Many of you will appreciate that an important part of travel preparation is to plan all the places where you are going to head out to eat. As a direct result of this pre-planning, my holidays always seem to turn into a crazed eating feast moving from one venue to another in a mad attempt to complete an enormous bucket list of dishes and venues. One of the places I really wanted to visit in Barcelona was the famous Ferran Adria’s Tickets Bar. Tickets has the reputation of being one of the hardest restaurants in the world to secure a table at. I tried my best to get a seat online before I left Australia without success. On arrival in Barcelona I tried waiting outside Tickets before they opened that night in the grim hope of scoring someone else’s cancellation but this was all in vain. The closest I could get to entering the restaurant was a quick photo taken out the front with Debbie, my lovely new friend from Texas, that I had met at the conference I was attending that week.
Luckily there are a number of more accessible restaurants owned by the same group within walking distance albeit neither are headed by the acclaimed Chef Adria.
I consoled myself knowing at least I would be able to visit both of these other locations called Casa de Tapas and Rias de Galicia. I was so thankful that my newly made friends that I had met at the vet conference were also keen foodies and were more than happy to oblige my needs. I loved Casa’s quirky menu which came presented as a children’s book complete with wacky cartoons.
We ordered a bunch of tapas dishes to share, many of which were naturally gluten free and thus not requiring any adaptation. Within the first few days of arriving in Spain I had learnt to politely request to the wait staff “Sin gluten per favor?” voiced in my poorly pronounced Spanish. These seemed to be the magic words needed to help reveal my gluten free options. It amazed me that how no matter where we stopped to eat in Barcelona, everything tasted so damn good! Casa de Tapas’s marinated olives contained a mix of four different types including gordal sevillana, caspe, verdial and kalamata.
A simple dish that I grew to love in my time in Spain was “escalivada”, or smoked roasted vegetables. Soft strips of capsicum and eggplant were lightly charred and drizzled with olive oil making them as delicate as butter. This dish would have been even more amazing cast on top of some crusty bread. Sadly the only place I found gluten free bread in Barcelona was back at my hotel.
My friends each ordered themselves a “fried box of things” as it was described on the menu. Each wooden box contained a variety of crispy fried pieces of seafood including school prawns, calamari and octopus. It smelt absolutely amazing and made me quickly reach over for the menu to order myself some more food as I started to salivate.
With each dish we ate, Casa de Tapas reinforced the concept that you don’t need to use lots of fancy ingredients to make food taste amazing. All you require are fresh ingredients prepared with love. Dishes as simple as flash fried green peppers and poached prawns needed nothing extra for flavour other than a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Of course a meal in Spain wouldn’t have been complete without a serve of “pulpo”. There is nothing quite like Spanish octopus, it takes on a texture I rarely find replicated back home in Perth. It is so soft and nearly creamy, with no chewiness and is dusted with paprika and spices. This dish was served on top of slices of boiled potato that mashed easily under my fork. I smeared the potato over the spicy octopus sections and happily gobbled it up.
Casa de Tapas offer simple traditional Galician styled tapas without breaking the bank. I was very appreciative that they were so helpful with selecting gluten free tapas dishes for me. We found the service to be quick and friendly and would have been happy to return again and again if it wasn’t for my lengthy bucket list!Casa de Tapas Cañota Calle Lleida 7, 08004 Barcelona, Spain | 93 325 9171 | casadetapas.com Chompchomp’s Barcelona trip in July 2013 was partly funded for by her place of work as part of her continuing education fund. She had to foot the food bill for the week herself however despite eating the most absurd amount of food she found it to cost much less than an equivalent amount of feasting in her home-town of Perth, Australia.
Some of my friends suggest that I eat out too much. While that may be true it does depend on what you use as your reference point. The fact that I have an ever-increasing back log of pending blog posts may give some weight to support this accusation. On my trip to Barcelona last year I travelled without my husband making it the first time we were separated since we started dating nearly sixteen years ago. It felt strange and empty without him but I was lucky enough to find myself a wonderful group of friends which became my buddies for the whole week I was away. Every night the five of us would journey out into Barcelona for a meal together and I was so appreciative of their lovely and welcoming friendship. We all are still in contact with each other and hope to meet together again sometime. On our first night out for dinner as a group I really wanted to try to score a table at Tickets but being such a famous venue they were booked out well in advance. Deb and Tyler, the married couple among us strongly recommended to return where they ate at the night before; Restaurant L’Amfora.
Traditional and unassuming it didn’t look like much from the front as is typical of many of the excellent restaurants we ate at that week. I love the simplicity and lack of pretension in Barcelona leaving the focus to always be on the food. We were very warmly greeted and offered a table alfresco style on the street or indoors. All wanting to soak up the weather and atmosphere we sat outside.
Each table already had fresh tomatoes, garlic and oil placed for customers to make their own tomato bread. As I expected they didn’t have any gluten free bread so I watched with gleaming hungry eyes as my apologetic friends rubbed their garlic vigorously into the freshly toasted bread. I made a mental note to ensure to make this basic but very tasty snack as soon as I could get hold of some decent gluten free bread.
Having already started our own personal culinary exploration of this beautiful city, we each had found a number of Catalan favourites. For Deb and Tyler, one of these was a dish that I hadn’t seen before; a whole sea bass baked in sea salt. Interestingly this dish is not salty at all as the sea salt hardens around the fish into a crust when in the oven. This locks in all the flavour and juices of the fish.
Our fish was part baked before being brought to the table for a theatrical finish. I am presuming most of the actual cooking is done in the oven. Our waiter put on quite a show as he lit up the whole fish into flames. You could pick who were locals and who were tourists as the former barely batted an eyelid whilst the foreigners on surrounding tables looked on in awe.
After allowing the flames to die out our waiter carefully removed the solid chunks of salt along with the skin to expose the soft, moist flesh underneath.
You can order paella from literally everywhere in Spain; in fact it was easier to find it than a burger and fries. No matter where any of us ordered it we were never disappointed. Personally I tended to steer away from ordering it too often as it often contained onions. Our table’s serve was meant for one but could have easily fed two and was topped with a variety of fresh local seafood.
Although our waiter spoke English quite well, I still showed him the courtesy of handing over my eating card in Spanish to take to the kitchen. He was knowledgeable enough of the very large menu to recommend a couple of dishes for me. The squid was simply prepared with garlic, fresh lemon and herbs. Tender without any chewiness I began to wonder if there would be anywhere in Barcelona where the food would fail to impress me.
My second dish he recommended was smoked flathead with marinated eggplant and capsicum. With such basic and minimal ingredients this is a meal that fresh ingredients and preparation is key. There were more fillets of fish than I could finish and each piece flaked apart easily imparting a deep smoky aftertaste. Whilst I initially thought this to be a strange combination with the marinated vegetables, the sweetness of the capsicum and near creaminess of the eggplant rounded the flavours off perfectly.
We ended the night with a bit more entertainment as our very expressive waiter insisted we try his speciality; the banana flambé. Whilst this is by no means a traditional Spanish dessert, it allowed our seemingly pyromaniac waiter to light another fire. As we had already drunk our way through a fair bit of gin and sangria by this point, we were not complaining. As he prepared our dish rather flamboyantly, he learnt from my friends that I was a food blogger and proceeded to extend an invitation for me to return the next day to try the whole menu. All ten of or pages of it! Suffice to say I didn’t get back to try such a feast but there is always a next time! Barcelona taught me not to judge a restaurant by its cover as it has many pleasant surprises and Restaurant L’Amfora Barcelona was certainly one of them.
Restaurant L’Amfora Barcelona
Avenue Paral-lel, 184, 08015, Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 933 253 427 | www.restaurantamfora.com
Some people shop until they drop. Me? I just eat until I drop. gluten free Barcelona
Surely, by far and by large the best part of travelling to another country is being able to taste their local cuisine. When the Boy and I travel together we will always share our dishes so that we can try as many different things as possible. Recently I travelled to Barcelona without my lovely husband to attend the International Society of Feline Medicine’s World Feline Veterinary Conference. This was a new experience travelling solo and it presented me with a problem; I no longer had a buddy to share food my food with. Now logically one would think that there is an easy solution to this problem. Just order less food. But no, this solution was never going to work as moderation has never been my forte. I take the concept of “all or nothing” very seriously.
For most of my restaurant meals that I devoured in Barcelona I will write (or have already written) an individual blog post about the experience. But as I wandered through the cobbled streets of this wonderful city I found that it was so easy finding a gluten free Barcelona to enjoy so in addition to my more elaborate meals I wanted to share these extra snippets and snacks with you.
If you head out toward the coast of Barcelona you will find a quaint neighbourhood called La Barceloneta. It is a triangular shaped district that cuts into the sea and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Port Vell and the trendy El Born neighbourhood. Filled with cute little narrow streets you can smell the fresh taint of sea in the air. Strolling through the cobbled lane ways I found loads of busy tapas bars and restaurants serving wonderful cheap Catalan food.
On my first day in Barcelona I wanted to familiarise myself with some key foodie spots so I took a small personalised tapas tour with a German man named Dirk Engelhart. One of the places he took us to was a bustling little joint called La Bombeta who specialise in a Catalan dish called “bombas”. Bombas are deep-fried balls of fluffy mashed potato with a minced meat centre and they are served with a spicy brava sauce. They are not gluten free unfortunately so I didn’t try them. As I looked around the cramped bar I noticed it was filled with a combination of both locals and tourists. Always a good sign.
Bombas are not the only thing on La Bombeta’s menu and there were plenty of gluten free options for me. I ordered of bowl of piping hot steamed mussels, a plate of grilled sardines and some fresh prawns. The service was quick and the vibe was noisy but fun. The prawns were so fresh and crunchy with a strong, rich flavour; these were ones that were good enough to suck the juices out of their heads. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to enjoy such a delicacy, I shamelessly sucked every one noisily while the remaining two tour members in our group looked on in horror.
Dirk also took us to a small little dessert bar called Sweet Dreams, which is located in the heart of the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter. I was ecstatic to see quite a number of gluten free mini-cakes that looked very different from the usual boring, bog standard offerings. I tried their chocolate genoise cake with orange cream and passionfruit coulis. Fairy light sponge was topped with uplifting cream and embellished with tangy coulis. This was an assault on my senses that I could happily endure again and again.
The conference spanned over one week and the majority of it was fully catered for with meals provided by the hotel; Hotel Fira Palace. But honestly, when you are staying in such a fabulous gastronomic country like Spain who wants to eat hum drum catered food? Intermittently I found myself sneaking out of lectures into the sunshine to grab myself a quick bite of something more local. Surprisingly I found that most of the places that I visited had a good understanding of what is gluten free provided that I asked them the correct magic words:
“Por favor, Sin gluten?”
Strangely, the remarkably similar words of “no gluten” or “gluten free’ appeared to be much harder for the locals to understand and consequently I earned the nickname of “Dr Sin Gluten” by a group of four lovely foodie friends that I meet on the first day of the conference.
The wonderful thing about travelling to an international conference is that you can meet like-minded people from all around the world. The five of us spanned across the globe; one from Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, one from West Virginia, a couple from Austin, Texas and then of course there was myself from Perth, Australia. We all instantly seemed to click with each other and proceeded to spend the rest of the week wining, dining, laughing and sharing stories together until the wee hours of each morning. I look forward to the next time that we can all gather together again! Hopefully it will be soon!
Prior to meeting my posse, one of the first places I tried was Conessa, a little sandwich store in Plaça Sant Jaume situated in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Conessa specialise in making gluten free baguettes and they have a huge range to choose from and an English menu. My eating habits had already started to escalate out of control so I sensibly wanted to just try something light. I chose one of their vegetarian options which contained my absolute favourite Spanish cheese manchego along with fresh tomato, fried pepper and oregano. The bread was very fluffy and did not crumble apart as many gluten free breads are prone to doing. The bread had a slight sweet taste that reminded me of brioche both with its texture and its flavour.
Northern Spain is the origin of pintxos and Barcelona has numerous pintxos bars dotted all about their streets. Since Bar de Halcyon recently opened in Perth many of us are now educated to appreciate what pintxos are but for those who are not in the know, they are are basically small snacks that are speared by a wooden stick and served on a bar where you go up and choose for yourself. Once you have eaten your full, the waiter will come over to your table and count how many sticks you have which determines your bill. Like many sushi bars who use coloured plates, some pintxos bars will use different colour sticks to indicate varying prices.
Traditionally pintxos are served on a slice of crusty bread meaning that most of them are not gluten free. Bilbao Berria is a popular pintxos bar in Plaça Nova and their bar is filled with all sorts of amazing Catalan tapas. Unfortunately, whilst the wait staff are friendly and efficient they weren’t overly helpful in assisting me to choose gluten free options. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and made a not so educated guess what was suitable.
Everything looked far too tempting and I wanted to try them all! To maximise how many pintxos I could eat I stupidly talked myself into believing that I would be FINE pulling the toppings off the bread and just eating those without eating the bread. Of course I was totally wrong and the gluten contamination proved enough for me to have a reaction that evening. It’s my own stupid fault for being so brazen. Or greedy. Nevertheless, despite my own self-inflicted gluten ingestion, I was still impressed with the variety and quality of pintxos on offer at Bilbao Berria and for those people blessed with no gluten intolerance I highly recommend a visit.
When we hit the mid-week mark, there was a lecture free afternoon to allow delegates time to explore the city. Our posse of five headed out together with basic ambitions to catch rays of sunshine, eat some food and do a spot of shopping. Off we headed down Avenue Parallel and before long we had worked up a bit of an appetite and agreed to stop and eat. We sat down outside at a fairly nondescript tapas bar situated along the Avenue however I didn’t catch their name. What I do remember is that despite speaking very poor English they were extremely helpful and enthusiastic in advising me what was “sin gluten” on their simple and inexpensive tapas menu.
For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you may have already been reading about my obsession for marinated octopus that started whilst I was over in Spain. Back home in Perth I commonly find octopus to be quite chewy. Not so in Barcelona. The Spaniards obviously take much greater care preparing these creatures and every time I ate it over there I was repeatedly astounded how soft and delicate it can actually be.
My fellow companions also ordered their favourite; tomato bread or pan con tomate. This is one of the simplest, well-loved, widely eaten and famous dishes from Cataluña. Many tapas bars will have a bowl of tomatoes and garlic sitting on the table with a bottle of olive oil so you can make the bread yourself. It is so easy to make but unfortunately not many bars have gluten free bread! Consequently upon my return to Perth I was inspired to make my own gluten free pan con tomate. See my recipe here.
Before I left Perth for Barcelona, I asked around on Twitter for advice on where to eat. I was told by one blogger to just “Eat everything!” There is some merit in this comment because for my whole week in Barcelona, I didn’t have one meal that failed to impress me. Whether it was a planned and highly researched degustation extravaganza like at Nectari and Ria de Gallacia, or just a spontaneous, unplanned stop-in at Restaurant L’Amfora as we were walking past; all the food I ate was amazing. More importantly I found that a gluten free Barcelona really does exist leaving me champing at the bit to return to this amazing city!
It is no wonder that I managed to become a fatty boombaladi so rapidly and although I cannot wait to return to Spain, I have some hard work at the gym first!La Bombeta Calle de la Maquinista 3, La Barceloneta, 08003 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 933 199 445 | (Tapas 4.50-14 €) Sweet Dreams Carrer Regomir 4 bis, Barric Gótico, 08002 Barcelona, Spain | +34 (0) 671 430 115 Bilbao Berria Plaça Nova 3, Barcelona & c/Argenteria 6, Barcelona | +34 (0) 933 170 124 Conessa Barri Gòtic: Llibreteria 1(Plaça Sant Jaume), 08002 Barcelona | +34 (0) 933 101 394 Hostafrancs-Montjuic: Creu Coberta 80, 08014 Barcelona
Tomato bread, or as it is said in Spanish “pan con tomate” is one of the simplest but most well-loved and widely eaten dishes from the Cataluña region in the Northern parts of Spain. During my recent travels to Barcelona I found that many tapas bars would actually have bowls of tomatoes and garlic sitting out on their tables with a bottle of olive oil. As their customers took their seats, waiters would bring out freshly toasted bread to the table enabling the diners to make the bread for themselves. Unfortunately for me I found that not many of these bars offered gluten free bread thus leaving me to watch others enjoy the tomato bread in envy. Consequently upon my return to Perth I was inspired to make my own gluten free tomato bread.
Just a word of warning. This gluten free tomato bread is so easy to make yet it is incredible addictive.
I dare you to stop at just one slice.
Firstly gather your ingredients; all you will need is some gluten free bread, ripe tomatoes, fresh garlic, olive oil and sea salt. I used Schar’s Pane Casereccio which has a great continental texture and toasts beautifully.
Cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side onto the slice of toasted bread until the clove is worn down and falling to pieces.
Slice a ripe tomato in half and then rub the cut side of the tomato generously onto the toast.
Use one tomato half for one to two pieces of bread and allow most of the tomato pulp to be absorbed by the bread.
Drizzle with olive oil, salt to taste and voila! Gluten free tomato bread! Eat immediately!
A little shout out of thank to my dear husband for being my hand model. 😉 xxx
Earlier this year I was in Barcelona for eight days to attend a conference. Despite this being a short trip, I managed to squeeze in a tremendous amount of eating and I can proudly look back and commend myself with my efforts. The downside of my gluttony was incrementally revealed day by day as I stood in front of my hotel room mirror each morning I could see my waist line slowly enlarging! After the first few days I realised I needed an action plan and so first thing in the morning I forcibly dragged myself out of bed hung-over and blearily eyed in order to jog up the 200 stairs leading to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
On reaching the summit I nearly tripped over my own feet in exhaustion with my sides heavily heaving and my face flushed tomato red. Feeling hideously nauseous but oh-so-satisfied I vowed to return to repeat it all again the next day. This was my warped mental justification for spending the remainder of my day eating.
After thoroughly enjoying a vibrant degustation solo at Restaurant Nectari, I accepted that eating alone in a restaurant isn’t nearly as daunting or as boring as I originally had once thought and so off I set on foot to do it again. Prior to my departure from Perth I had read about Chef Carles Abellan and was keen to try one of his tapas bars. After getting a little lost wandering the streets of Barcelona I conveniently stumbled upon one of his restaurants Tapas 24.
One of the waiters could speak very good English and was happy to help me choose a couple of dishes that would be gluten free. I looked around and noticed there was a mix of locals and tourists and was relieved that I hadn’t landed myself in a tourist trap. As I waited for my dishes to be prepared I was brought some flavourful, soft marinated olives on the house.
My orders came out one by one allowing me enough time to sit and enjoy each one without feeling like a greedy piglet surrounded by her solitary feast. My first dish was ceviche de corvina; thinly sliced raw sea bass. The fish was nearly translucent and delicate, tasting as fresh as the sea and melting in my mouth upon contact. It was served chilled on a bed of ice with fresh chilli and avocado on a crisp baby cos leaf.
The next dish was the Presa iberica with chimichurri. This was an Iberican pork dish that was quite unlike any pork I have ever had. The meat was a rich ruby red colour and it was served rare like a fine beef fillet topped with spoonfuls of spicy chimichurri. It was incredibly juicy and tender as was by far my favourite dish of the afternoon.
As I waited for my next dish to arrive, the family sitting at the bar next to me turned towards me and asked me where I was from in a familiar Australian accent. It turned out that they too were from Perth and we soon got busy chatting. Theo, the father of the family humbly talked about his day job owning a family run seafood distribution business and that this was his first family holiday in many years. As he spoke it suddenly dawned upon me who he was and I blurted out:“Are you the real Mr Kailis from the Kailis Brothers? OMG! You are basically like Perth foodie royalty!”
Oh dear. Perhaps this is why I shouldn’t dine out on my own. My mouth speaks before I think, especially once I’ve been drinking wine!
Realising that I may have just totally embarrassed myself and possibly also Theo, he graciously brushed my compliment aside with a very down to Earth and warm manner. With perfect timing my last dish arrived; tacos de cochinita pibil. Cochinita pibil is a traditional Mexican slow cooked pork dish where citrus is used to marinate the meat to give an acidic tangy flavour. It was served with fresh limes and red onions but of course I omitted the onions due to my fructose malabsorption. This was the perfect dish to end on; it was satisfying, filling and very tasty albeit somewhat messy.
Over the next few days I tried my hardest to get back to Tapas 24 for a second meal but unfortunately didn’t manage it. To be sure it will remain on my hit list for when I return back to Barcelona with the Boy. It was so inspiring to meet the Kailis family, their business is a household name for most of us Perth foodies and when I go shopping at their fish café I’m like a child in a lolly shop wanting to buy more than I could possibly eat.
Shortly upon my return to Perth I returned to their Fish Café in Leederville for a very enjoyable meal where I found their marinated octopus was as good as that I ate in Barcelona. And that is saying something!Tapas 24 Calle diputación, 269, Barcelona 08007 | +34 (0) 934 880 977 | www.carlesabellan.es/restaurantes-tapas-24 Price: $$$ Food: 4/5 (hard to fully assess with only 3 dishes but fresh ingredients and great flavours) Service: 4.5/5 (my waiter wouldn’t let me leave & gave me a extra glass of wine on the house! Too sweet) Ambience: 3/5 (I went and sat straight at the bar where the action was at) Drinks: 3.5/5 (mainly Spanish wines on the list – ask the waiter for a suggestion) Total: 15/20
Degustation is a French word which can be translated into meaning “a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods focusing on the senses using high culinary art”. I have always been a huge fan of tasting menus as they allow me to taste a myriad of different dishes and leave me so insanely full that I never feel like I missed out. This style of dining is one best done slowly with good company and conversation which makes me thankful that my dear husband loves “degos” as much as I do. As you can imagine, for my recent solo trip to Barcelona I became emotionally torn; do I have a degustation in a city known for its fabulous food ON MY OWN? Is that too weird? I had read great things about Michelin starred Restaurant Nectari where their Chef Jordi Esteve offers a gluten free tasting menu complete with matching wines. Nectari opened their doors nearly five years ago and since then they have worked toward earning a well-known reputation for their service and food leading to receiving their first Michelin Star in 2013.
I tried to visualise myself sitting alone in a restaurant eating a ten course meal and decided that although I could do it I would be less conspicuous at lunchtime. I arranged my booking via email before leaving Australia but on my arrival I was met with a few surprised looks, mainly because I was on my own and regrettably spoke negligible Spanish. I was ushered into the empty restaurant, looked around at the vacant seats and started to wonder if this was all a big mistake. I tried to remind myself that the Spanish eat out late, and that it would be normal to find a restaurant empty on a week day.
My nervousness was soon to pass as my waitress for the day approached me with such genuine warmth that I immediately felt at ease. I quickly learnt she was a cat person and before long we were exchanging feline stories in broken English. My amuse bouche was so colourful with four very different mouthfuls of deliciousness; a spoonful of fresh raw salmon with a sliver of creamy egg frittata, a fold of mango wrapped in jamón, fresh mandarin with mozzarella and a quail egg on top of olive purée. Some home-made gluten free olive and spiced tomato breads were also brought to the table with a selection of local olive oils to choose from.
In my excitement to share my first course on Instagram I completely forgot to take a photo with my SLR camera “Gordon” and therefore only have this iPhone shot. Sorry peeps! The soup was a mussel cream served with sesame and green oil. Even though it was served cold it had a rich, strong flavour. Hidden in the bottom was a single super sweet prawn.
The foie gras terrine was served with an unusual combination of watermelon coulis, pistachio and fresh strawberries. Each sliver was decadent and creamy with a sweet after-taste accentuated by the coulis. Crunchy almond biscuits with a hint of black pepper provided a textural contrast.
Staying true to the Chef’s traditional Spanish roots his next course was a glammed up gazpacho. Freshly poached lobster, caramelised roasted almonds, melon sorbet and jamón were all gently engulfed by the vibrant gazpacho as it was poured into my bowl tableside.
My palate was entertained with layers of fruity coolness interrupted intermittently by the crunch of a roasted nut or smoked piece of jamón. This was an outstanding dish.
The next course was described as “sting ray with carrot sauce and mussels”. I wished my Spanish was better so I could further enjoy the details that she described of this dish. Each piece of fish was delicate and soft, shredding easily under my fork. The sauce was surprisingly syrupy and sweet.
The following course was the only dish I didn’t thoroughly enjoy; prawn and mushroom dumplings with a seafood sauce. The dumplings were a little chewy and their contents were too salty for my liking.
Before the main course I was served a refreshing passionfruit sorbet “for my digestion” topped with a sugar crusted miniature mint leaf. After the briny dumplings it was a welcome cleanser for my taste buds.
The rack of lamb was served very rare which is thankfully just how I like it. I visualised in my mind some of my more conservative friends gasping at the deep red colour and lack of brown sear on the meat. It was served with a bright red pepper sauce and roasted green garlic. The green garlic was quite mild in flavour but even so I knew there would be no vampires attacking me on my walk back to the hotel.
The cheese plate included Tous del Tillers, Comte and Gorgonzola. Tous del Tillers is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Catalan province of Lleida and had Brie-like bloomy rind and rich creamy centre. Comte is a semi-hard unpasteurised cheese from France and is thus is hard to obtain in Australia. It has a complex, nutty flavour and similar texture to Gruyère. Many of you will be much more familiar with Gorgonzola as this is a regular feature on many cheese platters back in Perth.
My dessert was quite an unusual surprise. A shimmering gold bullion shaped block of rich chocolate mousse sat comically on my plate. As I plunged my spoon into its foamy texture, thick cranberry liquor oozed out. It was magical and unexpected. The combination of tart and sweet was perfectly balanced and ended this experience on a high note.
As my petit fours was brought to the table I realised that I had journeyed through a whole ten course degustation on my own without once feeling bored or lonely. For someone who is normally highly gregarious I felt this to be a big achievement. I have to confess however the restaurant DID have WIFI allowing me to skate across a number of social media platforms for the duration of my meal. The lunch ended with the chef coming out to my table wanting to get my feedback and to make sure that I enjoyed my meal. A lovely personal touch.
Nectari RestaurantCarrer València, 28 08015 Barcelona | 932 26 87 18 | www.nectari.es Price: $$$ (Awarded One Michelin Star 2013, caters for gluten free) Food: 4.5/5 (presented exquisitely and passionately, fresh flavours with local influences) Service: 4/5 (one of the waitresses speaks reasonable English, otherwise best learn Spanish) Ambience: 3.5/5 (hard to assess as I dined at an unusual time in the middle of the week and day) Drinks: 4/5 (beautifully matched wines choosing predominately local wines) Total: 16/20
Despite the common perception that veterinarians make a lot of money, those of you who are in the profession can appreciate it is really quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong; it can be a highly rewarding career but it is not a path I would recommend to someone who aspires to be rich! While many of my non vet friends frequently travel for their jobs, work travel of a veterinary nature is much less frequent and usually has to be self-funded. This year my continuing education expenditure has ground to a halt as I poured all my spare savings into our magical wedding in Thailand. When I saw a brochure for the World Feline Veterinary Congress in Barcelona, I consoled myself that there would always be other Congresses. So I’m sure you can imagine my complete gratitude and surprise when our company offered to fund a trip for me to attend. A whole week of cats, tapas and Spanish sun. I felt like I had won the lotto!
I have always heard such glowing reviews of Emirates but have never wanted to lose out on my Qantas Frequent Flyer points. Now with Qantas’s new partnership with Emirates this means they code share most flights allowing QFF members to accumulate flying miles while on Emirates flights. Emirates also give economy passengers a wonderful 30 kg of checked in baggage in addition to the usual 7 kg of cabin luggage making my agonising experience of trying to choose which shoes to pack much easier as I could bring more shoes with me!
The Boy and I have been together since our early twenties and although we have both done a lot of travel together I had never travelled alone overseas without him. As I kissed him farewell at Perth International Airport I think both of us were secretly a bit nervous about our eight day separation from each other across opposite ends of the world. Not wanting to cry I quickly grabbed my hand luggage and powered through immigration to make a bee line for the Qantas Club Lounge. Once I downed a few vodkas my anxiety morphed to excitement and I made my way over to the gate for departure.
The Emirates flights from Perth to Barcelona use their smaller Boeing 777-300 aircraft. The seating arrangements on these planes is a bit squishy with most of the cabin’s seat configuration being a 3-4-3 layout. At the rear of the aircraft the triple seats near the windows are reduced to just double seats and seem have more room. In the weeks before my flight I went online to their website to choose my preferred seat at one of these doubles.
Each seat has its own touch-screen which is loaded up with over 200 movies ranging from new releases to old favourites from Hollywood, Bollywood and many foreign films. In addition to the movies there was also a wide range of TV series, music and games. After flicking through them for a few minutes I could see I wasn’t going to get much sleep…there was too much to watch! I noted there was a USB port to charge my mobile devices just in case I got bored of all the television.
In the seat pocket in front of me was a cute little amenities bag containing socks, eye mask, toothbrush and tooth paste. Not bad for economy class and the toothbrush came in handy for my overnight stopover in Dubai as I forgot to pack mine in my hand luggage.
On the Perth to Dubai flight we were served two meals. For my gluten free breakfast I received some reasonably fluffy scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, fresh tomato and baked potato, plus a small bowl of fresh seasonal fruit, some Yoplait yoghurt and a couple of plain rice cakes. There wasn’t much to spread on the rice cakes so I piled some of the spinach and eggs on top of one and clumsily tried to eat it without covering myself in crumbs.
I was determined to watch the whole Pirates of the Caribbean series from beginning to end before I touched down in Barcelona. Charmed by Captain Sparrow the time flew away quickly and before I knew it lunch was being served. My gluten free lunch included a surprisingly succulent roast chicken breast. This was a first as I cannot recall having chicken on a plane that wasn’t dry. It was served with some roasted vegetables and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. There was also a grated vegetable salad, another fruit salad, a piece of cheddar cheese and gluten free crackers. A couple of plain rice crackers were plopped on there too.
Emirates provides economy passengers with free hotel accommodation in Dubai including all your meals if the layover between your connecting flights is between 8 and 24 hours. My flight to Barcelona didn’t depart until the following morning so I took Emirates up on this offer. After a very long wait at the airport I was transferred to the Copthorne Hotel just ten minutes from the airport. The hotel room was very basic but it was clean and comfortable. Personally however next time I’m stopping over in Dubai; I would prefer to pay and stay in a nicer hotel in a better location. I didn’t bother eating any of the hotel’s complimentary meals so I cannot comment on them.
For my flight onwards to Barcelona I received two meals again. I quite like the fact that Emirates ensure their passengers don’t go hungry! For my gluten free breakfast I received a “deli platter” with thinly sliced roast beef, light pesto chicken, cheddar cheese, marinated potato salad and fresh crudités. Some reconstituted orange juice and a fruit salad were also provided. The gluten free bread was sealed individually to ensure there was no cross contamination however it had a crumbly hard texture and a slightly mouldy flavour.
My gluten free lunch was much better than the breakfast although I was starting to get a little sick of chicken for every meal. My main consisted of roasted chicken breast with creamy mashed potato and green beans. A sweet chilli chicken salad with thinly sliced cabbage salad and some more of that mouldy gluten free bread was also provided. The best part about this meal was the dessert. A smooth vanilla pannacotta with white chocolate and strawberries cleansed all the mildly unpleasant mouldy flavours from my mouth and left me fairly full, content and ready for Barcelona.
Overall I was very happy with my first experience flying Emirates Economy Class Perth to Barcelona. The seats were reasonably comfortable, had an adequate amount of recline and provided plenty of leg room for me although bear in mind I’m not exactly tall. The in-flight entertainment kept me amused for most of the flight and although the food wasn’t amazing it was better than most other gluten free meals I have been served on other airlines. I look forward to trying their business class when we eventually set off for our very belated honeymoon.
Emirates fly daily from Perth to Dubai with connecting flights to Barcelona also daily.
The Boqueria Markets in Barcelona date all the way back to the 1400s when a pig market existed on the same site where the markets exist today. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later in 1826 that these markets were legally recognised and shortly later an official undercover structure was built. Unlikely most things in Spain, the Boqueria markets get well under way by mid-morning and so I advise you to get there well before 12 pm. I made the mistake of fueling up at my hotel’s breakfast buffet and arrived at the markets with a full belly. Definite fail. Next time I am in Barcelona, I will be sure to arrive at Boqueria Markets hungry. Very hungry.
These markets are filled will all sorts of fresh local produce and if your accommodation has kitchen facilities I suggest you do your food shopping here! Or better still grab yourself some provisions and head to Park Guell for a picnic in the Spanish sunshine.
I spent several hours wandering the market aisles taking it all in; sights, smells and bustling atmosphere. Here’s a taste of the excitement.
La Boqueria is located just off La Ramblas and is open from 8am until 8.30 pm Monday to Saturday.