Sunday, November 29, 2015

Spain 2014 - Dinner at L'Antic Bocoi del Gotic

For our last dinner in Barcelona, we found a gem of a restaurant in the Barri Gotic - L'Antic Bocoi del Gotic. It is a small restaurant nestled in a tiny alleyway - and the maze of streets in the Gothic quarter didn't help. It took us several rounds to find the restaurant - and by the time we found it we were quite famished. 

The interior of the restaurant is beautiful - you are surrounded by stone walls which date from Roman times. The owner of the restaurant Chef Marc served us and immediately made us feel at home - he was so friendly and charming. He also helpfully selected all the dishes for us. 

We started with a Goat Cheese Salad with Warm Honey Sauce. It was an exciting contrast of textures and flavours. 

The second dish of Salt Cod Salad with roasted peppers, egg plant and onions was  a symphony of flavours.

Since it was our last night in Spain - we had to have some Jamon. These were really exceptional.

Their specialty here is Coques de Recapte - it is like a Catalan pizza made with a thin base of bread dough and virgin olive oil. They have modernized it with new ingredients for the toppings. We had one with 2 toppings - anchovy and tuna. It was delicious - the base was thin an crispy and the toppings so fresh and tasty.

The desserts are made by Chef Marc's wife Rosa. He said we must try her chocolate cake. It turned out to be one of the best chocolate cakes I've tasted - slightly crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside.

The Apple Tart was another great dessert.

The Orange Ice Cream was a refreshing finish to the wonderful meal.

Dining at L'Antic Bocoi was one of our most experience in Barcelona due to its great atmosphere, great food and charming host. Don't miss it. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Edifici Forum

The Edifici Forum (Forum Building) is a huge triangular building at the tip of the Diagonal Mar District. It was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. From the ground you can't really see the triangular shape - but google it and you can see the wedge-shape building quite prominently on Google Map.

The building was designed to house a large exhibition organized by the city council in 2004 - the Universal Forum of Cultures. It is now a multi-functional building with an auditorium, exhibition space and museum - the Museu Blau which is a museum of natural sciences.   

The building appears to float off the ground and covers a large open public plaza at the ground level.

The facade of the building is covered in blue textured concrete, punctuated with voids and glass windows in jagged geometry.

The most interesting feature of the building are a series of light wells which punch through the building - letting light into the plaza. Each of the voids is slightly different. 

When the building was under construction, there was a lot of controversy surrounding its unusual and eccentric design, problematic construction and enormous construction cost. Since its opening though the building has slowly grown on the Barcelonians , adding to its interesting architectural landscape.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Lunch at Hisop

Another Michelin starred restaurant we visited in Barcelona was Hisop. This restaurant is helmed by 2 chefs - Oriel Ivem and Guillem Pla. It is located in the quieter neighbourhood of Sarria-Sant Gervasi.

The restaurant is quite small and because of that it provides an intimate environment to dine in. The walls are bare and white, and one side of the room is dominated by a full height cabinet which hides all the plates and cutleries.

There was a glass window into the kitchen where you can see the chefs at work. Its a small kitchen with a small team working behind the scene. Unlike most celebrity restaurants - it is nice to know that here the chefs are actually doing the cooking.

We had the set lunch menu which came with 5 courses and a dessert. The first course was Sea Urchin with Vermouth. The sea urchin was made into a mousse - topped with a orange coloured sauce. It looked simple but tasted very good. Wish the portion was a bit bigger.

2nd course was Pork Belly, Peas and Truffle. The pork belly was melt in the mouth - and coupled with the pea and truffle mousse it was a very luxurious dish.

3rd course - Squid with Trumpets, Sausage and Fennel. Can't really see the trumpet mushroom, sausage and fennel - they must have been made into the black dust that was sprinkled on the squid slices. The squid was perfectly cooked - very tender, and the dust had a lot of complex flavours which complemented the squid really well. This was one of my favourite courses.

4th course - Grilled Brill with Chard and Soy. By now you would realise that the chefs at Hisop like to play with just a few ingredients, and let the freshness of the ingredients and the clever combination do the trick. This was good - but not as good as the squid and the pork.

5th course - Suckling Pig and Black Cardamon. Surprise - another pork dish. This was even more tender then the pork belly and had a crisy crust. The forgot to mention the cubes of apple which complemented the pork really well. Another great course.

After a shot of mojito to cleanse the palate, dessert was served. It was Mandarin, Juniper Berry and "Tocinillo". There were fresh mandarin segments, a very light custard underneath, and Juniper Berry ice cream. It looked beautiful and was delicious.

The lunch at Hisop was a really nice experience. It was great innovative cooking with respect to the ingredients. The flavours were not overly complicated and the chefs let the ingredients shine. Service was a bit erractic but not lacking charm. Hisop is a restaurant well deserving of its 1 Michelin star.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Parc Diagonal Mar

Diagonal Mar is one of the newest districts in Barcelona. It used to be an industrial wasteland, but today you will find luxury highrise apartments, office towers, shopping centres and commercial developments. This is an area that tries to recreate what is considered to be an ideal modern urban environment - but it lacks the chaos, the charm and the human qualities of the old quarters. I was here looking for another project by Enrique Miralles whos was tasked with designing a series of parks in the area - Parc Diagonal Mar. It was not difficult to find - as you can spot Miralles' signature style from a mile away.

The park is actually not one big park but a series of small urban green pockets interspersed with the new developments. It is great that they are all open to the public for everyone to enjoy.

One of the larger green pockets has a lake inside and also bicycle tracks running through.

What I got from this visit was that Enrique Miralles was a great architect, but as a landscape designer - not so much.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Baecelona 2014 - MariscCo Marisqueria

If you are looking for fresh seafood in a very nice environment, then you can't go wrong with MariscCo. This stylish seafood restaurant is tucked in one corner of Placa Reial, my favourite square in Barcelona. You can choose to dine inside or on the square. We opted for the indoor dining area which is a beautiful space but surprisingly empty as everybody else seem to prefer the outside. 

Seafood is the main draw in this restaurant, but they also have a large selection of tapas. We ordered a few to share. The tomatoes with cream cheese and pesto was a refreshing start.

The croquettes were very light and fluffy - some of the best we had in Barcelona. 

Deep fried green peppers - Pimentos de Padron. It is said that in each plate there are a few smoking hot ones. These were actually quite mild.

The main reason we came here was for the seafood - and we ordered 2 seafood platters, one with oysters and crab and another with shellfish. The seafood - especially the lobster and prawns, were beautifully prepared and delicious.

MariscCo is a great seafood restaurant. The seafood is fresh and expertly prepared. And the best thing is - the menu is reasonably priced in comparison. What's not to love ?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Barcelona Pavilion

Barcelona Pavilion is one of the most emblematic works of modern architecture. Designed by Modernist master Mies van der Rohe, it was the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Expo in Barcelona. Mies also designed all the furniture in the building - many of which have become collectors' items. Simple yet stunning, this building is considered one of the most perfect examples of Modernist Architecture - possibly still unequal in its supreme minimalism and perfection in execution. 

To understand the importance of this building - it needs to be put into its historical context. The Modernist language may seem quite familiar nowadays, but in the 1920s, the Art Deco style was all the rage in Europe and America, and Neo-Classicism was still a very popular style for residential and public architecture. Elaborate decorations was still a signature of quality and prestige in architecture. To suddenly see something like the Barcelona Pavilion - totally free of the usual architectural frills - must have been a shock to many. It was a building which pointed to a new direction in architecture which was to take over the World after the 2nd World War. 

To an architect, no visit to Barcelona would be complete without visiting the Barcelona Pavilion.This is truly a modern masterpiece that need to be experienced in person.