Restaurants

Several sound reasons to seek out La Singular in Barcelona

25th May 2017

 Salad with figs, feta cheese and a mint vinaigrette


La Singular is one of my favourite restaurants for both lunch and dinner.

Here are several sound reasons why:

Price for lunch:

For the menú diari [menú del día], which includes bread and wine, or beer, or water, you’ll pay 10,40€.

Ajoblanco de prèssec de vinya, pernil i menta — cold garlic and almond soup with peach, ham and mint as served at La Singular

Price for dinner:

  • Starters and first courses cost between 2,50€ and 6€.
  • Mains cost around 8€ — 15€.
Lasagne at La Singular

Lasagna de brandada de bacalao y mousselina gratinada de albaricoques.(Salt cod and pureed potato lasagne with apricots and a mousse.)

Choice:

  • The fixed-price lunch menu offers a choice of 4 first courses, 3 or 4 second courses and 3 or 4 desserts.
  • An extensive à la carte menu is available in the evening,

 

Pollo i espagueti amb salsa i menta — Chicken and spaghetti, sauce and mint as served at La Singular

Pollo i espagueti amb salsa i menta — Chicken and spaghetti, sauce and mint as served at La Singular

Quality:

Ingredients, preparation and presentation are all reliably excellent. I have never had a duff plate here.

Carpaccio de alcachofas, jamón de pato, parmesano y crema de balsámico trufado. (Carpaccio of artichokes, duck 'ham' with a balsamic reduction wit truffles.)

Carpaccio de alcachofas, jamón de pato, parmesano y crema de balsámico trufado. (Carpaccio of artichokes, with parmesan cheese, duck ‘ham’, spotted with a balsamic and black truffle reduction.)

Taste:

The food offered here is playfully inventive, joyfully combining meat, fish and cheese with fresh seasonal fruits, berries, herbs, dried fruits, nuts and veggies to produce wonderfully balanced, flavoursome dishes. Delicious.

Pastís de carne i moixernons, pure i la seva salsa — Meatloaf with mushrooms, mashed potato and house sauce as served at La Singular.

Pastís de carne i moixernons, pure i la seva salsa — Meatloaf with mushrooms, mashed potato, pistachios and house sauce as served at La Singular.

Service:

Polite and businesslike. Timing very good; attentive without being intrusive. English can be spoken.

It is not possible to reserve a table for lunch.

“Pollo Singular” — muslitos en escabeche suave de naranja y hummus de guisantes y espécies. (Chicken thighs in an orange marinade with a spiced pea hummus.

Ambience:

Thoughtfully lit, tastefully decorated, intimate, cosy, squeezed space with a very comfortable noise level.

As you walk into the dining-room you’ll pass the small kitchen area and see dishes being prepared.

Pollastre farcit amb prunes, orellanes i taronja amb cous cous de fruites — Chicken stuffed with prunes, apricot and orange with cous cous and diced fruit as served at La Singular. bn

Pollastre farcit amb prunes, orellanes i taronja amb cous cous de fruites — Chicken stuffed with prunes, apricot and orange with cous cous and diced fruit as served at La Singular.

Value:

Excellent. Probably the best value lunch in the city.

Interior of La Singular

In Sum: 

Over the years I’ve dined here more than a dozen times. Since January this year I’ve dined here three times.  And, I’ll be going again next week.

“Rabbit with chocolate? That ain’t  gonna work.” But it does.

“Duck with banana, passion fruit and pistachios… are you serious? Get outta here.”  It shouldn’t work — but it does.

Here is a link to their current evening menu (in Spanish): MENU.

Without exception, every person I have taken here, including a chef, a sous chef, a cook and a caterer, have all been more than a little impressed by the food here.

This isn’t some geeky, hipster bunch of wannabes throwing together wacky combos for the sake of it — more a sincere, playful attempt to please, entertain and satisfy — and it does.

Location:

At the heart of Gràcia, just around the corner from the Ajuntament (Town Hall), a minute stroll from Plaça de la Vila (Town Hall square).

Open on Mondays. Closed on Sundays. Closed for lunch on Fridays.

LINKS:

Go HERE for my Spotted by Locals write-up with a map and all the info on opening hours. Download the app HERE.

Restaurante La Singular website: HERE

Carrer Francisco Giner, 50

Call: (+34) 93 237 5098

Dreta de l'Eixample

The Heart of Modernista Architecture: La Dreta de l’Eixample in Barcelona

8th May 2017
Casa de Les Puntxes, Eixample Dreta, Barcelona
Map of La Dreta de l'Eixample

La Dreta de l'Eixample

Dreta de l'Eixample is where you’ll encounter more than 150 of the city's Modernista buildings. The area is sometimes referred to as the Quadrat d'Or — the Golden Square — because of the abundance and quality of the architecture here.

This is where Utopian engineer, Ildefons Cerdà's plan for an expanded city began to take physical form. The first buildings were constructed here during the 1850s at the junction of Consell de Cent and Roger de Llúria.

Passeig de Gràcia is host to Gaudí's La Pedrera and La Manzana de la Discordia the Block of Discord — where you'll encounter buildings by the three giants of Modernista architecture — Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch.

Other interesting buildings include Casa ComalatEl Palau del Baró de Quadras and La Casa de les Punxes all on a short stretch of Avinguda Diagonal, and Casa Thomas on Carrer Mallorca.

Casa Comalat, Dreta Eixample, Barcelona, detalle

A detail of Casa Comalat

When strolling around you'll encounter Modernista grocers, bakeries, bars and pharmacies. And, as you’re strolling along, you’ll happen upon beautiful, elaborate murals, elegantly tiled entrances, wonderful stained glass, ironwork and reliefs, and intriguing, intricate details. This is an architectural historian's dreamworld.

The neighbourhood hosts a growing French community, with a French bookstore, school, boulangerie, fashion stores, and several French restaurants and epicieries.

The neighbourhood also embraces a large part of what's called, Frikiville​, a host of stores trading in comic books, graphic novels, role-playing fantasy games, figures and other ephemera. 

If staying here

…consider yourself blessed —​ you've hit the jackpot — you're situated in one of the most fascinating urban areas on the planet. Hyperbole? No. I regularly walk from one side of the neighbourhood to the other — as I have for several years — and, guaranteed, every time, I'll find something old and overlooked, but something new to me. 

You'll be in comfortable and interesting walking distance of the city centre, La Sagrada Familia, Barri Gótic and El Born. And Vila de Gràcia is a comfortable stroll, a quck bus ride, or one or two stops on the metro.

Getting to and from the Airport is a breeze — just use RENFE Passeig de Gràcia, for trains to and from Terminal 2, or take the Aerobus to or from Terminals 1 & 2 to/from Plaça Catalunya.

If staying elsewhere in the city

…you'll have no problems at all getting here — because the barri embraces Plaça de Catalunya all public transport options, including the Aerobus, except the Tram (and funiculars, obviously!), converge on this part of the city.

People

Salvador Puig i Antich, an anarchist militant, and last person to be executed by garrotte in Spain, was arrested here on September 25th, 1973, following a shootout with police on the corner of Carrer de Girona and Consell de Cent. 

Ron Wood, of The Rolling Stones, has an apartment here on Passeig de Gràcia.

Ramon Casas i Carbó, the influential painter and graphic designer, and one of Picasso's early mentors, lived and worked here at Passeig de Gràcia, 96, now yet another Massimo Dutti store. 

Festivities 

Festa Major:

Last week of May, with a programme of family friendly activities including parades, music, castellers (human towers) and havaneres (Cuban-Spanish balladeers) — well worth checking out if you’re in the area.

La Fira Modernista:

2017: May 26th—May 28th on Carrer de Girona between Diputació and Diagonal and Mercat de la Concepció. The neighbourhood’s annual celebration of all things Moderrnista, during which locals stroll around the streets in period costume, has come to overshadow and virtually replace the local Festa Major. You'll find stalls selling antiques, quality reproductions, old postcards, posters and prints, and an exhibition of vintage vehicles, plus a variety of food offerings, and lots of vintage entertainment.

"DOWN WITH THE WALLS!"


The single most important event to have shaped modern Barcelona was the demolition of the city’s medieval walls. It was a long time coming.

In the 1840s the old city’s population was around 187,000, or near 86,500 inhabitants per square kilometre. Factories, workshops, markets, artisans, industrial workers and haute-bourgeosie all shared the same cramped space. The cry went up, “Down with the walls!”

Between 1834 and 1865 cholera killed more than 13,000 residents. Life expectancy for wealthy residents was just 36 years — for industrial workers life expectancy was a shocking 23 years.

Following years of heated debate, street protests, and even a military bombardment, in 1853 the Madrid government announced a competition to design an expanded city. Controversially the government over-ruled the City Hall’s preferred local architect, Antoni Rovira i Trias and appointed the engineer, Ildefons Cerdà.

In 1854 the first walls were demolished and in 1860, Queen Isabel II laid the first stone of what became known as the Eixample (Catalan for ‘extension’).

Cerdà’s bold, futuristic plan looked to fill the wide open spaces between the old city and the neighbouring towns and villages between the rivers, Besòs and Llobregat, with a grid of streets. The area was four times the size of the existing city.

At the core of Cerdà’s scheme was the notion of blocks, or manzanas, with each block providing all the housing, shopping, educational, health and recreational needs of its residents.

In the course of researching his proposals Cerdà invented the both the term and the discipline of urbanization. He forensically determined what he considered to be the essential needs of future residents — even down to the amount of clean air and natural light each person would require.

Cerdà’s visionary street plan anticipated the development of automobiles and urban rail systems.

He died in 1876, ten years before Karl Benz demonstrated the first petrol powered vehicle, and yet, as you explore the Eixample you’ll notice that the blocks have chamfered corners, or chiflans in Catalan. These were designed to allow drivers of vehicles which had not yet been invented, to have an unimpeded  view of what was happening on the streets to their left and right. The chiflans also allowed trams, which had not yet been invented, to turn corners.

His Utopian scheme facilitated an egalitarian way of life for city dwellers, with rich and poor, professionals, artisans, intellectuals and manual workers all living together in harmony. However, he did not foresee El Desastre, the Spanish–American War in 1898, the loss of Spain's colony of Cuba and the consequent exodus of wealthy plantation owners.

The displaced plantation owners had their own ideas about how they were going to live and who with, and they had money and influence, and a host of talented architects willing to oblige them. These wealthy families were dubbed los indiano. Many of the grand buildings on Passeig de Gràcia were built by the indianos.

Cerdà’s specification that the blocks should be no more than five storeys high was soon abandoned — and some of the new owners even built cupolas on their roofs so that they could literally look down on their neighbours. (Salvador Dalí, as was his way, claimed that the cupolas were built so that their owners could piss on their neighbours.) And, Cerda's idea that each block should incorporate public educational and recreational facilities was ignored by these wealthy refugees. Los indiano built private classrooms, private cultural salons and reading rooms, and elaborate private chapels. They were determined to not have to rub shoulders with ordinary folk. Cerdà’s dream was dead.

This stoked local resentments — which finally boiled over during the Setmana Tragica (Tragic Week) — in July/August 1909


Food & Drink

Snacks

Café del Centre very near Girona metro station. Here's my write-up.

Snack 55 on Passeig de Sant Joan. Here's my write-up.

Dalin i Lucia​ on Passeig de Sant Joan. Here's my write-up.

Tapes

Morryssom on the corner of Carrers Girona and Roselló. Write-up HERE.

Bar-Restaurants

These bar-restaurants offer a good value menú del día.

Morryssom on the corner of Carrers Girona and Roselló. Write-up HERE.

Palermo, on the corner of Carrer de Mallorca and Roger de Llúria. Write-up HERE.

Restaurants

La Rita, on Carrer Aragó near Gaudí's Casa Battló on Passeig de Gràcia. My write-up​.

Gelonch, very near Plaça Tetuan. WRITE-UP.

La Paradeta, on Consell de Cent, near Passeig de Gràcia.​ My write-up of the original version of this seafood diner is HERE.

Bars

Les Gens Que J'aime, on Carrer Valencia between Passeig de Gràcia and pau Claris. GUARDIAN write-up HERE. Bar WEBSITE.

Market

Mercat de la Concepció between Carrers de Valencia and Aragó/Girona and Bruc. WRITE-UP.


Arts & Entertainment

Cinema

Cinemes Girona, Carrer de Girona, 175.

LINK TO CURRENT PROGRAMME HERE.

Museums

Museu del Modernisme, Carrer de Balmes, 48. WEBSITE HERE.

Egyptian Museum, LINK.

Art 

Fundació Sunyol, on Passeig de Gràcia. WRITE-UP.

Casa Elizalde Cultural Centre, on C/Valencia between Roger de Llúria and Pau Claris. WEBSITE.

La Pedrera, on Passeig de Gràcia. WRITE UP.

Palau Robert, at the junction of Passeig de Gràcia and Diagonal. WRITE-UP.​

Fundació Tàpies, on Carrer de Aragó between Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya. LINK.

Volart 1 i 2, on Carrer d'Ausias Marc​. WEBSITE HERE.

Music & Dance

Casa Elizalde Cultural Centre, on C/Valencia between Roger de Llúria and Pau Claris. WEBSITE.

Enjoy exploring Dreta de l'Eixample.

Pedralbes

Royal, Rich and Influential: Pedralbes in Barcelona

1st May 2017
Map of Pedralbes, Les Corts, Barcelona

Since 1327, and the founding of the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria at the behest of Elisenda de Montcada, wife of James II, Pedralbes has been inextricably associated with royalty, wealth and influence.

In 1926 King Alfonso XIII established a royal palace here. When the dictator, Franco visited the city he stayed here. The current King’s sister has a house here. FCBarcelona footballer, Gerard Piqué and his popstar wife, Shakira live here.

​Nearly every house has a swimming pool in its backyard.

A local wag dubbed it the Beverly Hills of Catalunya.

Despite its antiquity Pedralbes has only existed in its own right since 1984, before then it was part of Sarrià.

The Royal Tennis Club, the University Polytechnic of Catalunya, and the prestigious international business schools, ESADE and IESE are all based here. The University of Barcelona has a law school here.

The Russian Consulate is here — on Avinguda​ Pearson, the city's millionaires' row.

The infamous Bruc Army Barracks is housed here. As is the curious barriada (an enclave within a barri), La Mercè, created in 1946 when Franco ordered the building of 123 dwellings to house army administrators and their families.

The Jardins de la Font dels Ocellets hosts free music concerts in June and July. While the Palace gardens host the not free, and very expensive, international Pedralbes Festival from mid-June to mid-July.

There’s also the Parc de Cervantes and its magnificent rose garden, featuring more than 10,000 examples of 245 varieties of that most emblematic flower. And, there is also the Jardins de William Shakespeare — which doesn't have any roses. Surely some mistake…can't recall Cervantes eulogising the rose as often, nor as eloquently, as did good ol' Will Shakespeare.

Gaudí left his mark here too with his dramatic dragon gate guarding the entrance to his patron, Eusebi Güell’s finca, (summer house), the Pabellones de Finca Güell in Parc de Pedralbes. He also designed a pergola and a fountain in the Palace gardens.

​A good friend is a member of the Royal Tennis Club here; and another very good friend sends his two kids to school here, and I used to visit the Polytechnic here every week. 

If staying here

…and you haven't got a car then be prepared to be buzzed by official, and not so official, plainclothes security, as they cruise the residential part of the neighbourhood (above Ronda de Dalt) scanning the sidewalks for putative kidnappers and ne'er-do-wells. You'd better have your ID with you.

And, if you do have a car, be prepared for fake passers-by snapping your number/license plate.

Getting in and out the city centre can be a bit of a faff — although once you reach the Diagonal it's all straightforward enough.

If staying elsewhere in the city

…you may want to consider a trip to the Monastery and Pabellones, or attend a gig during the Arts Festival. However, if it's your first or second visit to Barcelona, you have many more, and more worthwhile, options still to explore.

People

George Orwell, spent two weeks here in 1937, recovering from a bullet wound to his throat, at the former Maurin Sanatorium — now the  Benjamin Franklin International School.

Woody Allen shot scenes ​for his movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Finca Güell.

Juan Negrín, the President of Republican Spain (and Communist placeman) lived hid in Pedralbes Palace from 1937 to 1939.

Carles Reixach, former player and trainer for FCBarcelona, was born here.

Mr & Mrs Shakira live here on the famed, Avinguda de Pearson.​  (Although a trusted spy tells me that they have recently moved to Sant Joan Despi)

FCBarcelona mega-stars, ​Leo Messi and Neymar Jr. also own houses here even though they both live in Castelldefells.

BARCELONA'S DAY OF INFAMY


Barcelona's day of infamy — the Army uprising which shaped the nation for half a century— began here, in Pedralbes, at the Bruc barracks.

In the early hours of Sunday, July 19th, 1936, Major José López Amor arrested the Colonel commanding the barracks and the General in command of the 10th (Badajoz) Regiment of the 7th Infantry Brigade. López assumed command, assembled the men, and told them that their orders were to put down an anarchist insurrection.

The 600 troops, equipped with 17 machine-guns and 4 heavy mortars, and accompanied by a rabble of around 150 armed Falangists and a light cavalry escort, left the barracks and proceeded along what is now Avinguda Diagonal, toward the city centre where they were to link up with cavalry and artillery units converging on Plaça Catalunya.

At the Lepanto barracks on Carrer de Tarragona General Alvaro Fernández Burriel mustered the 3rd (Santiago) and 4th (Montesa) Regiments of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, comprising 600 men and 6 machine-guns.

In the nearby barracks on Carrer Numància the 10th Cavalry (Montesa) Regiment also joined the rebels and prepared to link up with a battalion of army engineers in Plaça de'Espanya.

At the Girona barracks on Carrer de Lepant​ in El Baix Guinardó, the 9th Regiment of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade prepared to advance on the city centre and link up with the infantry en route from Pedralbes.

In Poble Nou, on Avinguda d'Icària, the 1st Mountain (Artillery) Regiment, equipped with twenty-four 10.5 Skoda guns prepared to advance on the Christopher Columbus monument at the bottom of Les Rambles.

In Sant Andreu the 7th Regiment of the Artillery Brigade, composed of two groups of three batteries, each equipped with four 10.5 Vickers guns, prepared to advance on the city centre.

In their barracks on Gran Via, very near Plaça d'Espanya, 400 men of the Engineers Battalion  prepared to take control of the plaça.

At the barracks in Ciutadella only half the officers of the 34th (Alcántara)​ Regiment joined the insurgents.

​In the docks, the Carabineros (armed customs officers) sided with the rebels, while around 400 of their colleagues kept their heads down at their HQ on Carrer Sant Pau.

​The Civil Guard, the 19th Tercio (regiment) of four companies based in barracks on Carrer d'Ausias Marc, and a battalion of cavalry based in barracks on Consell de Cent, waited on orders.

Similarly 1,960 Assault Guards stationed across the city, armed with 16 machine-guns and 8 light mortars, awaited for clear, unequivocal ​instructions. Although several groups of Asaltos took the initiative and moved out to take control of important junctions.

At the airfield (now Prat de Llobregat international airport) most airforce personnel remained loyal to the Republic. They flew missions over the city to drop ​hastily printed leaflets urging residents to resist the uprising. Later during the day a few planes supported attacks on rebel held positions.

Altogether about 5,000 troops were on the move.​

​The infantry column from Pedralbes seized the University of Barcelona. The regiment then spilt its forces, leaving around 100 men to defend the University and guard prisoners taken en route, while around 500 men continued along Ronda de la Universitat to seize what was then the grand Hotel Colón, the building overlooking Plaça Catalunya which now houses an Apple shop and the Canadian consulate. The rebels also took control of the Central Telephone Exchange, now the Telefónica building, and also, what was until recently, the Ritz Hotel on Gran Via.

Meanwhile, three squadrons of cavalry​, en route to Plaça Catalunya via Carrer Còrsega, had been held up by armed workers and loyal Assault Guards at Cinc d'Ors (the junction of Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia). The battle lasted two hours until the rebel cavalry retreated to the Carmelite convent on Avinguda Diagonal, where they encountered a group of recently shaved Guardia Civil dressed in nuns' habits. 

Another detachment of Santiago cavalry ​was ambushed as it advanced along Passeig de Sant Joan. This encounter was the subject of a famous photo by Agustí Centelles. HERE.

Around the same time a squadron of the 10th (Montesa) Cavalry Regiment and a mixed group of army engineers and artillery entered Plaça de Espanya and tricked a column of loyal Assault Guards with cries of, "Visca la Repùblica! Visca Catalunya!" The artillery battery then began shelling barricades ​in Hostafrancs before training their guns on Hostafrancs Town Hall. The guns were soon encircled and later mobbed by outraged, unarmed civilians, supported by a few Asaltos

On the outskirts of Barceloneta workers deployed huge rolls of newsprint​ to create mobile barricades to prevent the rebel artillery advance along Avinguda d'Icaria from their barracks in Poble Nou.

​Major José López Amor, holed up in Hotel Colón, had intended to capture the Catalan government HQ on Plaça Jaume I before reporting to General Goded who was flying in from rebel held Mallorca. However, all his attempts to advance down the Rambles were thwarted by determined armed workers. 

​Rebel troops from the Atarazanas barracks at the bottom of the Rambles installed a heavy machine-gun at the top of the Christopher Columbus column. With enfilading fire from the Atarazanas barracks and the Military HQ situated on  the interesection of Passeig de Colom and La Rambla de Santa Monica, they established a killi-zone.

At 8am​ a column of the 7th Light Infantry was pinned down by a mixed group of armed civilians and Asaltos at the junction of Carrer Balmes and Avinguda Diagonal. Another column of light infantry had been stopped at the junction of Carrer de Pau Claris and Gran Via. A company of infantry from the 34th (Alacántara) Regiment, en route to seize the radio station on Carrer Caspe, were pinned down at Arc de Triomf. Local people, enraged that priests were using their church towers to fire on people fleeing the fighting, began setting churches alight.

​By 10am scores of troops, realising they had been duped by their officers, had surrenderd their arms and were fraternising with locals. 

At 11am the Assault Guards were officially ordered to support local defence groups. At the same time the rebel General Goded landed in a hydroplane in the port and made his way tothe Military Government HQ near the Christopher Columbus monument. 

By noon​ it became clear that the main concentrations of rebel forces were situated in Plaça Catalunya, Plaça de'Espanya and the Rambla Santa Monica—Ataranzas—Christopher Columbus monument—Military Government HQ area.

​At 2pm the Guardia Civil finally decided to intervene on the side of local people and advanced on Plaça Catalunya.

​By nightfall only the Atarazanas barracks at the bottom of Les Rambles, and the large Maestranza barracks in Sant Andreu, still held out.

​The following morning, Monday, July 20th, it was all over. Local people had crushed an army uprising. The long, bloody weekend had cost 511 lives, including 300 civilians; 2000 people were seriously injured.

The Bruc Barracks in Pedralbes was renamed the Bakunin Barracks and became the​ HQ for the CNT/F.A.I. militia.

The Lepanto Barracks was renamed the Lenin Barracks and became the HQ for the POUM militia.​

This army uprising against the elected government was to became known as the Spanish Civil War.

Festivities 

Festa Major:

During the first two weeks of October the Monastery in Pedralbes hosts events, such as traditional dancing, as part of the districtwide Festa Major de Les Corts. 

Festa Major:

The barriada, La Mercè, AKA Las Cinco Rosas, (The Five Roses), in reference to one of the symbols of the Falange, have their local party on September 24th.

International Arts Festival:

From mid-June to mid-July in the Palace Gardens

Food & Drink

You could think, given there are so many resident wealthy potential patrons, that there would be a healthy roster of opportunities for dining and drinking here. But no. Think about it. This is Upstairs-Downstairs land; many households will have live-in, or on-call, staff. Think Posh & Becks…think beck and call. Think on-demand gratification. Think the ability to sate any, every, demand and whim as and when desired.

You could think, given there are several university, polytechnic, and business school establishments here, that there would be a few budget eateries nearby. But no. Think about it. This is 'a-certain-aspiration' area. Students attending places of learning here, or their parents, are not short of a bob or two and have no need for cheap and cheerful eateries.

You could think, given there is a very large army barracks here, that hungry and thirsty square-bashers would feed a demand for locally available cheap scoff and booze. No. National Service — the 'mili' — ended years ago; current personnel habiting the barracks are relatively highly-paid technical staff, not underpaid, homesick squaddies.

Having said all that, there are two options I can suggest — though not yet recommend (I have only visited these two places once — and I only recommend places after at least three visits).

Lunch & Dinner & Drinks

El Jardí de l'Abadessa

Carrer de l'Abadessa Olzet, 26.

 T: 93 280 37 54

WEBSITE HERE

Snacks

Frankfurt Pedralbes

Arts & Entertainment

Museums 

The Monastery of Pedralbes — Here's their WEBSITE.

Features

Bruc Army Barracks — if interested in the Spanish Civil War then you may want to stroll past — this is where it all kicked off in Barcelona. Have a gawk — resist taking photos — and keep walking, otherwise you may find yourself accosted by an agitated posse of gun-toting uniforms demanding to know what you're doing. Trust me. You do not want to spend four hours plus in a dull room with only a tepid cup of coffee from a machine for company while they send someone to your accommodation to check your story.

Be careful when exploring, and enjoying, Pedralbes

Sant Gervasi–Galvany

Smart, Assured and Chic: Sant Gervasi-Galvany in Barcelona

17th April 2017
Sant Gervasi–Galvany

Smart and Assured with Chic Uptown Shopping and Clubbing


Sant Gervasi-Galvany is situated between Avinguda Diagonal and Ronda del General Mitre and Carrer de Balmes/Via Augusta.

Development began here in 1866, spurred by the promise of a new railway station, La Bonanova, opened in 1867, and a new covered market. The market was begun in 1868 but not inaugurated until 1927.

The oldest part of the neighbourhood is the area between Carrer Sagués and Carrer Amigó but the main centre is around the covered market.

Globally reknowned chefs, such as, Carme Ruscalleda, Carles Gaig and Jordi Vilà occasionally share their skills and secrets at gastronomic events hosted by the market.

Austria and Malta have their consulates here.

By day it's a busy commercial district, by night it's a playground for socialites and wannabe celebrities. The neighbourhood hosts several clubs, such as Otto Zutz and Cotton, venues such as Luz de Gas (where a humble bottle of Estrella will cost you at least 7€), cocktail bars, such as the legendary Gimlet, and many fine-dining restaurants such as Fermí PuigHisop and Freixa Tradició.

Given the number of young women wandering around with their knees hanging out of their jeans you could believe the neighbourhood was on its uppers. Don't be fooled. This is where local wealthy patrons do their shopping. Many tax dodging celebrities, corrupt politicians, property developers, business tycoons, fashion models, cocaine dealers, image consultants and personal shoppers all flex their platinum cards here.

The area hosts many interesting  shops, among them several fashion stores for ladies of a certain age with access to large amounts of money. There are several couture shops where you can buy gowns, dresses, elegant threads, hats and gloves — all made to measure. They'll even organise a private fashion show for you, This is where you come  when you absolutely need to buy another Rolex

It may help you to better understand this neighbourhood when you realise that many people who live/work here regard Plaça de Francesc Macià as the city centre — not Plaça Catalunya.​

I visit the neighbourhood at least twice a week, every week, as I have for the past two years, and have developed a grudging respect for how it successfully pretends to normalise new wealth.

There's an interesting building, a rather grand mansion, at Carrer de Muntaner, 282. The place is known as Casa Ramonet, or Palau del Marquès d'Alella, and, when unoccupied during an extended period of legal limbo, featured as the wicked stepmother's house in a 2013 black & white movie production of Snow White (TRAILER HERE).

The gardens are now open to the public, and there are plans to refurbish it for use as a multi-lingual library — featuring the city's collection of materials in English, French, German and Portuguese. The building has a fascinating and torrid history which you can read about below.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF CASA RAMONET


Casa Ramonet, otherwise known as Palau del Marquès d'Alella, on Carrer de Muntaner, is a building with an intriguing past. In fact, the Ramonet affair still rumbles on after 27 years.

The former owner of the building, Julio Muñoz Ramonet, made his fortune in smuggling and laundering the proceeds through his textiles factories, which employed more than 40,000 workers. He was also involved in laundering Nazi loot. Until 1981 a Nazi agent known to trade in looted artworks lived just up the road from Casa Ramonet in La Bonanova. Ramonet was also known to have had dealings with the legendary art thief, Erik el Belga.

In many ways Ramonet was typical of a certain caste of dodgy buisnessmen who thrived during the Franco regime — untouchable robber-barons who bought and sold influence and lorded it over their contemporaries — landless caciques in a sense. People in Catalunya used to say, "There's God and then there's Ramonet." 

In 1946 Ramonet married into money — lots of money. His bride was the daughter of the head of Spain's Central Bank. He had access to unlimited credit.​ In the 1960s Ramonet used his banking connections to open two banks in Switzerland — the Kredit Bank de Saint Gall and the Banque Génévoise de Comerce et de Crédit.

In 1966, despite the strict marriage laws at the time, Ramonet somehow managed to divorce his wife. He began living it large. It was said that when entertaining guests Ramonet would light his cigars with 1000 peseta notes, and, after using toilets in the city's bars, cabaret clubs and bordellos, would use a whole bottle of Chanel No5 to wash his hands. Once, when he was refused a reservation at a well-known restaurant, he called the owner to have the unfortunate who spoke with him fired, and then bought the restaurant, just so he could claim his favourite table. 

During the '70s the Swiss financial authorities began investigating Ramonet's dubious dealings.

Following the Transition (the interregnum between the end of Franco's rule in 1975 and the re-establishment of a parliamentary democracy in 1981) the State, egged on by vengeful rivals, and led by judge, Balthasar Garzón, caught up with Ramonet. He was charged with fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. He hightailed it to Switzerland. He was found guilty of all charges in absentia and ordered to pay restitution. He died in Switzerland in May, 1991, having made no effort to pay a single bean.

The authorities were fairly relaxed about this — they had a will they said, which bequeathed the mansion to the city. They also had copies of his most recent inventories which listed more than 900 works of art, including works by Botticelli, El Greco, Delacroix, FortunyGoya, Rembrandt, Renoir, Sorolla, Velázquez and Zurbarán. If push came to shove they would seize the building and all the treasures it contained. Except — Muñoz's surviving family had other ideas.

And so, one winter's night in February 1992, between the hours of 2am and 5am, two armoured trucks appeared in the grounds of the house. Curious passers by and nosey neighbours were told that the trucks' occupants were in the act of officially sequestering the artworks on behalf of the regional government. Yep…you guessed right. When government officials finally turned up one morning, in July,1993, they found the house and grounds empty — apart from a few minor artworks, pieces of antique furniture and sculptures in the gardens. An estimated 853 major artworks had dsappeared.

A long legal battle ensued. During this period artworks listed in the inventories kept surfacing in unexpected places. For example, a Goya and an El Greco were discovered by the Guardia Civil in a modest home in Alicante. As court directives for the return of the artworks went unheeded, paintings were being sold at knock-down prices in auction houses in London and Geneva. 

Finally, after 17 years of legal argument, (the family is still threatening to appeal) the case was resolved in favour of Barcelona's city authorities.

Ramonet was an unscrupulous, greedy shit who engineered protection from the Madrid government. He wasn't stupid, but he wasn't clever, and he certainly wasn't cultured — but encouraged his entourage to convince him he was (sound familiar, Trumpistas?).

For a time in the 1950s and 60s Ramonet even had his hands on what is now Palau Robert. His big mistake was to upset someone unknown to us, someone higher up in his particular foodchain. His ownership of Palau Robert was sabotaged by corrupt bank officials, obviously in the pay of a rival.

And now? The City is proceeding with its plans to install a library in the house. The library will contain around  400,000 volumes in English, French, German and Portuguese. It is hoped the library will be opened to the public in 2018. 

If staying here…

… and you've cash to splash then you'll likely have a blast. Getting to and from here to the city centre, and all the sites you may want to visit, is a breeze. L'Antiga Esquerra Eixample is just across the Diagonal. Gràcia is just along Travessera de Gràcia.

Getting to and from the Airport ​is a bit tricky. If you want to avoid stumbling up and down stairs with suitcases in the metro — probably best to take a taxi.

If you're a foodie then you've landed in the right spot — many of the city's best restaurants are within comfortable strolling distance or a short taxi ride. 

If you like to keep yourself fit during your vacation then you'll be happy — there are a good few gyms which will accommodate your fitness routine.

If staying elsewhere in the city

then the only reason you may want to visit this neighbourhood is because of the abundance of opportunities for fine dining and clubbing.

There's nothing here to see — apart from how the local wealthy, and, more particularly, how the sons and daughters of the local wealthy, indulge themselves. 

People

FCBarcelona played their first ever football match here, on December 8, 1899, against a scratch team of English players. The match was played at a disused cycle stadium, situated in the block now defined by the streets Reina Victoria, Vallmajor, Vallero and Modolell. The English team won, I-0.

Revered Catalan poet, Joan Maragall lived the last years of his life here between 1899 and 1911 in a house near Plaça Molina. The house, at Carrer d'Alfons XII, 79, is now the home of the Arxiu (archive) Joan Maragall.

Joan Maragall was the grandfather of Pasqual Maragall, the now retired socialist politician who brought the Olympic Games to Barcelona.

Festivities 

Festa Major:

Last two weeks of June, with a programme of family friendly activities including parades, music concerts, correfoc, and castellers (human towers) — worth checking out if  in the area.

La Diada:

June 19th — the day of Sant Gervasi and Sant Prostasi. 

Food & Drink

Market

Mercat de Galvany, Carrer Santaló, 65.

Arts & Entertainment

Live Music

Luz de Gas, Carrer Muntaner, 246. WEBSITE HERE

Features

If you're a petrolhead then you'll be interested to know that the Antique Car Club of Catalunya has its HQ here and has a fascinating collection of classic and vintage motors which is only open to the public on Tuesdays between 6pm and 9pm.

Enjoy exploring Sant Gervasi-Galvany

Vila de Gràcia

Lively, radical, arty warren of fun and solidarity: Vila de Gràcia in Barcelona

8th April 2017
Map of Vila de Gràcia, Barcelona

Map of Vila de Gràcia.

Vila de Gràcia, the heart of the district of Gràcia, is a warren of very strollable streets and inviting squares fringed with café-bars, craft, design and fashion stores, restaurants offering every kind of cuisine, cool bodegas, independent cinemas, music venues, theatres, art galleries, craft workshops, two excellent indoor markets, plus much, much more. 

The neighbourhood is famed for its Festa Major in August, when hundreds of thousands of visitors cram the narrow streets to inspect the residents’ wonderfully inventive decorations.

Vila de Gràcia is also well-known for its political activism, with frequent protests, meetings and direct action which occasionally provoke a heavy-handed response from the Mossos d’Esquadra’s Mobile Group (anti-disturbance police).

You could easily spend a whole month strolling and grazing around, stopping off at squares, window shopping and dancing ’til you drop, and never get its measure.

Until 1897 Vila de Gràcia was a town in its own right and still has its own town hall (ajuntament). 

Deceptively quiet during the day​ the squares come alive after local kids get out of school. Then the shops, markets and bars fill with locals on the way home from work. Then it's dinner and the restaurants get busy. And then the grown ups come out to play in the squares.

With streets called Danger, Friendship and Liberty, and squares named John Lennon, Revolution, and the Women of 1936, how can you not explore this intriguing neighbourhood?

If staying here you’ll have a great time. Even if you're not a party animal, it's a fascinating area to simply stroll around — you're sure to find something interesting. Getting in and out of the city centre by bus, metro and FGC trains is a breeze.

If staying elsewhere in the city then it’s well worth a visit — perhaps for lunch or dinner, or a drink and a snack on your way to or from nearby, Park Güell in neighbouring La Salut.

People

Opera diva, Montserrat Caballé was born here, at  Carrer de Igualada, 21.

Movie director, Isabel Coixet lives here, as does singer-songwriter, Jackson Browne.

Esteemed writer, Mercè Rodoreda, although she lived in El Putxet before her exile in France, immortalized the neighbourhood in her classic 1962 novel, La plaça del diamant — In Diamond Square, set immediately before and during the Civil War.

Rumba catalana Catalan rumba music, made popular in the mainstream by The Gypsy Kings, was nurtured here. 

Festivities & Traditions

Els Foguerons

Last weekend of January — in 2018: Jan. 26th & Jan 27th. Bonfires,  a parade, correfoc, music and food.

Festa de Sant Medir

March 3rd — a colourful cavalcade of horses and carriages, freely distributing tons of sweets as it parades through the streets. All good fun.

La Diada

June 4th — the neighbourhood celebrates its Diada (founding day) —when they'll be a correfoc.

Festa Major

August 15th — August 21st

The whole neighbourhood goes crazy for a week. Streets compete to construct the most elaborate and entertaining decorations from recycled materials, and every square is packed with colour and music — from traditional folk, through swing, country, jazz, rumba, havaneres, R'n'B, world music, to ska, thrash-punk and techno. And all the decorated streets have stages hosting more music, theatre and dance.

My tip: Dress appropriately and go to Plaça Revolució at 8.30am on the first day (August 15th). You will most certainly see me there — I go every year. Follow the noisome parade to the town square, rest up a while with a drink and a snack, and then visit each of the decorated streets before the hordes arrive. You will never forget the experience.

Vlia de Gràcia Castellers in Plaça de la Vila, Gràcia, Barcelona
Town clock, Gràcia, Barcelona.
Castellers Ajuntament de Gràcia

Food & Drink

Snacks

Café Diamant in Plaça del Diamant. Here's my write-up.

Pizzeria Lucania II on Carer de Terol. Here's my write-up.

Tapes

Nou Can Codina on the corner of Torrent de l'Olla and Carrer Perill. Write-up HERE.

Bar Bodega Quimet on Carrer Vic just below Travessera de Gràcia. Write-up HERE.

Bar l'Amistat on the corner of Carrer Torrijos and Carrer Ramón y Cajal. Write-up HERE.

Roure on the corner of Carrer Luis Antúnez and ​Plaçeta de Sant Miquel. WRITE UP.

Restaurants

All these restaurants offer a good value menú del día. And all are good for dinner.

Cal Boter. My write-up​.

Goliard. Write-up HERE.

​La Singular. Write-up HERE.

Somodó. Write-up HERE.​

La Llesca​. Here's my write-up.

Bars

Raïm 1886, on the corner of Carrer Progrés and Carrer Siracusa. GUARDIAN write-up HERE. Spottedby Locals write-up HERE.

Markets

Mercat de l'Abaceria on Travessera de Gràcia. WRITE-UP.

Mercat de la Llibertat. WRITE-UP.

Bodegas

Bodega E. Marin. In between l'Abaceria Market and John Lennon Square. WRITE-UP.

Bar Bodega Quimet on Carrer Vic just below Travessera de Gràcia. Write-up HERE.


Arts & Entertainment

Cinema

Cinema Verdi on Carrer Verdi.

Cinema Verdi Park on Carrer Torrijos.

WRITE UP HERE.​ LINK TO CURRENT PROGRAMME HERE.

Cinemes Texas. Great little cinema run by film drector, Ventura Pons. Recently voted the best little cinema in Europe, all seats only 3€. All movies are in original language with Catalan subtitles. LINK HERE.

Live music

Heliogàbal on Carrer Ramón y Cajal. LINK.

Centre Artesà Tradicionàrius at Plaça Anne Frank. LINK.

Pipa Club at C/Santa Eulalia, 21. LINK.

Art, Design & Photography

Galería H2O at the top end of Carrer Verdi. LINK.


Kids' Stuff

Model Railway Exhibit

Barcelona en Miniatura — a lovingly crafted animated diorama of Barcelona as it was in the 1930s. Only open on Sundays between 11am and 2pm. FREE ADMISSION for youngsters aged 12 and under. Grown-ups: 3€. Plaça del Nord. LINK.

Dracs, Gegants & Capgrossos. Dragons, Giants and Big Heads.

Gràcia Town Hall. Permanent exhibit of local processional imagery. Weekdays only. FREE ADMISSION. LINK.

Enjoy exploring Vila de Gràcia.

Graffiti

Bryan Cranston in Gràcia in Barcelona

12th January 2017
 Bryan-Cranston-graffiti-Gràcia-Barcelona-by-Bill-Sinclair.jpg

One of the many wonderful things about exploring Barcelona is happening across curious portraits of well-known, and not so well-known, people in unexpected places.

Here's a portrait of the actor, Bryan Cranston as Walter White — AKA Heisenberg — from the TV series, Breaking Bad, on Carrer de Rabassa in Gràcia.

Context

The graffiti is on a private garage door.​

Walter White AKA Bryan Cranston, Gràcia, Barcelona by Bill sinclair

Enjoy discovering graffiti in Barcelona

BLOG

Happy New Year 2017 from Barcelona

31st December 2016

 

Wishing you a healthy, productive and prosperous 2017. And, if you can squeeze in some happiness, all the better.

See you next year. Sincerely hope it’s a great one for you.

The illustration is by our good friend, Oscar Astromujoff — a brilliant artist and illustrator —and a wonderful human being.

Oscar’s work is best known locally through his regular illustrations for the newspaper, La Vanguardia. In fact, there was one of Oscar’s illustrations in today’s (31/12/2016) edition. His artwork extends beyond simple illustration.

Thanks to Lali, his lovely partner, we were at Oscar’s apartment on Sant Esteve (Boxing Day) last week for a tea party. All good fun.

Anyway, here’s wishing you all the very best for 2017.

Fins aviat!

Restaurants

Make tracks to Tram-Tram in Barcelona

22nd December 2016
Amuse bouches at Tram-Tram, Barcelona

Tram-Tram, a family owned, family run restaurant, is an excellent spot for small get-togethers, or, perhaps, a romantic rendezvous, and a good introduction to contemporary Catalan cuisine. It's a small, perfectly formed and tastefully decorated restaurant, with private dining-rooms and a pleasant leafy patio.

Isidre Soler, the chef, (who spent time training with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli before it became internationally known) takes evident, painstaking pride in the preparation and presentation of his exquisite dishes.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have dined for lunch and dinner here a few times over the past thirteen years. I’ve dined in the general interior dining area, a private dining-room and in the patio. Never disappointed about any aspect of the experience.

Jamon-iberico-with-pa-amb-tomaquet-and-terrine-of-foie-gras-at-Tram-Tram

Price for lunch:

The menú del día, or almuerzo a precio fijo (fixed-price lunch), is 28€ and includes bread, water, a glass of cava or a glass of wine, and coffee.

Choice:

  • Tasting menu — offers five courses, with bread, and a dessert for 39,50€. Wine is extra — by the glass, between 3€ and 7€, and for 16€ you could have a very tasty bottle. The wine list offers a selection of 150 unpretentious wines.
  • El Festival — a surprise menu consisting of three tapas, four dishes, a cheeseboard and two desserts for 70€.
  • A lá carte — depending on the season, but the menu usually offers a choice of six starters, ten meat and fish dishes and six desserts. Prices for mains (entrées) are between 21€ and 28€ — and they offer ¾ size portions at appropriately reduced prices. In the autumn (fall) the menu will include a few game dishes.

All options include two amuse bouches — often an espuma (foam) or mousse of some kind and a sardine served with tongue teasing relishes.

Loin of cod with mushrooms squid-ink parsley reduction-and-chives

Quality:

Chef Soler uses only the very best ingredients — as is evident with every mouthful.

Sardine escabeche and espuma of courgette (zucchini) amuse bouches as served at Tram-Tram.

Taste:

The food — including original variations on classic dishes such as seafood paella and cochinillo (suckling pig) — is flavoursome without being rich, and is very, very good. It’s perhaps a strange observation, but there’s a certain clarity about the flavours here. Despite the complexity of some of the dishes — for example, Royal hare with foie gras and sweet potatoes — none of the flavours dominate but each are evident on the tongue.

Cochinillo (suckling pig) as served at Tram-Tram.

Service:

Service is excellent, the waiters, neatly turned out in white Nehru jackets, are very attentive though keep a discreet distance from your table, conscious to not interrupt the flow of your conversation. The very knowledgeable, and very helpful maitre'd will help you navigate the menu and off-menu specials, and guide you through the wine list. (An English version of the menu is available).

Ambience:

The overall feel is very restful, akin to dining in a wealthy friend’s home. There’s no rush, no bother, no drama — everything is just so.

Value:

You could pay a lot more for a lot less. You’ll be paying for reliably excellent food professionally served in a comfortable and restful ambience. You’ll likely feel better about yourself when you leave.

Pear and mango dessert as served at Tram-Tram

Michelin Guide:

If such things matter to you then you’ll be reassured to know that Tram-Tram is mentioned, although not starred, in the Michelin Guide for Barcelona.

In sum…

All in all, excellent value and highly recommended. Bon profit!

Location

Carrer Major de Sarrià, 121

Sarrià

Above Passeig de la Bonanova

​WEBSITE: HERE

SarriàALL FGC trains departing from Plaça Catalunya and Provença, EXCEPT L7, call at Sarrià.

MondayCLOSED
Tuesday1:30PM–3:30PM
Wednesday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Thursday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Friday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Saturday1:30PM–3:30PM & 9PM –10:30PM
Sunday1:30PM–3:30PM
Bar Restaurants

Lunch at Palermo on Mallorca in Barcelona

11th November 2016

Our restaurants and bars offer a wide and wild variety of cuisines and creative dishes.

However, grazing on tapas and fine dining is both wearing on the wallet and bruising on the palate. There are times while out and about when you want something more substantial than a snack, something a little more ordinary — more home style than stylish. The kind of food our city’s bar-restaurants excel at.

Salmorejo as served at Palermo, Barcelona

Palermo is another favourite lunch spot. They offer a very good menú diari [menú del día] which regularly features traditional dishes such as codillo al horno (knuckle), estofado de vedella (veal stew) or estofado de ternera (beef stew) and, of course, paella on Thursdays. The menú includes a bottle of vino tinto (red table wine) or beer.

Codillo al horno as served at Palermo.

During the summer they offer excellent cold soups such as salmorejo — tomato and breadcrumb soup served with ham and boiled egg — and melon and ham gazpacho.

And, they also offer an excellent arroz caldoso de bogavante (a soupy lobster and rice dish). Very tasty. Highly recommended.

Arroz caldoso de bogavante as served at Palermo.

Or, you can order off an extensive menu.

It's very popular at lunchtime so expect a ten-minute wait for a table — they’ll happily serve you a drink while you wait.

Lubina (sea bass) as served as part of the menú del día at Palermo.

Quality

The quality of the food here is very good. Everything tastes very fresh.

Value

Menú del día: 10,95€ including tax.

Arroz caldoso de bogavante: 15,95€ per person including tax, minimum 2 persons.

Ambience

Smart, modern and clean interior with outside seating. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with legal workers, shop and office staff, construction workers, families and elderly neighbours. It’s a busy place and can get a bit bustly between 2pm and 3pm — but it's all good fun. If you like humans, and find them fascinating, you'll like this place.

Service

Excellent. The wait staff here are very experienced, assiduous and very helpful.

In Sum…

If visiting La Pedrera or Casa de les Punxes, or on your way to or from the Sagrada Familia, and feeling peckish, then it’s a safe bet they'll have something you’ll like.

NEW FEATURE: Click on the map, eye and Metro icons below and access more information.

Location

Carrer de Mallorca, 280,

Dreta de l'Eixample.

Intersection: C/Roger de Llúria — below Avinguda Diagonal.


Nearby

  • La Pedrera
  • Casa de les Punxes
  • Casa Thomas

93 458 2408

Website: HERE

Verdaguer or Girona

Verdaguer

Monday7AM–12Midnight
Tuesday7AM–12Midnight
Wednesday7AM–12Midnight
Thursday7AM–12Midnight
Friday7AM–12Midnight
Saturday8.30AM-5PM
SundayClosed

                             Bon Profit!