Our first full day in Barcelona began like it does for most tourists, with a walk down the famous as Ramblas, a collection of shops that run down a pedestrian street that slices right through the city. While it basically resembled any shopping street in a major western city, it does have one thing which not a lot of other cities can boast: a huge food/produce market right in the heart of the city.
I'm sure that La Boqueria has a lot of history (people were taking photos: a sure sign) but I didn't really care for any of that. What I cared about was the jamon hanging in stalls, the Spanish cheeses that are so different to their French relatives, ripe fruits and vegetables and, unexpectedly, a hell of a lot of juice. Probably a dozen stalls selling fruit juices, in fact. Juices of combinations and colours that just isn't seen in Sydney.
After walking through the market and picking up some salt cod fritters to munch on, I headed for the juice stalls. But what flavour to try? Hell, how about all of them. So I pretty much did. Combinations like blackberry and coconut, dragonfruit, pineapple and orange, kiwi and coconut, coconut on it's own, coconut and strawberry. For a dude that gets off on sweet beverages (not literally) this was dangerously good. I say dangerously good because I don't think a dozen juices can possibly be good for you.
After the onslaught of juice, we were in the mood for some tapas. I'd read about a place that was well known for montaditos, which is pretty much tapas that comes on toast. So, after walking along a sidestreet that had a lot of dodgy phone shops and even dodgier looking prostitutes, we arrived at Quimet y Quimet and planted ourselves at the bar.
Beer to start, which was easy because this place had a good selection, particularly some interesting boutique American drops. But then it got a little perplexing. In front of us was a cabinet filled with ingredients. Things like prawns, razor clams, dried beef. How does that work? Do we order a prawn? I don't think I want to eat just a prawn. Or a tinned mussel. Is that supposed to be good?
Someone Spanishy steps to the bar and says “langoustine”. The guy behind the bar grabs a piece of toast, spoons on some tomato, adds a dollop of cream, a prawn, some caviar and drizzles over some oil and vinegar. He hands over an amazing looking morsel of food. The sort of thing that would probably cost 5-10$ at a tapas place in Sydney.
I throw caution to the wind. Dos langoustine, per favore.
He retrieves two pieces of toast and methodically creates two more of the morsels. We stand at the bar, sip the beer, and dive in. It's good. It's so freaking good. The vinegar has been caramelised so it adds a sweetness to the bite. The whole thing is simple, but so, so good. Just like most Spanish food I'd experienced.
So having cracked the code on how to order, we dig in. The dried beef comes with roasted capsicum and capers. Incredible. Razor clams are served with nothing but a light chilli sauce. We keep ordering and it keeps knocking it out of the park. We finish with a fantastic cheese plate and ask for the bill, worrying a little about how much it could have been for all of that food and beer. Fifty euros... Fifty euros for two big guys to stuff themselves on deliciousness and wash it down with beer.
We leave content, and end up swinging by the market for some more juice, because that's what you do when you're in Barcelona and you're in a good mood. You drink juice.