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Since I’m writing this in August and August is, quite frankly, a pain when it comes to restaurants, I’m going to keep my musings close to Poble Sec. It’s all about the good eating in these parts remember, and another place that never lets you down is La Xalada, parked right on the corner of the impossibly trendy Parlament and the rather less admired Paral·lel. It’s also the place I chose, with less than 24 hours notice, to celebrate my birthday with 15 friends. “Can we have a table on the terrace?” I pleaded. Absolutely. And to make things easy piped up a friend, “How about just one of every tapa since there are 16 of them?” Isabel Cruz, the congenial owner and host chipped in: “The thing is, if you do that you’ll be lucky to get one patata and half an anchovy each.” But by now cava corks were popping, everyone was gabbing at a hundred miles an hour, not a soul was listening. Isabel, took charge and did us proud, which is exactly what one wants on their birthday.
So let me be the first to tell you that with Isabel in charge you can’t go wrong. She expertly pared back the order, trebled everything left, and let the food do the talking. The richly textured brava sauce, served with whole baked, then fried, potatoes, blows every other brava sauce in town out of the water. The vegan montaditos topped with smashed avocado, gordal olives (you know, those big fat juicy ones) and guindilla peppers, had the carnivores fighting the vegetarians to get the last one. My little eight-year-old pal, who is known for his hatred of croquettes— here a deeply savoury goo of pork, chicken and beef mashed down into a béchamel sauce and blasted in a deep fat fryer—declared them his new favourite food! The fried fish were no mere pescadito frito, but to my mind fabulous enough to go by the name of fritto misto, which has always seemed posher to me, and the boquerones were just the right side of cheek puckeringly tangy. Washed down with an indecent amount of cava (Privat from Alella, since you ask) and accompanied by your favourite friends, there is nothing quite like a dinner of fried food, until, having turned down dessert on account of plumpness, the wondrous Isabel appeared with a stack of ice cold white Russians, and made the night perfection. That’s all.
- Carrer del Parlament 1, Sant Antoni
- Phone 93 129 4331
- Hours: Tue-Thu 8pm-1am, Fri-Sun 1pm-5pm, 8pm-2am.
- About €20 for tapas and wine to share.
For more tips on the Barcelona dining scene, and occasional morsels from more far-flung places, follow me on Twitter @taralstevens.