Saturday, 16 May 2009

Pinotxo, Barcelona

I was on the lookout out for Pinotxo on our final day in Barcelona, as we spent the last precious hours before our flight exploring the delights of the indoor food market: Mercat de la Boqueria. I was in foodie heaven, my senses overwhelmed, feasting on its gustatory delights. The offal stalls were particularly fascinating: swathes of tripe surrounded by pig heads, hearts, and assorted entrails. Just as impressive were the displays of salt cod. Although I'm not a fan, I hear this is a mecca for the stuff. At a jamon stall, I plumped for a selection of packaged jamon iberico bellota to take home, and a slice to eat as we walked, and retraced our steps to refuel at Pinotxo.

It was packed, and the owner was holding court, gossiping with the regulars. With little subtlety we eyed up what was on offer. We didn't have to wait long, and once we'd pulled up our stools we were welcomed enthusiastically by the chef, who recommended their take on some Catalan classics (there was no menu - simply dishes made with what was available and good to eat that day): melt-in-the-mouth veal stew with pine nuts (estofat de vedella), oven-roasted artichokes (carxofes al forn), chickpeas with crumbled Catalan sausage (cigrons butifarra), and strawberries in sweet syrup to finish. Everything we ate was sublime, and was possibly the best food we'd eaten in Barcelona. The artichoke, burnt black by its long slow oven roasting resembled a rather angry deep sea creature, but held within it it the softest, almost toffee-like, flesh I have ever eaten. Likewise, the humble chickpea was taken to a new level.

I noticed our neighbour's divine Catalan twist on ratatouille, samfaina, and wanted to sample their seafood dishes, but it was too late - we'd consumed our fill, so reluctantly left our perch for others to hurriedly claim.

I can't think of a more appropriate or delicious way to sample the best a market has to offer. You simply must make a bee-line for this place. And, apparently, Ferran Adria eats here when he's in town, his El Bulli test kitchens being situated just the other side of La Ramblas (should you need another reason to visit).

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