As soon as we arrived to the Pueblenou neighborhood, I immediately felt removed from the hustle and noise of central Barcelona. Long avenues with minimal traffic made it an ideal place for couples to stroll, children to play ball, and families to relax al fresco at the streetside cafés.
This laid-back, easy beat carried us along to Can Recasens, a Catalan eatery recommended to us by Janel of Con Tomates. This girl knows her food and the description she sent (out of the way in poble nou, totally worth the trip. embutidos, quesos, vinos, amazing labyrinthine building, quality:price outta this world) had me picking up the phone to make a reservation.
The building itself was beguilingly beautiful. A procession of apples and oranges snaked along the rooms, Hansel-and-Gretel-like. Meats and cheeses hung in the entryway charcuterie as if arranged by a madcap artist planning an eclectic still life. Candles and low lamps cast a cozy light across the small tables, inviting soft laughter and intimate conversation. High shelves of Spanish wines slid into view, a fine nod to the building’s former life as a wine cellar from the early 1900s.
We were seated at a small circular table and perused the five-section menu, composed of salads, tostas, carpaccio, fondues, and cheese and meat boards. Regional cured meats and cheeses take the spotlight, and any meal would be incomplete without a basket of the traditional pa amb tomàque, or Catalan tomato-brushed bread. We were tempted by the tostas (like fuet topped with melted cheese or pesto, piquillo pepper and mozzarella), but in the end settled on a salad, the mixed meat-and-cheese plate, and wine from the Catalan region of Pendès.
The Taronja (Orange) Salad
First up—the Orange Salad, which came with orange segments, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, fried onions, and chili-infused olive oil. As travelers with too many croissants and carbs in our recent past, the mix of fruits and greens hit all the right notes. The pretty presentation and accompanying toast with olive tapenade didn’t hurt, either.
Partway through on the tabla mixta
Next up was the tabla mixta, a wooden board piled with shaved meats and cheeses. None of that 6-piece ensemble with a walnut here and a smear of jam there–this was the real deal. If ho-hum cheese plates make you wish you’d simply picked up a wheel of cheese at the nearest market, the one at Cans Recasens will prove that they can be a delicious way to eat your way around Europe. There was aged Gouda, creamy brie, a nutty cheese flecked with cracked pepper, Catalan fuet, butifarra, salchichón, and, of course, Spanish ham. Nor was there none of that two-bites-and-aw-geez-I’ve-already-eaten-my-share, either. We’d spear a piece of meat and discover a new kind hidden underneath. This tabla totally spoiled us with its abundance, and I’m afraid I will have to wait until I go back to even order something similar at a restaurant.
The restaurant gave Andres an honorary halo
Seated by a wine rack–this waiter knows what’s-what
Note the oranges and apples lining the stairs
That.Wine.Rack! We tried wine from the Penedès region
And what about the price? Our salad was €6, the tabla €15, the tomato-bread €3, and our glasses of wine less than €3 each. This brought our bill to 30 Euros–an amazing steal for the high quality of the food, generous portions, and the ethereal ambiance. (The huge tostas ran about €6.) This would have been notable in a small town, but in a large–and therefore more expensive–city like Barcelona, it is truly remarkable. This place is a gem, and my only regret is that I don’t live closer to it.
Rambla del Poblenou, 102