Tuesday, 11th June 2019 – Los Caracoles, Barcelona
Tasked with finding restaurants to suit the colleagues with whom I was in Barcelona, I consulted the hive mind known as my Facebook friends and of the seven responses I got, all bar one of them suggested the historic hostelry known as Los Caracoles (or The Snails), so not knowing the territory, but knowing it was reasonably close to the Hotel Roger de Lluria where we were all staying I enquired about a table for 12, and got a positive response. This being Spain there was little point in chasing an early table, so a 21:00 booking it was. The hotel ordered us a couple of cabs as the weather was still pretty iffy at this stage, and we arrived in good order and good time to be shown to a table for 12 in its own alcove on one of the many levels of the building.
There was a certain level of “herding cats” about trying to get everyone to decide what they wanted, between 12 individualists with a handful of different languages between them, and the waiters who didn’t all speak English to the same level, but they were very patient with us, and eventually we got there, though H ordering a dessert (fruit salad) as a starter momentarily confused them. The wine list was nicely local and it was thrown at me to decide what we would have. I ordered a Verdejo for the white wine drinkers, and a Priorat for the reds and everyone seemed quite content with that.
I was very indecisive about what I wanted, finally settling on a tried and tested starter of cod fritters (or buñuelos de bacalao). I know I so often go for these, but I do love them if they’re done well, and although I can make them myself, it’s a great deal of effort and an awful faff, and then there’s the smell of deep fried cod everywhere afterwards. So the cod fritters it would be! They were tiny, and very soft, with a lightly crisped coat, not the same as the Portuguese versions I’m more familiar with, though they did pack quite a punch of chilli for something so innocuous to look at.
The Gazpacho being consumed elsewhere on the table looked pretty good and the eaters declared themselves satisfied so I have to assume it was all fine. No one was complaining, just eating happily!
And demolishing the bread rolls too.
The cold melon soup with Iberico ham ice cream looked very interesting but the weather was too cold for me to want to have a cold soup of any kind. It looked very pretty too.
Someone ordered snails, I think as a starter, thought it might have been a main. It would have been rude not to really. It was a hell of a lot of snails, that I do know, and with no special implements to extract them from their shells. Messy! So far, though, it was all going well, with some very nicely prepared and presented starters, plenty of wine, and very friendly and willing service.
For me things weren’t so good for the mains. I ordered one of the house specials, a dish of Spanish rice with rabbit and snails (not a paella, they were very clear on that despite it looking very much like one to me). The rice was very nice, well seasoned and cooked, the grains all still intact but soft. The snails were fine too, but some of the rabbit wasn’t too great, very bony, and quite dry. Other pieces were perfectly done, soft and tender, but there was no guarantee which I was going to hit next. I couldn’t finish all of it anyway, so I carefully tried to pick out the best bits of meat.
I know some of my colleagues had paella (this is the lobster version I think) and they seems to be enjoying it so I wasn’t going to make a fuss.
I know someone else had steak and chips (because there’s always one cautious eater in any group) and it looked pretty good. The fries looked crispy too, which is always important.
They came round after that and threatened us with dessert – some people opted for the obvious creme Catalan, but I reckoned I needed cheese. The cheese itself was in good condition, tasty as you would wish, but I was just slightly disappointed that the waiter didn’t know what the different cheeses were. I figured I’d never know. I shall also never know exactly what the chutney was either, though I suspect it of being quince. There are things we are not meant to know, and clearly that includes what cheese they serve in Lod Caracoles.
We were done now, and someone picked up the bill on there company credit card, simply because they were nearest when the waiter brought the reckoning. I would be paying the following day so that was all good.
Would I go there again? Probably not, unless it was for a quick lunch perhaps. It’s very touristy, and solid enough, but it didn’t excite me culinary-wise. The service was great, the bill wasn’t too high, but I’d just like a little more certainty in terms of the standard of food I’m going to get.
Outside we needed several cabs to get back to the hotel (no one wanted to try and figure out a walking route after all that wine and I certainly hadn’t yet got my bearings, so I was quite content to flag down a passing taxi). It was somewhere around midnight when we made it back to the hotel, so it was straight to bed. There was a great deal of work to get through in the morning.