Tag Archives: La Cova Fumada

Barcelona streetlife: Carrer Baluard, Barceloneta (Metropolitan)

Barceloneta Market, Barcelona

Carrer del Baluard in Barceloneta is the sort of place you might once have expected to see tattooed sailors lurching out of bars, grubby-aproned fishwives gossiping as they thwacked the heads off merluza and children playing in the street under the watchful eyes of the neighbourhood matriarchs. It’s still a bit like that now.

Even today, there’s a strong feeling of community in this working-class area of fishermen and port workers, despite it having undergone a massive transformation since the city started preparing for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Running parallel to Passeig de Joan de Borbó, C/Baluard cuts through the heart of Barceloneta alongside the fancy new market building in Placa de la Font and on towards the sea.

Pilar Montolio at Can Maño (no.12) – a raucous and popular tapas bar – has seen it all. She grew up among the bubbling pots of home-made stew and frying fish in the kitchen of Can Maño, which once belonged to her grandmother. She now runs the place with husband, Francesco and dad, Bernardo. They serve a regular crowd of old-timers, office workers and tourists. “Barceloneta has changed a lot” she says. “Flats are small here and people move out to get more space. There used to be more locally-owned businesses like this one but now there are Pakistani-owned supermarkets on almost every corner.”

Down the road at Floristería Lola (no.44), Agustina Perez and Carmen Saez are happy with the changes that have been made to the area. “The square is much prettier now and there’s even a Michelin starred restaurant (Els Fogons de la Barceloneta – Placa de la Font)” says Agustina. “But to honest, she continues in a conspiratorial whisper, “I like the food in La Cova Fumada.”

Sardines, La Cova, Fumada, Barcelona

And who doesn’t. Lovers of this spit and sawdust tapas bar at no.56 want desperately to keep it a secret but can’t help enthusing about it. Even Josep María Solé, the owner of La Cova Fumada is happy to keep it hush-hush. The bar has been in the same family for 65 years but they still haven’t got round to getting a sign above the door. His mum (a good but strict boss we’re told) is responsible for churning out plate after plate of succulent sardines, freshly-caught fish and the bar’s signature dish, la bomba. Made from crushed potato and mince meat, the bombas are wrapped in breadcrumbs, deep fried and then smothered in fiery garlic and chilli sauce.

Next door is Comestibles Sant Carles (no.58). A veritable haven for foodies, the airy shop sells healthy food, wine and French and Italian cheeses. Their €6 take-out menú del dia is a big hit with beach-going gourmets.

A few doors down and the waist-expanding continues. New kid on the block, Eike Philipps from Germany owns the organic ice-cream shop, Rosa Canina (no.52). In partnership with his brother Reimar, this tiny Barceloneta shop is the little sister to their two stores in Berlin. Reimar – the Willy Wonker of the operation – makes the ice-cream in Germany and it’s really quite something. Made without milk, preservatives or artificial ingredients, flavours range from rich vanilla to mango lassi and raspberry with basil.

Barceloneta’s market has been around since 1884 although the current building and spacious remodelled Placa de la Font are new. Stall-holders however, have been serving the residents of C/ Baluard for years. Eva Vidal Lladó of the Martinez fish stall loves the new space. “It’s a local market” she says, stopping – as if to prove a point – to greet everyone who passes by name, “although we do get a lot of tourists popping in during the summer.”

Baluard bakery, Barcelona

Across the road from the market is Baluard (no.38). It’s only been open for three years yet many devotees claim it bakes the finest bread in the city. Owned by Anna Bellsola (who trained in Italy and France and has baking in the blood), the shop does a brisk trade in loaves, baguettes, croissants, pastries and cakes. “Bread should taste like bread” insists Anna. “We use good basic ingredients with proper yeast and bake it here on the premises.” It’s definitely not a job for the work-shy. Some of the seventeen strong team start baking at 1am and the shop is open from 8am to 9pm, 6 days a week.

A far cry from bread buns is Creart (no.3), a tattoo and piercing parlour that’s been inking skin for the last nine years. About 90% of the clientele are local and are charged anything from €50 upwards for a tattoo. According to owner Tony Ramallo, piercings aren’t as popular as they used to be but there are still some brave souls who pay good money to have metal put in some (ouch!) very private places.

Iris: objetes de regal esoterisme (no.11) isn’t the kind of place you’re likely to find on Passeig de Gràcia either. Run by a collection of friendly folk, the shop offers courses in tarot card reading, homeopathy, Bach flowers, Reiki, angel workshops and candle magic. Pop in for a browse or a chat and you may be told things you never expected to hear, like your future chances of finding love for example, or the fact that candles talk to you.

Stranger still is the extensive range of dog clothes on sale at Dog in Fashion (no. 68). Owner Rosario Hidalgo has been catering to pampered pooches for the last three years. Dogs of all shapes and sizes come in for a wash, trim and pedicure and while they wait, owners can browse the doggie boutique.

Turn right out of the shop and C/Baluard looks like any other narrow street in Barceloneta. Washing hangs from tiny flats, surfboards and bikes perch precariously on balconies and stern-looking elderly residents smoke in doorways. But 200 metres further on, the street suddenly stops and countless bronzing bodies and the never-ending blue of the Mediterranean are right there in front of you.

First published in Metropolitan magazine, July 2010

C Baluard, Barceloneta

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Barcelona Minus La Rambla (Matador)

La Rambla, Barcelona’s once-glorious pedestrian avenue, sucks in most visitors to the city, but there are plenty of good reasons to steer clear. Here are some suggestions for avoiding the tourist crowds, and the petty crime they attract, in the Catalan capital.

Eats: La Cova Fumada

This nook is easy to miss. But don’t let the cigarette smoke and cooking fat fumes that waft from behind its backstreet brown doors intimidate you. La Cova Fumada is the best seafood tapas bar in Barcelona, where local dock workers and fishermen come to grab a quick snack and hurl good-natured insults at each other.

At lunchtime, the harassed waiter turns a deaf ear to any drink orders that don’t involve red wine and the female kitchen staff (who look as if they’ve been wrestling in olive oil) wipe sweat from their brows with the tea towels.

From their tiny workspace, they turn out plate after plate of crispy grilled sardines, succulent octopus, bacalao in tomato sauce, and the house specialty of patatas bombas — fried potato balls smothered in a fiery garlic and chili sauce.

There are no frills, no menus, no reservations, no credit cards, and no English-speaking staff. Consequently, prices are about half those charged on La Rambla.

Address: C/ Baluard 56 (no sign)
Tel: +34 932 214 061
Hours: Monday to Friday 9am-3:30pm, Thursday and Friday 6pm-8.30pm, Saturday 9am-1.30pm. Closed Sundays and throughout August.

Green space: Parc de Guinardó

Guess what — Gaudí’s Parc Güell isn’t the finest green space in the city. Okay, so it’s easy on the eye and studded with delightful architectural eccentricities, but unless you’re the first to sprint through the gates at 10am, all your photos will be full of strangers’ elbows.

Instead, take the number 28 bus from Plaza Catalunya and stay on until the last stop — even if helpful pensioners frantically try to shoo you off at Parc Güell. From the bus stop, follow the road to the end and you’ll be in Parc de Guinardó, a sprawling municipal space that hardly anyone uses.

Ascend woodland paths to the top of the hill for a panoramic view of the city all to yourself.

Arriving: Bus 28 stops near the highest part of the park on Carrer de la Gran Vista – Plaça de la Mitja Lluna. The main entrance is at Carrer de Garriga i Roca 62
Tel: +34 934 500 749

Exercise: Montjuïc Municipal Olympic Swimming Pool

Swimming pools don’t get better than this.

Built to showcase the city during the diving events of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and used by Kylie in her video for “Slow,” you can enjoy a prefect view of the city while doing your laps.

The pool may not have much in the way of amenities, but with a setting this good, it’s hard to care.

Address: Av Miramar 31
Tel: +34 934 430 046
Arriving: Take the Metro to Parallel, then hop on the funicular. At the top, the pool is across the road next to the restaurant El Xalet.
Hours: Open daily between July and mid-September, 11am-6.30pm

Sweets: Caelum

Tucked away in the Barri Gòtic, Caelum is the place to go for a sugar fix when you’re weary of walking. They sell products made by nuns and monks from around the country and the two-floor teashop has a superb collection of cakes.

For any marzipan lovers wondering what heaven looks like, this is it.

Address: C/ de la Palla 8
Tel: +34 933 026 993

Beaches: Get out of town

Only tourists go to the beach in Barcelona.

Sant Pol de Mar beachPhoto: Antoni

If you spot a Catalan, it’s most likely they just haven’t made it home to bed yet.

Those in the know head farther up the coast. If you’re on a budget, a simple city metro ticket will take you to Montgat, a wide, sandy beach with safe swimming.

Farther north, Sant Pol de Mar is a lovely Catalan fishing village with clear blue water and a shingle beach that’s just an hour’s train ride from the city.

Websites: www.montgat.net, www.santpol.org

Architecture: Casa Calvet
Casa Calvet, BarcelonaPhoto: ale3andro

Want to check out the interior of a Gaudí building but avoid the queues for tours of La Pedrera? Why not grab dinner in one instead?

Restaurant Casa Calvet opened its doors in 1994, having converted the offices and boardrooms of a building Gaudí designed for a local textile manufacturer into semi-private dining rooms. It isn’t cheap, but then it’s not every day you get to dine inside a work of art.

Main courses can be a bit hit and miss, but the mango tart with pepper ice-cream and yogurt sauce is a sure thing.

Address: Calle Casp 48
Tel: +34 934 124 012
Website: www.casacalvet.es
Kitchen hours: Monday to Saturday 1pm-3:30pm and 8:30pm-11pm. Closed Sundays.

Culture: Palau de la Música

There’s no denying that this world-famous concert hall and bastion of Modernist architecture is a tourist attraction, and deservedly so. To separate yourself from the hordes and see it in all its glory, attend a concert. The building is even more gorgeous inside than out.

Address: C/ de Sant Francesc de Paula 2, Urquinaona
Tel: +34 902 442 882

Website: www.palaumusica.org

Nightlife: Razzmatazz
You need stamina for clubbing in this town. If you want to party like a local, take a disco nap in the evening, begin a leisurely dinner around 10pm, and don’t even think about going to a club before 2:00 in the morning.

When you do, head for Razzmatazz.

Housed in an old factory, ‘the Razz’ is massive. Its five different dance floors play everything from indie and rock to electronica and pop.

There are frequent live music offerings as well.

Address: C/Almogàvers 122 – C/Pamplona 88
Tel: +34 933 208 200

Website: www.salarazzmatazz.com

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