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Fonda Espanya 2
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Here is a little somewhere that often gets overlooked, but is actually a brilliant place to have up your sleeve when the inevitable onslaught of visitors starts for the summer. It’s also one of my preferred places for dining alone because they sit you in the best spot for people watching and admiring the extravagant Modernisme dining room crafted from the imagination of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, while wait staff dart about ensuring you’re comfortable without conspicuously hovering.
It’s a place to tuck into some staunchly Catalan classics, too, although designed by Basque superchef Martín Berastegui, and to do so on a budget of €26, day or night, including a glass or two of wine. So it is a tiny bit depressing to survey a dining room of strangers in a foreign land ordering steaks and salad when the region’s traditional dishes are so much more exciting, but hey ho. Not me. One of my favourite things is habas a la Catalana and they do them extremely well here: baby broad beans retaining just the shadow of a bite, silky blood sausage oozing naughtiness, robust chunks of pork belly and ribs, all swimming around together in a broth of unlikely lightness freshened with a sprig of mint. Bravo.
I had it with a glass of Bot (Terra Alta—only 12.5 percent, I’m happy to report, since my new obsession is finding Spanish wine that doesn’t clobber the hell out of you on first sip), which was very drinkable. They filled it up without my even asking just in time for a second course of monkfish the size of my fist on a just-big-enough mound of black rice. It was topped with ribbons of barely seared squid, reeked of garlic—in a good way—and was so tasty I was tempted to call over the lone steak-eater ahead of me and make him try some.
Then I order the borracho, which is a cake soaked in dangerous amounts of liquor and served with a scoop of the most chocolately ice cream imaginable. It’s wonderful, just the thing for finishing the last of the Bot while kissing my bikini bod goodbye. Thankfully, no-one pays me to be thin!
Sant Pau 9-11, Raval. Tel. 93 550 0000. www.hotelespanya.com. Open daily 1pm-4pm, 8pm-11pm. Closed Sunday evenings. Menu €26 for three courses including wine. A la carte €40+ for three courses including wine.