Calle Carretas 18 – 08001 Barcelona Neighborhood: El Raval, Spain
After a week of eating traditional tapas plates: jamón ibèrco, pan de tomate and being served the usual generic restaurant hospitality, “classic Spanish plates” amongst mindless tourists hurrying to and fro, I grew utterly exhausted of eating touristy Barcelona food. I wanted something with more of a homemade feel. If I had to eat another freaking ham croquette…
A friend of a friend who was living in Barcelona recommended one of her favorite hidden gems, Lo de Flor. This place was seriously tucked away in a (somewhat shady) hipster neighborhood called, El Raval. During the day, this area has cute boutique shops and cafés, but at night you want to hold on to your purse, keep your iPhone hidden and hold on to the arm of your (hopefully male or butch) escort tightly.
Luckily, my 10 friends and I were not “Taken” that night (ala Liam Neeson’s fictional daughter) so I am able to share with you the details of what was probably my hands down favorite meal in Barcelona.
On her first day back from “Holiday”, the charismatic and 22-year restaurant veteran and food savvy owner Flor did not miss a beat. Her delightful energy permeated everything from the cuisine to the decor. Dim, romantic lighting and Spanish mood music tinkered over head as she weaved around the intimate gathering of patrons. She glided effortlessly from one table to the next, chatting and laughing with guests – behind the bar pouring drinks, in the kitchen, putting finishing touches on your meal. She was everywhere. The tables have a rustic, simple and wooden and you feel like you are in your rich Spanish grandmother’s house. Well, that is if grandma had a drinking problem (cue the fully stocked bar at the at the entrance).
Although she has a printed menu, it’s better if she tells it to you. And she does. The empty chair at the head of the table is finally explained as she comes over and sits down in it. She situates herself as if she was a member of your party, but then casually begins to explain the menu discussing the pros and cons of each dish. There is a collective conversation at the table and Flor begins to get an idea of what you and your dinner mates like and dislike. Then she proceeds to tell you what she has fresh that day, that everything comes locally from markets or is imported from specialty purveyors in Madrid. It ALL sounds amazing so you just give her free reign to bring whatever she thinks would knock your socks off… and it does.
Don’t ask for bread, no matter how hungry you are. Though the sliced crunchy baguette is very tasty, she scolds you to not ruin your appetite. Don’t take it personally, she’s doing you a favor.
Here comes Flor, systematically bringing out her arsenal; everything from hearty steak tartare to fancy imported cheeses from Madrid, fresh oysters, creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed market vegetables, homemade tomato soup, fresh, salty grilled herring, sun-dried tomatoes, cheesy eggplant lasagna, juicy Argentine steak… it just comes… and comes…
Let’s not forget the pâté.
The duck and goose pâtés are a perfect balance of creamy and buttery goodness. They are the kind of guilty pleasure that makes you fight with your table mates over that last greedy swipe of the bowl. There is no politeness here. Smooth, with a salty grittiness, Flor’s house-made pâté is easily spreadable like a good soft butter. It is a toe curling, lip-licking dish that would make anybody take a 12 hour plane ride back to Spain for another unadulterated romp. Simply divine.
The funny thing is, though I tried very hard to avoid it, we were in fact eating Spanish Tapas. The difference was, they were made by a skilled chef with locally sourced produce and an infusion of Flor’s genuine passion for life, love and food. Nothing about the meal was cookie cutter or felt watered-down. By the end of our infinite-course meal, it was a 4-hour long dinner. The best part was that her kitchen is a 6×6 square probably no bigger than my kitchen at home. How they prepare large quantities of these unique dishes is the real magic trick.
The romantic Barcelona air, expertly prepared food and unpretentious staff make it easy to have a sincerely pleasurable evening at Lo de Flor. Is it an underground supper club? No. But you feel lucky to have been there. When you come, don’t be in such a hurry to leave. Take in the ambiance, the great wines and allow yourself to eat until you feel so fat your date has to roll you into the cab. Don’t worry about calories, it’s Spain, you’ll walk it off tomorrow.
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