Thanks to some delays to our flights (“sorry folks, we had some technical issues with the plane. But don't worry... it's a completely serviceable aircraft”) we arrived in Barcelona fairly late, checking into our hotel around 9, with a healthy appetite (lobsters and partridges from lunch now digested). Bags were dumped and we headed straight out to find the first thing that looked okay.
Thank god the Spanish eat late, because most places were still open and fairly full. It's not easy choosing between empty restaurants. And I don't yet know what “sorry, we're closed” sounds like in Spanish.
One place nearby looked great, a bustling restaurant/bar that looked a lot like Sydney's Bodega restaurant, but there were no free tables to be found.
A street away from the hotel I notice a dimly lit place filled with a lot of dark timber, which is pretty much how I imagine heaven to look like (is this review blasphemous?). The menu looks fine—all of that eating in Spanish restaurants has paid off—so we go in and, knowing almost no Spanish, I point to a vacant table and say something like “por dos?”.
It seems to work because the waiter nods and says “si”, which I do know means yes. A good start.
He says something very Spanish.
I look blankly, pause, and say “habla Englese?” which is either asking him if he speaks Spanish or if he's the son of an opera singer.
He looks blankly and says no.
I manage to get some water (somehow, asking for sparkling water has become the most important thing to know when looking at the translation book) and some menus. Everything looks damn good.
We point to a few things, point to a wine and everything kicks into gear.
The wine comes out, and it's excellent. For only 28euros it's an absolute steal. An appetiser comes out, which I think is a cauliflower cream with basil oil, and that too is good. Spain is feeling pretty good so far.
Entrees arrive and I've got some jamon and melon. A dish I've had before, but this is easily the best one. Perfectly ripe melon, delicious jamon, a little salt, a touch of vinegar. It's exactly how I imagine Spain to taste, that perfect harmony between salty and sweet.
We also get a tuna tartar, which is very, very solid. A great start.
For the main we decided to go for the 1kg steak for two. It comes with a selection of salts that are the only accompaniments you need for the big slab of steak on the plate, dressed only with pepper and oil (a refreshing change from the heavy French sauces). Not the best steak of all time, but simple and satisfying.
After the success of everything else we opt for dessert. A dark chocolate churro sort of thing, and a strawberry and cream pastry. Simple, effective and good value at around 6 euros each.
All up, great value, excellent looking restaurant, friendly service, great food. Welcome to Spain.