Category Archives: Barcelona

Paella Revolution – Barcelona

Restaurant Salamanca

Restaurant Salamanca

I’ve never been particularly keen on Paella except perhaps a strange affection for the Knorr dehydrated variety which was very popular in the seventies. Subsequent visits to Spain did nothing to change this view. The seafood always seemed overcooked, tough mussels shrunked to the size of raisins, rubbery squid and dense burned rice. It was more of a ritual trying to supress my gag reflex than a great eating experience.

Things changed though on a recent trip to Barcelona. My eating companion was my mum who had never been to Spain and not tried paella even though she is a huge fan of seafood. Indeed I have to save the prawn heads for her so she can suck out the brains, thats how into it she is!

We took the taxi to Barcelonetta, the seaside area by the port. Potentially foolishly, we asked the taxi driver for his recommendation and he drove immediately to Restaurant Salamanca on the beachfront in Barcelonetta. Seeing the driver shake the hand of the owner didn’t fill me with confidence so I took a good look at the restaurant before deciding that we would definitely eat there. I needn’t have worried. The experience turned out to be excellent.

We were led to a great table overlooking the beachfront between a huge table of locals enjoying assorted platters of seafood and cooing couples sharing a paella. We were brought good bread and slices of sausage as an appetizer. We ordered a portion of razor clams to share and the Paella Salamanca. It wasnt cheap, the paella was 30 euros each and the razor clams about 18 euros. While we waited we watched the neat choreography of the waiters who were attentive and dedicated without hovering.

Razor Clams

Razor Clams

The razor clams arrived and were huge! Cooked in olive oil, wine, garlic and parsley they had were incredibly meaty and delicious. We polished them off with ease. A slightly longer wait for the paella which is a good sign as so many paellas in Barcelona come microwaved to table. As it arrived it was taken to a side table and divided evenly onto two plates.

It looked and tasted incredible. Cooked in an intense seafood stock, the rice would have been delicious just on its own. It was crammed with clams, prawns, langoustine, squid and crowned with a glorious half lobster which made it ‘Salamanca’. No finger bowls were provided but napkins were constantly switched out. I couldn’t manage the whole portion but was incredibly impressed. Everything was cooked perfectly, a first for me with paella. Defeated, we were offered coffee which we declined but were served some moist almond cake which was delicious.

Paella Salamanca

Paella Salamanca

I read reviews of the restaurant when I got home and was shocked to see that many people accused it of being a tourist trap which we didnt experience at all. Alas, a lot of Barcelona is a tourist trap (Did I mention to never eat or drink on the Ramblas?) but we found Restaurant Salamanca to be an authentic spanish experience and will remain as a happy memory of Barcelona.

Salamanca
Almirall Cervera, 34, 27
08003 Barcelona
Tel. 93 221 50 33
Fax 93 225 51 56
e-mail: salamanca@gruposilvestre.com

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Boqueria Market – Barcelona

Rabbits at Boqueria Market

Rabbits at Boqueria Market

Just returned from a great stay in Barcelona. The weather was superb which was unexpected. I made a late packing change, removing swimming trunks and adding umbrella and waterproof jacket which was very badly judged in retrospect. We hired an apartment on the Ramblas right next door to the superb Boqueria Market. Good idea on paper. Bad idea in reality. The Ramblas is the incredibly busy entertainment street in Barcelona and is busy and noisy until about 2am. The market starts up at around 4am, therefore my window for sleep was about 2 hours. Oh well.

Unlike Borough Market, it feels that little has been changed to appeal directly to tourists. Sure, you can buy little portions of fruit for a euro which is probably the most bought item by shy non-spanish speaking visitors, but half of the market has not been given over to food stands like at Borough. If you want to eat in the Market you need to brave the seafood stalls around the edge or one of the tapas bars inside the market.

I felt a little guilty taking photos in the market as I didn’t really want to mark myself out as a tourist (well, besides the camera round my neck and the Timeout Barcelona guide in my pocket). In London, I used to be one of the tourists taking pictures of piles of olives and sun-dried tomatoes but now market tourists just get on my nerves as they puncture the adventure of exploring all the produce by making you stop constantly so that they can take a photo that thousands of people have already taken and probably a better example of it can be found on Google image search. Gosh, London has made me bitter!

The market has been there in some shape or form since the 13th century, the breadth of produce that it sells is overwhelming. The seafood ‘circle’ in the centre is especially breathtaking. Every edible living thing from the nearby seas is beautifully tumbled onto ice ready for purchase. We bought huge prawns one night and cooked them with a simple seafood sauce and mopped up the juices with bread. We were also inspired by the razor clams, their huge foot drooping out of the shell when held aloft, like honey from a spoon. More of that in another post! Fruit and vegetables look garden fresh and were snapped up by local residents. Its no wonder that the local ‘Carrefour’ super mecado had little fresh produce other than bulk items when you can buy such amazing produce directly from the market.

Seafood at Boqueria Market

Seafood at Boqueria Market

It can seem a little overwhelming initially. I wanted to buy steaks one night and just couldn’t see the cuts that I wanted so sadly I retreated and bought them from the supermarket (they weren’t very good). Later in the week I plucked up more courage and found the sellers to be charming and very willing to help.

Barcelona’s Boqueria Market feels like the beating heart of the city. Indeed if you are looking for heart you can buy it by the kilo here though not beating though of course. It is definitely worth a visit and to me it is the most wonderful market in the world.