Thursday, 27 August 2009

¡Que Rico!

Hungry yet? I took this at "La Bella Napoli", a great trattoria here in Poble Sec. On the one hand, my visit was simply a pleasant lunch with Mrs HD and a friend of ours. On the other it was an ideal opportunity to finally start reviewing the eateries and watering holes of this fine barri, and actually start publishing some useful information. 

La Bella Napoli
c. de Magarit, 14
Tel 93 442 50 56
13.30 - 16.00, 20.30 - 24.00
Closed Mondays
Takeaway but no delivery
More info on website

Around €25 per head
Beer €3.50 per glass
Wine c. € 12 - 16 per bottle

This place was already more than half full when we arrived at 2pm. On a Wednesday. During the worst recession in years.  So it must be special - the locals certainly seem to think so - it's also packed by 9.30 most evenings, so I advise booking, unless like most Brits, you prefer to eat early. 

The decor is nothing outstanding, but they do have a genuine wood-burning oven, which the chef made the most of when it came to the pizzas. But let's start with the booze. We got through two bottles of a hitherto unknown blush rosé at €14.50 each, which was suprisingly drinkable, despite our initial misgivings. Next we ordered a plate of Carciofi friti, battered, deep-fried artichokes, which were first-rate and fresh, not at all oily, but not as crisp as tempura. And there were plenty of them - good value at €9. 

For the next course, Mrs HD plumped for pasta - rigalatoni serentina, which consisted of a ragu with smoke provolone and basil. Verdict - excellent. Our friend and I opted for pizza. Some people say that pizza is a bit like consensual sex - it can never really be that bad, and I agree up to a point. And whilst there's not a whole Karma Sutra to choose from
at La Bella Napoli, there's a good range, including Pizza calzone con ciccioli, a folded pizza stuffed with Nutella. We gave that one a miss for fear of early-onset diabetes, however, with me ordering the bufalina - buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato slices and a scattering of basil leaves - as shown in the photo at the top of the page. The dough had exactly the right balance between crunch and chew, the minimal use of good tomatoes proved that less is indeed more, and the added depth of the classier type of mozzarella all added up to a great eating experience. Our friend went for the less earthy Sofia Loren, pictured here, featuring fresh cherry tomatoes, rucola, bresola and shards of parmesan. No complaints there either. We finished the meal of with carajillos de ron, or in my case a lemonchello. We didn't try the home-made tiramisu, which is reported to be good.

All in all, sixty-odd euros well spent. My only criticism would be that the wine selection was limited - and limited to some rather off-puttingly unknown vintages, but the food itself could hardly be bettered, particularly at the price.

Over the next few months I'll be attempting to review other restaurants and bars in the area, so watch this space. If you've eaten  at La Bella Napoli, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it. Bon profit!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Ashes To Ashes

For this and the next couple of posts I'm going a little off-piste, and straying out of the barri, and taking the Metro a few stops due North to picturesque Grácia.  

 The occasion was the Grácia Festa Major a couple of days ago, which is far more spectacular and big budget than Poble Sec's effort - think Back To The Future ($14m)  Vs Primer ($7,000), although this year the street decorations were a bit lower-key and, well - cheap looking. 

I'll be reviewing those in the next post, but for now I want to concentrate on the creative destruction that is the correfoc. This time the Catalan fire-run was enlivened by a number of Dracs - dragons, like the fella above, which shoot fire in order to terrorize and delight the crowd who scatter in all directions in order to escape being burned - something I forgot to do when I took some of these pictures. Ouch.

Enter the Dragon.

Torches light up Grácia. 

Staring into the Abyss.

The Drac rampant.

And speaking of Ashes...

In order to celebrate the recent English win over Australia Mrs HD, our pal Stuart and his son Sam got playing a game of cricket with a bunch of local kids. The sport was unknown in Spain before the recent influx of immigrants from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and can now be seen played in many squares and parks around Barcelona, to the bemusement of the Catalans. Watch the video to catch a glimpse of our local cricketing talent!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Summer Break

As I mentioned in the previous post, Mrs High & Dry broke her wrist a few weeks ago whilst showing off to a five-year-old boy, and as a result we have been stranded in Barcelona and are having to make do and find our diversions where we can. So here's the X-ray, courtesy of the wonderful people at the Manso CAP Radiological Department.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Tancat! ¡Cerrado! Closed!

Yes it's the August holiday season in Spain and almost anyone who can afford to do so has boarded up their shop, loaded up the car, set the dog loose to starve in the streets and zipped off to join their neighbours to fight for a few square centimetres of any-hotter-and-it-would-be-liquid-glass sand and swim amongst the shoals of sanitary napkins and used condoms.

As you may have guessed, me and Mrs High & Dry eschew such excursions in favour of staying to roast at home. And since Mrs HD has also broken her wrist whilst forgetting her age, anywhere sandy is doubly out at the moment, and we are marooned in Poble Sec.

A great advantage of not leaving the barri in August is the sense of comaraderie amongst the dwindling band of stayers. Together we wander the streets looking for open shops and - more importantly - bars. Although Poble Sec has hundreds of them, ranging to from the the humble local to kitsch designer salons, many close for at least part of the month. One of my tasks on this blog will be to try and critique every last one of them - a Hurclean task, much like Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged's mission to insult every being in the universe - in alphabetical order. (Note to non-readers of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: follow the link). 

Can Margarit - great rabbit, apparently. Run by a nice bunch of very butch gay guys of a certain age, we never eat there because they refuse to serve alioli - garlic mayonnaise. Closed.

Sifò Xico - a smashing, trendy-looking bar-restaurant which serves Catalan classics and also has a nice line in bugers, and excellent wine. Closed.

Sortidor - located on the pleasant Poble Sec plaza of the same name. It used to just serve lunch-time menus at a very reasonable price, specialising in Piedmontese cuisine - as well as opening on Thursday nights to serve cous-cous during poetry readings. Now it opens in the evening - but not during August. Closed.

La Tomaquera. Brusque-but-friendly staff, no air-con and thus a "welcome to Hell" sign for the summer months. Great Catalan classics and quail's eggs as a free entre.  Specialises in snails. Closed.