Pez Vela Barceloneta
As a foreign transplant, I am still not sure about paella. Is it the rice cooked in sofrito and broth with a protein that generates all the clamour? Or is it everything that paella represents and the accoutrements that go with it?
To begin with, paella can only be ordered for a minimum of two and multiplies up. It’s eaten with company: family or friends. The meal stretches until the evening starts to lap at the edges of the afternoon. As those hours stretch, seats are edged back from the table slightly, bodies get comfortable, and the sobremesa begins. Sobremesa translates literally as over the table but refers to the local habit of chatting over semi-cleared plates of food.
Would paella be as exciting if it didn’t come in a shallow big-eared pan? Some actions are inherently soothing bypassing, consciousness to some subconscious pleasure centre. Popping bubble wrap does it. Tugging on one of the paella pan ears to swivel it around to access the socarrat does it. Scraping at crunchy rice kernels and getting them to release. Does it.
Then there is the sea. I only eat paella on the seafront, which can only beguile in Barcelona, no matter what angle I approach it from. None more so than the Pez Vela location under the W hotel at Barceloneta. Though I can park just underneath the restaurant, I prefer to walk over. Taking in the scenes unfurling on the beach and letting the skateboarders swerve around me.
Pez Vela displays the good design I associate with most of the restaurants owned by the Tragaluz group. Large planters potted with dwarf fig trees and swaying grasses. Large straw lamps are strewn around the place. I glance at it, as everyone does before turning back to the sea or our food.
Even on a busy Saturday, our starters are with us in under 15 minutes. A well-oiled machine. Croquetas, clams, bravas. Paella to share. A square of nougat ice cream between two thin wafers to end, the Catalan answer to the ice cream sandwich. Classic Barcelona fare, just as I would expect it to be. I almost don’t notice the food and have trouble recaling it later, except to know that it was good. Mostly I remember the afternoon, talking to my friends, watching people inside the restaurant and out. Doing the fun part of living life.
Pez Vela Barceloneta
Paseo del Mare Nostrum 19/21 (bajos del Hotel W, “HotelVela”)