordered.
My friend’s almost 9€ (!) beef sandwich over-promised yet under-delivered coming without the melted gruyère stated on the menu and left her underwhelmed and me still reeling at the price tag. I know it’s huge but that’s par for the course here and it’s not unusual to be served such a log of bread as a sandwich.
The huffing continued when my other friend’s undocumented pancakes with bacon and maple syrup were returned to the kitchen. “Very well done” she requested for the bacon, when they arrived, late, she said the bacon wasn’t well done and asked for it to be cooked a little longer. Cue brief discussion from waiter that the bacon was indeed well done but he eventually did take it back to the kitchen at her insistence. Sadly she still didn’t get to finish her dish as only two of the three pancakes were actually cooked, the third still raw in the middle. The maple syrup got her Canadian thumbs up though.
Mama’s cafe also offers a range of salads, pica pica dishes and an afternoon/evening menu replacing the brunch dishes but I honestly don’t have the ganas to return. I can’t help wondering if there was an air of Saturday morning hangover in the air which would explain the moodiness and eyes being off the ball.
Mama’s cafe, C/Torrijos 26, Gracia
As you may have seen elsewhere on this blog I contribute monthly to the miniguide in Barcelona. I usually reserve the article just for my Facebook page or the archive here. But, as the summer ‘sweat without even moving’ season has arrived and I’m fantasising about cold beers and mustering the energy and appetite to make some food, it seems a shame not to share useful Barcelona information for one of the other seasons we’re in….that of barbeque season.
Grey November skies and what seems to have been almost a fortnight of a constant deluge of rain (I can almost hear the non-sympathy vote coming from those reading this in the UK) mean the opportunities for a picnic are now put on the back burner until the spring. Thankfully, there is an alternative Picnic waiting to shield us from the autumnal gloom. As with so many of the newer openings in the city, Picnic is filled with pastel shades, faux vintage nic-nacs and bold, bright flowers, all of which are cosy and inviting but for me, nothing more than the latest bandwagon that lacks a little originality. However, they have also jumped on the trend for brunch and this is never a bad thing in a city that lacks midday, weekend options.
Decor is one thing, what’s on my plate is another. Lunch is the best value time to eat in Spain, the menu del dia is a welcome hangover from the Franco days. Basically this is a 2 or 3 course meal, usually including wine or soft drink and a coffee for a set price. Here it was 10.50€ for a main course + dessert or 12.50€ for starter, main course and dessert. As someone who prefers to have starter and main but skip the dessert I would’ve welcomed another third option for 10.50€.
A small basket of wonderfully chewy, fennel laced foccacia entertained us whilst we waited for our orders. We got through almost three of these by the end of the meal. I think that says it all and thanks to the very friendly waiter who kept them coming.
Sharp yet sweet pomegranate seeds topped the satisfying brown lentil salad with walnuts and green beans which left me feeling healthily smug and the flakes of sea salt sprinkled through it set it alive.
The ‘market fish’ of the day was that Iberian favourite hake, a beautiful generous piece of which sat atop some neat squares of hash brown and accompanied by a slightly wilted, ‘too long in the dressing before being served’ salad. The hash browns will be excused of their sogginess as they were tasty nonetheless and a dash of lime in the crème fraîche would’ve given the plate a zing. The hake was wonderful and I adore crispy fish skin.
Given that I hadn’t really wanted dessert I chose the simple yet refreshing fruit salad, known here in Spain as macedonia, though quite how a bowl of mixed fruit should come to be named after a Balkan country is beyond me.
My friends went for the other dessert option of mouthwatering mini pancakes which came with a spoonful of maple syrup and fresh berries, the perfect size portion for a lunchtime meal. This isn’t the cheapest menu del dia to be found, but the general quality of the food and coffee, the full bodied glass of wine and the welcoming waiter meant it was money well spent. Now back to the street, where did I leave my umbrella?
Picnic, C/Comerç 1, Born
I’m not much of a croissant eater. That’s not to say I don’t adore those golden horns of buttery, flaky pastry, but as someone who both likes a substanstial breakfast and puts on weight a little too easily, I find myself always going for a more filling, relatively less calorific option.
So it was on the advice of my croissant loving friend who reliably informed me she had road tested many of these pastries whilst in Barcelona, that I was pointed in the direction of Hofmann with the promise that these were the best specimens the city has to offer. Hofmann is a key player on the Barcelona culinary scene with a prestigious restaurant, cookery school and patisserie in the city and their croissants not only get the thumbs up from my pal Sarah, but also won the award for the ‘Best hand made butter croissant in Spain 2010′.
So, are these croissants worthy of such an esteemed prize? In all honesty, yes. They are beautifully light, buttery yet not greasy and they go without that unnecessary sticky glaze which crowns so many of Barcelona’s croissant offerings. At 1.10€ they are also a snip and don’t come with an award winning price tag. Hofmann Pastelería, C/ Flassaders, 44, Born
Federal has undoubtedly been the hottest, new kid on the block since it opened in the sticky summer months of last year. If you wandered past Federal in north London you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance, but in Barcelona it’s something of a rarity, strikingly different from the other café offerings with it’s paired back, muted, airy style and offering that other Barcelona rarity, brunch. The weekend mornings throng with friends getting together, couples sharing breakfast and the morning papers, solo eaters with their heads also buried in the global updates of the day. It can be difficult to get a table on a Saturday or Sunday morning but once you’ve succeeded you can enjoy the light streaming in and in the warmer months enjoy your meal on the roof terrace or with your legs slung onto the street when they peel back the ground level windows and doors. My friend Vera, fellow Barcelona blogger and much more proficient photographer than myself, has captured the feeling of Federal here.
I try not to be a creature of habit, but where eggs are concerned, there’s only one thing for breakfast. And I love these eggs, baked in a Staub cast iron dish with slices of pancetta according to the menu, to me it’s good old back bacon, some crème fraîche and finely sliced spring onion.
The two slices of lightly toasted and buttered sourdough loaf are begging to be dunked into that runny egg and undeniably rich and calorific creamy mixture but the sharpness of the onion stops it just short of being too much. My freshly squeezed orange juice, swimming with bits which I love, washed it all down. This is not a dish for those watching their waistlines but indulgence is what weekend’s are for aren’t they? Unlike previous occasions (and there have been many), the bacon on this particular day was very salty and left me with a thirst all morning.
My companion started with the breakfast seeded muffin, but for her breakfast isn’t breakfast without something sweet so had ‘seconds’ of the back forest cupcake, and so resumed our usual cupcake ‘love them/hate them’ debate.
Federal shouldn’t just be a destination for breakfast or brunch, they have an evening menu of light meals and salads, check the opening times as I believe the kitchen closes for a period between the morning and evening services but your hunger gap can be filled and weary legs rested with the coffee, tea and cake selection throughout the day. Sadly, my one and only cake experience has been disappointing, a slice of carrot cake that beneath the icing could only be described as a ‘cakey-jelly’, I can’t even imagine how that was created.
Regardless of their success, their beautiful setting and my own enjoyment of their venture I hope these small flaws will be ironed out, along with the repeated comments I ‘ve heard about less than friendly welcomes at busy times. It’s especially easy for things to fall below par when you are riding high on a wave of popularity
Our farewell was nothing other than warm, two kisses goodbye from the owner and a handful of childhood sweet shop treats from the jars behind the cash register. Surprised at my immediate identification of all the confection, my first Saturday job at a ‘pick and mix’ market stall still etched on my memory, he had us leaving with a pocketful of butterscotch tablets, cinder toffee and jelly babies.
Federal, C/Parlament 39 (with Comte Borrell), Sant Antoní