Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Dish That Saved Barcelona

For five days I ate nothing but crap; a watery paella seemingly inspired by Pot Noodle, the kind of deep-fried seafood tapas Captain Birdseye would have thrown back into the sea, a tiny plate of lukewarm arroz negra with a thick crust, and a late-night Primavera Sound kebab so dripping with oil it made Exxon Valdez seem inconsequential by comparison.

I was determined to eat well on my final day in Barcelona. In an overheated hostel dorm just off Las Ramblas, I searched Chowhound and eGullet in search of a tapas bar to make Catalonia proud. Several punters had raved about Quimtas & Quimtas, a tiny bar near Paral.lel station. Shelves of wine took up every available spare inch of wall space; a group of regulars occupied all the bar stools. I bided my time and eventually found standing room at the bar. The meal lasted no longer than 15 minutes. I'd ordered a seafood plate, bite-sized morsels of mussels and cockles, and a meat plate loaded with pates and cured meats. It was good, but paled in comparison to my evening meal at Cervecería El Vaso de Oro.

This time it took even longer to find standing room at the bar. The staff didn't speak a word of English so when the people next to me agreed to order of my behalf and thought I'd make it easy for them. I was going to eat the steak and foie gras too. I've been through periods of avoiding foie gras for ethical reasons, but – and this is no decent excuse – it was my last meal in Barcelona and this shit looked amazing. It was. The foie, steak and onion, with bread, pimiento peppers and beer, was the best meal I've had in two years.

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