Just back from a really pleasant 3 day gastro-tour with Mrs G. in Barcelona, bathed in spring sunshine. I do love that town; our second visit; got the cathedral out of the way last time we were here so the focus was on relaxation, seeing my new niece, grabbing a few bargains in the shops and a thorough sampling of local culinary delights.
Stayed downtown on Passeig de Gracia in the flawless Mandarin Oriental of which I cannot speak highly enough. You’re walking distance from everything you’re likely to need (like a Dry Martini at Speakeasy or the best Tapas in town at Cuidad Condal) and quite a lot you won’t have the time or the budget to enjoy (like jewellery from Bulgari and Tiffany right next door).
Little Moa, the new niece, and her parents had a high ceilinged apartment high over P. de Picasso in the old town. Being a photographer and a textile designer, their flat was like a 24/7 fashion shoot; cloth samples draped on old mannequins and everywhere was colour and light. We lunched on tapas (of course) and drank beers and Sangria alongside the Mercat de Born, an iron domed covered market, like Smithfield but cooler.
Next day we travelled by rail 40 minutes south on the RENFE to see Sitges. We walked the long empty beach in the bright sun dipping our toes in the very cold sea. Property prices are sky high here thanks to proximity to the airport, nearby parks and unspoilt architecture. But the place has a bit of Worthing seafront to it which masks a history of fierce fighting through the centuries notably in defence against English Frigates in 1797.
Back to Barca after another epic seafront restaurant meal (“Sole in Citrus Sauce” Oranges and cream – to die for). An early evening warm up in the hotel bar introduced us to Cardamom Gin cocktail: 1 part Cardamom-infused Bombay Sapphire, 1 part fresh lemon juice and 1 part homemade ginger syrup. Needless to say I will be spending some time learning to make this at home later today – clearly some practice will be involved…
Dinner at L’Olive (“Roasted Kid Cutlets and dry-fried artichoke hearts”) and a bottle of “black” Rioja Reserva. This is an up-market joint and a bit pricey but the food was unbelievable.
You can’t leave a gastro-tour of Barcelona without a drop into Da Greco – actually it’s an Italian but like all good Italian restaurants it’s warm, friendly and serves fantastic pasta against a backdrop of baroque furniture wierd paintings and Frank Sinatra tunes. Our meal included a Pasta Tasting menu (every dish a surprise!) the best surprise being it was only €18 and could feed an army.
Barcelona is a very friendly town although it has recently gained a reputation for pickpockets. It thrives in an otherwise dire economy and its broad streets, its quirky and mixed architecture, its art and its food conspire to make it one of my favourite towns on the planet even if I now need to run a marathon to lift the calories I consumed while there.