29 August 2014

Food Glorious Food! Bloggers In Barcelona - Part Dos of Dos


If I had to choose one thing that summed up our trip to Barcelona the best, it would be the food. The wonderful, glorious food. Laura and I definitely got our fair share - in fact, we probably spent most of the trip in some great restaurant or other. I blame the unexpected torrential rain...

Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm something of an organiser. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's turning up in a new place and being clueless of where to start so I like a good plan of where to go and what to do. With a little help from Twitter, Trip Advisor, newspaper articles, tour guides and friend's recommendations, we arrived in the city with a decent strategy on how to tackle it. We didn't have to stick to it religiously, of course, but it certainly guided us through our short time there quite nicely. Following our first night on the rooftop of the Ohla Hotel and bar-hopping in the El Born area, we woke up that next morning with aching heads but a firm destination in mind for brunch.

EL QUIM - LA BOQUERIA MARKET

I'd noted that El Quim was highly spoken of by a few Barcelona regulars online. I knew it was in La Boqueria market but it took a little bit of hunting to find it. In the midst of the market action, El Quim is a sixteen meter long counter with eighteen stools surrounding a small kitchen area. Laura and I were lucky to grab seats straight away - it seemed to be a theme on this holiday that we always arrived at places just at the right time! We ordered ourselves a glass each of cava (it appeared to be the 'thing to do') and started ticking the boxes on the menu of the tapas dishes that took our fancy. We ate the most delicious patatas bravas, ham croquettes, two fried eggs with prawns in cava, fresh sardines and we even gave calf's foot and head in vinaigrette a try (we weren't that keen but it's good to try these things at least once!).

El Quim was one of my big Barcelona highlights; eating their amazing fresh food with a glass of bubbles in the middle of a bustling market was exciting! Incredible value for money too. A definite recommendation from me.


MILK

Brunch on the Saturday was at Milk, a bar/bistro run by an Irish couple and located in the Gothic Quarter of the city. Described on the website as being like a 'millionaires drawing room', it's certainly a place that has character and life. You can enjoy their Recovery Brunch everyday from 9am until 4pm. Laura and I shared the salmon eggs benedict - served with potatoes - along with the American pancakes served with Danish bacon and maple syrup. A yummy and enjoyable breakfast that set us up for the day ahead perfectly! 


FEDERAL

Federal Cafe is another great little spot for brunch that we visited on our last morning. It's bright, airy and homely. We took two cushioned seats in the window and enjoyed fresh juices, a croissant with mascarpone and raspberry coulis, toasted scones with home made jam and scrambled eggs with asparagus, caramelised onions, halloumi cheese and toast. Wonderful stuff.

And scones for breakfast? Can we make this a prerequisite in London please?


TAPAS TOUR WITH FOOD LOVER

For our second night, we decided to book ourselves onto a tapas tour with Food Lover Tour. It was an opportunity to experience a few tapas spots the locals frequent, avoiding the typical tourist traps. It was EUR89 each, started at 7.30pm and didn't finish until around 1.30am! Our group of nine foodies and two guides visited three different venues where we enjoyed some delicious dishes and great drinks.

The first venue: La Bodegueta Provenca

This is an "after hour bar/restaurant" well-known by the people of Barcelona. We grazed on a few appetizers and a glass of wine as the guides talked us through typical Catalan cuisine. It was also the place where I shockingly discovered that I actually like anchovies! 


The second venue: Colmado

By now, the rain was crashing down outside but we were safe and dry at the back of this warm and dimly lit little tavern. At Colmado we were served up some very nice dishes and we both had our first ever taste of vermouth - fortified, flavoured wine. I now adore it!


The last stop: Bardot Restaurant

The final tapas experience was a proper gastronomical and gourmet dinner. Described by Time Out as 'the best designed restaurant in Barcelona', at beautiful Bardot we were presented with potato and ham croquettes, octopus, scallops, rock fish, ox tail, Crema Catalana, chocolate cake and probably one of the nicest joints of salted medium-rare cooked beef I've had. As well as all that, the food was paired with some fantastic red and white wines. We got much more for our money on this tour than we expected.


***

So in summary, Barcelona is an amazing city for eating and drinking. The locals are so passionate about their food and it shows. If you're planning a foodie trip, why not give these places a go (especially El Quim!) and learn all about the Catalan cuisine on a Food Lovers Tour. 

I feel lucky to have such a fantastic city with so much to offer just a couple of hours flight away. I hope to be back sometime soon to discover even more.

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26 August 2014

Bloggers In Barcelona - Part Uno of Dos


Hola!

I've been trying to decide how to present my visit to Barcelona in just two blog posts. Spending three days in one of the most dynamic and stylish capitals in the world - not to mention one of the most foodie friendly - results in a blogger like me taking many, many photographs. Barcelona is a city that has architecture, art, history, sea, breath-taking views and a huge array of mouth-watering dining and drinking options. What a place! I'm already wondering when would be a good time to return.

So I've set out part one a little bit on the random side; the chosen ones from the plethora of photos I took have been split into categories that begin with each letter that spells 'Barcelona'. You'll see what I mean...

B is for BIRTHDAY

Last Thursday was Laura's twenty-third birthday and what better way to celebrate than with another little blogger break abroad. We somehow managed to book British Airways business class flights for no extra cost and thus flew to Barcelona in proper birthday style! We were staying at the very modern Ohla Hotel - a base so central that many of the city's most popular attractions were walking distance away. 

The hotel has a fantastic rooftop bar. I'd booked a table in one of their glamorous, white booths and spent a good few hours up there with the birthday girl overlooking the city and enjoying our first night.


A is for ARCHITECTURE 

In Barcelona you will stumble across buildings spanning all eras of the city's 2,000 year old history. The oldest date back to the Roman times and there are constructions from the Gothic period along with the Catalan art nouveau. Many of the beautiful, more modern buildings came about because of the Olympic Games in 1992. Then of course there's Gaudi's work whose distinctive style is all around the city centre.

Laura and I spent hours wandering, a lot of it around the winding, cobbled streets of the Gothic Quarter. There are some wonderful places to eat and drink round there (but more on that in part two!).


R is for ROOFTOP

We had to revisit the Ohla Hotel rooftop during the daytime to get some more aerial views of Barcelona. The sunbeds and seats up there were all taken and you can see why; I don't think there are too many places in the city where you can sunbath, drink good quality drinks and enjoy views as stunning as this.


C is for CHEESE

Laura and I are both huge appreciators of anything cheese. We were flying home late Sunday afternoon and decided to find something wonderfully fromage in the short time we had left. Without enough time to visit our intended destination, Cheese Me, we luckily stumbled across Els Sortidors del Parlament - a rustic and charismatic little tapas bar. We were welcomed, propped up on stools against a barrel and asked "do you want vermouth? Wine? Beer?"  Not a question one often hears just before midday!

Naturally, we ordered two glasses of vermouth (my new favourite drink) and a cheese platter served with fig jam. I experienced probably the best goat's cheese I have ever tasted. Creamy, rich and delicious. So much so that we ordered seconds! Well, we could detox when we got home!



E for Escape

And by this, I mean escape from the torrential rain we experienced on Friday! We had just left the market, the skies opened and down it fell. We took cover in the first restaurant we could find and ended up there for a good couple of hours. Later on that evening the same thing happened again, just that time the rain was even heavier. And there we were thinking we were escaping the wet London weather!

Once inside the restaurant, we thought we'd enjoy a jug of sangria. We placed our order - thinking we were getting a jug to share with two glasses - and were a little surprised when we ended up with one each!



L is for La Boqueria Market

I do love a good market and La Boqueria fits the bill for a fascinating experience of colour, activity and a hell of a lot of food. Located just off La Rambla, the market is a mix of smells, sounds and flavours. You'll find yourself eyeball-to-eyeball with an abundance of fresh fish and seafood, poultry, giant hanging jamรณn, herbs, oils and sweets. The most fascinating (and rather scary) thing I saw was the enormous swordfish head just sat there, gazing up at the ceiling.

Whilst here, we had one of the most memorable food experiences whilst in Barcelona and the best patatas bravas ever. More on that in my next post!


O for Opium Mar

If you've ever been to one of the chill out beach bars in Ibiza then you can probably picture just what Opium Mar is like. By now the rain had subsided and the warm sun was shining. Opium Mar is a lively club at night but during the day it's a relaxed beachside spot to escape the crowds. We draped ourselves over one of the huge beds, popped on the sunnies and people-watched with a glass of champagne for a good couple of hours. Bliss!


N for Nightlife


Nightlife in Barcelona starts with dinner at around 10pm and drinks from midnight onwards. You will never find a club open before midnight. There's actually a bar that opens its doors at 4am. 4am! Our tapas tour guide found it totally hilarious to think that us Brits could start our night at 6pm or 7pm and be in a nightclub by 10pm! That's just not how it's done here.

On our first and last night we ate great food and visited a few lively bars in the El Born area until the early hours. On the rainy second night we were still on our tapas tour at 2am (which for us English is regarded as a rather late night!). There are lots of options for the party lovers out there.


A for Art

There are a couple of cobbled streets in the Gothic Quarter with lots of wonderful little art galleries and shops. You can spend ages popping in and out of each one, observing the work and reading about each of the artists. There was one shop in particular, Carre D'Artistes, where I could easily have spent a fortune. There were so many original pictures appealing to all tastes.

I did end up treating myself and buying one piece by a French artist called Carole Jeulin. I could just visualise it on my wall at home. There's also something exciting about knowing you have the only copy of that picture in the world.


***

So that was my somewhat round-about about way of summing up our fantastic trip to Barcelona! What a city! I will post the second part in a few days which will be all about the amazing restaurants and cafes we discovered. And, boy, did we have some incredible food.

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