Barna-Brew Beer: Belgian Craft, Catalan Spirit

I recently met up with Alex Lazarowicz from Barna-Brew, one of Barcelona’s newest and most exciting craft beer brands, to talk about his Brussels-Barcelona beer love affair.

Barna Brew Craft Beer Barcelona

“I’m from London but I lived in Belgium for six years. The beers there are very well balanced and although the current trend for craft beers is to have very big, bold flavours, ultra-hoppy IPAs for example, we wanted our beer to be more balanced.”

He pours a glass for Sylvie and myself and we sniff and sip away in silence. It’s zesty and tangy and light and refreshing, almost like a cloudy English cider.

“When we were coming up with this beer, we were thinking of what would work here in Barcelona, with the heat. People typically drink lighter beers, so we wanted something that could work in the same way. Belgian blanche beers like this are usually made with coriander, but we tried it with a bay leaf instead and we liked the subtle difference. You should also be able to taste a hint of orange too.”

Barna Brew Blanche Beer

For me it brings back happy memories of my motorcycle road trip from London to Bruges and Brussels, where I did nothing but ride and drink beer. It’s different, but at the same time it has that classic wheat beer taste of Belgium. It really transports you.

I take another sip, only now noticing two musicians standing on a stage, running through a setlist of all-American doo-wop songs for a crowd of families in the street. It’s all very idyllic and wholesome, and I feel a sense of relief wash over me, humbled and happy to be back in Barcelona.

“Would you like to try the blonde?” asks Alex.

It’s darker and deeper in both taste and colour, with a viscous honey hue and a strong head. It doesn’t have the Belgian taste that the blanche has, but it’s incredibly well balanced and packed with flavour that peaks with a subtle pine aroma.

Barna Brew Rossa Blonde Craft Beer - Barcelona Craft Beer

For me they are both exceptional – progressive yet traditional. I am content to not have a favourite, to like them both equally.

I ask if there are any left for me to buy and take home with me, but alas, he’s sold out. I’m sure it won’t be the first time.

Where to Drink Barna-Brew in Barcelona

Alex is in talks with many of Barcelona’s hippest watering holes and already has a loyal following, myself included. You can buy his unique blend of Belgian craft and Catalan spirit at the following Barcelona craft beer shops and bars:

  • Beerstore Barcelona (C. Castillejos 269)
  • Belchica (C. Villaroel 60)
  • Birra & Birrae (C. Andrade 2-10)
  • La Resistencia (C. Viladomat 107)
  • Malting Pot (BRUSSELS- Rue Scarron 50)
  • Twins (C. Guillem Tell 23)

If you’re looking for new and exciting beers to stock at your bar/restaurant/cafe/etc. email Alex directly at alex@barnabrew.com – he’s an exceptionally bright and charming young brewer and I’m certain you’ll be nothing but impressed.

Alex owner of Barna Brew Craft Beer Company in Barcelona

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Brunch & Cake, Barcelona: What We’ve All Been Waiting For

Serving up a wholesome dollop of vintage Americana, Brunch & Cake is quite literally putting brunch on the map in Barcelona. And it’s about damn time…

Brunch & Cake, Carrer Enric Granados, 19, 08007 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 00 28 72

The Vibe

Brunch, like most “modern” dining concepts, is only just taking off in Barcelona, but it seems to have hit the ground running. Located in the upscale area of Esquerra de l’Eixample, this bright and fresh cafe-come-restaurant swarms with loud American girls in Lulu Lemon yoga pants and debonair men with dark features and light denim.

Thumbs swipe frantically at iPhone screens, planning days and nights of decadence in this balmy metropolis. And with seating built into the window frames, and a small, exclusive row of outdoor tables to pose at out front, it’s clear that Brunch & Cake is a place to see and be seen.

Inside Brunch & Cake in Barcelona

The welcome is warm and familiar, with an effortless air of cosmopolitan sophistication: the hostess happily flits back and forth between Spanish and English. This sort of customer care is rare in Barcelona, and I like it.

The Food

The menu, too, is available in English, with Sweet Happiness, Big Salads, Bread & Eggs, and Brunch Classic Revisited vying for your attention in American typewriter font. Our coffees arrive: the (more expensive) flat white looks and tastes exactly the same as the cafe con leche – some things, I fear, will never change here in Barcelona. I already know I will need another…

French toast at Brunch & Cake in Barcelona

My French toast arrives and, as predicted, it looks more like an ice-cream sundae than a simple eggy-bread feast. It’s dripping in a sort of crème anglaise sauce that’s been caramelised with a blow torch. A dollop of dark berry compote bleeds out and my teeth ache just from looking at it. Inside, the bread is soft and cool, not toasted, and I devour it all in five sticky forkfuls.

Bacon, creamy-mashed potatoes and greens bagel with wild mushrooms and scrambled eggs. Brunch & Cake Barcelona

I turn my attention to Sylvie’s bacon, creamy-mashed potatoes and greens bagel with wild mushrooms and scrambled eggs. I’m allowed ‘one taste.’ It’s salty and sweet and everything you could wish for from your lavish Sunday brunch.

Eggs benedict with turkey and waffles at Brunch & Cake Barcelona

Zoe’s eggs Benedict with turkey on waffle looks like heaven on a plate and again I melt into a chasm of culinary envy…

Verdict

Great service, fantastic location, solid brunch menu (with healthy options available too) – there’s not much to groan about at Brunch & Cake… apart from the coffee, perhaps.

Address: Brunch & Cake, Carrer Enric Granados, 19, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Phone: +34 932 00 28 72
Nearest Metro Stop: Passeig de Gràcia

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Andina Restaurant Review – Shoreditch, London

Andina is the new sister restaurant of my favourite restaurant in London: Ceviche. However, it seems she still has a way to go before she grows into her looks.

Andina Peruvian Restaurant Review Shoreditch London

The Vibe

Inside, the decor is clean and bright with pops of colour and the warmth of Peruvian textiles. Clearly a lot of love has gone into its understated design. It feels much more like a cafe than Ceviche does, which works better, I think, with its wider brunch and lunch menus. But if I’m honest, and I say this with a heavy heart, I feel it lacks the soul and seductive charms of Ceviche, where you are instantly transported to Lima upon entering.

Andina Peruvian Restaurant Upstairs Interior Shoreditch London

The crowd here is starchier and less worldly than that of Ceviche, with groups of business men in suits and rowdy girls dolled up for heavy sessions out on the town. And the Latin grooves that pulsate through Ceviche were nowhere to be found at our table on the basement level.

The Food

Instinctively, we ordered pisco sours to start with. These zesty little cocktails are made by blending egg whites with lime juice and pisco (a fruity brandy). They certainly didn’t disappoint, although they didn’t taste as good as they do at Ceviche, where the hypnotic music enhances the overall experience.

Pisco Sour at Andina Peruvian Restaurant London

To start with we ordered the mini pork chicharrones – although they didn’t arrive until after we’d finished our main dishes. These zingy little cubes of crunchy pork are served with a sweet criolla and rocoto salsa, fresh coriander and a mild chilli sauce – easily my favourite dish of the meal (if only you could buy a main course version).

Mini Pork Chicharrones: with salsa criolla and rocoto  chilli sauce

We ordered the weekday lunch set menu, which at £9 offers peerless value for money. The Ceviche Andina was equally as fresh and flavourful as the one they make at Ceviche, and the spicy, zesty tiger milk marinade was plate-licking good.

Ceviche Andina Shoreditch Peruvian Restaurant

The quinoa burger, which is quickly gathering legendary status, was rich and meaty in a nutty sort of way. Served with kiwi and a chilli mayonnaise, this tasty little veggie burger is enough to turn even the most diehard of meat fiends.

andina quinoa burger Shoreditch London

The Service

Similarly to Ceviche, Andina’s staff is young and informal, running around and shouting to each other in Spanish. We were served by two or three different people, all sincere and eager to please, although we did have a few glitches. Understandably, if you order the Ceviche Andina, they bring it to you as soon as possible, ensuring you get to enjoy it at its freshest. However, it came before our ‘nibbles’ and our drinks, and was long gone by the time we received the accompanying dishes. Nevertheless, the quality and depth of flavour still put a huge grin on my face.

Sacha Inchi Green Beans, Andina Restaurant Shoreditch London Thick-Cut Chips with  Huancaina Sauce Andina Peruvian Restaurant

The Verdict

For an authentic, out-of-this-world Peruvian dining experience, you won’t be disappointed at Andina. The food is unpretentious and expertly crafted with a healthy dash of Latin love. But for sheer culinary seduction and an electrifying atmoshphere, my vote still goes to the ol’ faithful Ceviche.

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9 Reasons You Need to Go on a Devour Barcelona Food Tour

I was lucky enough to be invited along on one of Devour Barcelona’s first food tours here in Barcelona. As the sister company of the wildly successful Madrid Food Tour, my hopes were high. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed… 

Devour Barcelona Food Tours Gracia

I’ve always thought that the best way to get acquainted with a new culture is to study its cuisine. And wandering through the enchanting streets of Gracia, Barcelona’s darling neighbourhood, eating and drinking … well, that’s the kind of studying you can do all day long!

Whether you’re visiting Barcelona for the first time and want to get off the beaten path, or you live here full-time and are looking for a fresh perspective, Devour Barcelona Food Tours are a delectable and intriguing way to do it. Read on to find out why!

1. Because Who Doesn’t Enjoy a Champagne Breakfast?

Catalan butifarra sausage sandwich and cava for breakfast in Gracia, Barcelona - Devour Barcelona Food Tours

OK, OK, in Spain it’s called cava and not champagne, but it’s actually the same decadent drink of your dreams. In fact, Catalunya produces the bulk of the world’s cava, and here in Barcelona, when it’s served with a few sliced butifarra (Catalan sausages) in an oven-warm baguette, it is pure and unadulterated pleasure. Continue reading

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La Vermutería del Tano (Gracia): Barcelona’s Classic Vermouth Bar

Tucked away on a sunny backstreet in the charming neighbourhood of Gracia, you’ll find La Vermutería del Tano: a time warp and one of Barcelona’s best vermouth bars. 

La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

At the bar in Barcelona's best Vermouth bar: La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

This living museum is a remnant of the good ol’ days and has been serving home-brewed vermouth since before the local hipsters who are leading the resurgence were even born!

The Vibe

Drinking at At the bar in Barcelona's best Vermouth bar: La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

The atmosphere is warm and familiar, with a mix of sun-soaked locals propped up at the bar and groups of friends sitting at heavy marble and iron tables. Antique clocks and wooden wine barrels grace the walls and vintage posters hang where they have hung since they were new. Everyone seems to know each other, shaking hands and adding to the jovial soundtrack with crescendos of “Hola guapo, que tal?!” and “Adeu! Fins demà!

The Vermouth at La Vermutería del Tano

La Vermuteria del Tano - Gràcia - Barcelona, Spain

Mariesel, the bubbly bartender on shift, explained humbly that: “Our vermouth is not like Martini, eh, it’s our own house brand.” And when she cranked open one of the small wooden doors of the giant fridge, which looks like a navy ship’s engine furnace, a row of industrial-looking canisters were revealed in all their glory. She hesitated, stopping for a moment to stroke her chin before making her considered selection and pouring us two small glasses.

It tastes sweet and slightly spicy, and as Mariesel so eloquently told us: “It goes down very well, but be careful with the second one!” Needless to say, at only €1.60 a glass, you’ll be needing all the advice as you can get by the end of your visit.

 Food

Catalan food and tapas at At the bar in Barcelona's best Vermouth bar: La Vermuteria del Tano Gracia Barcelona

The bar is stocked with a small selection of classic tapas dishes: olives with anchovies, cockles and muscles. Remember, this is a place to enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif, not a restaurant.

Make it Happen

Swing by for a pre-dinner aperitif at around 7pm. The bar starts to really pick up at around 8pm. Drink vermouth, eat tapas, and discuss your dinner plans in style.

La Vermutería del Tano is particularly lively on the weekends, when it fills with revellers who come to warm up for a day of serious drinking and eating. I believe this is what they call living the good life.

Address: Carrer Joan Blanques, 17, 08012, Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Joanic (L4)
Opening Times: Tues – Friday 09:00 to 21:00, Sat and Sun 12:00 to 16:00
More Info: www.facebook.com/VermuteriaTano

Words and photos by Ben Holbrook 

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