Barcelona - Cal Pep
Well, months later and I'm still blogging about Barcelona. There was just so much good food to tell you about. My biggest food splurge was at Cal Pep. I spent more money than I probably should have on more food than one person should probably eat. But it was all delicious and I was so full that I skipped dinner that evening. Cal Pep was on my maybe list leading up to the trip. I didn't decide to give it a shot until I met two friendly ladies from New York City while breakfasting at El Quim who absolutely raved about the place.
The restaurant is small, not much more than a long counter. It has, maybe, 20 seats, though if you plan ahead you can reserve a table in the small dining room at the back. Behind the counter a group of waiters and chefs put together small plates of ridiculously fresh seafood and Catalan favorites. There's not a set menu, tell your waiter what you like and he'll bring you dishes to fit your tastes. Alternatively, while you wait for a seat, (and you will wait) ogle the food being served around you and point at what you want when it's finally your turn.
Right off the bat I knew I wanted a bowl of the orange-slicked mussels and clams I saw being passed around. The mussels were to die for, so plump so juicy. The clams were lovely as well, though not quite as tender-sweet as the serving I had later in the week at Kiosko Universal. The bivalves were prettily doused in a paprika infused olive oil that complemented without overpowering the seafood. Especially good when matched with a plate of chickpeas and spinach. The beans were creamy and the spinach made me feel like I was eating something relatively healthy.
This dish of monkfish had me a bit wary, but the slightly sweet cream sauce and flaky fish won me over. Not my favorite dish of the day, but quite good. I traded a taste of monkfish for a bit of squid from the lovely British ladies to my right. They were on the tail end of a short holiday from London. Despite practically overdosing on seafood, I couldn't leave without trying the gambas. These suckers were not cheap. Coated with salt then sizzled on la plancha, the giant prawns arrived bright red with sweet, tender meat hiding beneath the crunchy shell. Don't forget to suck out the funky liquified brains, that's the best part!
I finished off my meal with a lovely espresso, un cortado to be precise, the teeny fruit filled biscotti was a nice touch. Stuffed with seafood and slightly tipsy, I hit up the Picasso Museum and Santa Maria del Mar Basilica, both just around the corner. The Picasso Museum was smaller than I expected, just an hour or two worth of works to browse. Though it was crowded, the wait was short and it was a nice, manageable, museum. As I left, I wandered past El Xampayet, a tapas bar known for their cheap, house made cava. It was packed and I'd already imbibed two flute-fulls (and the bonus remains of the bottle, thanks Mr. Waiter) at Cal Pep so I didn't push my luck.
Pre-Cal Pep, I spent my morning at Palau Güell. It's another Gaudi masterpiece, designed for his longtime benefactor, Eusebi Güell. The mansion, one of Gaudi's first big projects, was recently restored and re-opened to the public. The centerpiece of the building is the amazing ceiling/skylight and more of Gaudi's crazy chimnies. My big mistake of the day was wearing a pair of new shoes for the day's sightseeing. Planning ahead, I purchased a new pair of, supposedly, comfy and versatile black flats. I thought I had broken them in pre-trip but my feet felt otherwise, bruised and bloodied by the end of the day. I couldn't wait to take them off and get a bit of a rest.