Archive for the Eixample Category

Valencia – Eixample – Gran Via

Posted in Eixample, Spain, Valencia, Valenciana Comunidad with tags , on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

Gran Via is the subdistrict of the Eixample that lies to the south of Gran Via del Marques de Turia. There are heaps of restaurants around here, particularly along Carrer del Comte d’Altea.

Mercatbar (High Intermediate B), 27 Carrer de Joaquin Costa, www.mercatbar.es

This is the flagship tapas bar of Quique Dacosta, a famous local chef who was the talk of the town when I was there. The idea is to reinvent traditional classics in a modern style. Visually and conceptually the food is wonderful but sadly the flavours just weren’t there for me. A chef I met told me that the food is prepared in a central kitchen and then sent out to the restaurants in the chain (including Vuelva Catalina and El Poblet) where it’s heated up, which can’t be good for how it tastes when it finally reaches your plate.

The famous Souffle de Patata y Yema de Huevo, appears to be an egg ‘yolk’ in little mouth sized parcel. I now know that restaurants in Spain are not allowed to sell dishes made with fresh eggs and instead they use reconstituted powder to simulate egg dishes, which might explain how it’s possible to make this seemingly complex tapa. It was an interesting concept but not much more (B).

The Langostinos Crujientes Fritos were okay (B) but the Romescu sauce it served with was pretty horrible (D). I was intrigued by the Cubalibre de Foie Gras con Escarcha de Limon, or foie coated with a kind of coca cola jelly and lemon sorbet, It was an interesting combo that worked pretty well (B+) but there was too much of it. The potato crisps were fine (B) but the local wine left a bit to be desired (C).

To finish the Milojas Clasico de Crema Pastelera Caramelizada (millefoille) were good (B) and I loved the homemade no label muscatel (A+).
I was served by a very nice lady who if anything was a bit too attentive. The décor is modern and bright with a TV showing how their dishes are made, which makes for addictive viewing. It’s an experience so go by all means but Camarena’s places are better. Arrive early or reserve.

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Casa Vela (Intermediate A), Carrer D’Isabel la Catolica, www.restaurantecasavela.com, Closed Sundays

A small but high quality tapas bar and deli, since 1908. They can seat about twenty at tables in the back. I came at lunchtime for a mixed tuna salad which I couldn’t fault (A). Big wine selection available.

Valencia – Eixample – El Pla del Remei

Posted in Eixample, El Pla del Remei, Spain, Valenciana Comunidad with tags on October 4, 2015 by gannet39

The Eixample and Extramurs are residential areas organised on a grid system which lie respectively to the south and west of the medieval old town and its winding streets. Eixample is known as ‘the rich widening’ as opposed to Extramurs which is ‘the poor widening’.

The Eixample is the area to the east of the train station, running along either side of Gran Via de los Germaines and its extension Gran Via del Marques de Turia. It has three sub-districts, Gran Via, El Pla del Remei and Ruzafa.

In El Pla del Remei, the subdistrict north of Gran Via, you can find the stunningly beautiful Mercado de Colon on Calle Jorge de Juan. It was designed by Francisco Mora Berenguer who studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture and you can see the influences of Catalan architects such as Gaudi and Montaner in the structure.

It’s no longer a fully functioning market but was restored in 2003 to house a cafe, a Camarena restaurant in the basement (now closed) and a few small businesses.

Barcelona – Eixample – in awe of the Quadrat d’Or

Posted in Barcelona, Catalonia, Eixample, Quadrat d'Or, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2015 by gannet39

This post is mainly about architecture. For restaurant reviews in the area please see my posts on Diagonal, the area at the top of Paseig de Gracia, or continuing a bit further north, Gràcia. My Google map of the city is here.

The Quadrat d’Or, or ‘golden quarter’ is the part of the Eixample neighbourhood between Carrer Aribau in the west and Passeig de Sant Joan to the east, with Paseig de Gracia at its epicentre.

The construction of the Eixample, meaning ‘extension’, employed the ideas of radical urban planner Ildefons Cerdà. It was financed by the city’s richest families who competed with each other to build the most aesthetically pleasing residences in the local architectural style that was in fashion at the time; Catalan Modernisme.

This is why there are so many of the famous Modernista buildings   centered around the top of Passeig de Gràcia by famous local architects, in particular the big three, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Antonio Gaudi.
Perhaps the most famous, and my favourite, is Casa Batlló at 43 Passeig de Gràcia, built in 1877 but redesigned by Gaudi thirty years later. It’s also known locally as Casa dels Ossos or the ‘House of Bones’ due to it’s skeletal pillars. Personally it makes me think of Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house.

La Batlio
I didn’t manage to capture the beautiful roof in this pic but please click on it anyway to fully appreciate the details (along with all the other photos).

Right next door, with it’s greatly contrasting German Gothic influences, is the less surreal but still very wonderful Casa Amatller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (41 Passeig de Gràcia).

Casa Amatller
It has one of my favourite windows ever. Loving the gargoyles.

Amatller balcony

Along with Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner at 35 Passeig de Gràcia (on the corner with Carrer del Consell de Cent), these buildings are the most important on the Illa de la Discòrdia or ‘Block of Discord’, so called because of their very varied styles of construction.
Also popular with the tourists is the Gaudi-designed Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera or ‘the Quarry’) on the corner of Paseig de Gracia and Carrer de Provenca. The undulating walls are intended to look like waves on the sea and the ironwork on the balconies like seaweed.

La Pedrera
Going further up the hill and crossing Avenguda Diagonal you will see the lesser known Casa Comalat by Modernista architect Salvador Valeri i Pupurull at 442 Avenguda Diagonal.
This residential building is unusual for having two facades.

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The front on Avenguda Diagonal is quite symmetrical and made of stone (sorry I have no decent pic, these are all from the rear).

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Whereas the back facade on Calle Corsega is curved and meant to look like the stern of a Spanish galleon.

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The influence of Gaudi can clearly be seen throughout.

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Continuing up the hill, you will find the neo-Gothic Casa Fuster at 132 Paseig de Gràcia which was Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s last building in Barcelona, completed in 1911.

Spain2a 089Montaner’s take on Modernisme was much more understated than Gaudi’s but his buildings are still amazing. Casa Fuster is now a hotel but it still retains its charm.

This post is a work in progress! More next time I’m in town…

Barcelona – Eixample – the delights of Diagonal

Posted in Barcelona, Catalonia, Diagonal, Eixample, Quadrat d'Or, Spain with tags , , on March 16, 2015 by gannet39

Avenguda Diagonal is of course a very long road but in this post I’m referring to the four blocks in the Eixample around Diagonal Metro Station at the top of Paseig de Gracia, where it meets Avenguda Diagonal.

Spain2a 096There are many delights in this small area. To begin with there’s the beautiful but less known Modernista house Casa Comalat at 442 Avenguda Diagonal.

And of course one block down the hill there’s the more famous Gaudi-designed Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera or ‘the Quarry’) on the corner of Paseig de Gracia and Carrer de Provenca.

I’ve put photos of these buildings in a separate, more architecture-focussed post on the Quadrat d’Or, which is the heart of the Eixample neighbourhood.

Right next door to Casa Mila at 96 Paseig de Gracia is Vinçon, my most favourite design superstore in the world!

Bar Mut (Advanced A), 192 Carrer de Pau Claris, Tel. 93 217 4338, www.barmut.com

Spain2a 122This is one of the poshest tapas bar in town, up there with the more longstanding Cal Pep (see my El Born post).

Spain2a 103I had the good fortune to go with my compadres Mark and Natalia whose friend David Elfstrand (now head chef at Malamen on Carrer Blai) was working in the kitchen when we went and got us a discount.

Spain2a 112I was too busy enjoying myself to score the dishes but it was all top notch stuff (A/B+). Dishes included grilled prawns, steamed clams, a boletus omelette.

Spain2a 113Can’t quite remember what this dish was (a concoction of squid with noodles and egg yolk perhaps?) but it was good.

I remember the fig and melted cheese salad as being particularly amazing.

Spain2a 119Also great were the mixed fish fry and a very ugly looking grilled monkfish strewn with baby clams!

Spain2a 133Mark used his extensive knowledge of local wine to get us a top notch bottle of Priorat white.

Spain2a 115A good bottle of Verdejo and a couple of desserts were also involved.

I think we spent about €80 each but it was well worth it!

Mutis Club (Advanced A?), on the corner of Avenguda Diagonal and  Carrer de Pau Claris, Tel. 932 174 338

Spain2a 129Immediately above, and belonging to Bar Mut, this tiny secret club has won an award for being Best Bar in Europe and has attracted such famous customers as Robert de Niro, Russell Crowe and Woody Allen.

Spain2a 128In keeping with their speakeasy philosophy, you won’t find the address online or in any other the media but basically, if you turn left out of Bar Mut and go round the corner onto Avenguda Diagonal, you will see the door immediately on your left.

Spain2a 125There’s usually a bouncer when it’s open but I have no idea how hard it is to get in as we had a peek in the day time when it was closed.

Spain2a 131The entertainment I think is live music, mainly jazz, and stand up comedy. Probably best to reserve. Must go next time in town!

From 2008 and 2010:

El Japones (B+), 2 Passatge de La Concepcio, (a side street opposite Vinçon and La Pedrera on Paseig de Gracia).

My national manager first brought me here in 2008. It’s a fairly expensive modern-Japanese place, comparable to Wagamama  with its modern décor and long bench tables, but the food is better in my opinion. I also like it because the dishes arrive together and they do sushi too, unlike Wagamama (one of my least liked establishments).

The menu is a series of tick boxes which you complete and give to the server. It messes the system up a bit but you can still order dish by dish as and when you want it, just as the Japanese would. I went through three tick box menus in all.

We had good tempura and miso soup but the sushi platter was the winner. They also do gyoza dumplings, fried rice and fried noodles (no soups), okonomiyaki (similar to and as bad as Japanese pizza, I’m not a fan).

I went again in 2010 with money saving in mind and filled up on €3.50 dishes such as a big bowl of white rice accompanied by Neguima Yakitori (pieces of chicken and green onion on a skewer with yakiniku sauce) which weren’t too far off the real thing (B-).

I had this alongside Tsukune Yaki which transpired to be oversalted balls of pork in a gloopy sauce, pretty horrible (D). Filling up with cheap stuff first meant I could savour the Sushi Variado, (€20), fourteen pieces of pretty good nigiri and maki sushi (B-).

The draught (de barril) beers were €2.50 each. It’s a good place for a change from Spanish food and service is fast and friendly. Much better than the other pseudo-Japanese places in the area. Expect queues at peak times.

Went back in 2014 but decided I couldn’t afford it! Hopefully there’ll be a better exchange rate next time…

Barcelona – Urchins in the Eixample

Posted in Barcelona, Catalonia, Eixample, Spain on June 4, 2012 by gannet39

The Eixample, meaning ‘extension’ in Catalan, filled in the space between Barcelona’s Ciutat Velha (old town) and the once separate towns of Gracia to the north, Sants to the west and St Andreu to the east.

Consequently it contains many of the city’s Modernisme architectural masterpieces which I have put in separate posts on the Quadrat d’Or and Diagonal.

La Camarga (Advanced A) 117 Calle Aribau, Tel, 933 236 655., www.lacamarga.com

Was taken here by my friend Dixy and his girlfriend Natalia. Dixy has impeccable taste in food and wine and has written many articles about the food scene in Barcelona, so I trust his judgement completely.

UrchinsMy favourite dish here was our shared starter of Garotes Gratinades, sea urchins baked in the oven with cheese served in their shells and the creamy sauce eaten with a teaspoon (A+).

ArtichokesAfter that the Amanida de Carxofes artichoke salad found it hard to compete and for me they tasted bland by comparison (C). It would probably have been better to have them first.

NataliaDixBlack PudFor our mains Natalia had Calamars Farcits, squid in a tasty sauce (A).

CalamaresTunaMorcilla RavioliDixy had Tronc de Tonyina  (tuna baked with young garlic) which was also excellent (A) and I had the Raviolis D’Anec, deep fried black pudding ravioli which were good (B) but not quite what I was hoping for.

Penedes TempranilloWith this a fine bottle of Albet i Noya Tempranillo  (B+) from the Penedes DOC.

Best oneTarta TatinDixy made the best choice again for dessert with a dish called Neules LLavores and Natalia couldn’t fail with her Coulant de Xocolata (A).

Chocolate PudMy choice of Tarta Tatin was good (B+) if unexciting.

The perfect accompaniment was a few glasses of Pedro Ximenez /HI me neth/ which was a grape variety rather than a bodega as I learned off Dixy.

Don ZoiloIt’s a very sweet dessert sherry made from raisins, this one made by Don Zoillo. I first had it in combination with Cabarales, a blue cheese from Asturias in the north of Spain, which was a mind blowing taste combination, but it goes very well with sweets too.

This is quite a posh place but the service was friendly. The decor is bright and modern and the food is great. Thanks Dixy x

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