Assorted fried seafood – crispy deliciousness
An absolute must-go for tapas when in Barcelona. Get to Cal Pep early – you can’t book, and the word is out – the 20 stools in the front room were full as soon as the doors opened for lunch at 1.
We chatted to the waiter at the counter, asked for our favourites (pimentos, clams) and then left it to him to recommend, based on what produce they had that day. There didn’t seem to be an enormous range – the waiter explaining that ingredients are kept to a minimum, with the emphasis on freshness. Just the way we like it.
Every dish was a stunner. Josep Manubens Figueres, the chef and owner (“Pep” is a common Catalan nickname for Josep), ensures the seafood at his tapas bar is the freshest that is available every morning at the fish auctions along the nearby Costa Brava every morning.
Cooks wait patiently until the first order comes in, and then they come in flying, thick and fast, with no reprieve, and what I can only describe as “organised chaos” ensues.
Chick peas with fried spinach and jamon
The dish of deep-fried seafood – lightly floured small fish, squid, calamari rings and small prawns – came out crispy and tasted of each individual piece of seafood, not just randomly of oil. The chick peas and vibrantly green spinach (not at all overcooked or gloppy) had bits of fried jamon, imparting the dish with its flavour and providing a nice contrast in texture.
There was just one meat dish – a speciality of the house – botifarra de porc amb foie d’ànec fresc, pork sausage with foie gras and port wine, served in inch-long slices over white beans.
Saffron milk cap mushrooms cooked on the grill
We also tried for the first time some mushrooms we saw at the Boqueria, the saffron milk cap. Bright orange in colour with deep green stains (which apparently appear when the mushrooms have been handled) – the flavour is mild and the texture is almost “crunchy”.
Simplicity is the key to the beauty of each dish – with every plate, there was nothing that didn’t absolutely have to be there.
Remember to get there early – or be prepared to stand impatiently behind diners like us. Their schedule is complicated, so check their website to find when they are open.
Plaça de les Olles, 8, Barcelona