Barcelona: Day 3

The next morning was a painful one. The kind where I understand you coffee addicts and your caffeine chasing lifestyles. I instead sought solace in the form of pastry.
P1010314

A croissant filled with Serrano ham and melted manchego cheese was a nice hug to my insides, whilst my body ached from all our days of nonstop action. In Barcelona, a popular grilled sandwich of ham and cheese is referred to as a bikini sandwich. Now what I’d like to know, is who on earth has buttery, melty sandwiches come to mind when preparing to squeeze into a bikini? Oh excuse me, more pastry has arrived.

P1010317 Long, flaky strips stuffed with chocolate and cream were the final kick needed to sugar rush us into gear. We packed a bag and headed for the beach. P1010318 P1010320 P1010323 P1010325 You know how in life there are usually a series of unfortunate events? Well, let’s put this down to a series of fortunate ones. We walked along the beach towards our destination, The W Hotel BarcelonaP1010337 A gleaming, glass wave at the end of the beach, sticking out of the marina. P1010346Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we made our way to Bravo 24 for our lunch reservation. Here, Chef Carles Abellan, who studied under the great Ferran Adrià of El Bulli for 12 years, brings typical dishes of Barcelona to life.
P1010350 We excitedly chattered over the menu as individual bags of chips (crisps) were placed before us. These had an earthy herb flavouring and we happily crunched away as more nibbles arrived.P1010352 Freshly baked bread, sea salt, two types of olive oil and the most incredible olives were next to sample as we placed our orders. P1010354

We all know how I feel about nibbles. P1010366

The restaurant is large and beautifully decorated inside. But, we much preferred dining on the terrace with ocean views and a nice breeze. P1010360P1010403P1010367 A plate of saffron coloured calamari arrived. Knowing we hadn’t ordered this, I quickly snapped a picture before the embarrassed waiter shyly shuffled back over, muttering apologies and whisking away the pretty dish. P1010369 What we had ordered soon arrived. Delicate fritters of salt cod with a subtle hint of lemon and honey. P1010370 These were absolutely delicious. Perfect salty, sweet bites of comfort food. P1010373 Followed by chicken croquettes, with an incredibly rich flavouring. P1010375 Razor clams arrived on a stone grill with charcoal burning underneath. These were tender and smokey in a deliciously light sauce, which we sucked from the shells. P1010376 P1010377 P1010380 The ‘ugly’ tomato salad arrived on a beautifully warped plate. P1010381 Ripe chunks of fresh tomato and cooked, tender tuna belly lay on a bed of onion, olives and caper berries. P1010384 P1010389 Servers appeared table side with enviable copper pots to serve our final dish. P1010390 Suckling lamb shoulder roasted with 12 bulbs of garlic rested on a bed of tender apples and sweet onions. This was absolutely stunning and so rich with flavour. P1010392My date went for the English approach in ordering a cheese dessert. Mató is a type of Catalan cheese with no added salt. It’s often served with honey as dessert and here was paired honey foam and lychee sorbet. P1010397 I stuck true to form and went for little molten nuggets of delicious chocolate fritters. You stick the whole thing in your mouth and then crush them until they pop, oozing warm chocolate sauce. The waiter warned me when I placed my order that I would need to share. This was met with a grin and an eye roll. P1010398However, as delicious as they were, I soon surrendered and shoved the bowl across the table as I was ready to burst like the devilish chocolate fritters themselves. P1010400 A terracotta cup of green tea helped my overstuffed state and I heroically managed to gobble up the crunchy chocolate treats brought to soften the blow of the bill. P1010402Utterly food drunk and overexcited to see our room, we raced to the elevator. Here, I was momentarily distracted by a giant, shiny wall of sequins, before being ushered into the elevator.
P1010409 We exited the elevator to this. P1010413 P1010414With all the composure and elegance of a true lady, I ran down the hall giggling and threw open the door. Remember what I was saying about stuffing yourself with food and then slipping into a bikini? Forget about it. 
IMG_1117
After thoroughly exhausting our room exploration by jumping on the bed, opening all the cupboards, pressing every button, snooping through the drawers and dancing around the room, we decided a lounge by the pool was long overdue. IMG_1121 The pool area overlooks the beach, giving you all the joys of a beach day, minus the hassle of sand. We sprawled out on beds and soaked up the sun, wiggling toes to lounge music playing from speakers.

IMG_1122The sun slowly began to sink behind the mountains and the shade crept its way across the beds. Rested and ready for adventure, we went back to the room to shower and get ready to explore the city by night. P1010428 We walked for miles, up through different neighbourhoods, noticing the different areas and way the buildings, people and shops changed.
Ravished from all our walking, we couldn’t have been more delighted to find Els Sortidors del Parlament. They don’t have a website, but here is where you can find them.  P1010445 The interior was very cool and warehouse-like with products, wines and oils on display for sale. Tables in the front of the restaurant were barrels and stools, perfect for sipping cervezas and catching up with friends. We sat ourselves at a barrel and looked over the menu.

More than ready for some tapas, we started with another salad of tuna belly, but this time with fresh tomatoes, olives, peppers, pickles and a delicious sauce. P1010449A dish of raw cod with more vegetables was very fresh, but a bit chewy. P1010456However, we absolutely loved what arrived next. A slate of crunchy toasts to slather with foie gras, top with fig compote and sprinkle with sea salt.
P1010458To cut the richness, we enjoyed tangy bites of boquerones en vinagre. Fresh anchovies served in vinegar with garlic and parsley is a typical tapas of southern Spain.
P1010463 Last, but certainly not least, we tried tender ribs coated in a spicy, olive tapenade. The sauce was so flavourful and delicious, I could’ve happily slathered this on the toasts and consumed it on its own. P1010467 Having filled ourselves with more delicious food, we headed out into the thick night air. We walked until we came to Font Màgica of Montjuïc, just in time for the show. The Magic Fountain is one of Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions, giving performances of light, water and music every night from Thursday to Sunday. P1010479 P1010480 P1010481 We watched the water dance to the music, with everything from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Oasis to Shakira, ending with an emotional version of Ave Maria. P1010482The perfect performance to end another stunning Spanish day.

Barcelona: Day 2

We awoke to glorious and much needed sunshine. Ready to stretch our legs, we wandered out to explore more of the stunning Spanish streets. P1010032 P1010040 P1010041 P1010044 P1010045 There must of been some sort of festival going on, because several streets were decorated with papier-mâché structures, streaming ribbons and had loud music playing. P1010050 P1010051Having skipped breakfast, we settled on a Spanish style brunch.
P1010054A buttery, soft croissant with ham and cheese was a delicious start. P1010056Followed by Spanish peppers stuffed with goat’s cheese.
P1010057I was told by our lovely server that I had to try the typical Catalan dish of Fideuà, which is made of fine noodles with tomato and seafood.P1010060We managed to finish off with even more carbs. Pan con tomate is typically served before or with each meal as Spain’s answer to bruschetta. It consists of soft, toasted bread with a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt and smushed up insides of ripe tomatoes. We also tried a Spanish tortilla, stuffed with potatoes and peppers, but this was unfortunately a little overcooked, resulting in quite an aggressively thick brick of starch.P1010064As usual, the tapas left me full and happy, and we spent awhile people watching, soaking up the blazing sunshine before our long day of adventures ahead. We headed to our apartment to change and take note from our darling renters. Eduardo & Imma are the loveliest couple and they rent out their lofts and apartments to visitors from all over the world. The places are cosy and really nicely decorated with anything you could possibly need, including a kitchen and washing machine. They sat down with us drawing countless maps, told us where to go, what to see and gave excellent advice. One of the best being, when dining out, ask for the menu of the day, el menú del día. For around €10 you can have tomato bread, a starter, such as a soup or salad, a main course of whatever the special is, a dessert and a drink. If you’re visiting Barcelona, I couldn’t recommend staying with them enough. They’ll even drop you to and from the airport. If you want to find out more, look them and their lovely flats up here.
P1010067With instructions to purchase a T10 travel card, we took the metro to Las Ramblas. We walked down Rambla de Catalunya, a long street filled with designer shops and local restaurants until we came to Plaça de Catalunya. P1010072 P1010074 P1010075 How adorable is this store? Again, I wasn’t allowed photos, but snuck some for you anyways. P1010080 You take a medicine bottle and fill it with candy, because everyone knows those are happy pills! P1010081 P1010089 After Plaça de Catalunya, we came to La Rambla, one of Barcelona’s most famous tourist attractions. It’s essentially a long, outdoor shopping parade lined with trees. This was absolutely packed with people and only seemed to get more and more crowded. There were tourists ambling along, shopping for trinkets and dining in tourist traps. The street itself is beautiful, but the sheer volume of people with the addition of the heat and vendors selling these plastic mouth pieces that make strange, piercing screech sounds all became a bit much. P1010093 P1010096 P1010099 P1010101 I could not have been more happy to then come across La Boqueria. P1010103 We darted through the crowds and under the beautifully shining stain glass sign guarding the entrance to Barcelona’s best food market. P1010105P1010107 Imagine Borough Market, London’s best food market, flooded with Spanish delights and delicacies. I was in absolute heaven. P1010108P1010106P1010110 P1010111 P1010112Hotter than this pretty piggy, we got fresh fruit smoothies to cool off whilst checking out the offerings. I went for a kiwi banana mixture, which looked a little more radioactive than expected. This helped prevent my salivating over all the amazing ingredients on offer.
P1010113 P1010115 P1010116Within the rows of market stalls are several little pop up tapas bars. Sadly, these were completely crammed with tourists and locals alike, with a wall of hungry diners waiting to squeeze in to be next.
P1010117P1010123 We continued instead to peruse the endless amounts of food. P1010124P1010120How cute are these marzipan creations?
P1010125 P1010126 For some reason I’m particularly fond of the cauliflower. P1010127 Which are your favourites?P1010128 There were massive, ripe tomatoes. P1010131Rows of dried chillies. 
P1010137
Dates the size of my thumb.
P1010139And this. Now if you didn’t know it was tripe, you’d have to admit it looks pretty cool.
P1010142Oh, and the seafood selection was unbelievable. 
P1010148
Beautiful boiled octopus. P1010151 Glistening piles of salt cod. P1010155 Amazingly fresh fish of all shapes and sizes. P1010156 P1010157P1010167 P1010159 Wriggling lobsters and bunches of oysters. P1010161 P1010162And how cool do these look? I initially thought they were eel, but I think they’re silver scabbards. Those that aren’t a fan of their dinner looking back at them, scroll very quickly over the next few pictures. P1010163 P1010164 Those that don’t mind getting a little friendly with a fish, how cool looking are these?P1010166 P1010170 Then I found them.
Churros de miel. P1010171Little bite sized pieces of fried dough filled with a beautiful center of sweet honey. Texturally amazing and flavourfully orgasmic. I gobbled these up and days later went back for more, consuming an entire bag to myself. P1010174 We eventually gave up the endless viewing of food porn and left the market. P1010147Farther down La Rambla lies Plaça Reial, a hidden little oasis of palm trees, bars and hotels surrounding a fountain.

P1010175 P1010177 P1010180Attracted by the gleaming sign of theatre lights like greedy little mosquitos, we headed for Ocaña. Pronounced: Oh-than-ya.

P1010215P1010181 We lazily lounged in the shade, watching the goings ons of the plaça including an incredible performance of acrobatic street performers. P1010187Deciding his cerveza looked a little lonely, my date decided an Ibérico wrapped veal burger topped with foie gras was in order.
P1010201Can you blame him?

When I returned from a little venture around the restaurant, I took what is decidedly my favourite image from the entire trip. I just love the way the shadows of the lights are lined up on the pillars. There’s something sort of hauntingly beautiful about it, don’t ya think?
P1010213Are you still with me? We’ve got a bit more to explore. Grab a snack and we’ll keep going. We returned to our explorations in the golden sunlight of the afternoon.
P1010222
And I soon discovered a lion. Immediately wanting to mount it for a picture, I scurried up to the beast. Much bigger up close and surprisingly slippy, I tried to navigate my mount whilst in a little black dress. With the swarming crowds and lengthy drop to the concrete floor, I retired my efforts and instead posed next to Leonardo. My date, who initially dismissed my photo idea, had a sudden change of heart. He hoisted himself onto one of the fully standing lions, and to my bitter envy, now has an awesome photo of him atop a massive lion.P1010223 We reached La Barceloneta, a section of intertwining neighbourhoods with lovely alleyways, trendy bars and cool shops. This one in particular had origami bugs lining all the glass windows and cool toys, furniture and products inside.  P1010239 P1010240 P1010242 P1010243 P1010245 Another shop was selling 3D printed versions of yourself! You go in, and the unsure looking fella in the background makes a mini me, of you! Very odd, but such a cool idea. P1010253 P1010255 I spotted this elderly man reading a book in the warm shade of his balcony, ignoring the difficulties of life. And later came across this very mellow little square with friends chatting quietly over drinks, men perched on walls and clouds of certain illegal substances hovering in the air. The man in blue was strumming the guitar and loudly singing a beautiful Spanish serenade. We were only there momentarily as we passed through the square, but it was a beautiful bubble of utter peace and calm. P1010262 We explored more weird shops with more weird things. P1010276 P1010277P1010279 P1010280Passed through a cathedral.P1010281 P1010282 P1010283

And spotted this dog, begging in a brightly coloured alleyway. P1010288The evening ended the way all Spanish evenings should. P1010301 With paella. Pronounced: pah-eh-yah.P1010305 We sat by the beach in a buzzing restaurant, with waiters dancing around each other, balancing heavy, steel pans of cooking rice overhead. The cool, salty air mixed perfectly with each bite of fresh seafood and saffron rice. P1010306The perfect end to a thoroughly exhausting, but amazing day filled with delicious food and beautiful sights.

Barcelona: Day 1

Remember when we were discussing surprises?
I was telling you all about how difficult it was to surprise me, how I absolutely love being surprised, yet can’t help but fiercely play detective in efforts to put the clues together. However, had the amazing surprise of dining at the top of my beloved building earlier this month. Well, I was soon stumped again and left seriously doubting my Sherlock skills.

I was told we were going away for the Bank Holiday weekend and persisted relentlessly for clues until I was given five countries: France, Portugal, Turkey, Spain or Denmark. One by one, with deductive reasoning and a cleverly laid trail of breadcrumbs, which I foolishly lapped up, I cracked the case. We were going to Turkey. I was so pleased with how clever I had been, that I considered purchasing a shiny badge and maybe even a hat for the trip. I packed my bags at midnight with an early flight and settled in for another night of insomnia, this time riddled with excitement. But then, it was decided the surprise would be revealed. With the grin of a five year old completing a magic trick to an audience of knowing adults, I opened the tickets. This was immediately followed by a gasp, a look of disbelief and my shouting BARCELONA?! 

We left at the crack of dawn and sparing you the predictable travel details, we arrived in a moody, overcast Barcelona. After arriving at our place, we threw all our things in the room and quickly changed into something a little more comfortable for the incredibly muggy weather before setting out for a casual wander. P1000818Instantly distracted by delicious looking pastry shops, I decided the need for tapas was imminent. Those of you unfamiliar with tapas, wait, you’re unfamiliar with tapas? Let me sit down. That is just wrong. Inhumane, really. Tapas, and I don’t say this lightly, are the best. Their literal translation defines them as different snacks and appetisers ordered to share. This is my absolute ideal way of dining. I know you may think I eat a lot, okay I do eat a lot, but I love nothing more than little bites of lots of different things. And if these things happen to be amazing Spanish dishes, well then I may just consider never leaving.
P1000823 We soon stumbled upon Obarazal. A tapas bar in the front, lined with stone faced men gossiping over their cervezas, leading to a bigger restaurant in the back. P1000825 The bar was filled with a colourful array of traditional Spanish tapas, such as seafood salad, meats, cheeses, artichokes, tomatoes and more. Big legs of Jamón Ibérico hung overhead, dripping fat into their precisely placed cones. We took a seat ready for a feast and in true Spanish form, we were ignored whilst staff lazily danced around each other, making espressos, wiping glasses, chatting away. P1000830I eventually put on my best smile and flagged someone down. Shocking my Spanish skills into action, I began ordering plates to try, asking for recommendations and enquiring as to which dishes were his favourite. P1000840 We settled on delicious, spicy albóndigas with a tomato sauce. P1000843 Unattractive, but tasty Croquetas de bacalao or salt cod croquettes. P1000844A plate of Spanish gold, jamón Ibérico. P1000845And a bunch of baby octopus, grilled on the plancha and simply dressed with garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon and parsley. P1000847 Which made me very, very happy. P1000849 P1000855 Having gotten distracted so soon and now stuffed to the gills with tapas, we continued on our wander down to the marina. On the way, we discovered some of Barcelona’s infamous graffiti. P1000856 P1000857 P1000858 P1000859 P1000860 And some skate boarders trying to film their latest tricks before the sky opened up. P1000861 P1000863 We made it down to the marina and the sky grew ever more ominous, but the rain continued to hold off, making the air thick and salty as we neared the ocean. P1000872 P1000885 P1000891P1000898

P1000925

In a little square nearby, a market of cool odds and ends were being sold. Everything from old cameras, to vintage jewels, to obsidian elephants, to rusted horse shoes and more. I kept being told off for taking pictures, so only managed to sneak a few for you.
P1000903P1000904P1000905This box is my absolute dream. If it weren’t for the baggage weight limit, I would’ve scooped up this entire collection of keys. I have a weird fondness for unusual keys as I like imagining what types of doors they open and what lies beyond them. Or maybe they open a chest filled with old photos, or letters or treasure. 
P1000914
We continued to explore the city, admiring sights, artwork, architecture and design. P1000909P1000937P1000943P1000945P1000948We arrived at the beach, watching cyclists being blown down the boardwalk and trees swaying in the wind. We decided to head back through the towering buildings in search of shelter and obviously, more food. P1000950We soon discovered Enrique Tomas, a jamóneria with walls of Ibérico ham. I could go on and on telling you about this beautiful cured meat. How the big, black pigs live in oak studded pastures, gobbling up acorns whilst being caressed by mountain air. How you can tell the difference between Ibérian and Serrano ham by the ‘pata negra’, or black hoof, which is left on during the curing process. And how this delicacy is hung to cure for at least 12 months and often more than 2 years. Instead I’ll tell you that we ate some, and it was glorious. London meat lovers will be excited to hear, they will soon be making their way to our city streets. Stay tuned to their website to find out when and where.P1000962P1000963P1000965We left with our bounty, scurrying down streets and ambling down alleyways until coming to this beautiful plaça. P1000985

Tucked in the corner was the darling Bastaix. So darling in fact, we decided we needed to stay awhile. P1000983

Which resulted in, you guessed it, more tapas.P1000998P1010001These Ibérico wrapped prawns were increible. P1010004Followed by a delicate, but beautiful plate of ceviche with mango. P1010006We nibbled until the sun went down and eventually decided to make a move in search of something sweet. Before we left however, I took one of my favourite pictures of the trip. There’s another one that I can’t wait to share with you, which is definitely a firm favourite, but this one seems pretty special, as well. There’s something about the way the little boy is stood there at the bottom looking up at this towering piece of metal holding a flame and I can only begin to imagine what grand, incomprehensible thoughts he’s pondering. P1010012Intoxicated by the thick, Spanish night air and a few too many tapas, I followed a ‘feeling’ I had about a particular passageway and have never been more pleased by my intuition. At the end of the street was a beacon of pastry. Bubó stood gleaming, its doors opening to a world of all things patisserie and sugar.
P1010020P1010021Including an impressive macaron case, of which we ordered one of each and greedily consumed until giggling and sugar high.P1010027I’d like to tell you that the evening ended shortly after, with us tucked up in bed, resting away the pains of travel in preparation for a long day ahead. Instead however, the weather had other ideas. We began our long and much needed walk back to our home away from home. With another half hour of walking to go, drops began to fall from the sky. This was amusing in our sugar infused state and somewhat welcome as the temperature finally began to cool. But as we continued walking, the sky opened up and water began bucketing down from above. The kind of rain that you expect to stop momentarily, because there’s no way that the sheer force of downpour could be sustainable. And yet, it went on and on and on until we took shelter in a glass box which led to an underground parking structure. After half an hour, I made it my mission to hail down a taxi. Standing on the side of the road, I waived my arms wildly at any car with a green light. After another half hour, completely soaked through, our saviour finally pulled over and rescued us from the rain.

Salvador & Amanda

The other night I was invited along to a media dinner at Salvador & Amanda, the restaurants new Bloomsbury location.
Considering the launch was the night before, I was surprised to see such an overwhelming crowd enjoying after work drinks and tapas at the bar.
I was ushered through the bustling crowd and made my way upstairs to the much calmer setting of Restaurant Cadaqués. A dimly lit room with tables set for two and a romantically set long table for our twelve person dinner.

We all found our place cards and chatted away about the restaurants background as we gazed at a stunning picture of Cadaqués hanging over the table. The restaurant is appropriately named after Salvador Dali and his muse, Amanda and serves tapas influenced by the region of Catalonia that he often visited.

After a cocktail reception, the table was then served a series of tapas for us all to share made by the incredibly talented Chef Rubén Dario Estrella. Salvador & AmandaSalvador & Amanda

First we tasted Jamon Iberico ‘Pata Negra’ which is hand carved, acorn fed Iberico ham on the bone from Jabugo which had been cured for 36 months.
This was exquisite and was served with salted Marcona almonds and bread with pure Spanish olive oil.
The perfect taste of Spain to set the mood.
Salvador & Amanda We were then served a salad of chicory, walnuts, pear, blue cheese and an acidic dressing to tie the sharp and sweet flavours together. Salvador & Amanda Next were handpicked crab and chili croquettes. A crispy fried bite with a smooth, creamy filling of sweet crab meat was absolutely delicious.

Salvador & Amanda After that, we were served sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic and a poached, free range egg. This was delicious and incredibly morish.  Salvador & Amanda Salvador & Amanda Next up, Cornish scallops with cauliflower puree and raisins. These were cooked to perfection and had a drizzle of aged balsamic to really enhance the sweet flavours of the puree and raisins. Salvador & Amanda Salvador & Amanda Our last tapas was certainly not least.
Chorizo Lollipops with quince aioli.
Pieces of chorizo which had been battered and fried were skewered to be dipped in a quince aioli.
Crunchy batter, salty chorizo and sweet quince aioli were a divine creation that gave a whole new meaning to the word lollipop.
Salvador & AmandaAfter our series of shared tapas came our main.
Roast Suckling pig served with new potatoes and broccoli.
The pig was cooked to perfection. The new potatoes and broccoli were tender, yet crunchy and had a sweet salty flavour to them.  Salvador & AmandaSalvador & AmandaThen came heaven.
I have had a lot of desserts in my life and it is very rare that I stumble across a pudding that makes me say, “Wow.”
But this chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream and candied almonds made me exclaim in pure delight WOW!
Silky, creamy chocolate mousse guarded a cold, liquid coffee ice cream centre. With each bite there was  a sweet crunch of candied almond.
Dessert perfection, gracias
Salvador & Amanda Salvador & Amanda

If you’d like to taste a series of delicious tapas at Salvador & Amanda’s new Bloomsbury location, book here.

Oh, and promise me you’ll order the chocolate fondant?