El Raval has a long tradition of radical, especially Anarchist, opposition to the powers that be. It’s a fascinating history and you can take a Civil War history walk if you’re interested.
Things didn’t seemed to have changed much in May 2012 as I walked through Place de Catalunya on my way to El Raval to meet my old companiero Dixy who lives there.
The square was full of students and radicals who were protesting against government austerity measures. These ‘Indignados’ are a big source of inspiration for Occupy, their UK equivalent.
I met Dixy at his local; Casa Almirall (Calle Joaquin Costa 33), a 152-year-old bar which has a simple but pleasant wooden interior with Modernista touches, such as a cast iron statue of the muse for the 1888 World Fair.
We were drinking outside on the street though as it was much cooler. Although the city government has forbidden this, the owners didn’t seem to mind, but then this is the Raval.
The house special is the Oliveta, a glass of red vermouth, topped up with soda and garnished with a green olive on a toothpick; a top little aperitif (A).
They made us some nice canapés too; a selection of Manchego, Chorizo, Jamon and some kind of sliced Botifarra and Egg concoction, all very nice (A/B).
A couple of years earlier in 2010 I went to…
Meson David (Intermediate B+), 63 Carrer Carretes, Tel. 93 441 5934
A local institution, since 1908, specialising in Galician food, especially roast pork on the bone, cured hams and octopus. However in 2015 Dixy told me that standards have slipped in recent years sadly and it’s not what it was.
My first visit was a slight disappointment due to my poor choice of the Merluza Plancha o Romana, deep fried hake (C) which was very bland(though the grilled tomato with a garlic and breadcrumb topping that came with it was brilliant) (A).
However my second course of Botifarra con Moncheta, a big pork sausage with creamy stewed cannelloni beans, was much better (B). The second time I came, the Sopa de Pescado (B) was am intensely flavoured intro but the Roast Pork (A) with chips (B-) and ever present grilled tomato won the day.
The only thing that lets this place down is the wine. The dirt cheap house red Meson David, decanted from the barrel into bottles, is drinkable (C) but I couldn’t finish the bottle of Ribeiro tinto I had the next time as it seemed to get worse rather than better as some rough wines do! A big gang of locals were drinking rose so I will try that next time.
For dessert, the first time I went I had the Surtido des Tartas, the tart assortment, including ‘Santiago’ almond flavour (B), ‘Musico’ with dried fruit (C) but had narrowed it down to the Manzana apple tart (A) by the second visit. All desserts come with a shot glass of Jerez.
The orujo de hierbas was some of the best I have ever had, they get it in by the flagon so there is no label to read. Nice staff, most dishes in single figures, hope it picks up.
Bouzu (Intermediate B+), 26 Ronda San Antoni, bouzu.es
In 2014 Dixy and his lady Natalia brought me to this inexpensive Japanese ‘tapas’ bar in the west of the Raval disctrict..
It’s authentic in the sense that the staff are Japanese but some of the food, like this seared tuna garnished with rocket (B+), has been tailored for local tastes. Nothing wrong with that, I quite like the fusion with Mediterranean ingredients.
We also enjoyed these Uramaki and prawn tempura. The ‘inside-out roll’ is again not traditional but an innovation resulting from the creation of the California Roll. Still delicious though (B+).
We also had Atsukan, hot sake served in a little jug and my ruin on many nights out in Tokyo. I really enjoy reliving these flavour memories when they are done well, as they are here. Recommended.
Also in 2010 I went to…
Elisabets (Low Intermediate B), Carrer d’Elisabets, Tel. 93 317 5826
Another local institution since 1962, this is a great place for a cheap (€11.25) three course lunch if you are in the Placa Catalunya area.
The menu has seven options for each course but don’t necessarily go with my choices, I was just trying things out!
Habas de Catalunya are broad beans and cubes of bacon fat in a brown murky soup which looked worst than it tasted (B-), I scoffed the lot!
Next came Atun con Sanfaina, seared tuna with ratatouille, which was good too (B). To finish Cuajada Casera con Miel, curd and honey, was a nice plain and simple dessert to finish (B).
The decor is basic with lots of wood and a collection of old radios in the rear booth. Service was gruff but essentially friendly. Lunch starts at 1, and it’s busy by 2.
Bismilla Kebabish (Elementary B+), Calle Joaquin Costa 22
I can’t decide about this place. I had an amazing kebab here in 2012 (A+), partly because of their naan bread which is baked on the premises, but when I went back in 2014 it just wasn’t the same (B-).
On the other hand it might be that the lamb kebabs are much tastier than the chicken ones, or even a mix of the two as I had on my last visit. Obviously another test is needed!