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From our friend in Barcelona: B for vermut

Illustrator Kavel Rafferty returns with another report from her adopted city of Barcelona, where the vermut flows like wine.

Some of my best Saturdays in Barcelona have started with a vermut at noon, leading to a long lunch in a local restaurant. This vermut is a dark herbal fortified wine much loved over here, known to most of the world as vermouth. There’s a light version and more commonly, a darker, sweet one, both are usually served with small tapas, olives or pickles, the rich sweetness of the wine contrasting nicely with salty accompaniments.

Some take their vermut with ice, lemon and a couple of olives, others prefer to make it into a longer drink 'con syfon', and an old fashioned soda syphon is normally left on the bar for you to help yourself. As delicious as it is, we advise you to go easy: just enjoy the rosy glow of one or two glasses. But if things do go too far, I have yet to find a better hangover cure, the botanicals used to make vermut seem to posses some kind of magical restorative effect.

Although there’s plenty of industrially-produced vermut for sale here, if you ask for a vermut 'del grifo' or vermut 'de la casa' these will more than likely be made locally in one of the small villages outside Barcelona. And remember, in Spain, the v is pronounced with a soft b.

Below are three recommendations for places to enjoy a glass or two of vermut and some food. It’s worth remembering that if you ask anyone in Barcelona, they’ll have their own favourite place. Good food and drink is an obsession here, perhaps that’s why so many traditional bars survive with their Formica tables, chipped tiles, trad bar ware and grumpy waiters.

Delicias
At the top end of Park Güell, the tables on the pavement get busy but they’re the prime spot, even in the colder months – on one occasion I sat comfortably outside in the January sun. The food is basic but good and generously served.
Carrer Ctra. del Carmelo / Muhlberg 1, 08024

Quimet y Quimet
Family-run and an institution in Poble Sec, with standing room only. It’s in quite a few guide books but locals still go there and mix happily enough with tourists. The food is amazing: we had a plate of cheeses (combinat de fromatges) and then a variety of smoked fish (combinat de fumats) with homemade crackers and bread last time we went. It can get very hectic, and it's not a bargain, but it's worth it.
Carrer de la Poeta Cabanyes, 25 , 08004

Cal Papi
This bustling bar is often busy and can get very hot, but the tapas are great, staff are friendly staff and it always has a nice atmosphere. It’s worth staying on for a lunch if you can get a table, and then walking it off on the beach at the end of the street.
Carrer de l'Atlàntida, 65, 08003

You can see more of Kavel's work on her website.

And for more Barcelona, don't forget to pick up our map!


Posted in Barcelona, Bars, Food, Illustration, Kavel Rafferty, Restaurants

Herb visits… Diwana Bhel Poori House

On Drummond Street, next to the supermarket where Patak's pickles were born is Diwana, serving vegetarian Indian food since the 1960s. Their buffet lunch remains one of the city's great food bargains, attracting nearby office workers, impecunious pensioners, weary travelers and plenty of regulars. In The Discriminating Guide to London (William Heinemann, 1977) it is described accurately if a little harshly: "small, very simple – even uncomfortable... we include it because of all the English vegetarian restaurants in central London none has been good enough to recommend. The food here is delicious and almost ridiculously cheap." The same is true today; it is an entirely unselfconscious timewarp, with its hard benches, stainless steel beakers and trays. The lunchtime buffet is far from the familiar pea and potato gloop of other similar establishments, with salads, curries, home-made pickles and chutneys, all of which are constantly refreshed, while "a la carte" bhel poori and dosas in the evening are also excellent.
With HS2 threatening to destroy Drummond Street and large swathes of Euston and Mornington Crescent, we urge you to visit while you still can. This is an area little known to those who neither live or work in it, but it has a large, settled residential population for whom life is beginning to look very bleak indeed, as shown by the video below and linked here.

Diwana Bhel Poori House, 121-123 Drummond Street, London NW1 2HL. Tel: 020 7387 5556


Posted in Drummond Street, England, Food, Independent, London, Restaurants

 

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