Last week I made my annual trip to Catalunya and decided to spend a couple of days in Barcelona with the gf before meeting up with my family on the coast. Having no idea about the city's food I turned to twitter for some inspiration and ended up at some really good places, the first of these being Tapas24.
Tapas24 is sister restaurant to Comerc24 and ran by former El Bulli chef Carles Abellan, so one would expect some little twists away from the norm. It's unassuming from the front, just being a couple of tables on the pavement and a door leading downstairs, and pretty unassuming when you get inside too with a few tables dotted around and an open kitchen and bar surrounded by folk drinking wine and eating tapas. We decided to join the bar dwellers so we could watch the chefs do there thing.
When we sat down the couple next to us were eating a plate of red slices of something that looked rather good so I directed a customary 'Que es?' to the waiter and failed miserably in understanding his speedy reply. Luckily for me the lady of the couple must have heard my inquiry as she pushed the plate towards us, now sporting a lone slice, and said 'Try it, it's fish' before telling us at a much more ear-friendly speed that it was called mojama. After devouring this lone slice - and deciding to order more - we turned to the menu and found the unassuming ex- and interiors belied a rather fantastic menu.
The classics were there, sure (your patatas bravas and your tortilla), but they sat alongside mini-burgers with foie gras and ham and cheese sandwiches - bikini - with black truffle, not to mention jamon iberico and buffalo mozzarella. We decided to supplement the mojama with the bikini comerc 24, the McFoie, some Padron peppers, a Russian salad, Braves, Pa amb Tomaquet (tomato bread) and some cava and red wine to wash it down.
The mojama came served with darkly toasted almonds and a drizzle of strong olive oil - it was fantastic stuff. The initial taste was like an expensive ham, salty and melting on the tongue. Up to this point you'd be forgiven for not thinking it came from the sea but the aftertaste quickly stopped these thoughts as a strong, but pleasant, fish flavour came through.
A bikini is a cheap eat by the beach, €3 of plastic bread and plastic cheese to fill the gap between a vast late breakfast and an evening of grilled seafood. Here it was transformed to posh tapas though with some top draw ingredients. The bread was still mass produced - would anything else work? - but the ham was now jamon Iberico and the cheese buffalo mozzarella, black truffle added its inimitable muskiness. It was very good. If I was being critical the one thing I would say is the use of a squeezy bottle of melted butter to grease the outside left butter hot-spots that were literally soaked in the stuff. When I recreate this for the blog - I have the truffles waiting - I'll thinly spread the outside instead for a more even flavour.
This was my first encounter with Padron peppers and I loved every one. The sweet earthiness was a delight and the tentative Russian roulette of waiting for a hot one certainly didn't detract. The occasional tingle of warmth suggested my time had come but then the one truly hot one showed prior peppers had been false alarms.
The McFoie was billed as a mini-beefburger with foie gras minced into the patty and the fatty liver making a second appearance in the accompanying mayonnaise. I watched this being made and at one point it did look like a normal burger, sat inside a tall bun, but a few minutes inside the contact grill left it flat and crispy. The foie gras definitely added some fat to the patty but I found the taste a bit lost, this could have been due to the preceding hot Padron pepper though.
Pa amb tomaquet (pan con tomato/bread with tomato) was simply the best I've eaten. The usual slices of country style bread replaced with a thin, ciabatta like loaf cut into top and bottom. It was crunchy and sweet, which is how I like it.
The low point of the meal for me was the patatas bravas (or Braves) on the menu. The potatoes were chips, and good ones at that, but there was just far too much mayonaisse for my tastes, they were literally swimming in the stuff.
Braves aside it was a fantastic start to what turned out to be two days of culinary delights in Barcelona. It was pretty cheap too - a pair of cavas, a pair of red wines and all the food working out not a lot more than €20 a head. Definitely recommended and, if you eat at a UK time seemingly OK to get a seat - at 8.30pm on a Saturday we were seated instantly.