Photo by Tara Stevens
Mike Cruickshank has been in Barcelona for nearly 20 years ago and opened Xix Bar in 2005. It quickly became one of the hottest destinations in town thanks to Cruickshank’s unique approach to gin and tonic, and continues to wow with rare gins and exotic mixes like cinnamon sprays and ginger infusions. He opened Gin Corner—a specialist gin shop—next door last year and runs tasting courses for aficionados. Stop by over the next couple of months as he gears up for Christmas with unexpected flavours and textures, the future of the modern G&T.
The lunch: Cañete
Grilled squid on sautéed wild mushrooms, home-cured arbequina olives, tomato salad with rare grilled tuna belly and a bottle of Valdesil Godello from Vilamartín de Valldeorras.
What’s the most striking thing about eating and drinking in Barcelona?
People are much closer to the food here. You buy fish with the head on, for example, and everyone talks about food, not just people in the business like myself. When I first arrived and was teaching English even my students talked about food; it was the glue that bound society together and so it was a very attractive thing to get involved in.
Why did you choose Cañete for lunch today?
I think the immediacy of it: the straight-off-the-grill temperatures, the crisp textures and the massive sense of freshness you get from food cooked on the spot. Here, because it’s an open kitchen, you feel very close to the action, you can see something passing and think “yes, I’ll have one of those”. We try to apply this principle and sense of theatre to the bar, too.
How have things changed since you got here?
Because of my business I can’t get out as much as I’d like, but there’s no bog standard ‘bar de barrio’ these days, and I think the focus on tourism in the centre has knocked the quality of eating out for six. Twenty years ago you could walk in anywhere and you’d get something reasonably good to eat. Now you can’t, which is a shame because the Ajuntament says gastronomy is the greatest draw for tourists, but many places have got complacent. These days you need to head for the outer barrios like Poble Sec and Sant Antoni to eat well.
For day-to-day eating, Bar Seco in Poble Sec is great. Portions are generous, it’s all organic and it’s light. Most of us don’t need a three-course menú anymore, so it’s good to have more places going for the middle ground.
Cañete—Unió 17 (Raval), tel. 93 270 3458. Open: Mon-Sat, 1pm-1am. Approx €30 for several tapas and wine. www.antiguobarorgia.com