Barcelona, 9.30pm. The sun just set, abandoning its heat to the baked metal and stone which make up the city; the breeze gentle, welcome as it wraps itself around limbs kissed from a day spent in the sun; the light soft and slowly fading, inviting diners to head inside for food and drinks, to browse menus and discuss their days.
Pairing food and wine can be difficult, but when you get it right, it’s absolutely worth it. Some flavours just work together; fresh shellfish with crisp cold rosé, slabs of steak with a bold red Bordeaux or tangy Asian flavours against the mineral spice of Riesling. Perfectly good in their own right, these foods take on a new level of depth and deliciousness when matched with wine.
Falling into a slightly less glamorous category are the foods which, some might argue, taste better after wine (or beer, vodka, whisky, insert celebratory drink of choice here). I’m talking about illicit midnight fridge foraging, the rumble of hunger in your stomach as you head home after a party or evening at the pub, when a certain salty, greasy goodness is required to tickle your tastebuds and satisfy your cravings. This is the time for cheese toasties oozing melted middles on sticky fingers, hot buttered toast, crispy chips and bacon sandwiches.
Which brings me nicely onto Tapas24, the much-lauded latest venture in Michelin starred ex-El Bulli almuni Carles Abellan’s Projectes24 stable. Bear with me, there is some reason behind my rambling . . .
Barcelona is a foodie haven. Sandwiched between the mountains and the Mediterranean, its menus combine the very best of land and sea; from tiny mouthfuls of tapas to huge plates of paella, there’s enough to keep even the greediest of gastronomes happy. Variety is the order of the day, and spontaneity a must – there’s nothing more fun than diving into a random bar for a plate of pinxtos and cheap copa of cava.
Sharing food is great. I’m not talking about the kind of ‘sharing’ when someone leans over and pinches the crispiest looking chip on your plate, or when an eagle-eyed, weight-watching girlfriend suggests her loved one goes halves on dessert. Absolutely not. I’m talking sharing in a specific context i.e. the joys of tapas-style dining.
No longer confined to the Spanish cuisine which inspired it, tapas-style eating is perfect for big groups. It allows you the opportunity to be both adventurous and gluttonous, ordering numerous little dishes to compare, contrast and comment on without having to commit to one main meal. If you’ve ever sat in front of a menu racked with indecision (followed shortly by food envy when your companion’s meal arrives), then this is the perfect format for you.