Barcelona is a dark beauty and to know her is to love her…..you have no choice….
She has an elegance and style that is breathtaking and dangerous……She is independent and strong, confident and challenging…..sultry and mysterious, when you think you know all there is to know about her she surprises you with just a little more…she is a drug and I am happy to be addicted.
It’s late evening and the sun is reluctantly bleeding into the West…. but not before giving its last heat to those of us perched on bleached roof tops in the heart of the city. I can see people on nearby terraces watching as the sun leaves and they begin to cast their thoughts to the night ahead and what excitements will unfold under the new city moon.
My apartment is on the roof of a 5 story building nestled in the labyrinth that is Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. It commands stunning views of Born, Barcelonetta, Orwell Square and the cold blue of the Sea that massages the sands of the beach…I love this city and she knows it. I know her lines and curves, her secrets and lies, her darkness and light. And…she knows me, each time we’ve met she has wooed and excited me…she knows my weaknesses and she plays on them….each time we meet she has something new with which steal my breath and my heart.
The early evening is hot…..I sit lazy on a old wooden chair on my roof – Lucky Strikes and Estrella on the small roof wall beside me, I rest my bare feet beside them in the ultimate act of laziness….
There is a fat, lazy pigeon on a roof-top 20 feet away that catches my attention… he stares at me…tucked in between a faded green bucket and some forgotten terracotta roof tiles. How long has he been watching me I wonder. He looks comfortable and at home in the heat of this Catalan dusk. I pull my feet off the wall slowly and sit forward on my chair…..I rest my chin on my arms and lean on the wall to get a better view and I match my new friends gaze.
We stare at each other….the bird and I for a while……I feel like a gun-fighter in an old Western Movie as I go eyeball to eyeball with the bird. My eyes narrow as I focus……ands in my head an imaginary camera moves rapidly between ever tightening shots of the Pigeon and Me…..this is a stand off….
But……I give up after just 30 seconds…. the pigeon wins this time and I slide back into my chair and suck down on the last of my Estrella Damm bored and hungry, the pigeon can have this victory..I have French/Peruvian bar I need to find tonight…..
I take one last long drag on the Lucky Strike before making a move into the City…
‘La Maison’ is a dive bar in the heart of The Gothic Quarter. It’s owner is a slim, pearl skinned Parisian, raven hair, ruby lips – she fell right off the pages of Vogue….she looks ridiculously out of place here…maybe that’s her angle….she’s aloof and confident, attractive.
The place is dusky, wooden, leathery…the colours are faded pinks and greens painted on bare plaster walls with myriads of hidden alcoves dimly lit by raw candles that bleed their wax to the floor..this could be somewhere in central Guatemala and she should be in Le Marais…she should not be here. The furniture is an amalgam of things bought, found and maybe ‘acquired’…nothing ‘fits’…there’s no formula to this place…in fact the whole joint is at 2 opposing right angles to itself….it makes no sense.
I love it.
The people are dimly lit shadows, mostly South American……Peruvian and Chilean maybe…but a few are Yanks on European adventures..loud and obvious. An accordion breathes from around the corner as the first of many beers hits the bar. I have to lean back hard to locate its origin and master and gaze upon a three-piece musical ensemble set up in a dark corner – accordion, guitar and cajon – The Buena Vista Social club these guys are not…but they are damn close and as they breath out Latin beats the lazing shadows begin to stir and move provocatively…their heavy alcohol Mojitos are forgotten on rickety tables for a few moments.
The Bar Tender is Peruvian – his name is Eduardo – he pokes at my arm resting on the bar cradling another Estrella. He slides a bowl towards me……
“This is my Grandmother’s Ceviche”
A small bowl of dark crimson liquid is laid down on the bar in addition to tall cold beers – it looks like a Persian rug, oils, acids and stock at odds with each other creating a rich tapestry on the surface….prawns and tuna…..coriander, tomato, lime, pepper…this turns out to be the most incredible ‘wet’ Ceviche I have ever tasted – this is what you get in this joint instead of dust infused bar nuts. Where have you been all my life I wonder…
Eduardo sports all the hall-marks of a South American Indian.. he is the Parisian’s partner…. previously in life but now only in business. His Grandmother’s Ceviche is heady, fresh, cool, punchy….this is the real deal and its only a bar snack.
“I’m gonna need more of this Eduardo”
“No problem, you want rice and plantains”?
I’m to giddy, the grin on my mug will be there for days. There is a point in time where your sensory planets align – all external factors that influence you are in perfect balance..its a rarity….where you are, who you are with, why you are where you are, what you are eating, what you are drinking, what you are listening to, what you are talking about….I’m in a perfect storm here and now and at its epicenter is Grannies perfect Ecuadorian Ceviche………Me 1 / Pigeon 0.
♠ Ceviche ♣
Prep time: 5 mins ♦ Cook Time: 2 mins ♦ Total time 5 ish mins ♦ Serves 2
♣WHAT YOU NEED♥
- 1 full ‘Light’ White fish – such as Sole or Plaice (cut into 1cm cubes)
- Juice of 1 lemon and 2 lime
- Fresh Coriander (roughly chopped)
- 2 fat spring onions (very finely sliced)
- White pepper and sea salt
- 1 tomato (seeded and diced)
- 1 small firey Red Chili finely sliced
- Olive oil the very best you can get your mits on)
♣HOW YOU DO IT♥
The rule of thumb with any Ceviche is prep, temperature and speed – your Ceviche needs to hit the plate when your ready to eat it – DO NOT HANG AROUND!
Add the white fish to a bowl and season with the white pepper, cling it and sling into the fridge
Combine the lemon and lime juice, some finely chopped coriander a teaspoon of salt and the sliced spring onion – this is your cooking liquor – cling it and sling into the fridge
Next its just assembly, in a large bowl combine the cooking liquor and the fish and gentle move them around together for no more than about 2 minutes – but watch the fish, the acids will make it firm-up and basically cook but you have to get it out of the cooking liquor as soon as that starts.
When the fish starts to get whiter and firmer remove it to another bowl leaving most of the cooking liqour behind – its done – then add the chopped tomato, a lug or two of olive oil and the chili before spooning onto plate and eating immediately.
This is a gnarley starter and is prep-able well, well in advance or as a main you can spin it up with a simple boiled rice
FANCY A BEER? TRY THIS: