Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

Upper row: at the bar of Cal Pep, baby clams, tiny deep-fried fish; Middle row: baby squid with chikpeas, placemat art, tortilla with aioli; Last row: monkfish tail, flavoured foams, the tiny kitchen behind the bar

On our first day out in the city, we go for for a tapeo in one of the city’s oldest tapas bars. Just off the Plaça de Palau in the cobble stoned Born district of Barcelona is the cozy tapas bar Cal Pep. Here is an example of the typical tapas bar in this beach side city – no frills and extra fresh seafood. This little place has been here for 25 years sustained not just by the good food but as well the dose of humour from Pep himself. The interiors are simple with a long bar near the front and small dining room at the back. If you want to be in on the action and witness not just Pep in his seafood-printed chef’s pants but the cooking going on behind the counter, then the bar is where you should be.

Paper place mats printed with different designs are laid at each place while the originals of these artworks are framed on the walls right behind. There is a small display cabinet with fresh fish and seafood and a little area where two chefs manage to squeeze in and cook non-stop in front of about 30 hungry clients watching their food being made.

We chose several tapas to make up our lunch starting off with the Catalan staple pa amb tomaquet (toasted bread rubbed with a split tomato and drizzled with olive oil) followed by several seafood dishes. Chipirones con garbanzos (baby squid and chick peas), which were cooked and served in the same little metal pot, tasted of the sea with the beans making it into a hearty dish, almejas con jamon (tiny clams with ham) steamed open with some white wine and made scrumptious with the addition of tiny pieces of ham and a bit of dried chili pepper crushed onto them, llanguetas con huevo (tiny deep-fried fish topped with a fried egg). We also couldn’t resist the ubiquitous tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelet) which was unusually, but deliciously, spread with a bit of aioli (garlic mayonnaise). The last dish we had was cola de Rape (monkfish tail) served with some sauteed potatoes. The simplicity of the garlic and chili infused olive oil didn’t overpower the freshness of the fish. We finished our meal with a light dessert of flavoured espumas (foam) – 4 shot glasses of lemon, chocolate, sambayon and crema Catalana plus two very short espressos. After our satisfying lunch, we meandered the tiny streets looking into shop windows and admiring the facades of the old buildings before wandering back towards the beach and the hotel for an afternoon nap.
Cal Pep
Placa de les Olles, 8
Tel: +34 933 107 961
**** Food – stick to the seafood tapas and you won’t be disappointed although the aioli- topped mini tortilla is also very good.
*** Service – quick and efficient with Chef Pep adding to the local flavour
**** Atmosphere – get ready to squeeze in elbow-to-elbow for communal dining at its’ casual best

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