Of all Barcelona’s recent architectural projects the glittering, geometric, bronze-hued, mirrored ceiling of Els Encants flea market by b720 architects, headed by Fermín Vázquez, is hands down my favourite. It dazzles and it’s fun. You can stroll about underneath, look up several stories and wave at yourself waving at yourself. It makes the sky around look particularly blue and the flea market vendors on the ground floor seem particularly bountiful, yet to my great shame I’d avoided it since the renovation, fearing the swanking-up of the place would crush its soul. Not so. The cookware store at the main entrance is fabulous and once you’ve trawled this great coiling snail of a place in search of bargains, you can have lunch on the top floor from several vendors serving really quite decent food.
My plundering took place over a couple of days so I had lunch here twice. First at the fried fish counter where a friend and I snaffled chunky fingers of chocos (cuttlefish) in the crunchiest crumb—think fish-fingers for grown-ups—and lemony fried boquerones served in a paper cone and with a couple of small beers (Moritz), which set us back about €12. That day it seemed like the most popular stand, but a couple of days later the queues were all over Fogo de la Tierra, whose restaurant Fogons de Forès in Tarrega, is one of the best in the region. Expect unexpectedly sophisticated tapas (this is Els Encants after all) like foie and cherry salad, mustard chicken wings and pork cheeks in wine, but I opted for their ‘special’ house burger with a tumbler of pink cava. It is ground beef sizzled over a plancha with sweet caramelised onions, mustard and cheese then stuffed between two slices of white bread and toasted so everything oozes together in a delectably fabulous mess. It’s not what I’d call a burger, but it rocks and so does Els Encants. Weekend pottering is looking up.
Mercat Encants Fira de Bellcaire. Castillejos 159. Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat 9am-8pm. About €5 for a tapa and a drink.