BARCELONA AIRPORT: I’m sitting next to a rather obese but cute and curious young Italian boy as we wait for strike action at our destination to end and we can take off for Rome. A perfect time, then, to share my first experiences of Barcelona, a city that lived up to all my expectations.
Warning: Vegetarians may find some content disturbing.
I saw my first nude dude within half an hour of venturing from the hotel upon arriving in Barcelona. I’d decided on a run along the beach to find my bearings and get the heart pumping… though it would have had more of that effect if he’d been a little younger and hotter. Ah well, it was certainly interesting to see someone secure enough in their body to go completely buff at an inner city location, and even more interesting that no-one batted an eyelid. I guess they do things differently around here.
Now that I have your attention …
From nude to food.
I’ve eaten a meal so satisfying I feel compelled to write about it. A steak so good it almost hurt – you know, the kind that is so sumptuously tasty you can’t help but verbalise with every mouthful?
I wanted my first meal in Barcelona to be memorable for all the right reasons, rather than the disappointment food can often be when you’re in a strange city trying to identify the true gems from the tourist traps. My gut told me to steer clear of the La Rambla strip, geared towards visitors, and try one of the laneway restaurants in the theatre district surrounding my hotel. I found some glowing online reviews of a hole in the wall called Can Lluis, which was only a 10 minute walk away, albeit through the colourful and potentially seedy backstreets of El Ravel.
My ‘trust your gut’ moment paid off. If you’re into old school restaurants like I am, Can Lluis will be your sort of place. As soon as you enter, you’re greeted by a warm, cosy ambience, crisp white table linen, embroidered napkins and walls dotted with art and photos chronicling the famous performers who have dined there since as far back as 1929. Old Mate, dressed in a pressed white shirt and bow tie, shows you to a table and leaves you to ponder the menu before returning with complimentary olives and bread so fresh and plentiful they are a meal in themselves. The waiter is in his late 50s or early 60s and you get the sense this is the only job he’s ever known. He’s a true pro and it’s a pleasure watching him tend the tables, offering menu suggestions and sharing jokes with the regulars that filter in through the night. Between his broken English and my broken Spanish, we establish a friendly rapport and before too long we’re chatting about which region of Spain my glass of vino tinto is from. The house red is spicy and rounded, and I can’t believe when I later check the bill that it is barely more than two Australian dollars a glass. My salted cod entree marries beautifully with a delicate salad of lettuce, fennel, onion and fresh green olives, a welcome sight after living on croissants and baguettes for the past four days.
Feeling kind of full from the bread and entree, I sit back and enjoy the animated banter in Español at the surrounding tables, waiting for the arrival of the pièce de résistance – a medium-rare sirloin with traditionally Catalan Oporto sauce. It had been so long since my last meal with red meat that I couldn’t wait to wrap my lips around a succulent steak. Well … the Godzilla of all steaks landed before my eyes and instantly reminded me of the 800g monster I used to serve as a waitress at a local Brisbane pub. I decide early on that I would have to forego the veggies to even make a dent in it.
I had nothing to worry about. The meal was such a pleasure to eat, I polished it off with ease, and even had a crack at the tempura-like eggplant chips on the side.
So, I have to run and get on a plane. I realise not everyone is going to get as excited as I do about a good steak. But for the few of you who do – Dad, I know you understand – let me just say that this was one worth travelling to the other side of the world for.