02 Oct 20
Finding foodie paradise in Spain
If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Spain! Spain is world famous for its tapas, and boy oh boy and does it deliver. Wherever you go, a plethora of fresh mouthwatering morsels of food are offered, proudly placed on a welcoming bar. I had the joy of eating them in Barcelona, Madrid and Segovia and in each place I was wowed by the different types.
Wandering around the El Born district after visiting the beautiful Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, I found myself crossing over to the El Gotic suburb, and came upon Sagardi’s Butchers, with a restaurant attached. This was where I had my first taste of a real Spanish tapas, including Spanish omelette – a fluffy high chunk of eggs, potato and onion atop a fresh piece of just-been-baked-today bread.
This was soon followed by slithers of smokey jamon (ham), then a taste of a terrine topped with a sweet jammy glaze and, lastly, a huge wheel of goats cheese (it was a mini wheel, but a wheel it was!) sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. These delicacies were all washed down a with a cold refreshing glass of Spanish beer.
The next day on a food tour that incorporated dinner at two Spanish restaurants, followed by a drink and a flamenco show at the famous Ocaña Bar, I was introduced to the different ways tapas are now cooked up in Spain.
We started off at the Taller de Tapas Agenteria in the El Gotic part of town. At this homely establishment, I satisfied myself with a glass of white sangria then shifted my focus to the food, piled high in the small terracotta earthenware dishes. There was fresh squid marinated in garlic, olive oil and chilli – simple. Chunks of octopus came with a healthy sprinkling of Spanish paprika. Plump muscles were served in a chilli and parsley broth with lemon wedges. The aroma of the piping hot smokey chorizo was amazing! Spanish omelette and glistening patatas bravas were quickly devoured. As we tucked in, enthusiastically enjoying the food, sangria and conversation.
It was only a short stroll through the winding lanes of Barcelona’s old town to our next dinner venue, Agüel013. With its low lighting and minimal streamlined Scandinavian furniture, it was more upmarket, and the food was unbelievable. I filled my plate with golden puffy cheese croquettes and more glistening patatas bravas (this time with a garlicky aioli), but the best was yet to come – mushrooms on a whole different level (but again, so simple). Mushroom. Garlic. Oil. Butter. Parsley. Eat. I mopped up all the juices with my fresh white bread. More refreshing white sangria? Yes, please!
In Barcelona, La Torna is great for lunch and breakfast. The salads come with wonderful dressings, and this is where my adoration of Spanish goat’s cheese really started when I was served a dinner-plate sized wheel of cheese on a beautifully arranged salad.
One afternoon back in Barcelona after wandering around the Santa Caterina Mercardo, not far from the Picasso Museum, I was purchasing souvenirs for home – smoked paprika and a spicy hot one too (I really only bought them for the beautiful tins!) when my nose lead me to a bar serving a dazzling array of fresh foods. I perched myself at the bar and watched in awe as the ladies in the tiny area served dozens of customers with grace and speed, which was just as much fun as eating the food on offer!
Some of my favourite dishes were the simple breakfasts of bread, smothered with the finest extra virgin olive oil, cold crushed tomatoes and a dusting of salt – Pan Con Tomate. The best version of this dish was served to me with a hot black Americano coffee at a train station in Madrid.
In Segovia, after walking around this spectacular walled city in the middle of Spain, I parked myself in front of the Catedral de Segovia and at the locals’ bar I tucked into a plate of patatas bravas and a cold draught beer. In Madrid I found myself at Toro, with a view of the imposing Royal Palace, and enjoyed complimentary stuffed Spanish olives and a delicious selection tapas – creamy Russian salad, Iberico jamon, Spanish omelette, and a mini wheel of goats cheese.
I found a local mecca for ham (and a vegetarian’s worst nightmare) – Museo del Jamon near the Prado Museum. Hundreds of ham legs hung from the ceiling, ready to be turned into jamon. The traditional bocadillo (a ‘sandwich’ made with a rustic barra de pan or baguette-style bread loaf) was once was just looked upon as a poor person’s meal, but it is now making a resurgence because it is inexpensive and very delicious. Layers of thinly sliced jamon are draped on the fresh bread with layers of cheese too, if you want, all with complementary chorizo and a beer – all for just 3 euros. This bar and restaurant is one for the locals. People were buying their weekly jamon stash in eye-watering weights, while others were propping up the bar and giving out advice to the other regulars.
Food is pretty much my favourite thing in the world! It’s one of the deciding factors when I choose a new place to visit, and it’s one of the most fun and powerful ways to experience a new culture. Buen provecho!