I’d heard a lot online about Chen Ji in Barcelona. Strangely enough, we passed this restaurant a few years ago as we went shopping in a Chinese supermarket across the street; I was getting some ingredients for a dinner I was making, I think. I’ve already forgotten about what I made for dinner that night but I remember the restaurant; we got a good vibe from it…something about the way it looked clearly indicated that it wasn’t like the other Chinese restaurants in Barcelona. And that’s a good thing – some of the stuff in the city can be grim. There’s been lots of buzz about it online recently, all in Catalan/Spanish of course, and after showing Blai a few photos of the food, the restaurant shot up to the top of our must-try list. Dumplings! Hand pulled noodles! Cheap as chips! We settled on visiting one day during our holidays for lunch and brought along Blai’s brother too.

We found the restaurant in the middle of C/d’Alí Bei, the street running down a neighbourhood that is fast becoming the major ‘Chinatown’ of Barcelona. There are a few serious-looking restaurants and a couple of well-stocked Chinese supermarkets. Chen Ji has one of those narrow shopfronts that leads to a much larger interior with plenty of seating, all of which filled up when we were there for a weekday lunch. Most were locals, a few were tourists, and the split between Chinese and non-Chinese diners was about 50:50.

One popular dish at the restaurant is what’s listed on the menu as ‘xiao long bao’. These are like no xiao long bao I’ve ever had… if you’re not familiar with them, they’re those Shanghainese soup dumplings, thin skinned, filled with meat and soup and steamed. These were more like sheng jian bao, pan fried with their breadier skins and moist but less soupy insides. They were excellent and such a bargain at €3 for a portion of 9.

"Xiao Long Bao"

Their fried rice was excellent, one of the best restaurant fried rices I’d had in a while. With a little bit of chilli oil on the side, bam, good eating. This is miles better than any of the arròs tres delícies you’ll typically find.

Fried Rice

We had to order some hand pulled noodles too. They’re available in soups (for stupidly little money) and stir fried too. We went for stir fried with beef and vegetables, dry being easier to share than wet. The noodles had a good chew and were delicious – full of flavour and packed with ingredients.

Fried Hand Pulled Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

With the three dishes and a large bottle of water, the bill for the three of us was under €15. Bargain!

Their menu was full of dishes you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the city: various vegetables, fish dishes, offal. There’s even a menú del dia – three or four dishes from a hot buffet will be piled onto a divided metal plate (yeah, like a prison tray) and from what I saw, it’s a lot of food. We’ll be back!

Chen Ji
Carrer d’Alí Bei, 65
08013 Barcelona

When we’re in Barcelona for the summer, we always visit Blai’s extended family out in a village in the Alt Penedès. It’s wine country and everywhere you turn you’re surrounded by vineyards, vines dripping with white or red grapes. Quite often we’ll eat in Cal Padrí, a restaurant we’ve seen rise from what was originally a large chicken shed, and we’ve seen the restaurant grow in popularity since it opened, both with locals there for the weekday menú del dia or non-locals out for a special day with a special menu or lost tourists who are looking to retrace the cava route they planned. Yeah, I wasn’t there but Blai had to help out some lost tourists while he was having lunch there one day; lots of the wineries in the region now welcome visitors. And Cal Padrí is indeed a lovely place to stop for lunch if you’re in the area.

On our last visit, it was a Sunday and hence the menú del dia wasn’t available. There was a weekend menu or what we all opted for, the menú degustació. This tasting menu consisted of three first courses, two second courses and two desserts…and all for €26,50. And that included bread, water and the house wine. Definitely a bargain as you’ll soon see. And not everyone at the table even has to order it.

We started with a little snack of pa de vidre (rubbed with tomato and oil for pa amb tomàquet naturally) and topped with slices of fuet. A good and classic start.

Pa de vidre amb fuet

Then the tasting menu began proper. Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre – A salad of foie pearls with strawberry and vinegar reduction. I’ve never thought much about strawberries in salads but they were perfect in here, a lovely fresh and slightly sour foil to the rich foie.

Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada – A thyme coca with anchovy and confited porcini mushrooms. This was wonderful. I love flatbreads and flatbreads topped with delicious things are always welcome.

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc – Mascarpone and thyme ravioli with diced fresh tomatoes. Those tomatoes are certainly fresh as they have a kitchen garden on the other side of the parking lot!

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc

Llom de bacalla amb crema d’Idiazabal i patata xip violeta – Cod with Idiazabal cheese sauce and purple potato chip. This was one of my favourite dishes with lots of creamy cheesy sauce with the mild cod.

Llom de bacalla amb crema d'Idiazabal i patata xip violeta

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0 – Roasted Muscovy duck from the Penedès with prunes and pine nuts. This is the signature dish of the restaurant as it uses ducks they raise on the premises (the farm has been there for years). The cooking style is very Catalan – the duck is roasted in pieces in its own juices along with the fruit and nuts. It’s simple but very satisfying. The ‘KM0’ denotes the distance the ingredients have traveled!

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0

And then there were desserts! On the left is Copa de mousse de xocolata blanca amb gelatina de mango – A homemade cup of white chocolate mousse with mango jelly. On the right, “Ou sorpresa de Cal Padri” – their “Surprise Egg” of meringue with vanilla ice cream. Both simple but both good.


Overall, a tasty tasting menu and quite a fun way to dine if you’re here on a weekend.

I’ve been a few times already in the past and each time I’d had their menú del dia, the lunch menu of the day – made up always of two dishes (the first is usually a vegetable/rice/pasta and the second usually a meat/fish) plus dessert, bread, water, and wine. I’ve just highlighted some of the dishes they offer here. This is all very typical everyday Catalan eating and it’s all very well cooked here.

A typical Catalan amanida (salad)


A saltejat (think stir-fry or saute) of green beans with piquillo peppers

Saltejat de Mongeta Verda amb Pebrot Piquillo

A simple but typically Vilafranca/Catalan fideuà


Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaguetis amb Tomaquet Xerri i Alfabrega

Chicken wings with garlic and potatoes

Alas de Pollastre al Allet amb Patata

Stewed lean beef with mushrooms

Daus de Carn Magra amb Bolets

Homemade yoghurt cake with chocolate sauce

Coca D'Iogurt amb Salsa Xocolata

Crema Catalana

Crema Catalana

Now there’s the matter of actually getting there. Cal Padrí’s address states that it’s in Castellvi de la Marca, which is really a municipality in the Alt Penedès. Technically, it’s in a village that’s really only made up of three houses. The proprietor said that everyone really finds the restaurant using Google Maps. And so I’ll recommend that too. Also, you’ll need a car or a taxi.

Cal Padrí

Cal Padrí
Masia Cal Gori s/n.
08732 Castellví de la Marca

The closest large town is Vilafranca del Penedès.

I wish we were back in the Vall de Boí. But we’re not – we’re back in the swing of things at work and I’ll just have to make do with photos and memories. This somewhat epic post is where my blog treads the line between food blog and travel blog as, in addition to all the food we ate, I’ll also give details of hotels, public transport and sights for the region. We don’t drive and depended on public transport, taxis, and our two feet to get us around and we did brilliantly. I highly recommend it.

But where do I begin? The idea of our spending some time walking in the Pyrenees had been in our heads for a few years and as we weren’t particularly organised this summer (no long train trip this year), we decided to just fly into Barcelona and then go from there to the Pyrenees. But where in the Pyrenees? The Vall de Boí! This is a beautiful valley (vall) on the edges of the Pyrenees and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its being the home of a significant number of beautifully decorated Romanesque churches. There are 9 in total and on our short trip, we managed to visit six and see one from a distance. It also borders Catalonia’s only national park – Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici – and we spent one of our days there too.


On Tuesday morning, we caught a 09:00 bus (ALSA, tickets bought in advance online) from Barcelona Nord bus station to El Pont de Suert, the largest town closest to the Vall de Boí. The ride was 4 hours long, inclusive of a 30 minute break in the pretty town of Balaguer, close to Lleida.

We reached El Pont de Suert at 13:00 and spent the time before lunch looking around its mediaeval buildings. The bridge for which it was named disappeared about 50 years ago but there’s still enough to see in a short amount of time.

For lunch, we happened upon the Restaurant Cotori, connected to the hotel of the same name. €18 would get us the usual menu of two dishes, bread, wine, water and dessert. This lunch included our first taste of the fresh river trout that we’d encounter all through the region – the rivers must be full of these delicate and delicious fishes; here our trout was panfried and topped with bacon and vinegared onions. The ugly dessert below was a fantastic slice of fresh pineapple topped with crema catalana!

Truita de riu de la Ribagorça amb reducció de Ratafio de la Vall de Boí amb ceba

Pinya natural amb crema catalana cremada

From El Pont de Suert, we went to the tiny taxi rank next to the bus station (equally tiny) and grabbed a taxi to Barruera, our first destination in the Vall de Boí. We got our first good look (exterior only) at one of the famous Romanesque churches; this was Sant Feliu de Barruera.

Sant Feliu de Barruera

This is where we discovered that the walking/hiking trails in the region are extremely well marked and we found our first route just behind the church, by the river. We were walking from Barruera to Durro, where our first booked hotel was located.


See that bridge above? We crossed that…and then it was straight uphill the whole way. Oof. After that sweaty endeavour, we arrived in Durro, one of the prettiest villages I’d seen in a while. We checked in at Casa Xanet, one of only a scattering of hotels in Durro. The village is very quiet and there are also only a couple of bars and restaurants. We felt like the only tourists staying in the village that evening; most come for the church and then stay elsewhere.

We had a little walk around the village and visited La Nativitat de la Mare de Déu de Durro, the first Romanesque church we entered. Of all the churches we visited, this was probably the least impressive on the inside – most of the interior decorations were Baroque and not many of the original Romanesque sculptures or paintings remain.

Nativitat de la Mare de Déu de Durro

Ah well, at least the village did turn out to be the prettiest! And the view of the village was indeed very pretty from the top of the bell tower.


From a distance, we spotted L’Ermita de Sant Quirc de Durro, another of the churches, but we never got a chance to walk up to it.

L'Ermita de Sant Quirc de Durro

That evening, we ate dinner at our hotel (really more like a bed and breakfast) and we had a wonderful homecooked meal of escalivada, grilled lamb ribs, and another brilliant truita de riu. Here’s the only photo I got that night – a slice of homemade flam de cafè, one of the best flams I’ve ever eaten! It’s flavour was gorgeous and it was so utterly smooth.

This was a fantastic homemade flam de cafè tonight! We're certainly not going hungry here.


After a great night, we woke up to an equally fabulous breakfast – perfectly fried eggs (with crispy frilly whites, just the way I like them) and very flavourful bacon. We were set for the day!

Fantastic eggs and bacon to see us through the morning! The eggs were local and had the most golden yolks.

Casa Xanet

I highly recommend staying at Casa Xanet if you’re visiting the Vall de Boí, especially if you have a car. The owners made us feel utterly at home, the rooms are clean and comfortable, and the food is wonderful.

In Durro, we headed to the parking lot/playground and found the path to Boí. It’s a bit uphill at first but then you walk along a natural ledge on the mountain and you get glorious views of the entire valley. We probably took twice as long as one would normally take to walk this route since we spent lots of time stopping to take in the view.


Into Boí we went and it was here where we discovered all the tourists. The majority come to this village as there are special taxis that go to the national park from there (more on that later). We were there that day to see Sant Joan de Boí, another of the Romanesque churches.

Sant Joan de Boí


There are beautiful replicas of the original paintings inside – and do look out for the original carved graffiti on the outside!

For lunch, we grabbed some baked goods from a bakery/supermarket (things cost approx twice as much as in Barcelona – this being the middle of nowhere) and found a little picnic area to dine. After we regained our energy, it was onto Taüll, which we discovered was a couple hundred metres in elevation above Boí. While the road winds up the mountain, the walking path cuts through in a straight line – up we went!

When we got to the top of the hill, we went straight up even further to first see Santa Maria de Taüll, one of the Romanesque churches of the town but located higher in what appeared to previously be a separate small village.

Santa Maria de Taüll

The church had been lovingly restored and replicas of the paintings lined the walls (many of the originals are currently in Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) in Barcelona). Beautiful!


After this, it was down to the main centre of Taüll where we checked into our hotel for the next two nights – Hotel el Rantiner. It’s a larger hotel, one of a few in the town; there’s much more accommodation here than in any other village in the Vall de Boí as it’s also closest to the nearby Boí-Taüll ski resort. After a bit of a rest there, we walked down to see Sant Climent de Taüll, probably the most famous of all the churches in the region.


Sant Climent de Taüll

It’s the largest of church of the region and its painting of the Pantocrator one of the best preserved. Of course, the original painting is now in MNAC in Barcelona but there are remnants of the original paint still on the walls. There’s also a bit of a light projection to show you what the original looked like. However, I would highly recommend (as it was highly recommended to us by one of the women working there) timing your visit to coincide with one of the ‘video mappings’ they show. Get in about 10-15 minutes prior to one to secure a seat and then a beautifully created show formed of multiple projections will take place for about 10 minutes; they show how the paintings would have originally looked when they were created almost 1000 years ago. It’s really worth the wait.


Dinner was at the nearby Hostal Sant Climent – they just managed to squeeze us into a table in the corner. The entire big restaurant had been fully booked! (Book your restaurants in advance – this is our main take home message and I repeat this at the end of this post.) The food was exactly what we needed on this trip – hot and plentiful. While the starters were nothing to write home about, the main courses were excellent – grilled beef cheeks and roasted pork ribs. Desserts too were absolutely massive, with Blai’s mel i mató twice as large as anything you’d find in a Barcelonan restaurant.

Grilled Beef Cheeks

Pork Ribs with Apple Puree

Mel i Mató


We started the day at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. This was a proper spread: bread, proper tomatoes for rubbing, hams, cheeses, cereals, jams, yogurt, fruit, juices, coffees, teas, chocolates, sweets, etc, etc. One could also order fried eggs and bacon or eggs any way. We filled up as we were expecting to do a lot of walking that Thursday.

Breakfast for a long day ahead! Pa amb tomàquet i pernil.

After breakfast, it was back to Boí this morning to queue for one of the 4×4 taxis that would take us deep within the Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes. Regular cars are allowed only up to a certain point; to go further, only these taxis have the permission and the ability to drive up one narrow road. You end up in the middle of the park and there are many walking paths from there.



We had packed sandwiches from a bakery in Taüll as well as packets of nuts we’d brought from Barcelona and we tucked into them when we reached the Estany Llong, a long lake where everyone seems to stop. We were planning to go further but a hiking boot emergency put a stop to that.


After some general wandering around and taking a slightly different route back…



…it was near 17:30 by the time we caught a taxi back to Boí. We then booked another taxi back to the hotel. We were shattered!

We did manage to call and get a table for dinner at Restaurant El Caliu though. Like all the restaurants we encountered in the Vall de Boí, this one offered a set menu both at lunch and dinner time (the latter is uncommon in Barcelona) and this was always the best deal with, yup, two dishes plus dessert, bread, wine and water. The food here was fine but nothing special; perhaps the best thing was the crema de llimona we had for dessert. Particularly unique to me was a stew made with horse meat!

Horse Stew


Crema de Llimona


Goodbye, Taüll and Hotel el Rantiner! The hotel was clean and the daily breakfast was excellent but I will never miss the noisy chickens directly under our room’s windows. Gosh, they’re noisy! I remember lying in bed in the very early morning while it was still dark and wishing that I could cock-a-doodle-kill them all.

Stupid Chickens

We were going to be walking today. Back down to Boí we went and then crossed the village to continue on, crossing the river, to Erill la Vall, a very pretty village just a little elevated above the riverbed. It’s quiet, perhaps not as quiet as Durro but certainly more peaceful than Boí or Taüll. There appear to be a few hotels/rental apartments and quite a few good looking restaurants.

Our final Romanesque church on this trip was Santa Eulàlia d’Erill la Vall, the only church in the valley with an exterior arched porch region (portico?) and the most beautiful wooden sculptures above the altar (replicas of course – the originals are partly in MNAC and partly in the Museu Episcopal de Vic).

Santa Eulàlia d'Erill-la-Vall

Santa Eulàlia d'Erill-la-Vall


Erill la Vall is also home to the Centre del Romànic de la Vall de Boí, where you can learn a bit about the history of the region. There’s a very good short video that should be viewed if you’re there – and they have it in English too.

We were hoping for an early lunch but the restaurant we wanted to dine at, Hostal La Plaça, only opened at 13:30. No matter, they reserved us a table and it turned out to be a good thing – almost all the other tables in that very big restaurant were reserved! Again, book all your meals in advance in the Vall de Boí!

We started with a shared first dish of faves (broad beans) with botifarra negre (black sausage) – delicious! There was yet another truita de riu, here served with the very Catalan combination of pinenuts and raisins, and another fabulous coffee flam. Overall, there was some excellent cooking going on here.

Faves i Botifarra Negre

Truita de riu amb pinyons i panses

Flam de Cafè

This was one of our favourite restaurants on this trip – highly recommended! What a good one to end on.

After lunch (no lingering as there was a bus to catch later that day), we left Erill la Vall to follow the river to Barruera. It was a very pleasant walk, very flat all the way as we were down in the bottom of the valley.



From Barruera, we called for a taxi to take us back to Pont de Suert for a rest and a drink. And then it was back to the bus station at Pont de Suert to wait for our evening bus back to Barcelona. Turn the bus around – I want to go back!

Tips for the Vall de Boí:

  • It is possible to get to all the churches by car. Actually, most tourists drive up there; we seemed to be the only people getting around primarily by foot.
  • Make all hotel bookings in advance.
  • Make reservations for lunches and dinners, even if they’re only 10 minutes prior to opening.
  • The best ticket deal for the Romanesque churches is the one for all the churches, the Romanesque visitor centre, and a ticket for MNAC in Barcelona (to see many of the original paintings and sculptures). The MNAC ticket doesn’t have any use-by date. If you’re there for the churches, you’ll easily see most of them.
  • There are no facilities for food/toilet/etc available at the national park. There are some water fountains but they are few and far between. Pack sensibly.
  • To book a taxi ride within the Vall de Boí, call the Asociació de Taxis de la Vall de Boí.
  • Finally, look out for truita de riu (river trout) on menus – they are truly fantastic. Also amazing are the potatoes, the eggs and bacon, and the flams.

It was a fantastic, though short, trip. All my photos from our trip to the Vall de Boí can be found in this Flickr album.

By the way, if you’re reading from Catalonia today – bona diada!

One of the newest visitor attractions in Barcelona is El Mercat del Born, a former market and wholesale market in Barcelona that functioned from 1878 to 1977. I remember my first visit to Barcelona, over ten years ago, when Blai took me there to peep through the railings and into the then excavation site. For under the market, the ruins of the preexisting 18th century Born neighbourhood were in remarkable condition. Today, the market is El Born Centre Cultural, a cultural centre, all centred around the ruins and holding exhibitions, theatre space, meeting rooms, a shop and a restaurant.



It was, of course, the restaurant that caught my eye and a couple days after our visit to the market, we returned with the whole family to try El 300 del Born, the restaurant run by the local major beer company Moritz and with a menu developed by Jordi Vilà of Alkimia. The space is lovely and light and has, of course, a fantastic view of the ruins (there is a separate entrance to the restaurant from outside when the cultural centre is closed). There are photos all around the restaurant of when the site was still a working market, which made for a great talking point throughout the meal.

What really tickled me though were the menus. On the Catalan menu (which is used as a placemat), many of the items refer to either key points in Catalan history or important Catalan cultural events and details of these are provided as references on the back of the menu. Unfortunately, the English menu lacks these – they should be translated as they’re a great read! Lots of thought had been given to the naming of items in the menu, with lots of ingredients reflecting the historic event or whatnot.

Anyway, onto the food – and it was all Catalan food, making the restaurant a good place for those who’d like to try Catalan cuisine. We ordered a whole lot of things to share between us. First on my list of things to try were bombes. Yes, in English they would indeed be bombs! These deep fried potato croquettes are sauced with aioli and bravas sauce and were originally created to resemble those cartoony spherical bombs that were popular with Catalan anarchists in the politically unstable years around the beginning of the 20th century.

At El 300 del Born, they made different types of bombes with different fillings and sauces and named them after groups and military leaders who were actually involved in the bombing of Barcelona at some point in history. Bombes de la Barceloneta (€4,50) were the traditional ones and which, yes, were originally created in Barceloneta. Bombes de l’Espartero (a Spanish general) (€5,00) were made with morcilla, the Spanish black sausage. Both were excellent.

Bombes de la Barceloneta, la tradicional i Bombes de l'Espartero (amb morcilla)

An Esqueixada tradicional (€9,00) was a traditional Catalan salad of tomatoes, onions and shredded salt cod and was delicious.

Esqueixada tradicional

Patates Felip V (€3,75) were described as patatas bravas of Born but what came out surprised us all! Five roasted potatoes were smothered in aioli and a spicy bravas sauce and were simple but delicious. Felip V was the king whose army defeated Catalonia in 1714, during the War of the Spanish Succession. It’s what the 300 oin the name of the restaurant commemorates (1714-2014). But why five potatoes? Perhaps five for Felip V?

Let's get a closeup of the crazy Patates Felip V at El 300 del Born yesterday! Fabulous!

One section of the menu had a variety of things on slices of bread: these things were the conserved foods that the Catalans do very well, from canned seafood to embotits, their cured meats. Llesca de pa amb espetec (€1,90) was a slice of bread (tomatoed in the style of pa amb tomàquet) with many slices of espetec, a thin cured pork sausage.

Llesca de pa amb espetec

Llesca de pa amb pernil pota negra (€6,00) was similar but with melt in the mouth slices of cured ham made from black footed pigs.

Pernil pota negra

Llesca de pa amb sardina i piquillos (€2,50) was topped with canned piquillo peppers and delicious canned sardines. The quality of the little fishes was outstanding – if only all canned seafood could be like this.

Llesca de pa amb sardina i piquillos

A coca de recapte is a savoury Catalan pastry/flatbread with toppings and our order of a Coca mallorquina (€8,75) came topped with grilled vegetables as well as sobrassada and cheese. The pastry was fabulous – very thin and crispy and the toppings generous.

Coca mallorquina de sobrassada i formatge

We ordered repeats of our favourites – well, with a slight switchup to try as much as possible. Another coca was ordered – this time de recapte tradicional de Cardona (of a traditional recipe from Cardona) (€8,50). Again the pastry here was perfect and the coca was topped with grilled vegetables and sardines.

Coca de recapte tradicional de Cardona

More bombes too! Bombes Prim (€5,00) were filled with tuna and sauced with romesco. Bombes del Comte-duc d’Olivares (€5,50) were filled with oxtail and black olives. Both were, again, excellent.

Bombes Prim (amb romesco i tonyina) i Bombes del Comte-duc d'Olivares (cua de bou amb oliva negra)

We stopped with the savouries there to make room for the sweets. We ordered a few different things on the menu. I forgot to photograph the ice cream, which was a very generous portion in a large glass.

The Tiramisú a la catalana were made not with ladysfingers and Marsala but with melindros, soft Catalan sponge fingers, and vi de Banyuls, a fortified dessert wine from Banyuls.

Tiramisú a la catalana (amb melindros sucats amb vi de Banyuls)

My xocolatada de xocolata negra, cafè i melindros i nata (€5,50 and €0,85 for the whipped cream) were fantastic. The dark and rich hot chocolate had been combined with coffee (surely one the best combinations) and on the side were lemon-tinged melindros. I ordered whipped cream (the nata) on the side as it’s just the best thing ever with hot chocolate!

Xocolatada de xocolata negra, cafè i melindros i nata!

And, of course, being run by a brewery, there’s lots of Moritz’s beers on tap and all at very reasonable prices. There’s even a beer that’s only available at El 300 del Born as it incorporates flavourings popular 300 years ago!

I loved El 300 del Born and hope to return the next time I’m in Barcelona. They’re open every day, except Monday, from breakfast time all the way to midnight and there are many other sweets and savouries that we didn’t get a chance to try this time. I also hope to time my visit to get onto one of the guided tours that take you down into the ruins themselves!

El 300 del Born
Placa Comercial, 12
08003 Barcelona
Catalonia, Spain

You can’t turn a corner in Barcelona without coming across yet another hamburger joint. And if it’s not a standalone burger place, it’ll be a hip restaurant with hamburgers showing up somewhere on their menu. I was more interested in a more recent fad that owes its origins to somewhere more local. I was interested in botifarra, the large Catalan sausage that comes in a couple of varieties, some ready to eat and others requiring grilling. It was the latter type that featured at Butifarring, one of the first ‘fast food’ botifarra restaurants in Barcelona.

Butifarring is located very centrally on Carrer del Call right in the Barri Gòtic and the restaurant is only about a year old. The place is tiny with a bit of seating on the ground floor and more upstairs, though when I visited (twice over the holidays!) the upstairs area was always closed. There’s a menu printed on the wall but what’s available actually depends on the season and what’s not sold out yet; it’s best to take a look at the raw sausages themselves sitting in the chilled counter further inside the shop. You make your choices and pay using the fancy machine in the front and then you wait for your meal. It’s just like at any other fast food joint. Well, any fast food joint where the food is cooked in a Josper grill (an indoor charcoal grill) in the back.

Each grilled botifarra in a bun was €5-6 each. Here we tried their classic botifarra and their botifarra with escalivada – here the Catalan grilled vegetables had been incorporated within the sausage. Both were stuffed into a wonderfully toasted crusty roll and I opted for the optional cheese and crispy onions too. That extra choice turned out to be a wise one – the cheese adhered the botifarra to the bread and the fried onions added a great crunch. And the sausages themselves? Excellent! They were meaty and flavourful and so good as only charcoal grilled sausages are.


In addition to their botifarra, there are a couple of side dishes available. There’s salad and these patates al caliu, cooked potatoes that are chopped and roasted again in the Josper grill. Those potatoes were mighty fine with their homemade sauces – here we’ve perhaps gone a bit overboard with their aioli, bravas sauce and spicy ketchup.

Patates al Caliu

The size of the place doesn’t lend well to lingering after your meal – it’s more of a fast food place. Still, it’s excellent for a quick but excellent bite. I need to go back to try the botifarra with calçots! Perhaps when I go back, there’ll be another Butifarring elsewhere in Barcelona – it looks like they’re getting ready to expand.

C/ del Call 26
08002 Barcelona

We saw New Year’s Eve in in Barcelona in our usual quiet way – at home and with lots of amazing food! 31 Dec 2014 first started with breakfast for me and my brother at La Pubilla (Blai and I had a fantastic lunch there before) near the Mercat de La Llibertat. Tallats (espressos with milk) to start… Tallats … with pa amb tomàquet (excellent execution here) on the side while we waited for our main dishes. Pa amb Tomàquet Their breakfasts are esmorzars de forquilla, or fork breakfasts, proper hearty, savoury dishes on a plate, as opposed to the usual handheld pastry most people have. We split salsitxa amb patates de forquilla (sausages with panfried potatoes) … Salsitxa amb Patates de Forquilla … and ous ferrats amb terrina de peu i morro (fried eggs with a terrine made with snouts and trotters). Everything was brilliant, especially the very unique terrine (sliced and pan fried), with its mix of soft and crispy and gelatinous textures. These were my kind of breakfasts! Ous Ferrats amb Terrina de Peu i Morro This was a great start to these days of eating and I do want to explore more places for esmorzars de forquilla in Barcelona! The rest of the day was spent wandering and generally being a tourist. (This included a trip to La Boqueria on the request with my brother. I was dreading this visit and I had reason to dread it – the place was so absolutely packed with tourists, it was almost impossible to move. I do feel for the locals – I’m not sure how they manage to do any shopping there.) We were back at home with plenty of time to spare to the midnight countdown and what greeted us there was awe inspiring. Check out the table! The Table is Set There was even a trolley filled top to bottom with lots of other goodies. Top of the Trolley Bottom of the Trolley Blai’s mum really outdid herself! There were so many things to eat that it was almost overwhelming. There were even these platters of big red prawns grilled on the planxa … Red Prawns … and of her famous fried artichokes. Fried Artichokes As you can imagine, there were a lot of leftovers for the next few days! We ended, of course, with the twelve grapes for the new year’s eve countdown (that’s a fruit portion, right?!). On 1 Jan 2015, my mother-in-law also had grand plans for lunch! The over 100-year-old soup tureen was trucked out and filled with a golden broth of chicken bits and eggs. This was sopa de menuts, a Valencian soup of little pieces from the chicken – i.e. chicken offal and cockscombs – as well as chopped boiled eggs. To serve it, it’s poured over a toasted crouton at the bottom of the bowl. Soup on Top The broth is rich and meaty (chickeny?) and the bread gives a great additional texture to the soup. It’s a recipe she learned in Valencia from her own mother-in-law. My Bowl Her second dish is now possibly her most famous dish… well, to me anyway! It’s her vedella, a Catalan style braised beef that takes two days to make and that’s just so utterly melt-in-your-mouth delicious that we cleaned the entire pan. Vedella And those were our New Year’s celebrations! How was your New Year’s Eve?

Happy new year, everyone! We’ve been spending the last week and a bit in Barcelona where we were relaxing and working and I was mainly playing tour guide to my brother who was also visiting. It was a hectic but a very good visit. Before all the craziness though, we did have a couple days to ourselves, of which one was used for a trip to the historic city of Ripoll.

It was a two hour train ride there, which we whiled away by staring out the window at the beautiful scenery and trying to pop our ears as the train rose with the elevation towards the Pyrenees. It was cold in the town when we arrived but from the station we went directly to its famous monastery – the Monestir de Santa Maria de Ripoll. It was founded in the 9th century by the amusingly named Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós) and was the main centre of religion in Catalonia until the 15th century. A few of the great Counts of Barcelona are interred there.


Of particular note in the monastery are the tower (above) and the portal (below). The portal is a beautiful example of Romanesque sculpture and there was a bid to have it recognised by UNESCO when we visited.


It was lunchtime when we finished at the monastery. It being a Monday wasn’t exactly helpful as we discovered that many restaurants were closed; even the tourist office was closed on Mondays! We wandered until we found one that was open and that space for us two to squeeze in. That restaurant was Can Canaules, on the ground floor of a beautiful Modernista building.

Cafe Canuales

As is usual for us, we went for the menu del dia, that wonderful and affordable set lunch deal offered throughout Catalonia. Here their menu was €12.50 and consisted of two dishes, dessert, and bread. Instead of including a beverage like most other restaurants though, they included a glass of juice or a salad.

And as is usual when Blai and I eat together, we split all our dishes. The first was Escudella de galets i tall de pilota, the classic Christmas soup which here was executed perfectly and was such a lovely meat broth to slurp on that cold day. The slice of meatball, one of the usual components that is cooked up in the broth, was delicious.

Escudella de galets i tall de pilota

Rossejat de fideus amb trompetes de mort, llagostins, sèpia was a simple but good saute of short noodles with wild mushrooms (the black trumpets of death) and seafood.

Rossejat de fideus amb trompetes de mort, llagostins, sèpia

They forgot our salads (service was a bit shaky) but an inquiry ensured that they arrived on our table.


Of our second dishes, the first was Xai del Ripollès a la brasa, lamb from Ripoll served grilled and here with a side of fries. These made for some fabulous gnawing at the bone.

Xai del Ripollès a la brasa

The second second dish was a stunner – Bacallà amb salsa de tomàquet natural i panses (salted cod with tomato sauce and raisins). The combination sounded strange at first but the raisins really did work well with the tomato sauce and the tender cod.

Bacallà amb salsa de tomàquet natural i panses

Desserts were pretty good if on the sweet side. Flam was homemade and executed well.


The Iogurt amb salsa de gerds (yogurt with raspberry sauce) was at first perplexing with its crunchy grains of sugar. It turns out they hadn’t melted into the raspberry puree and though this was a bit of a fail, I secretly enjoyed crunching on the sugar!

Iogurt amb salsa de gerds

Can Canuales
Plaça Gran, 20
17500 Ripoll
Girona, Spain

We hastened to see as much of the small town as we could but it was terribly chilly and not long after lunch, we were looking for a warm place to sit. We ended up back in front of the monastery where there was a patisserie with a cafe within. This was Pastissería Costa.

I resisted their pastries overstuffed with whipped cream and had a hot chocolate with melindros, the Catalan cakey fingers that a perfect for dunking in the thick drink. These melindros were the best I’d had in a while – soft and fresh and with a gentle lemon flavour.

Xocolata amb Melindros

The pastry Blai chose was topped with cabell d’angel, which translates to angel hair. This stringy (hairy!) looking sweet is made from pumpkin and you’ll find it in many Spanish and Catalan pastries. I need also mention that all their pastries were wonderfully fresh.

Pastry with Cabell d'Angel

On our way out, we also purchased a bag of moixaines, a biscuit that originated in Ripoll. The name translates to ‘caresses’ and it also goes by the name of carícies (‘fondles’). These little rolls are made with the same wafers as neules but these are filled with a hazelnut and almond paste. Yes, they’re as delicious as they sound!

I forgot to share this photo of moixaines from Ripoll. The name translates to 'caresses' and they are wafers filled with a hazelnut and almond paste.

Pastissería Costa
Plaça Sant Eudald, 7
17500 Ripoll
Girona, Spain


Ripoll was a lovely town to visit in North Catalonia but if you do visit in the middle of winter, as we did, wrap up warmly! And to see more, perhaps time your visit not to occur on a Monday.

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