Can Culleretes, Barcelona, Spain

Last year we visited Spain’s oldest restaurant, Sobrina de Botin. Today we are going to Spain’s second oldest restaurant (also Catalonia’s oldest restaurant), which I went to in 2004.

 

Can Culleretes

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Can Culleretes (basically “House of Spoons” in Catalan) in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona started out in 1786 as a dessert café (which is the most likely source of its name) serving crema catalana, chocolate, puddings, and horchata (tigernuts, water, and sugar). In the late 19th century Tito Regás purchased it and converted it to a restaurant. For the restaurant’s decor he had three large murals painted by Francesc Tey, hung large iron chandeliers, and hired famous Catalan ceramicist Xavier Nogués to create decorative panels. The result is a beautiful and restful space, perfect for a leisurely meal. In my opinion, too many new restaurants in Barcelona go for minimalist, sleek decor, which feels cold and boring. I prefer a warm, classic restaurant like Can Culleretes with a lot to look at.

 

Can Culleretes

photo by Enfo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35648909

 

Can Culleretes

ceramic panels by Xavier Nogués – photo by Enfo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35648911

 

In the middle of the 20th century Sussi Manubens and Siscu Agut took over the restaurant and still run it (with their children and grandchildren’s help). On the walls hang many photos of famous Catalan matadors, musicians, artists, politicians, and journalists who have visited the restaurant since the Manubens and Agut families took over.

 

Can Culleretes

photo by Dean Curtis, 2004

 

The menu is traditional Catalan cuisine. Specialties include pica-pica, a three course meal of steamed shellfish, fried seafood, and a grilled seafood platter, cassolettes de guisats (rich meat stews) such as civet de senglar (wild boar stew with onions) and perdiu a la caçadora (stewed partridge), botifarra amb seques (pork sausage with white beans), and escudella (Catalan soup).

 

Pica-Pica - photo via Can Culleretes' Facebook page

Pica-Pica – photo via Can Culleretes’ Facebook page

 

The restaurant takes pride in their hand-made desserts and I recommend trying their menu del dia luncheon, only €17.50 for three courses (starter, main, dessert).

 

Can Culleretes
Carrer d’en Quintana, 5, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Phone: +34 933 17 30 22
Open Tue-Sat 1:30pm-4:00pm, 9:00pm-11:00pm, Sun 1:30pm-4:00pm, closed Monday

 

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Los Caracoles, Barcelona, Spain

Last year I returned to Barcelona for the first time since 2004. The city I loved then has gotten better and better, with more dining and drinking options and more sights to see. I especially loved seeing some Modernist architectural wonders that I missed in 2004 as I concentrated on the most famous Gaudi sights on my first visit (I’m glad I did then because the lines were much, much longer this time). Highlights this time for me were Lluís Domènech i Montaner‘s astounding Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau (just opened to the public in 2014), both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And I braved the crowds to see the awesome interior of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, which is getting close to completion (due in 2026).

 

Barcelona

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

One of Barcelona’s oldest restaurants, Los Caracoles (aka Casa Bofarull) was opened in 1835 by the Bofarull family. Today fifth generation family member Aurora Bofarull runs the restaurant. Over the 180 years since it was founded, Los Caracoles (the snails) has attracted many celebrities, presidents, and other notables.

 

Barcelona

old postcard

 

Los Caracoles is located in the Gothic Quarter just off Las Ramblas. The outside corner of the restaurant features a chicken broiler visible through glass doors. If you stand there long enough you may see a chef come outside to baste the chickens. Once inside the door you enter the atmospheric bar with high ceilings, wooden cabinets and barrels, and a huge wrought iron chandelier.

 

Barcelona

bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

After passing through the bar you walk right through the kitchen!

 

Barcelona

kitchen – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

At the end of the kitchen the host escorts you to your table through a warren of dining rooms, each with their own historical charms. Photos are everywhere of famous Spaniards and people from around the world who have dined at the restaurant.

 

Barcelona

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Barcelona

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The menu is traditional Catalan/Mediterranean. Their specialties are snails, mussels, garlic prawns, beans Catalan style, butifarra sausage with beans and mushrooms, roasted chicken, steaks and chops, paella, and a large seafood platter. I opted for the snails, which are served in sauce and with toothpicks to dig out the morsels. Note these are not like the escargot you may have had in the US or France. These snails are smaller and the meat is dark brown to black and slightly chewy but tender. Not for the squeamish about snails!

 

Barcelona

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Note the cute snail shaped crispy bread!

 

Barcelona

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

For my main dish I had delicious butifarra sausage with beans. And for dessert some crema Catalana, which is a must when in Catalonia! Bon profit! (Bon appetit in Catalan)

 

Los Caracoles
Carrer dels Escudellers, 14, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Phone: +34 933 01 20 41
Open daily 1:00PM – 12:00 midnight

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Casa Ciriaco, Madrid, Spain

It’s been a while since I posted because I was in Spain for a vacation, but I’m back! While I was gone Le Continental turned four!

When I was in Madrid last year I visited three historic restaurants (and posted about them here, here, and here) but I didn’t have time for one of the oldest ones on my list: Casa Ciriaco. So on my recent trip I had a one day layover in Madrid and I made time to have lunch at Casa Ciriaco.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Casa Ciriaco opened as a tavern in 1897 (under a different name). In 1923 it was purchased by Pablo Muñoz Sanz and his brother Ciriaco Muñoz, who started the restaurant named Casa Ciriaco in 1929. The building was infamous for being the site of an anarchist bombing against King Alfonso XIII and his bride on their wedding day. The royal bridal carriage escaped harm but 15 innocent bystanders were killed and many injured.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The restaurant also became famous for its clientele in the 1930s preceding the Civil War, including journalist Julio Camba, artist Ignacio Zuloaga, matadors Domingo Ortega and Juan Belmonte, writer José Ortega y Gasset, and scholar of Basque culture, Julio Caro Baroja. Portraits of some of the famous people who have dined at Casa Ciriaco can be found on the walls of the homey comedor (dining room), which you enter through the swinging doors from the front bar.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The waiters are all veterans; fast and efficient but friendly. They reminded me of the waiters at Tadich Grill or Sam’s Grill in San Francisco.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The menu is classic Madrid cuisine. Specialties include perdiz con judiones (partridge with broad beans, seasonal), cocido (Madrid-style meat and chickpea stew) served on Tuesdays, cochinillo (suckling pig), and pepitoria de gallina (chicken fricassee in a sauce made with almonds and eggs), which dates back over 100-years and is the main dish that I chose for my menu del dia prix fixe lunch (always a good deal in Spain so I try to make it my main meal of the day). For a starter I had pisto manchego, a delicious vegetable stew similar to ratatouille.

 

pisto - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

pisto – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

pepitoria de gallina - from Wikimedia Commons

pepitoria de gallina – from Wikimedia Commons

 

For dessert I had arroz con leche (rice pudding).

 

arroz con leche - photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

arroz con leche – photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Reportedly Casa Ciriaco has an outstanding wine cellar with wines dating back to 1917 and cognacs as old as 1892!

 

Casa Ciriaco
Calle Mayor, 84, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Phone +34 915 48 06 20
Open daily 1:00pm-4:00pm, 8:00pm-11:30pm

 

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Boadas Cocktail Bar, Barcelona, Spain

Back in 2004 I was planning a trip to Spain to attend the incredible music festival called Wild Weekend, held in Benidorm every year until 2004, when I found a great online source of information about Barcelona called City in Space. The web site and companion book highlighted the best remnants of mid-20th century Barcelona, from art deco to tiki, and included restaurants, bars, hotels, theaters, and shops. Unfortunately, many of the places mentioned are now gone or remodeled, however some of the best happily remain, including all three tiki bars, the wonderfully Mod Tortilleria Flash Flash, and the oldest bar in Barcelona, Boadas.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2004

photo by Dean Curtis, 2004

 

I immediately fell in love with Boadas and it remains one of my favorite classic bars in the world. The history; the classy atmosphere; the well-dressed bartenders who can make any classic cocktail and probably every historic Cuban cocktail with just the right amount of flair. It was like no other bar in the world in 2004. Now there are many newer ones like it but without the history, the patina, and the neighborhood feel.

 

Boadas' flair - photo by Dean Curtis, 2004

Boadas’ flair – photo by Dean Curtis, 2004

 

A brief history: in 1933 Cuban-born Miguel Boadas opened his bar simply called Boadas in El Raval just off La Rambla in Barcelona, where it still stands. Although he was born in Cuba, his parents were from Catalonia. Miguel learned to tend bar at the famous El Floridita in Havana, owned by his cousin Narcís Sala Parera. The bar was frequented by many American celebrities escaping Prohibition, most notably Hemingway, and there Miguel learned the Cuban cocktail traditions and recipes, which he brought back to Spain in 1922, taking on bartending jobs in Barcelona until opening Boadas. The bar survived the Spanish Civil War, was enlarged and developed a clientele of famous Catalan writers artists, and celebrities. Today Miguel’s daughter Maria Dolores runs Boadas.

 

yours truly at Boadas - photo by Jeffrey Gouin, 2004

yours truly at Boadas – photo by Jeffrey Gouin, 2004

 

Cuba had a rich cocktail history in the first half of the 20th Century. There are dozens of cocktails that were invented at the bars El Floridita and La Bodeguita. The daiquiri and mojito are well-known, but there are many more that are less common. Boadas can make all of them. It is the only surviving bar with connections to the glory days of Cuban mixology. El Floridita bar still exists in Havana, and is definitely worth visiting, but it is a tourist attraction that can only serve you a popular cocktail like a mojito. Cubans don’t drink there anymore. All the original bartenders and the vast number of recipes they had knowledge of are lost to time, except at Boadas. They don’t have menus at Boadas, but on the chalkboard is a different ‘cóctel del dia’ every day, which are always good.

I’m excited to be going back to Barcelona very soon, and to be visiting Boadas for a cóctel del dia! Salut! (the Catalan toast)

 

Boadas
Carrer dels Tallers, 1, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 18 95 92
Open Mon-Thu 12:00pm-2:00am, Fri-Sat 12:00pm-3:00am, closed Sunday

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Casa Duque, Segovia, Spain

A while back Le Continental visited Mesón de Cándido in the beautiful city of Segovia, Spain. While it is a classic that dates back to 1931, Casa Duque is the oldest restaurant in the city offering cochinillo asado, roasted suckling pig, which the city of Segovia is famous for. Le Continental has discovered that Casa Duque and Mesón de Cándido are linked somehow, though it isn’t mentioned on the restaurants’ web sites.

 

image by Wikimedia Commons

image by Wikimedia Commons

 

Casa Duque was opened in 1895 by Feliciana Mate and Dionisio Duque and is still owned by the Duque family. Today Marisa Duque, great-granddaughter of the original founders, runs the restaurant with her family. In looking at historic photos of Casa Duque on their web site, one photo of the restaurant, then located on Plaza de Azoquejo next to the Roman aqueduct, looked familiar to me (the following photo).

 

historic photo by Casa Duque's web site

historic photo by Casa Duque’s web site

 

As you can see the building on the right has a sign stating “Duque de Gran Casa de Comidas”. The same building in fact now houses Mesón de Cándido! On that restaurant’s web site there is a similar historic photo of the same building which has signage that states “Mesón Casa Cándido” (I couldn’t download the photo but you can see it here in the center of second row). In examining the two photos, especially the cars, it seems to me that the photo above dates from the 1920s, while the photo of Mesón de Cándido dates from the 1930s or 1940s, which makes sense since Mesón de Cándido didn’t open until 1931. So, some time after 1895 Casa Duque must have moved from the plaza to its current location. (Little of this information is mentioned on the restaurants’ web sites.)

 

doorway from bar into Sepulveda dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

doorway from bar into Sepulveda dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

 

After entering Casa Duque one passes the bar and enters the Sepulveda dining room, which is the original dining room in the restaurant, through a beautiful carved wood doorway. I was seated in this dining room for my dinner. It was almost empty at the time (around 9:00 pm) as most locals eat their large daily meal in the early afternoon.

 

Sepulveda dining room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Sepulveda dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

 

The walls at Casa Duque are covered with awards, medals, historic photos, and bric-à-brac and the wood ceilings are magnificent. There are several dining rooms in this large restaurant. I took a couple more photos before my phone’s battery died (so I didn’t get any photos of my food. Note to self: bring a backup digital camera next time.). You can see more photos of the gorgeous dining rooms here.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

Sepulveda dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

San Millán dining room, a portion of the parish house of San Millán acquired and installed in 1995, the centenary of Casa Duque – photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

 

Casa Duque’s specialties are Segovian roasted meats, such as cochinillo asado and lechal asado (roasted lamb), both cooked in the wood fired oven. Another specialty is Judiones de La Granja Gran Duque, giant white beans grown on the family farm in La Granja stewed with partridge.

 

first course - photo by es.paperblog.com

first course – photo by es.paperblog.com

I went for the menú gastronómico, which was three courses: the first course was a sampler of chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), judiones (huge white beans), sopita castellana (Castilian soup), and a pork loin picadillo (a hash of chopped meat), followed by a large portion of cochinillo, and for dessert a piece of the Segovian specialty ponche Segoviano (layer cake).

 

I couldn’t possibly finish the first course because I had to save room for the suckling pig, which is roasted very simply so it had a pure pork flavor with juicy meat that melted in my mouth and a salty, crispy skin. Delicious.

 

Explore the inside of the restaurant:

 

Casa Duque
Calle de Cervantes, 12, 40001 Segovia, Spain
Phone: +34 921 46 24 87
Open daily 12:00pm – 5:30pm, 8:30pm – 11:30pm

 

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