Is it possible to have a bad meal in Spain?

I’ll offer up a vehement yes. I didn’t think it was possible but with a little effort, we ended up with something that was overpriced and inedible in Barcelona.

If you’re ever in Barcelona and someone recommends a seafood place with a great view of the pier by the Barceloneta metro at a restaurant of the same name, save yourself the trouble and go somewhere else. Trust me on this one. There are always some things that are a dead giveaway for a bad restaurant.

Does it have its name emblazoned across the top of the bi-level glass building in big letters that remind you of a used car lot sign? Then do what I should have done and walk away. When you ignore that first instinct to turn tail and run and sit down to a menu whose prices are at least double what you’ve been paying for other great seafood in the city and it’s not Michelin rated, do what the Korean thought of doing and fold up your napkin and walk out. Don’t feel bad because you will feel worse if you stay and see it through. Tip them a euro or two for the water if you must but leave without looking back. You will not regret it.

Normally, I don’t care to write about meals that weren’t great but this was beyond mediocre. And when everyones different entree tastes equally bad, then it can’t be chalked up to an “off night”.

It all started out promisingly enough. We had pan con tomate, one of the best versions we had in Barcelona, very tomatoey and the fruitiness of the olive oil really shone through.

Next up was seafood and fish croquetas which were not bad. It was crispy with a nice creamy texture.

And then the downward spiral began.

We ordered an expensive appetizer of half a potato with truffles. It looked pretty delicious and they were generous with the truffles and the olive oil. Problem was, I couldn’t smell anything.  That heap of truffle should have given off a heady, mouthwatering scent but it smelled of empty space. You can’t imagine how disappointed we were when we ate it and the truffles had the texture of a dried sponge and tasted like water.  The half-potato was good enough but not worth 17 euros.

potato with "truffles"

potato with "truffles"

I excused myself from the table for a moment and when I came back, our entrees were ready. I took one look at my fisherman’s broth with seafood and rice and glanced over at the Korean’s seafood paella and jokingly said to him, “Hey, I think we have the same dish but mine just has water added to it.” Sadly, I was right.  I tasted my dish and it was so salty that I couldn’t taste anything else.  There was some taste of seafood but it was overpowered by salt. I dipped my spoon into the paella and it tasted exactly the same and was oversalted as well. It was as if they literally took their paella dish and added some water to make “soup”.

paella with water- how can something that looks so innocent taste so bad?

paella with water - how can something that looks so innocent taste so bad?

L ordered bacalao hoping to recreate some of the Restaurant Embat magic from earlier in the day. You wouldn’t think it was possible but the salt cod didn’t have a single trace of salt. It literally tasted like sponge soaked in water, with no indication of the glorious fish it once was.  It had a crust of chopped parsley and garlic but amazingly enough, it didn’t taste like anything either. I thought my paella with water was bad, but this bacalao was even worse. I would talk about Neen’s gambas al ajillo but let’s save myself the effort and say it was mediocre at best.

We left most of our meal uneaten and mentioned something to the manager and he just shrugged with no apology. I guess if you make your money fleecing tourists who will probably not visit the city again, I guess you don’t have to care what you serve. But he did make a show of bowing and saying “arigato” as we left…I’m going to keep my comments to myself on this one.

The meal left such a bad taste in our mouths that we had to find another restaurant to vanquish it. We tried several places but, it was so late that most restaurants had already closed. The situation was getting desperate. We were getting desperate. As a last ditch effort, we headed towards Cevercería Catalana, all the while passing dimming lights and shuttered windows.

As we got nearer, we saw that their light was still on and the Korean literally started running towards the restaurant like it was his long, lost love. I thought I was imagining his sprint towards the finish line but other eyewitnesses confirmed it. The place was still open and still happening even after 11pm. We scarfed down some tasty bocadillos and desserts and were finally at peace.

bocadillo of tuna, piquillo peppers, tuna, anchovies, and olives

bocadillo of tuna, piquillo peppers, tuna, anchovies, and olives

four cheese tapa

four cheese tapa

ham and cheese bocadillo

ham and cheese bocadillo

flan

flan

torta de santiago - almond tart with some port

torta de santiago - almond cake with some port

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3 responses to “Is it possible to have a bad meal in Spain?

  1. The French and Spanish are definitely not immune to bad restaurants and meals.

    For your next Barcelona adventure, I have two recommendations:

    Seafood (cost akin to Etxebarri) – Rias de Galicia – some of the freshest seafood I’ve tasted in the world:
    http://www.chuckeats.com/2007/10/16/rias-de-galicia-barcelona-spain-reference-seafood/

    Ham – Jamonisimo – ask to sit in the back room and get the trio sample of bellato ham – mind-blowing for only 35 euros or so:
    http://www.chuckeats.com/2007/09/27/jamonisimo-barcelona-spain-call-me-a-ham-snob/

  2. Agreed, there is bad food everywhere. I just never imagined it would be on such an epic scale. Thanks for the recommendations, will keep them in mind for the next go round.

  3. yes, bad food is everywhere but there’s always great food everywhere and nowI’m talking about Barcelona too. If you want to eat in Barcelona I recomend you to visit http://www.menusbarcelona.com , where you will be able to watch the prices, select a menu and make a blook only in the best restaurants of Barcelona. I hope you enjoy it 🙂

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