“Oh my god – this is incredible!”
That’s what his face is saying as he tucks into our first dessert. Though, of course, he’s silent. “Incredible!” is what I imagine he’s thinking. He’s not saying much though, instead he’s guiltlessly tucking into the most glorious chocolate brownie. His smile is contagious – we’re newly engaged so of course I find it adorable. But now he’s edging closer and closer to my half of that gorgeous fudgy brownie. Dangerously close. It’s almost worth the sacrifice though for the pure unadulterated happiness on his face. But it tastes magical so erm slow down there, leave some for me! I can’t help it, I need to have another bite.
People are pickier about what they eat these days – clean eating, paleo, low carb and no sugar diets are all over the place. But no not him, he’s not fussed and the look on his face would make you see why! He loves creative cooking and he loves comfort food and in the Gracia area of Barcelona, you’ll found both all in one at local gem, La Pubilla.
La Pubilla is the perfect setting for a late lunch – even midweek it’s still atmospheric and busy. Though rustic and unassuming from the outside, an old cracked white and red sign above a royal blue door on the smallest of streets houses this local gem. You’ll think you’ve got the wrong spot but once in and seated you’re transported immediately to a relaxing oasis of foodie heaven. You’ll fall in love with the food, you’ll love the warmth of the people and you’ll leave with full bellies without significant lightening of your purse.
The set lunch is the obvious option and a steal with three tasty courses and a glass of wine for 20 Euros.
To call the first starter a salad is to undersell it massively. No, this is nothing like the limp leafy salads we have in the UK, rather it’s a milieu of flavours of the sweetest tomato and freshest mackerel. It’s lip-smackingly good. Like really good. Each bite perfectly balances a combination of ripe, sweet tomatoes, bursting with juiciness against delicate cured onions, skinny shavings of fennel and tiny nibs of garlic. The tomatoes and fish just marry together in the silkiest extra virgin olive oil you’ll ever get. This is a salad that could convert any salad-dodgers for sure!
Option two of the starters is a hearty white bean and cod stew – comforting and warming and silky to eat. It’s served home-style in a big bowl with a smattering of fresh chives. Something about it evokes memories of winter comfort yet, even on a sunny day, it’s satisfying to scoop up with hunks of bread and each bite leaves you wanting more and more. It’s what you wish you rustled up mid-week after a busy day at work – with oomph and depth in abundance.
The pan-fried Hake is truly special and a reminder of how local bistros are truly underrated. The hake is cooked to perfection and complimented with textures of the asparagus and wholesome nutty black rice. This may be the best fish you try on your whole trip. The dish tastes fresh, is soft in texture with crisp skin, soft al-dente asparagus and exquisite rice.
The option of pork is another winner. Pork belly topped with Sobrasadda, a Spanish delicacy of raw cured pork meat, is served under a rich creamy sauce. The sobrasadda really stands out, delicately spiced in the dish. This dish is a lovely little thing, though perfect for sharing given that it’s a little rich. The creamy sauce is delicious but together with the swirls of olive oil it’s almost too generous a portion for such a rich dish. No complaints here though!
Stuffed or not, you can’t leave before trying La Pubilla’s pudding. Yes, even after all those excellent dishes, dessert is unmissable and it would be a travesty to leave without trying the aforementioned brownie. The chocolate brownie is that best type – just set, rich with chocolate and filled with walnuts. The unsweetened cream cuts through the gooey brownie beautifully. Best of all it’s incredibly light, as far as brownies go, melting in your mouth. I’d bet money that you’ll struggle to hold back an audible groan of happiness a la “When Harry met Sally!”
Flan in Spain tastes just so much better than any imitation pudding I’ve had in the UK. La Pubilla’s flan is the real deal, lightly scented with hints of cinnamon and unapologetically served simply in a glass jar. It’s light and slightly custardy and topped with whipped cream, garnished with a cinnamon stick and some mint. It’s truly a thing of beauty and very well made. The flan is perfection and truly doesn’t need any of the garnishes or cream.
La Pubilla is a little haven and a reminder that well-cooked, ingredient-led meals are to be celebrated.
When you’re exhausted with low-fat, sugar-free, carb-light, raw, paleo options head to La Pubilla for classic, hearty Catalan cuisine executed perfectly. At twenty Euros for three courses including a great house wine (a subtle well-balanced Gandesola), it’s excellent value and with beautiful flavours that are worth each calorie. Pop it onto your Barcelona wish list – you won’t be disappointed.
What are your favourite Spanish restaurants? Have you come across cute haunts like this? Let me know by commenting below or via my Facebook page. I’d love them for my own list!
La Pubilla can be found at Plaça de la Llibertat, 23, 08012 Barcelona, Spain. Link to their contact details here.