We're back from three weeks in Malaysia and Singapore. It was marvelous meeting up with all our friends and family. How time flew, the eating was fantastic, France eat your heart out. It is hard to beat the ready availability of SO MUCH GOOD FOOD every where, at any time of the day. A bit intense though, after all that indulging the body is probably grateful that we're back to simpler options around here.
Rewind back to the day after the big dinner at El Bulli. The sun was high and the sky was clear. We met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast before dispersing, us to the airport to drop Josh off while Sui Mai and her husband went on to Girona.
Lunch was in Gelida, a tiny village on a picturesque hill 30 minutes out of Barcelona. Annette of Abstoss World Gastronomy had kindly helped us to make reservations, she also told them we're her friends so we should have some nice treats waiting for us. Knowing her high standards we were rubbing our greedy stomachs expectantly. The drive was smooth, we arrived a little early for our 2.30 pm (Spanish lunch hour) appointment so to kill time we explore the area a little. The few shops were about to close but not before we stumbled across a bakery claiming that they are the creators of these custardy pastries known as "gelidences". It looked good in the window, and husband bought one piece which after biting into he immediately said it was so good he told me he was not sharing his with me.
Since he held all our Spanish money I had to wait for him to finish before he can go order another piece. It is basically a dry sponge holding very rich milky custard and topped with a crackly caramel crust. Name to note: La Confiança, carrer del Sol 5, Gelida. T: 937790435.
There was a convenience store with a side room selling nothing but rotisserie chicken, the smell of it was pulling in all the neighbourhood. I pressed on, inside I found these potato chips fried in olive oil. I bought two packets, one to eat on the spot and the other to eat on the plane the next day; together with take-away iberico ham sandwich it made a better meal than the measly packets of crackers that Air France gave out during their horrid flight.
At our destination of the restaurant El Cigro d'Or (the gold chickpea) we were met with a smiling young man with dark curls on his head, under his smart black uniform he wears a Ronadino jersey. His name is Juan, and he makes a very good version of gin and tonic called Juan Tonic. He showed us to a very good table with an umimpeded view of the imposing formations of Montserrat. The airconditioner was already humming and the room was blessedly cool and tranquil.
Nibbles while waiting for the first course. We didn't get a menu, I only said to Annette that we eat everything but not too much licorice and cinammon. For this meal we decided to do what husband calls a "Josh" which is to a) let the chef decide the menu, b) eat everything places in front of us c) take a picture of every dish and d) take a picture of the chef at the end of the meal if possible.
Sweet smoky green peppers known as padrons. Served in the usual way of grill and salted. With a bottle of white Nun D.O Penèdes we were off to a brilliant start.
This is the reason for the restaurant's name. A tiny Staub casserole of tender chickpeas braised with mushroom and lean bacon. At other tables some diners were satisfied with this one dish which is served in a bigger pot. It's light and nutty with a delicious meaty broth. So unassuming yet brilliant, just like everything this place does.
Soup of green peas with ham. Again, an every day dish elevated with I don't know what, better ingredients, higher techniques, X factor, whatever, it was brilliant.
"Gazpacho" which wasn't quite what it looked. Salmon cubes with vanilla-scented plums gives a neat twist to this summer classic and this went down well on such a hot day.
Tuna salad with potato, garlic and basil. Gorgeous, the potato part was fun, it came as a translucent fried potato chip. The tuna, well it was doing Spain proud by being sweet and meaty and ocean-y all at the same time.
Octopus with yoghurt and olive. They emailed me the menu as requested which is how I can say the dishes' names with confidence but at the time it was quite funny because the only language we have in common with Juan was French and I worried I missed out some things. Like the yoghurt part. The olive sand was addictive. The leaves, it has a flavour like seafood, very interesting.
Crab, onion and mushroom with its own soup. Looking like a regular vol-au-vent before Juan poured a clear brown liquid around it. The onion confit and fresh crab meat with their sweet-on-sweet play was offset by those little orange nuggets of smoked fish roe, the whole underpinned by an earthy mushroom base.
Rice with squid. With foam. This dish can be found all over Spain but this was exemplary, each grain packed with highly delicious inky squidliness.
Moving on to mackerel with aubergine and almonds. The white wine done with, now we were drinking a very good red- Sotlefriec D. O Penèdes. At this point I was already very full yet I finished the fish, like velvet it was, very smooth and finely fleshed unlike lesser versions, its robust flavour matched by the smokiness of the grilled aubergines. Lovely.
Piglet, mushrooms and chickpea puree. The pig was Iberico, terribly tasty and fatty, all crackly skin and meltyness. The mushrooms just reminds me of pigs wandering the forest happily eating acorns, or sniffing out truffles while at it.
Fruit salad. Like I said, they're very modest in describing their dishes. Mango in the background, grapefruit up front with citrus in the middle. We're full, we insist, yet we couldn't resist this.
Chocolate and rice. They didn't mention the dates and the raspberry jam and also that the chocolate has a spicy kick which just made us want to eat more and more of it. What a magnificient finish!
They gave us caneles with coffee too, and we ate that as well. That night we didn't have any dinner because we were so full, and also because to eat more would somehow diminish our lunch experience. Everything was perfect. The weather. The view. The impeccable service. The beautifully cooked food, every dish a hit. The bill? 163.98 euros for two including wines and taxes.
The chef, Oriol Llavina, had a peep at us from the kitchen when we were eating. He's a little shy but very cute no? And obviously very good at cooking. To complete the "Josh" I asked him and Juan for a photo. Would it surprise you that this place is not included in the Michelin guide? So now you know, the next time you go to Barcelona, make time to eat here. You won't regret it.