La Gavina, Barecelona

2014-12-16 12.04.58It was in stark contrast to our last meal when we went for lunch at La Gavina, which is in the marina area of Barcelona. We had wandered up and down the quayside first before settling on this restaurant, ensuring we had a good view of all the amazing yachts and checking out all the different menus on display from the numerous waterside restaurants . We eventually settled for La Gavina as it had a set menu that suited us both.

The waiter welcomed us in and seated us in the sun. How glorious it was to be sitting outside in December trying to decide what we would dine on.

Knowing I was about to have seafood I chose us a bottle of Verdejo white wine and it arrived with a basket of bread which we nibbled on as we made our choices. OH, who’d had a bad experience with anchovies earlier on in the week, decided he would start with curried cream of courgette soup with fresh cheese where as I went for Tuna carpaccio with vegetables, ginger and lime vinaigrette.

My tuna was thinly sliced and covered the plate in a beautiful circular pattern with the zesty dressing drizzled over it. 2014-12-16 12.29.29Nestled in the middle was a salad of carrot, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. It tasted fantastic with the lime and ginger not over powering the light tasting fish.

OH’s soup looked good too as it came decorated with fried courgettes, dollops of cream, oil and paprika peppered over it. I had a taste of it and although I liked it, I was glad I had went for the tuna.2014-12-16 12.29.19

For our mains OH had Low-temperature cooked veal cheek with port wine sauce and potato gratin and I chose Swordfish San Sebastian style (with garlic and chili). 2014-12-16 12.52.53OH’s dish looked rich as the dark red sauce was thick and shiny and clung to the well cooked meat.  He took his time savouring each mouthful.

My swordfish came with carrots and broccoli that had been shown to a hot grill – the charred vegetables were crispy and delicious. 2014-12-16 12.52.58The swordfish wasn’t strong tasting and melted in the mouth and everything was going well until I bit into a chili thinking it was a slice of garlic and my mouth exploded. I actually thought about taking a handful of ice from the ice bucket to soothe my tongue but realised the ice was probably made from undrinkable tap water. The wine didn’t last long after my main course that’s for sure. It was a shame that the course ended on such a disappointing note as I had been enjoying it up until then.

As part of the set menu the only choice of dessert was Catalan Crème Brulee. It’s creamy, smooth texture was welcome on my tongue and its sweetness was a better finish to our meal than the chili. 2 coffees later and we were settling the bill.

2 set menus at €28.50 and a bottle of wine at €23.50 came to €80.50 (yes I know, the wine was more expensive than our entire meal from the night before at Cal Xose!)

Of course, I had to visit the loos and they were lovely, clean and heavily scented. There was a piece cut away from the floor which was covered in glass and displayed a beach scene complete with sand, shells and star fish – very pretty.

Bar Restaurante Cal Xose S.L., Barcelona.

Today OH and I had one of our most bizarre eating experiences to date. We were walking back towards our apartment in Barcelona looking for somewhere to eat. I was hungry, tired and getting annoyed because we couldn’t find anything except fast food outlets and bars that only served tapas. Therefore, when I spotted a restaurant across the road I decided we were eating there regardless.

We went in and asked if we could take a table. The woman asked in broken English if we wanted tapas when we said no she showed us a menu paper clipped inside a laminated menu. In near perfect Spanish I asked for a bottle of house red whilst we decided what we wanted (I can do this like a pro now because I’ve been practising all week). When she returned with the wine she saw that we were looking at the laminated menu which had all the stuff I fancied on it so she quickly pointed to the paper one and I think she said something like “this is the menu for today. It’s only me in the kitchen so I can’t do everything. Just order from that menu.” She then took the wine away with her. With hindsight I think she maybe thought we would walk away and she didn’t want to open it just in case.

There were a few things on the menu I wasn’t very sure of so the next time the waitress hovered I asked her to explain one of them. By playing charades I discovered that Galta was pig’s cheek. I decided to quit whilst I was ahead and chose something I already recognised.

From what I could make out from the menu with my very bad Spanish was that there was a set menu and I could chose a starter and a main. Listed in the starters were spaghetti bolognese and cannelloni in amongst salads and salted cod. I reckoned these must have been tapas size. OH decided to go to the loo and when he was away the waitress came over to take our order. As he had already told me what he wanted I ordered him the spaghetti bolognese and the steak with garnish. I had the cannelloni and Catalan sausage with potatoes. She did point out it was only 1 cannelloni and I told her I was more than happy with that. After she took our order she returned with a basket of bread and then a couple of minutes later returned again with the wine.

As we waited a tramp holding a sleeping bag came in, changed over some money and then bought cigarettes from the machine before leaving. It looked like he did this regularly as no-one batted an eyelid.

Roughly 10 minutes later a chap appeared with a bowl of pickles and said something rapidly in Spanish. I smiled, shrugged and apologised for only knowing English. His face said it all as his head went into his hands and he struggled to find the words. From what we could make out the cannelloni was taking ages as the cheese needed to melt on the top so the pickles were to help us wait.

We had only just started munching on the pickles when our starters arrived. We were both astonished. I’ve been served less as a main course before. So much for 1 cannelloni – there were three and OH’s spag bol was a proper serving of it.

My cannelloni was good although the sauce was a little thin and I could see the oil in OH’s Bolognese. Regardless we tucked in and wondered why we had ordered starters. I finished mine before OH and told him not to finish his as it wasn’t a challenge and he needed to leave room for his steak. He ignored me and soldiered on. Before he finished his steak arrived. Yes! The waitress brought over our main meals as he was still eating. Even with his steak staring at him he continued with the spag bol until it was gone. He was actually making me feel a bit queasy the way he was putting it all away.

A quick swap of plates and he was onto his second course. It turned out the garnish with his steak was chips and my Catalan sausage was about a foot long, cut in half and fried on both sides. It also came with just chips.

The sausage was pretty run of the mill and OH’s steak was alright (I just asked him how it was and that’s what he said).

However, the totally unbelievable bit was when I asked for the bill. It came to 22€.  Yes, you read that right 22€. I asked her if she had forgotten to add the wine but no she had.

That means that for 4 main meals, bread, pickles and a pretty good bottle of Rioja the bill was £17.50.

It was definitely a meal I will never forget but don’t bother hunting it out if you’re visiting Barcelona.

Barcelona City Tour

When we told people we were going to Barcelona a number of them told us to do the open top bus tour first so we could get an understanding of the layout of the city. Therefore, on day one that is exactly what we did. There are 2 different lines you can take with the Barcelona City Tour. The orange one takes you around the west side and the green one out and around the east. Your ticket allows you to do both tours and for 1 day it is 27€ but for 2 days it’s only another 8€ at 35€ (its cheaper if you book online).  As the tours looked lengthy we decided to go for the 2 days. Our plan was to do the orange tour, have something to eat and then do the green tour. This way we could see all what Barcelona had to offer and then on day 2 take the bus to the places we really wanted to see. With hindsight we maybe should have stuck to the orange route on the first day and waited til the next day to do the green one.

The Orange Tour

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View of the port from Castell de Montjuic

We got on next to The Columbus Monument (Monumento a Colón or Mirador de Colón) which is a 60 m (197 ft) tall monument to Christopher Columbus at the lower end of La Rambla. Don’t worry I’m not going to bore you with all 18 stops. This is mainly because I wasn’t always listening to the audio available in lots of different languages through red plastic earphones.

From the port the bus took us up to the bottom of Montjuic where you can catch a cable car up to the castle at the top or visit the Miro Foundation, which holds a myriad of pieces of art by Joan Miro. Unless you like bright coloured canvasses that look like they’ve been drawn by a 5 year old I’d give this a miss. You also pass the Olympic swimming pool where the diving was held and the Olympic stadium. Throughout the tour you can clearly see the impact that holding the Olympics has had on the city, from the Olympic village, which was to be a temporary build to house the athletes but remains today as another district within the city to the telecom tower designed to look like an athlete accepting a medal (I’m not sure if it really does though).

Camp  Nou is part of the orange tour and as you drive around the impressive Barcelona football ground you can see just how big the stadium is and considering how busy it was on a Friday how much of a tourist attraction it is too.

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La Pedrera

Av Diagonal is a long street that heads us diagonally back into the city centre and the remaining highlights to see are the 2 buildings by Antoni Gaudi, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà better known as La Pedrera. Gaudi is the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. His work has a very distinctive style and although you may not have heard of him you will recognise his greatest and best work the Sagrada Família, which you get to stop at when you do the green tour.

We got off the bus at the opposite end of The Ramblas from where we got on in Plaza de Cataluña and went for a quick bite to eat and some hot chocolate to warm ourselves up. These open top buses are not known for their central heating!

The Green Tour

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Torre Agbar

Suitably refreshed we hopped on to the green tour bus and managed to hog a front row seat. This meant OH got to brake every time a nutter on a moped cut in front of us, which was often.

This tour lasts a lot longer and takes you out along the marina where there were some amazing yachts – oh how the other half live. The sites on this tour tend to be a lot more modern as it takes you into the new technological district of Barcelona. The tallest building in this area is the Torre Agbar, which by day looks like a large rusty vibrator but by night lights up like  a brand new one. The building houses Aguas de Barcelona, which is the municipal water company that today belongs to the Grupo Agbar.

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Sagrada Familia

It wasn’t long before we were passing by the Sagrada Familia (remember I told you about the architect earlier) Initially you get to see the original side and how Gaudi had designed it combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms but because he didn’t get the chance to finish it they are now using money raised by the entry fee and tat sold to tourists to help complete it.  Therefore, the other side, which we stopped in front of for longer is more modern and less drippy looking. If you want more information on it click here.

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View of Barcelona from the cable car on Montjuic

The rest of the tour took as out to Parc Guell and up to bottom of the mountain Tibidabo, which looks over Barcelona. Again we headed back into the city centre via Av. Diagonal and past the 2 Gaudi houses and eventually stopping in Pl. Catalunya. By this time we were chilled to the bone so it was essential to find a tapas bar and some rioja – rapido.

I think the bus tour is essential to view the city but pace yourself and try to work out before you get on what sites you really want to get off at. Oh and there’s free wifi for a period of time (not sure how long as I just noticed I had used up all my data after a while)  – the password is on your ticket.


The Tiel Restaurant, Auchtertool

Another weekend of on call meant trying to find another nice place to eat in Fife.  The Tiel Restaurant in Auchtertool has been on my list of places to visit for a while so today, as we were in Kirkcaldy picking up a few bits and pieces, I thought it was an ideal time to tick it off my list.

As it is December and therefore the hardest month to find somewhere to eat without a reservation, The Tiel  proved to be the perfect place as it is a little bit out on it’s own and, probably because someone always has to drive, it wasn’t fully booked and we were able to get a table for two with no problem.

We were offered a choice of menus. The festive one – 3 courses for £19.99 or the new winter one. OH and I settled for the winter menu as we didn’t think we could manage 3 courses. The soup was lentil and roasted red pepper with cannellini beans and there was a special of Chicken Korma. I noticed a couple of mains also came in smaller portions for £2 less, which I always think shows some thoughtfulness from the owners/chef.

As tempted as I was by the soup I decided to miss the starters and go for one of the mains from the Classic Favourite part of the menu. Oven baked lasagne – Mozzarella cheese glaze, dressed salad, coleslaw and chips at £9.95 and OH went for Slow cooked duck leg  – fondant potato, asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, cassis and black cherry sauce at £15.95 from the Something Different section. 2014-12-06 13.29.59

OH’s duck looked great (a lot better than his picture taking skills make it out to be – honest). The meat fell off the bone and when I asked OH if it was dry he said it was anything but. He loved the fondant potatoes and the contrasting sweetness from the cherry sauce. 2014-12-06 13.29.05The lasagne was exactly what I wanted. I rarely make lasagne at home so often order it when I’m out and this was a good lasagne,  The mozzarella wasn’t too stringy and the layers were perfect. The salad dressing had a certain je ne sais quoi and I managed to eat all the chips, which meant I didn’t have any room for dessert. Of course OH did. He ordered the Chocolate caramel pot accompanied with raspberry sorbet, popping candy fudge square. After taking his order the waitress returned with cutlery for OH and a spoon for me just in case I fancied some of his. It’s these little things that really endear me to a place. When it arrived it looked amazing! (So amazing I took 2 pics). 2014-12-06 14.00.23-2

OH said the fruits tasted fresh although they were out of season, the caramel pot was smooth and velvety and the raspberry sorbet was refreshing and balanced out well with the chocolate caramel. I asked him later if his fudge popped and he suddenly realised it hadn’t but that really wasn’t an issue.

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Before settling the bill I paid a visit to the toilets which were decorated to a high standard and I’ve just asked OH about his and he said, “Oh yeah, they were nice.” More high praise for men’s toilets – I’m so glad I never have to use the kind that OH is used to!

2 mains, 1 dessert, a coke and 2 pints of ale = £38.75

ps I know this probably sounds ridiculous but I just have to mention the vinegar bottle as it was brilliant – it actually let vinegar out at a rate that is manageable. How often do you drown your chips in a restaurant because of a rubbish vinegar bottle? Well, take it from me, you can trust the condiments at The Tiel Restaurant.