I surprised some born and raised here friends when I told them I was going to Badalona for paella.
“Badalona? Are you sure?”
“Yes. Why? What’s wrong with Badalona?”
“It’s where the people who can’t afford to live in Barcelona live,” they replied.
(The local perspective, always good to know but unencumbered guiri that I am, Barcelona and environs is my oyster)
I am not dissuaded at any rate. I am going along as the +1 of Forbes Barcelona contributor Isabelle who has taken it upon herself to write the “Best Paella in Barcelona” story. With a difference, she is visiting all the restaurants included (and more) and eating at every single contender. By the time I meet her she is 20 paellas in and looking forward to number 21.
Except for today. Today it’s fideuà. Fideuà has the same colouring and taste as paella except that instead of bomba rice, broken spaghetti is used. Sometimes thin and other times, like here, spaghetti sized. As with paella, the most prized bit is the burnished and dry soccarat in the corners. (It’s probably no coincidence that socarrat is the name of the fired clay tiles that were used in Valencian ceilings.)
L’Estupendu Seafood Restaurant doesn’t beat around the bush. Not with that name. And though the drive is less than picturesque, taking me through an industrial estate which gives me a glimpse into what Poble Nou must have been like not long ago, the location delivers immediately. Car traffic is behind the restaurant, leaving a pedestrian boardwalk and a long stretch of beach in front of it.
Delightfully shack-like. Complete with a mounted wooden box with hooks protruding were the keys to the beach houses or rooms used to go. On the edge of my view is a large pier.
“Pretty!” I remark.
Only to be told by the Argentinian server that it was where the boats used to come to fill with their hulls with petrol.
“The sand was still black with oil when I moved here 19 years ago.”
Except for the squat industrial stacks in the distance, nothing remains. A clean, generous sandy beach stretches out in front of us.
And though I am blissfully here without my much-loved offspring, it is an ideal place to come with children since you can just throw them out onto the boardwalk while you eat.
The view though. I would happily eat a bag of crisps with this view. I don’t have to, however. We share a plate of fingernail-sized tallarinas. And a plate of shrimp fanned out in a circle. We fall upon them, twisting their heads off and sucking out their in innards. The legs are tender enough that I crunch some of them up.
We smell the main attraction before we see it. Salivating and ravenous by this point having opted for the preferred local lunch slot of 3 pm. Our fideuà comes with a selection of sea creatures perched on top, chewy cubes of squid hidden inside. We end up eating 3 servings each because the socarrat is too good to leave behind.
The deconstructed crema Catalana would be better off reconstructed. The homemade chocolate truffles are just the thing after the salty fideuà. (I think Catalans like their paella / fideuà to have a salinity similar to the sea.) They come in a pool of green olive oil and I roll mine around until it is covered in it before popping it into my mouth. That with a cortado is the perfect end to what has been a perfect lunch.
I remark to Isabelle that in spite Covid, despite the record numbers in Spain, here we are having a leisurely delicious lunch, sea breeze distributing the food smells around us. How lucky are we?
More Paella / Fideau & Seafood in Barcelona
La Barra Carles Abellan, Barceloneta
La Zorra, Sitges
Xiringuito Miramar, Vilanva i la Geltru