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Photos courtesy of En compania del lobos
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If you haven’t ambled down to Barceloneta lately, go take a look. It’s virtually unrecognisable with a vibe that’s more Southern California than Mediterranean from craft brewer Black Lab and multi-millionaires playpen One Ocean Club, to groovy beach shacks like the Surf House and the beachside garden at the Club Nàutic, who grow their own herbs and tomatoes, and in the middle, a mind-boggling number of fresh-faced new chiringuitos that have turned the long, lazy lunch into an art form.
Gallito’s occupies one of the coveted spots beneath the W Hotel, complete with a vine-shaded terrace with real-life grapes dangling from above, scrubbed wooden tables and benches piled with patterned cushions straight out of an English country cottage. Close your eyes and you can easily imagine yourself on some fantasy isle somewhere between Greece and Cornwall, with Mediterranean eats that have come via Mexico by way of Morocco. You see, borderless dining has even made it to the beach.
We order a round of chicharrón de pulpo—breaded and fried, the meaty cephalopod becomes something unforgettably addictive—with a cheek-puckering jalapeño dipping sauce that calls for cold beers and second rounds. Then, we munch on the crunchiest fried boquerones adobo (pickled in spices) with cumin mayo, tender fish tacos with a bright radish salad and coriander salsa verde, and a cauldron full of rock mussels simply steamed in thyme and citrus. It’s honest and joyous food that we wash down with bottles of cold Petit Caus from the Penedès, before plunging into two paellas—seafood and montaña (with pork ribs, botifarra and mushrooms). Though the style is more akin to that of Alicante, which tends towards plumper, wetter rice than the drier rice with the mythic soccarat from Valencia, both are generous in their ingredients and deeply flavoured.
A dip in the sea followed by a slice of lemon meringue pie, a G&T sorbet, more chat and laughter and you’ve got to wonder whether those who stay home in Barcelona for the summer aren’t onto something rather clever?
Passeig del Mare Nostrum 19 -21, Barceloneta. Tel: 93 312 3585. encompaniadelobos.com
Open Mon & Tue 1pm-4.30pm, Wed-Fri 1pm-4.30pm, 8pm-11.30pm, Sat & Sun 1pm-5pm, 8pm-11.30pm.
Price: About €35 for tapas to share, paella, dessert and wine.