Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Birthday (3) - Lunch
My intention was to have a fancy lunch, birthday befitting. While my prep- arations had stopped short of reservation making, I felt confident about my ability as a single to get a spot, particularly if I went early.
I hadn’t counted on the following things: most of my imagined lunch spots (Cinc Sentits, Moo, Comerc 24) being closed for lunch on Sundays; the one open on Sunday (Can Sole) being fully (and I mean fully, no negotiations about a table) booked; and a rain storm which left me soaked and shivering in Can Sole’s entry way, wondering what I was going to do after the hostess kindly and patiently explained that there were absolutely no circumstances on earth under which she could give me a table. These minor set backs, I must confess, almost (almost) brought a self-pitying birthday tear to my eye, but I regrouped and determined not to be so easily vanquished.
I trudged forward in the pouring rain (and, please allow me to note with some indignation, it has not rained in months Barcelona!), umbrella-free, toward the Old Port. I thought I might try Merendero de la Mari (Plaza Pau Vila 1, 93 221 3141, reservations recommended), which according to me and without the burden of having tried any of the other places, is the best of the string of expensive seafood restaurants edging the Palau de Mar. I make this statement based on the always fresh and carefully prepared seafood, the relatively attentive service and the flood of posh Barcelona families that always descends on it come the weekend. Also, the terrace overlooking the Port is among the best in the city on a sunny day. Needless to say, not quite as good when it rains.
At Merendero de la Mari, a further negotiation occurred. This time I would not take no for an answer. My exchange with the Napoleon-sized maitre d' went a little something like this: Table for one please. I'm sorry, miss, we are fully booked. You have absolutely nothing. Nothing. Nothing at the bar, nothing coming up, nothing for a short time...I'd only be an hour. Well, perhaps you can have a table in 20 minutes; there's a gentleman who just received his second course, but if he orders a dessert, who knows how long he'll be. I don't mind waiting. Alright then, you can stand over there by the kitchen, maybe you'll learn something. Muy bien. (A full minute and a closer glance at the reservation list later.) I suppose I could seat you now. Perfecto. (And away I went, slightly sorry to be dragged away from the kitchen window just before the final touches were put on the excellent looking paella simmering briskly on the range.)
Now, lest you get the wrong idea, there was no malice or attitude in the initial response to my request for a table. This is just the way it sometimes goes in a land where the laws of service are still more or less developing. The full universe of possibilities doesn't emerge until you test the initial premise.
So, quickly and happily seated in the bustling dining room, I ordered myself the following: a tomato and mozarella salad with shrimp; a parillada (pictured above); and the dessert trio (small, decadent vials of dark chocolate mousse, cheese cake and guava cocktail). The waiters were supremely attentive and polite enough not to allow their amazement at the quantities of food I was consuming register perceptibly nor to judge me too harshly for pulling out my camera to photograph the food.
The parillada, which was a 35 euro proposition and could easily have been shared between two, deserves some further comment. It featured langoustines, shrimp of two varieties, mussels, squid, and two kinds of white fish (one of which I believe to have been bass and the other of which was a mystery). All were grilled to perfection, lightly seasoned, and sitting on a shallow buttery lake, ideal for dipping. The scaling of this seafood mountain was well worth it, even if I did need a little rest half way through.
Afterwards, I rolled myself home, changed out of my once again wet clothes and, since it was still raining, forgot about my plans for the Carnaval and took a little a birthday nap.
(To be continued in the next post.)