How often do you find yourself in this situation: you’ve done a monster shop, been to the market, thumbed through the latest issue of Bon Appetit and watched some food program on your BBCiPlayer when hunger pops by and says – “So hey, what’s for lunch?” There is no urgency at first but then the purring turns to growling before you know it, all your cupboard doors gape open, full to splitting point and you have no idea what to eat.
I bet that has never happened to any of the ladies working the cold tapas bar at Quimet & Quimet. Not one single time.
No, these ladies (I count 4), wedged neatly between a narrow bar and a towering shelf of canned goods and bottles, pass out plate after plate of enticing tapa and montaditos (something like an hors d’oeuvres on bread but way too big to manage in one or two bites) which are seemingly conjured from thin air. Sure, there is a glass fronted cabinet with all manner of sea things but where are the chefs doing the assembling?
Why, right before my eyes. It’s all sleight of hand. I notice that the girl (she can’t have hit her twenties yet) who I had until now assumed was just manning (womanning) the cash register is also making sandwiches, her hands seemingly able to operate without so much as a downward glance from her eyes or a nod of acknowledgment from her brain which is busy sending instructions for glasses of fino or the house brewed beer.
From my awkward position; elbows planted territorially on the bar but feet still out on the street, I crane my head in vain over the Quimet and Quimet beer trying to get a glimpse of the most popular dishes being ordered. Then the girl with the large lip stick tattoo on her arm settles her gaze on me – and it says “So lady, you’ve been poring over the menu for 15 minutes, you must have memorised the thing by now – whatareyagoingtohave?”
I falter (seemingly my default position in Barcelona) and anxiously glance back at the laminated menu. She screams and makes as if she is dragging her fingernails down her face in desperation and frustration. She also steers me away from ordering two plates of baby squid and suggests (orders) I try the montadito with salmon and truffle honey. Which incidentally, is one of the most popular dishes. And one which shouldn’t really work – salmon? truffle? honey? But it so does. These ladies, these matriarchs (with lipstick tattoo ready to slip effortlessly into those shoes when her time comes) are something.
I’ve read that this is the best food in Barcelona. Of course it’s not. But it’s original. It’s delicious. It’s fun. And yes, there is some anxiety attached. Of finding a sliver of space to wedge yourself in. Of hoping someone finally catches your eye so you can order and that when you do – you’ll remember what it was you wanted to eat.
Quimet & Quimet
C/Poeta Cabanyes 25,
08004 Poble Sec
No reservations, tiny place
Check opening times on Facebook