Take a gastronomical trip down the Spanish lane with these amazing restaurants and wine stops
The Spaniards are particular about valuing and preserving tradition in all forms of life, especially in food
Standing at the Cava Codorniu winery in Penedes valley, 50 km from Barcelona, Spain, we sip the country’s liquid treasure—the cava. This medium-bodied, dry wine keeps us company throughout our voyage, taken to try some of the best from the Spanish cauldron.
The novelty of the food lies in tradition. The Spaniards are particular about preserving tradition in all forms of life, but especially food. Many things we tried are still prepared in the same old way as they were close to three hundred years ago. You see many influences from the Middle East—a result of the Arab invasion that lasted many years, in addition to elements of American and European cuisine.
We start with one of the best finds—Dos Cielos—a two-star Michelin restaurant owned by the Torres twins, Sergio and Javier. They’re preserving their childhood food memories based on what was cooked in their Catalan household. The grouper fish is the best on their menu. It is mildly flavoured with a lingering sweetness. Rosemary is an important ingredient in this recipe, which gives the fish a distinct piney flavour.
Our next stop was at another Michelin star restaurant in Mallorca, about 200 km from Barcelona. It is called Zaranda at Castell Son Claret. At its helm is the dynamic chef Fernando Perez Arellano. Having previously worked at Michelin star restaurants in Ireland, London and Italy, including at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant, he opened his first restaurant in Madrid. He left no leaf unturned to present us his best when we were there. The Mallorca Oysters with caviar, horseradish and pickled pearls is a star dish. It has a faint tanginess of the pickled horseradish and the nuttiness of caviar.
When in this part of the island, do visit the restaurant for this one dish in particular. The red prawn dumplings with a burst of surprising sweetness is another hallmark of the chef. Don’t leave without trying the chef’s special Black Egg—a creation of eggs along with the blackened skin of sepia and calamari caviar. Poke into it and the golden yellow yolk oozes out.
Next up on the list was finding a Spanish tapas bar—an integral part of the Spanish culture. Finding one is not difficult but finding the right one may take time. After visiting several, we zeroed in on the Bar Jai-Ca at the old fishermen’s quarter in Barcelona. We loved their signature big plates, the best one being the fried seafood tapas with squid, calamari, white fish, mussels, clams and fried anchovies. If you’re not into seafood, the spice Bomba, a fried meat filled potato ball, is a house special.
Looking for the best paella in Spain takes time. This national dish has many versions but we were keen on the most authentic one. Our search ended at the Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria), a wine shop-cum-bar in Port Vell. We picked the seafood paella with prawn, crab and mussels. Paella dates back many centuries and was first introduced in Valencia, Spain. Over time, the dish developed myriad interpretations.
To round off our trip, we went back to where we started—sampling some of the best cava. This popular sparkling wine was first produced by oenophile Josep Raventós in 1872. To know more about this drink, head to Penedes in Barcelona. You can also book a sampling experience with two of the most important cava-producing companies—Freixenet and Cordoniu. The massive tunnels of the latter is a testament to the centuries-old process of wine-making. A trip to the caves starts with an audiovisual presentation before a train takes you to the vineyards. After dusting off the cobwebs from a few bottles, we sip the best cava we’ve tasted.
A true grand finale.