My friend Paulina is the Head Pastry Chef for the Ottolenghi restaurants in London – consequently, she works crazy hours and doesn’t have much time off. When she gets a short holiday, she plans gastronomic trips around Europe with pastry chef precision. She’s eaten at Fäviken, Noma and she’s in town with her friend Scully (who is the head chef at another Ottolenghi jewel – Nopi) because they’ve got a table at El Celler Can Roca.
“I’m in town for three days. Let’s meet for lunch? Somewhere Spanish? We will be around the Boqueria.” Paulina says.
I go through my brain’s Rolodex to come up with zip. (I mean where do you take those two?). I appeal to a few local bloggers (Daniel Arbós, Baco y Boca and Charleen over at Travel & Lust.) and they all tell me to go to the same place: Bar Cañete.
I arrive to find the two of them already seated and looking through the menu. I turn mine round and round a few times and when I don’t spot it – ask the waiter for the Menu del Dia – which at Cañete comes in at the bargain price of €16 (3 courses and a beer). The Menu del Dia is like a secret handshake in these parts – mostly everyone orders it for lunch because it can’t be beaten in price but also because it is usually very good food.
Scully orders a la carte; the Raf tomato and onion salad (€8.70), croqueta (€1.95), Bangkok sandwich (€5.50), a Txistorra sausage donut (€1.65), Steak tartar (€13.85) and Crema Catalana to finish (€4.50). His food all looks good while Paulina and I are really enjoying ours because I find good value adds flavour to food.
Our main course is Pargo (which I think is some sort of red snapper) quite a meaty fish – Paulina frowns as she picks out a few errant bones.
“Yeah, they are not precious about that here I find. Fish have bones and as an adult it’s your responsibility to find and avoid them.”
It’s a delicious meal. Seasonal. Ticking off all those Catalan recipes but making them light to eat and lovely to look at. Serious flavour.
The place itself is a stunner, wedged between Pakistani mobile phone shops with brash scintillating window fronts – Cañete and the more formal Mantel are elegant and understated. If they were a car door, they would make that heavy deep – thunk – when you closed them. I particularly love the succulent plants hanging from the ceiling with cascading thick droopy arms, like verdant octopuses (octopi?) threatening to animate above your head.
I was worried that we would have to queue up but if you call the number on their website you can book seats the same day – 932 703 458.
Oh and order the menu del dia – obviously!
See this and more addresses on my Foodie in Barcelona Map
Carrer de la Unió, 17
El Raval 08001