Of the many wonderful things about life in Barcelona, one of my favourites is the alternative Christmas. The pared-back version where, instead of doing all the entertaining at home, you get out and let someone else do the cooking.
Martinez, granted, would be more obviously reviewed as a summer destination, since it is essentially an open-air terrace next door to the Miramar Hotel and rose gardens on Montjuïc. However, as Barcelona errs to mainly good weather and the restaurant will be open on Boxing Day with a special menú, it fits the bill perfectly for this month. They pull over a cover if it rains, see-through screens protect from the wind, the views over the port and out across the Mediterranean are gorgeous, the lack of traffic a relief, the service smart and charming. But chances are the sky will be blue and the sun will be shining, and truly, what could be a better treat for the Christmas holidays than having lunch in the sun on a terrace? It’s as good as getting away from it all except better, because you don’t have to do all that travel madness.
Anyway, what’s not to love about a basket that comes filled with ice and a bottle of Casa Mariol vermut sticking out of the top with glasses ready garnished with olives and lemon? And then to sip it while nibbling on a heaped pot of steaming mussels, all plump and sea-salty, a decadently creamy ensaladilla rusa dotted with jewels of pea and carrot, and some crunchy, gooey brimming with essence of jamón that slips down just so. After that, you have a choice of paellas (the proper kind, so expect a thin layer of deeply flavoured savoury rice and don’t skimp on scoffing the starters) or a fideuà. Ours was the rossejat, which means it has been baked off in the oven at the end giving the rice a chewier edge, and was scattered with fried baby squid. That’s exactly how I like my paella—I don’t want Spanish rice masquerading as risotto—and it went a treat with the bottle of Albariño we polished off with it. Dessert is a simple affair—crema Catalana, fruit, ice-cream—but exactly right. As you sip your rich, dark espresso in the haze of this properly boozy lunch, you may just find yourself wishing Christmas, or at least part of it, could always be like this. Feliz Navidad!
Miramar 38, Montjuïc. Tel. 93 106 6052. Lunch menu: €45 for
three courses, vermut and a bottle of wine. Winter timetable (until
March): Mon-Sun, 10am-6pm. www.martinezbarcelona.com