Barcelona’s tapas bars lure sen­sa­tion-seek­ing chefs

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - Ju­dith Elen

TOURS of duty: Si­mon John­son, pur­veyor of food treats and sta­ples across the coun­try, is just back from two work­ing plea­sure trips. He chat­ted with FoodDe­tec­tive within days of his re­turn from New York; be­fore that he was at Barcelona’s bi­en­nial food fair, Al­i­men­ta­ria. Spain, it seems, is the flavour of the mo­ment. John­son tells De­tec­tive, ‘‘ You would run into ev­ery­one (in­clud­ing chefs Sean Con­nolly and Frank Camorra, cheese­man Will Studd) at the fair and go­ing to the same restau­rants.’’ Tapas bar Inopia, he says, is the Barcelona buzz.

‘‘ Tra­di­tional tapas bar Cal Pep has a long his­tory,’’ John­son says, ‘‘ but it’s just churn­ing the food out and, un­less you have a good grasp of Span­ish or are with a lo­cal, it’s all tourist dishes.’’

Inopia serves tapas with a twist: a whole sheep’s-milk cheese that you eat by dip­ping cros­tini into it, or ‘‘ tiny, tiny baby squid flashed through a pan, with their ink’’ and Iberico ham that is not aged but fresh and salted, then poached (like Paris ham); with fat mar­bled like wagyu, it’s served with oil and smoked paprika.

Al­bert Adria, brother of El Bulli’s Fer­ran Adria, is Inopia’s owner and chef. John­son also ate at El Bulli: ‘‘ Thirty tiny cour­ses, which came quickly and were de­li­cious and per­fect.’’ And only one with foam: a fish topped with aroma-packed elder­flower foam. www.al­i­men­ta­ria-bcn.com; www.barinopia.com; www.elbulli.com. ■ SERGE Dansereau, of The Bathers’ Pavil­ion at Syd­ney’s Bal­moral Beach, has also been out and about. He vis­ited his home town, Mon­treal, and later met up with John­son in New York. Dansereau tells De­tec­tive he trav­els in search of ideas and says just three days in New York was enough to in­spire. The big thing there is or­ganic and bio­dy­namic: the huge chain Whole­foods (with eight wheels of Reg­giano in the cheese sec­tion and a 20-chef Ja­panese restau­rant inside the main store) has about 100 out­lets. The pair ate at Lupa, Balt­hazar, Bou­chon and big-night-out Chanterelle, where the hand­writ­ten menus gave Dansereau ideas for home. www.batherspavil­ion.com.au. ■ IN New York, John­son was lured by home­ware venues such as The Con­ran Shop and thinks he may go down that path with his stores here; if peo­ple don’t want the things he brings in, he says, he will just keep them. www.si­mon­john­son.com. ■ CHEF Camorra of Melbourne’s MoVida flew out last week­end, headed again for the land of his birth, Spain, in search of in­spi­ra­tion. His favourite ad­dress in Barcelona? Also Inopia. The tapas bar has a quirky sense of hu­mour, he tells De­tec­tive ; it’s ev­i­dent in an en­trance wrapped in red tape and ec­cen­tric, shouted an­nounce­ments when a dish runs out. www.movida.com.au. ■ THE coun­try is aglow with Starlight, with the launch of this year’s Starlight Chil­dren’s Foun­da­tion’s Five Chefs Din­ners. Ev­ery year 600,000 chil­dren, many with lifethreat­en­ing con­di­tions, are ad­mit­ted to Aus­tralian hos­pi­tals. Starlight aims to work with all th­ese chil­dren (it’s now one in three) by 2010. The fundrais­ing din­ner se­ries, launched in Syd­ney last week, will con­tinue in Bris­bane, Melbourne, Perth and Ade­laide. Go­ing into ac­tion at Syd­ney’s Four Sea­sons Ho­tel, the five chefs do­nated their en­er­gies, whip­ping up a con­fit of Pe­tuna trout ( Luke Man­gan of Glass), scal­lop ravi­oli with cele­riac cream (Melbourne’s Guy Grossi, Grossi Florentino) and duck omelet with broth ( Peter Evans of Hugo’s). Four Sea­sons’ Carl Mid­dle­ton slow-roasted New Zealand veni­son and served it with al­mond but­ter, beet­root and tex­tured choco­late. And Justin North ( Be­casse) did a trio of lush desserts. Ev­ery­thing was do­nated, from the tal­ent to the venue, food, wine and prizes. The ef­fort raised about $600,000. Bris­bane’s din­ner is on Tues­day at Sof­i­tel Bris­bane, with a kitchen pha­lanx that will in­clude Restau­rant 2’ s David Pugh and Rus­sell Arm­strong of Seasalt at Arm­strongs. Melbourne’s turn comes around at Grand Hy­att on June 19. Sher­a­ton Perth will be the host on Au­gust 7 and, fi­nally, Hy­att Re­gency Ade­laide on Au­gust 28. www.starlight.org.au. ■ CHEESE ground­breaker Studd, in his usual gen­er­ous style, do­nated no-holds­barred cheeses for the Syd­ney din­ner, in­clud­ing a 500g round of triple cream Rouzaire Bril­lat Savarin for ev­ery ta­ble. De­tec­tive chat­ted with Studd on the steps of the Four Sea­sons af­ter the do and be­fore he set off the next day to join Tet­suya Wakuda on the big Ja­panese cheese hunt ( Food De­tec­tive, May 24-25). Studd says the two have been talk­ing about the trip for years. It will form a seg­ment in Studd’s Cheese Slices, which is be­ing filmed for the LifeStyle Chan­nel and will air later this year. So, al­though Wakuda will be lead­ing the way in Ja­pan, Studd is the orig­i­nal mover and stir­rer. The new se­ries will visit cheese­mak­ers in Eng­land, Sar­dinia, Que­bec, the US, Por­tu­gal and Cyprus. ■ AF­TER last week­end’s suc­cess with their grow­ers mar­ket at Bris­bane’s South Bank, Gran­ite Belt Wine Coun­try or­gan­is­ers are hop­ing to bring the Gran­ite Belt Grow­ers Mar­ket to town ev­ery sea­son. Michelle Cozzi tells De­tec­tive GBWC is 1000m up and even though it’s in Queens­land, it has sea­sons. With Au­gust and Novem­ber mar­kets in mind for this year, spring and sum­mer pro­duce will be on of­fer. Queens­land food writer Kerry Heaney re­ports on her blogspot that at the mar­ket’s first out­ing some stalls sold out by 11am. www.gran­ite­beltwinecoun­try.com.au. ■ PI­ETRO Demaio, Cal­abrian-born slow food afi­cionado, food pro­ducer and au­thor, will be guest of hon­our at a four-course lunch at Melbourne’s Grossi Florentino. Chef Grossi is de­vis­ing the menu and there’ll be rem­i­nis­cences and recipes. Lunch­ers will leave with a signed copy of Grossi’s MyI­tal­ianHeart and Demaio’s Pre­serv­ing theI­tal­ianWay. June 18, 12.30pm. $100 (or $95 for Slow Food Melbourne mem­bers). (03) 9662 1811; en­quiries@grossi­flo­rentino.com. ■ CASA Bar­illa, the new cook­ing school in Syd­ney’s An­nan­dale, is of­fer­ing read­ers 25 per cent off its cour­ses in June, July and Au­gust. Classes in­clude seafood, bak­ing, fresh pasta mak­ing, Ital­ian re­gions and more. From $85. www.bar­il­laaus.com/ recipes/school/cour­ses. The first 25 to email casabar­illa@bar­illa.net.au with ‘‘ Travel & In­dul­gence Of­fer’’ in the sub­ject line will re­ceive the dis­count. ■ FIND of the week: Six gen­er­a­tions of the Paech fam­ily have worked at Beeren­berg Farm at Hah­n­dorf, South Aus­tralia, and they are still com­ing up with fresh ideas. The latest are fig and cin­na­mon jam, straw­berry and mint jam and orange and pop­py­seed mar­malade, all nat­u­ral and made on the farm. About $4 from su­per­mar­kets. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loathes: Pre-packed fresh salad leaves that aren’t. ■ DE­TEC­TIVE loves: The LifeStyle Chan­nel’s down-on-the-farm re­al­ity show Jimmy’s Far­mDiaries. Jimmy Do­herty re­claims a derelict English farm and sets out to raise rare-breed pigs; a gag­gle of Wes­sex sad­dle­backs roam­ing free in the for­est is a sight to see. First ad­ven­ture in the third se­ries on June 8, 7.30pm. www.lifestylechan­nel.com.au.

Get­ting ideas: Serge Dansereau

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