Barcelona – seafood and eat it in San Pere

San Pere is an up-and-coming district with a truly eclectic mix of cultures, and is far less dangerous than it used to be according to Jaz, the British landlord at Mosquito (at 46 C/Carders, a stone’s throw from Mundial below) who has run his bar this neighbourhood for the last ten years. ‘Even the locals told me I was mad but here I am still and it’s been fine’. His bar specialises in the new breed of Catalan real ales, mainly in bottles but he has at least one  beer on draught. A nice spot for a pre-meal drink.

Mundial Bar, (Intermediate A), 1 Placa de Sant Augusti Vell, Tel. 93 3199 056. GEM ALERT!

This marisqueria is a must for foodies, a classic Barcelonan seafood tapas bar for which I’m more than happy to chance the winding streets of a less salubrious part of town. Rather than standing around looking at a bewildering map, I found it better to arrive early (I’d reserved for 9pm which is when it opens) and just wander in the general direction till I found it, which didn’t prove too difficult.

Once inside I was placed in the front room near the kitchen entrance, a good spot to watch all the action. You can sit further inside where the atmosphere is more intimate but I specified the front in my reservation. There is a long bar you can sit at but the marble top tables along the wall are perhaps most comfortable. The only decorative items are lots of photos of boxers in glass frames.

Many of the staff look like pugilists but are actually all very friendly characters. If you can, get Xavi Larrosa as your waiter, the tall shaved headed chap with earrings, and go with his suggestions. I was gutted when he wouldn’t let me have the mixed seafood grill (Parillaida) as it was far too much for one and cost €58. I thought I was man enough for the job but eventually went with his advice to order smaller.

In the end two fresh oysters (two portions for €5) were followed by eight grilled razor clams (€11.50) all amazing (A) and a very nice dry white ‘Cristari’ (Vall de Bablomar ’08) from the Costers del Segre DO south of Tarragona (B+).

The following dish of grilled prawns, with olive oil, garlic, parsley and sea salt, were perhaps the best I’ve ever had in Spain (move over Toni’s in Zaragoza), They were so good I had to suck out the head casings, just as my Norwegian grandfather taught me, for an even more intense flavour experience.

The next off-menu dish of crispy Aubergine slices dipped in honey and deep fried and served with fresh goats cheese was a revelation (A+), I must make this at home.

The grilled Alemejas (clams), which should be eaten by pulling the shell through your teeth so you get all the juices, were incredible too (A+).

By now I had befriended my Italian neighbours on the next table and had swapped some of my tender octopus sprinkled with paprika, which was great (A) but too much, and tomato bread for a few of their mussels, all excellent.

I wanted to cry though when they didn’t mop up all the juices left from the mussels and watched in despair as a disbelieving waiter took the dish away.

I’d long ago decided to surrender all the money in my pocket to this establishment but sadly it was stomach capacity that proved to be the restraining factor so I finished with a slice of tasty cheesecake from the impressive dessert tray and washed it down with three small glasses of a great local Moscatel Anejo called De Muller.

I spent €77 on sheer bliss, and Xavi let me have the shots of dessert wine on him.  An essential experience, definitely go.

Written Spring 2010

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