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Food Round Every Corner

I promised a blog post on great food in Barcelona and here it is. There was such great food everywhere in Barcelona, including bakeries down every side street that it was a) difficult to track everywhere we ate because we ate alot and b) to narrow down what exactly to put in this post. But I have managed to do it. Behold, the best places we ate in Barcelona.

Rasoterra

Off La Rambla, the vegetarian bistro Rassoterra is down a side street and inside is gorgeous inside – modern and chic and low lit.

The menu varies dependent on what’s in season and all of it looked incredible.

The best colour for food to be

Everything we had was fantastic, but beetroot soup was definitely the highlight.

Chivuo’s

Serving street food and craft beer Chivuo’s was a life saver on the first night we got to Barcelona. Then it turned out to be so great we went back another night.

Jam jar beer and chili popcorn

It’s a little hipster so if you’re not into that, this probably isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for great beer in jam jars and street food snacks, I highly reccommend Chivou’s.

Flax and Kale

Serving vegetarian, vegan and gluten free food along side meat and fish, Flax and Kale was highly reccommended and it turned out to be worth the half hour wait.

The presentation was great

Such a great combination of colours

I started with the fish taco, (though it turns out I don’t like fish tacos) and Beth had feta and watermelon, which I feel shouldn’t have worked but was fantastic.

Colours like the food fight in Hook

 Have I mentioned how much colour the food had?

Then Beth went vegan with stuffed courgette flowers which was one of the most colourful meals I’ve ever seen. And I had mini salmon burgers. I still think about these burgers in an almost daily basis. That’s how good they were.

Flax and Kale is guaranteed to have something even someone with the strictest of dietary requirements can eat, and that dish’ll be delicious. If you can reserve a table, do. While the restaurant is worth the wait, the waiting area gets a bit cramped.

Bacoa

We found Bacoa by accident in Madrid, but we loved it so much we went there on purpose in Barcelona.

Avacado for days

Beetroot and bacon = a fantastic burger

With a tick box menu, Bacoa makes it really easy to get exactly what you want. For me that was beetroot on a burger, and Beth that was smothering her food in avacado. Anything is possible when you eat at Bacoa.

Eyescream and Friends

Ice cream with eyes. What more could you want?

Each flavour has its own character and there are so many different topping to choose from. If you’re looking for something slightly different, Eyescream is the way to go.

Milk

A bar slash club that becomes the best place to get brunch when the sun comes up sounds like a pipedream. But Milk does exactly that.

We only went for brunch so I can’t comment on their bar slash club aspect, but this was the best brunch I’ve ever had.

Possibly the best food I’ve ever had

French toast with yoghurt and redcurrants was incredible. I would go back to Barcelona just for that.

Beth described it as vegetarian hangover cure

Beth had avacado, tomatoes, feta and egg on toast, which looked delicious too. Basically, go to Milk. The staff are lovely and the food is amazing. Just go.

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Good Food, Good Day

Last Sunday I was at the Good Food Show in Birmingham with Beth (you remember Beth) and Caramel Latte Kiss (who is a real life friend as well as an excellent blogger).

All my fav cooks

The plan was to try all the free samples and perhaps spend a little too much money. I can confirm, Mission Completed.

I might have bought several meters of liquorice

The Good Food Show was huge and the variety of stuff there was ridiculous. We started in the alcohol section before working our way round everyone, including every cheese counter, liquorice stall and purveyor of tea.

Tiny glasses to make you feel like a giant

Obviously, it’s the Good Food show, so you expect everything to be good. So have a list of the really good stuff.

1. Clonakilty Black Pudding

They had the best sausages. End of. We tried them at the start of the day and ended up making a beeline for them again later so we could take some home with us.

Fun facts: I made the best ever Toad in the Hole with them.

2. Bloomon

Okay, not technically food. They’re a flower delivery service whose arrangements use seasonal flowers. Their instagram is full of gorgeous photos of what exactly they do and they gave me an iris after I’d been chatting to them. They were the loveliest.

Small Beth with a big Iris

3. Holly’s Lollies

Alcoholic sweets are always a good idea. Holly’s lollies were so good that we spent a lot of time hovering trying to figure out the best combination of boozy flavours.

4. The Mill House Roast Company 

The best turkey roll I have ever had. No exaggeration, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. 

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Ladies who Afternoon Tea

At the end of April I headed to London, in search of good company and distractions. London is full of both and this is how Maddie and I ended up at Sketch for afternoon tea.

Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, Sketch is one of the places to go for afternoon tea in London. It has 4 out of 5 stars on Trip Advisor and Time Out describes it as “a place with wow factor”. All in all, it was promising, even if those promises included the word expensive as well as fabulous.

Walking into Sketch felt like walking into Wonderland. Going through what felt like tent flaps pinned back, into a dark, spacious hallway with various pieces of odd and interesting art, we were greeted warmly and directed towards the The Parlour. To get to The Parlour, you go past the cloakroom and through The Glade, which we marvelled very briefly at before we reached The Parlour.

Now, I will admit that we were early. Any place that takes your credit card details when you book so that they can charge you if you don’t turn up is guaranteed to have me arrive half an hour early. So of course we were told our table wasn’t ready. Which is completely fine, though we weren’t sure where we would go for twenty minutes, especially as it was raining outside and window shopping is only good when one doesn’t have rain dripping down one’s neck.

But we started to head back out, but the lovely greeter, confused as to why we were leaving so soon, suggested we go back to The Glade and have a drink at the bar while we waited. This was an excellent suggestion.

The Glade was gorgeous.

The Glade was beautiful, decked out as if there was a lawn party in the middle of a forest. With dappled green walls, moving mirrors to catch the light and wicker chairs, it was lovely. The cocktails we went for were delicious, and I have no doubt that any of the selection would have been equally good. And the waitress was excellent, suggesting other drinks when they were out of the one I wanted.

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Edible flowers are the best.

Eventually our time came, and we went back into The Parlour to have afternoon tea. The Parlour is very 1920s and very pink, as well as lined with David Shrigley’s work. The overall effect was…interesting. David Shrigley is an artist whose work I’ve encountered several times, and sometimes I walk away feeling unsettled and sometimes I walk away with a smile. The full range of his work on display at Sketch meant I was unsettled and smiling which is a very odd feeling. And as for the décor of the room…I felt like I’d walked into a womb.

Some excellent crockery.

The Parlour is as different from The Glade as it could possibly be, and to leave a room I loved so much to go into one that made me a scooch uneasy was saddening. I’m sure that for many people The Parlour is gorgeous, but I wished we were still in The Glade.

With a choice of nearly 20 different teas, we were soon sipping away from china designed by David Shrigley. Although we were served our drinks fast, it then took another 20 minutes before we saw any sandwiches or cake. I may have missed a memo about current afternoon tea etiquette, but I always assumed one had the tea with the sandwiches and cake. Happily, the tea is refillable so we weren’t left as bereft of beverages as I was concerned we might be.

So much food. So much. 

The food was delightful. Tiny parcels of pesto and chicken, salmon sandwiches with caviar sprinkled on them, cucumber and asparagus sandwiches…The list goes on. I would recommend not biting into caviar though. I didn’t realise what it was until I had. Rookie mistake.

Cakes included the densest coffee and chocolate cake topped with gold leaf, adorable strawberry tarts and profiteroles filled with raspberry sauce. In addition to the cake stand, we had a scone each and the pudding of the day, which was pear something French.

For the most part, the food was delicious, and the bits that weren’t are a question of taste. Like the egg sandwiches that had olives in them. I’m not a proper adult yet and do not enjoy olives. At all.  So on grounds of food, I would very much recommend Sketch.

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The toilets were space pods. SPACE. PODS.

Some of the other bits of the experience were less good. For one thing, when we sat down, I sat in the booth rather than the chair and the man leading us to our table then trapped me there by pushing the table in. Then he moved the next table along closer to us, as if to make sure that I would never escape. This proved awkward when I had to ask the people next to us to move their table and then ask Maddie to move ours so I could discover the ridiculous toilets. I got some serious side-eye, but it was that or climbing over the back of the booth.

We also couldn’t pay the bill. Which is to say, after we were presented with the bill, no-one came to ask us to pay it. For half an hour. In which time the people next to us, who had been given their bill at the same time, paid and went. In the end, I had to flag a passing waitress down.

Overall, I really wasn’t impressed with the service at Sketch. I’m not sure if me and Maddie looked particularly young or out of place, but we were paying the same £45 as everyone else. So while the food was great, and the décor fascinating, the lack of good service and being wedged into a corner dampened the experience as much as the rain had dampened our window shopping plans.

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Magnificent Madrid

February in the UK is cold and wet and often miserable. Which is why it’s the perfect time for adventuring abroad. At the end of Feb, me and Beth went to Madrid, in search of tapas, art and a blue, blue sky. It did not disappoint.

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Look at that sky.

Flying at a reasonable time from Gatwick meant we could travel down to London on the day of our flight, which was awesome, though getting up at 4am was not fun. It meant that we got into Madrid at 2pm, giving us plenty of time to struggle with huge suitcases on the metro and to find our hostel before it went dark.

Our hostel was TOC Madrid and it was a like a good hotel. Quirky, polished and having rooms with balconies, we were really impressed with TOC. Because we’re adults now with shiny paychecks to blow, we stayed in a private room at the hostel (Which was still cheaper than staying at an actual hotel), rather than in a dorm, and it was so cool to be able to eat our lunch on a teeny tiny balcony.

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Balcony, balcony, balcony

When we’d siesta’d (4am is too early to be up, guys), we headed out into central Madrid to have a wander round. We headed to the Puente de Toledo aka the Bridge of Toledo. Very pretty, surrounded by gardens that’ll probably be better when it’s not February and dark. Then we ended up at Las Bravas  for tapas, which involved two different kinds of squid. Tapas is pretty great though it helps when you know what is you’re eating.

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Points for you if you can guess which two things are made of squid.

On Saturday we headed to the Musuem of Romanticism for breakfast, where it became apparent to us how little Spanish we know. Breakfast was delicious, but we decided not to go round the museum in favour of finding Caxia Forum. It was a great decision.

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Caxia is pronounced Kai-sha by the way.

Caxia Forum is an art gallery that looks like it’s floating and has a four storey wall of greenery next to it. It was a gorgeous day and the living wall was very impressive. Of course we went into Caxia Forum, which had an exhibition of Joan Miró’s work. He was modernist or post modernist – either way it was a lot of fun coming up with faux artistic reasons for the art.

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Four storeys. Four whole storeys.

After stopping off in the excellent shop at Caxia Forum, we headed across the road to the El Retiro Park, which is a public garden with a couple of art galleries. Madrid loves its art. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours with baguettes and beer in the sunshine. We eventually wandered to the Palacio de Cristal which is a beautiful art space in the park before we headed back for a quick siesta and then headed out for food.

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The Crystal Palace of Madrid is gorgeous.

We went for paella, because when in Rome. The restaurant was called La Paella de la Reina and Lonely Plant (my go to guide book) recommended it. The paella was great, though we struggled for half an hour to get the bill, because every time I caught the waiter’s eye, he’d smile and walk off.

The next day was Sunday, and according to all the literature, the thing to do on Sundays in Madrid is to go to the flea markets. So we did. Streets full of old paintings, second hand clothes and general tat/antiques. As always, the weather was glorious and it was lovely if a little crowded.

And then we had the best brunch ever. La Central is a bookshop who not only have an excellent selection of books, but had the one of the best meals I’ve ever had. For €23 euros you get, mini pastries, juice, tea or coffee, a main and a pudding. Of brunch. I had eggs benedict for the first time and a chocolate crepe (not at the same time), and the juice wasn’t bog standard orange or apple. No, it was fancy with over three ingredients and tasted fantastic. Simply incredible.

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After a relatively lazy day, that evening we went out looking for drinks. After some seriously great burritos, we wound up in a down at heel bar for cocktails before we went in search of another watering hole.

We sucked at finding places to drink. But it all worked out when we found a swish looking bar who had local beer. They also had a band playing who were American metal folk. It sounded pretty much like you’re imagining.

Monday was our last full day in Madrid and we began in the district of Chueca, where we found some amazing niche shops, some fabulously expensive clothes and some really lovely people. We ended up at a café called La Linda where they have their own juice and some pretty great toasties.

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Chicken, brie, mustard and honey.

Later that day, we tried to go to the palace but it was closed for an official event. So we wound up in Costa surrounded by a lot of English speakers before we headed to the Reina Sofia, one of Madrid’s most famous art galleries. On certain days, you can go for two hours in the evening for free, and me and Beth love us some free art galleries. And so we ended up at the Reina Sofia after dark.

Being in an art gallery in the evening was quite exciting. I was less impressed with the actual art gallery. From having interactive art that you weren’t allowed to interact with to endless rooms of paintings with no context other than the name of the piece and the name of the artist, it wasn’t super fun. So we left.

Our hunt to find food using the guidebook didn’t work very well, with all three places we headed for being closed. So we went to MacDonalds. They have a big mac but with chicken burgers. It was so good. So good.

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Much chicken, so good. 

On Tuesday we packed up and bade the hostel farewell, before heading back to the palace. This time it was actually open and we got to go round the very impressive building. Built to show off wealth and power, it’s still achieving those goals. Particularly the room where the wall paper is made out of porcelain.

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So impressive. 

Eventually we had to leave, after having the best burger at Bacoa, we took the metro back to the airport and the plane back to England. Our flight was delayed and then cancelled so we got an extra few hours in Madrid but in the airport wasn’t an ideal way of spending them.

Madrid was an incredible city and I’d go back. The art was great, the food was amazing and it has a constantly blue sky. What more could you want?