Photo by Lee Woolcock
Oh. My. God.” gushed Tahir Shah—in town promoting his best-selling book The Caliph’s House, which tells the story of his family’s move from London to Morocco and recently came out in Catalan—while throwing back his third glass of La Guita Manzanilla in about as many minutes. “I’m totally obsessed with this stuff. I have a stock of it at home, which I hoard. I’m totally miserly about giving even a tiny glass to anyone. It has to be served very, very cold with a little jamón and maybe one olive.”
Shah is given to obsessions and the Manzanilla thing is one we share, though it has to be said I’m slightly more generous with mine (Shah lives in the dry lands of Morocco after all). But there is something about the appetite sharpening powers of good Manzanilla that makes it, to my mind, just about the most perfect aperitif on earth.
To go with it I’d suggested paella as part of my ongoing research into finding the best arroz in the city. Shah being Shah declared he’d only eat paella in Valencia “where it’s from” so we’d gone to Quimet y Quimet in Poble Sec instead.
“This place feels to me a bit like liquid compressed in a syringe,” Shah explained, gesticulating dangerously with a toothpick speared with succulent preserved vegetables which Quim created as a little taster-menu of his legendary montaditos. “It’s a total distillation of the raw sense of Barcelona. High intensity Barcelona if you like,” Shah mused, calling for another glass to go with the piled high open-sandwiches before us. Soft cream-cheese topped with a plump pink prawn (the only shellfish Shah will eat), a dollop of mullet roe and some truffled honey. Mojama (air-cured tuna) on a rough salsa verde sweetened with a half teaspoon of tomato ‘caviar,’ a wedge of coarse pork pate topped with candied chestnuts and a glob of unctuous Torta de Casar cheese to finish.
“This,” Shah declared, throwing his arms wide as if to embrace the entire place and all the people in it, “Is why we love to eat. It’s not to survive. It’s because it makes us feel alive in that very real and tingly sense.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. And that’s why Quimet Quimet is getting five stars. Happy eating!
Poeta Cabanyes 25,
Tel. 93 442 3142
Mon-Fri noon-4pm, 7pm-10pm.
Sat noon-4pm, Sun closed.
Tahir’s top tip
Tahir recommends the hip designer dining room at ABaC because he likes: “places that make me feel fabulous.” Glamorous food? Tick. Beautiful people? Tick. Sexy surrounds? Tick. One for date night. Av. Tibidabo 1, Tel. 93 319 6600, www.abacbarcelona.com