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Barcelona: La Cupula

25 Jul

In Barcelona, we stayed at the Ayre Rosellon Hotel near the Sagrada Familia, a boutique hotel with a good location that offers great value. Our concierge recommended La Cupula – a 1920s styled restaurant complete with vintage cars and chandeliers – situated just a few blocks away from our hotel for a nice sit-down Mediterranean-Spanish dinner. At that time of dining we thought it was just some random place, but it turns out that it’s actually pretty well known with quite a few reviews written on it.

Spanish olive oil with bread – Oil was to die for. Changes your whole paradigm about using only Italian olive oil

Spanish olivesBest olives ever with a hint of sweetness

Salted cod fritters – YUMS

Tortilla

Arroz negro – Tasted of the sea, so flavourful

Duck with caramelized apples

Suckling pig with star anise sauce  – Crispy thin skin

On the whole, every dish ranged from quite good to good and at really reasonable prices too, given that it’s posh-ish setting. Though we were under-dressed compared to the rest of the other mature local diners, service staff also didn’t make us feel unwelcomed, so that was sweet. I’m pretty sure great, affordable food places in Barcelona are everywhere; but for its proximity to the Sagrada Familia and quality:price ratio, this is a good option to consider.

Price: $$-$$$
Location: La Cúpula, Carrer Sicilia 255, 08025 Barcelona
Tel: +34 932 082 061
Website: http://www.lacupularestaurant.com/

Barcelona: La Paradeta

24 Jul

La Paradeta is a guidebook favourite and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a fun, self-service, seafood market concept that keeps prices low, but does not compromise on taste and quality. From the beds of raw seafood, you pick what you want, how much you want, choose how you want it cooked (grilled, steamed, a la mariniere), choose a sauce (marie rose, romesco, etc.), and get charged for it by weight. Then you wait for your number to get called and pick your food up at the collection window. Everything was so fresh, and absolutely amazing.

Piles and piles of fresh seafood, caught by the restaurant’s own boat

Are you drooling yet?

Crab with marie rose sauce

Deep fried whitebait

Bamboo clams

Grilled rapefish My first time trying, a little too firm and chewy for my liking

Grilled lobster

Most of the dishes just came with a simple dressing of parsley and olive oil, or a squeeze of lemon juice, but really – that’s all you need when the star of the dish is the fresh seafood. We probably ordered too much for 3 girls, but really how often do you get to dine in a seafood restaurant that offers such freshness and variety at incredibly mass prices. For seafood lovers, it’s an absolute must try in Barcelona.

Price: $$ (You can get a good spread for ~20 euros per pax)
Location: La Paradeta Sagrada Família, Passatge Simó 18, 08013 Barcelona (They have a few branches)
Tel: 934 500 191
Website: http://www.laparadeta.com/

Barcelona: Pinotxo Bar

23 Jul

Apart from Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces, one of the must see places in Barcelona is the Mercat de la Boqueria (or just La Boqueria) – a food market off La Rambla for its convival atmosphere, huge and colourful array of fresh produce, spices and other gourmet produce such as Spanish olives, olive oils and Iberico hams (the latter is a must buy)! Pinotxo Bar, a 14 seater tapas bar located just near the entrance of the market is a just as much an attraction in itself as the market, and is a popular spot for breakfast (or brunch, in our case).

I am usually not a milk drinker (pretty sure I’m lactose intolerant, just like 90% of the Asians out there) but this Cacaolat brand of chocolate milk was so good. Our server even steamed it up for me. There’s none of that cheap artificial chocolate flavour found in other mass brand chocolate milks.

Salted cod salad with tomatoes, onions, capers, bell peppers and olive oil – The famed Spanish salted cod wasn’t salty at all and it was such a light, refreshing fish salad that I could eat everyday.

Mussels with carrots, celery and olive oil – The fresh, plump and tender mussels here just needed a subtle dressing.

Warm plate of baby squid and white beans with olive oil balsamic vinegar – I never knew white beans could taste so good, let alone a combination of squid and white beans. This is one of their signature dishes.

Anchovies with bellpeppers and eggplant – I’m partial to anything anchovies and again this was amazing. The anchovies were so fresh and had none of that fishy smell, all your anchovy haters need to try. The bellpeppers and eggplant were just melt in your mouth.

Catalan pork sausage – Good real meat in the sausage. Nicely grilled.

There were no churros or many options available for sweets, but the xuxo (cream filled sugar dusted flakey pastry) was a lovely end to our meal.

Our endearing and friendly server was the perfect host. As Pinotxo doesn’t have a fixed menu, the servers will tell you what’s fresh for the day and recommend choices.

The food as you can see, was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Everything was so fresh as you can imagine, being located in one of the largest food markets I have ever seen. We also got to try some of the more exotic Catalan dishes (exotic to me at least, in this part of the world) that are less prevalent on Spanish restaurant menus, so every dish was a surprise.  There’s something about the way the Spanish chefs conjure up dishes in that effortless, creative and charismatic way that always seem to do great service to the produce they work with. Truly, one of the most memorable meals I have ever had. Ain’t no need for ridiculous Michelin stars, world’s best rankings or a big price tag to validate that.

Price: $$
Location: La Boqueria 466 – 467, 91 La Rambla 08002, Barcelona
Phone: 933 171 731