I used to think happiness was a steaming bowl of soup, a luscious, rich ice cream or chicken slowly barbecued with lots of spices. I was wrong. Happiness is having a fully functioning, just like new laptop. So after weeks of clumsy messaging and browsing on my phone my fingers can grace the keyboard and scratch that blogging itch.
With the technological breakdown it’s time to play catch up, and several weeks have now passed since I treated my good friend Sarah to a birthday menu del día lunch at Ca L’Estevet.
This hidden treasure of the Raval has been around for more than 120 years and was a popular hang out for the Barcelona left wing intellectuals and artists, not to mention other celebrities that have graced its tables during its lifetime. At 18€ a head the menu del día is at the pricier end of the city’s lunchtime offerings but the quality of the ingredients shone through and for me justified the charge. What follows is some of the most uncomplicated yet satisfying food I’ve eaten in Barcelona.
Chunks of tunneled sourdough dipped in Borges oil satiated our hunger until our steaming plates of mejillones arrived, naked and unadorned except for a wedge of lemon. It never occurs to me to eat this marine favourite of mine without a bath of wine, parsley, garlic or tomatoes, but these were simply heavenly, fresh, juicy and a wonderful hint of seawater.
The simplicity rolled on with grilled hake steaks, again naked except for a drizzle of olive oil and that wedge of lemon. I would’ve preferred some spears of seasonal asparagus or other more complimentary partner as an accompaniment rather than the uncomfortable marriage of half a tomato, but nonetheless the fish was beautiful and just flaked from the bone. Hake is such a pleasure to eat, no fiddly bones holding you back from just tucking in. The beans to botifarra ratio was probably slight skewed on Sarah’s plate and a slightly heavier handed addition of parsley probably wouldn’t have gone a miss either. However, this was a no nonsense honest plate of good ingredients again.
Tocino de cielo was something new for me. Informed by the waiter that this was not flan, we both reacted with a ”but it is” when it arrived at the table. But, appearances can be deceptive. Like non-identical twins there is a slight but noticeable difference. Tocino de cielo is made with just egg yolks, whites and sugar and not with the addtion of cream as in flan. This gave it a distinctive taste, much like the filling of our native egg custard tart and with the light caramel syrup the slurps, mmms and ahhs kept flowing.
It’s common when having a menu del día for the bottle of wine to be left on the table and you pour your own included glass. This is dangerous turf. We polished off the lot. Yet we still only got charged for the menu price. Birthday bonus.
C’al Estevet, Valdonzella 46, Raval