6) Ohla Boutique Bar
More walking and then a little nap and then...it was time for another adventure! Off we went, in search of...tapas! You know, just some nibbles to keep us going. Somehow, along the way, the desire for a true cocktail got the best of us and we wound up at Giuseppe Santamaria’s Ohla Boutique Bar.
Maybe it was the louche red swivel bird-cage seats, but this place oozed dark bar cool. Maybe it was the cocktail menu that came with an index listing La Boutique, Twisted Libations, Library & Classics or Swing Collection that made us settle in to make a well considered choice. Maybe it was the cute waiter who clipped a little mag light to my swivel chair so I could actually read the menu, but it all seemed glamorous and fun to me.
My sister ordered a variation of the Negroni called El Conde. It was delicious, but the best part was “the roll”. The roll is a cocktail mixing technique where you pour the ingredients from one frosty shaker to another in a thin stream that eventually turns from a stream to frozen beads of perfectly cold goodness, and it makes a damn good show.
I had the Oaxaca Bijou, a mysteriously smokey combination of Mezcal, sweet vermouth, Chartreuse and orange bitters. As a matter of fact, since I’ve just been gifted with some outstanding Mexcal..I’d love to have another one, right now!
It was time for tapas. We asked our charming waiter, at Ohla, “Where would you go for tapas?”
He suggested Llamber, just a short walk away, go down the main drag, turn right at the bus station. We snagged a reservation for 11:30pm, which seemed just about right.
His bartending skills were better than his directions. It wasn’t quite that easy to find Llamber, but as the saying goes, getting there can be half the fun. Let’s just say, good thing we weren’t starving and had a good cocktail under our belt.
With it’s black awnings, rough hewn walls, mis-matched chairs, it loudly announces it’s chic-dom. What the hell, we finally found the place, I was going to let chic intimidate me.
In a word: marvelous. The menu takes itself a little too seriously, but if you get beyond the “Cod Marinated According to the Idea of Guacamole” and actually taste that cod, it’s damn good. The bits of cod came with melting mounds of avocado, meant to be scooped up with a warm yucca chip and accented with a teeny triangle of Tobasco gelatin. If that’s the chef’s idea of guacamole, well, that works for me.
Our stand out dish was the fried eggplant. My Northwest Pacific branch of the family likes their vegetables, so they ordered the eggplant. Whatever keeps the peace in the family, you know. Holey moley! The eggplant cube was lightly dredged in flour, flash fried to a shatteringly thin crisp coating, enveloping a light as a cloud interior, then drizzled with a bit of honey, a few mint leaves and a sprinkle of salt. I’ve made it 5 times since we are home and I haven’t even come close to that spectacular interior texture.
In the mood for potatoes? And who wouldn’t be in the mood for potatoes? Try this: small potatoes, meticulously scooped out and filled with a hazlenut praline and topped with blue cabrales cheese. Not in the mood for blue cheese, silly you...why not try the little potatoes filled with a ground meat and chipotle sauce.
We weren’t quite satisfied yet, so we had to order a plate of salumi, but it was just one plate this time. We aren’t total gluttons.
Nanci & Peter left in the morning, setting off on a bike trip in the Dolomites, which left us one more day to keep up the culinary adventure. It wasn’t easy, but we bravely soldiered on, heading directly to the famous Boqueria market.
Yeah, it’s touristy. Yeah, it’s packed. Yeah, there are a lot of prepared foods and food bars. And yeah...this enormous market, right on La Ramba is big fun.
I’ve never seen so many variations of dried cod fish. We even attempted a little juice cleanse from one of the fruit vendors. I came home with smoked paprika and some great smoked sea salt. Mission accomplished.
And who wouldn't want a little salumi on a stick to hold you over until lunch?
9) The Dry Martini
After our fruit juice purification, and a little light lunch, it was time to get serious and head to one of the grand ol’ bars: Javier de Las Muela’s The Dry Martini.
This bar figures regularly in the Top Bars of the World websites, Javier de Las Muela is a world class mixologist, and our reliable friend Mitch of Tasty Travails told us we had to go.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe trendy Barcelonites in stilettos (and I’m talking about the men). But no. While the stylish are welcome, so are the regulars with their battered briefcases wearing a thanks god the day is over look, and there was even a dude videoing every move our bartender made. Our bartender didn’t seem to notice, he was the real deal. No show, just making drinks, never spilling a drop or raising an eyebrow. Except when I asked if I could have local vermouth in my Martinez, and he said, “Yes Madam, if that is something you would like.” Clearly letting me know I was making a big mistake, but he would be happy to indulge me.
If you were studying psychology, this would be the place to hang out and observe life. We watched a mini-movie drama in a nearby booth. Youngish woman, clearly feeling no pain, is kissing and fondling an older man. Not much older, appropriately older. He’s kissing back, holding her hand, but a little uncomfortable that she’s carrying on like this. It looks like they are getting ready to leave the bar, gathering up their things, and she trips off to the ladies room. The ‘gentleman’ pays the bill and walks out the door, just splits and leaves her cold. The last image we have of her, she is standing on the street corner, looking for him, realizes he’s gone and smacks her hand to her forehead in disbelief. The End.
Wouldn’t you love to know some of the bartender stories? I bet they have a code of honor and their bar spoons are taken away if they ever spill the beans on their patrons. Take note of the very cool Dry Certified Counter, it counts the number of martini's they've served. Wonder if this is where Mickey D got the idea?
10) Speak Easy
OK, so we each had 2 cocktails, which is 1 cocktail beyond my limit, so the idea of traipsing around Barcelona to find food wasn’t all that appealing. Turns out The Dry Martini has a Speak Easy restaurant. You have to ask permission to go to the restaurant, you have to wait for a signal from the kitchen, and then you are escorted behind the bar, through the kitchen and into the wine and booze storeroom, where there are elegant, widely spaced tables.
Trying hard to be cool, trying to maintain that ‘clandestine’ edge, it’s a good, international style restaurant with distracted service. I had a red tuna tempura that had sat a moment too long under a heat lamp. Jeff braved the suckling pig because he never passes up a chance to have baby pig, but it was just too rich for him. Then again, at this point, we probably should have gone back to the Boqueria and continued our juice cleanse.
Absolutely go to the Dry Martini, but you can skip the Speak Easy. They need to lighten up the atmosphere, get a little less serious and have some fun with the back room atmosphere.
And then our time was up, and it was time to hang up my dancing shoes and go home. As always, it’s good to go away and good to come home.
Places to go:
*Xarcuteria La Pineda
Carrer del Pi, 16, Barcelona, Spain
34 933 024 393
Carrer de les Caputxes, 10, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 68 72 24
Castel di Xavier
Carrer València, 360, 08009 Barcelona, Spain
34 934 58 34 18
*Cocktails & Friends
-C/Sardenya 371 esq. industria (gracia)
*Ohla Boutique Bar
Via Laietana, 49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Carrer de la Fusina 5, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 19 62 50
The Dry Martini & SpeakEasy
Aribau, 162 - 166 08036 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 17 50 80
Places to Stay:
Gran Hotel La Florida
Gran Hotel La Florida Ctra Vallvidrera al Tibidabo 83-93 08035 Barcelona
Quirky little hotel hidden away in an old office/residential building
Caspe 38 St, 08010,
(be sure to read their inflight magazine...beautifully done!)
Gaudi & Graffiti: Read up on the architect Antoni Gaudi before you go, otherwise you'll think you are just plain tripping when you see his builidings. As for the graffiti pics at the top of the posts, we saw about four or five in this black and white style...very arresting.
My apologies for the wonky formatting on this post. I had some very unusual formatting issues. What's up Typepad?