Monday 30 July 2012

In search of Mano we found Manna, Barcelona

Can Mano was another tip-off, in the backstreets of the old fisherman's quarter Barceloneta, the young ones must live elsewhere. Family run and serving the freshest fish I'd been told, we came looking on a Sunday afternoon, it still felt early after a night spent listening to flamenco in a medieval palace filled with goblets of gin. Barceloneta's main drag lived up to it's name. Paseo Juan de Borbon was a seething mass of tourists, locals, pick pockets and staggering stags swarming about the hoards of dubious restaurants lining the route to the beach. Yet only one street in the neighbourhood appeared deserted.

Not a good sign and after thirty minutes of searching we came across another.

Can Mano doesn't open Sundays, I should have checked. Fortunately we'd just passed a place that looked rather appealing. In the way ultimately rewarding places often do, by being completely unappealing in almost every conventional sense. 

All the tables outside were taken, we had to squeeze past people to get through the door, inside it was mobbed, everybody we wanted to speak to ignored us and everyone else kept telling us off. 

Eventually we got our names on a list, a virtual one inside the waitress's head, and were told it could be an hour. Suddenly I spied someone leaving the bar and moved like lightening to secure the gap. Result. 

Well, not quite as it turned out. The boss said we still couldn't eat because there wasn't enough room for three. A reasonable point, if his bar hadn't already been hoaching with people utilising every available surface. 

We ordered drinks, Clara, a mix of lager and lemon Fanta. All I'm saying is don't knock it till you've tried it, especially after walking in blazing sun following a very late night. God it was good.

As we refreshed, in synchrony, our reception did too. We'd either passed the initiation or made it clear we weren't going anywhere fast. More space opened up, enough for us to get to order. The food was terrific, razor clams and cuttlefish croquettes stood out, the Pulpo Gallega, 'Galician style' octopus, served warm with lots of paprika on a bed of potato, was sensational. The prices were too.

Bar Jaj-Ca Tapes, Ginebra, 13, Barceloneta, +34 (0)933 195002

Sunday 15 July 2012

La Paradeta: seafood stuff as dreams are made of

La Paradeta was a tip off. Someone did the research then ended up holidaying with relatives whose sole criterion for eating was outside seating. We can all share their pain. Like many of the finest eateries in this city, Paradeta doesn't do al fresco. It caters for it's audience and does that perfectly. If, like me, you're inclined to seafood fever, you'll have eaten here before, in countless dreams. To see them realised takes some sinking in.

It did sink in though and then from deep within arose the fever. An intense, trance like state which precedes a manic dash, fueled, not entirely irrationally, by the fear that all the best will shortly disappear. In Paradeta I was not alone. From the fishmongers slab you choose what you fancy and how you'd like it cooked. If you're unsure they'll advise. We went for oysters, elvers and chipirones, deep fried and clams, steamed with garlic and parsley. I'd have ordered more, lots more, indeed I tried but got pulled away mid sentence to pick up a tray, bread, salad and bottle of wine. You pay by weight, get a numbered receipt then go find a seat. Simples.

The numbers get called from behind a hatch where, for seafood lovers, the magic happens. The pace was perfect. The taste of iodine from seafresh oysters still lingered as the elvers and chipirones were called.

Both were delicious, the elver coating batter as light and crispy as tempura. Next, again in perfect time, came the clams. Possibly the best I've had. Each one a sweet marine sensation.

There are four Paradetas in Barcelona. This was the Born branch. The canteen set-up and no fuss attitude means remarkably reasonable prices. Two of us ate a lot with a bottle of decent local white wine for 36 Euros. Get here early though, it's justifiably popular. As we left I glanced over to the fish counter, all the elvers were gone... knew it. Desert was a short stroll down the road, melon ice cream, a new favourite flavour, I ate it every day and miss it terribly.

Click here for La Paradeta's website

You'll find La Campana Ice Cream Parlour at: Princesa, 36  08003 Barcelona, Spain
933 197 021. It's well worth it.