It was a Thursday afternoon. It was my birthday. 23rd. And I'd just received a job offer. And we'd just arrived in Barcelona. I'll tell you more about the rest of that some other time. But for now, I want to talk about that lunch.
About 2.30 on a mid-January weekday afternoon, El Kiosko Universal, tucked away in the corner of the sense-exploding space that is El Boqueria, is full. Well, not quite full. Being just the two of us they managed to squeeze us in at the bar. Top seats. Worth being just a two for. From there people point at the seafood they want, placed inside the counter, an aching glass pane away, and they cook it for you. And they cook it perfectly.
With a glass of wine and a beer in hand, we scanned the blackboards before settling for what we already knew we wanted: a large plate of our favourite Pimientos de Padrón, calamarcitos (squid) for me, and dorada (bream) for B. The pimientos went into the deep fat fryer (along with the chips) and came out blistered and burning. With a (generous) portion of sea salt scattered over the top, plus a little bit more for good measure, they were little nuggets of Spanish, green perfection.
Squid was then plonked in front of me in an appropriately abrupt Spanish fashion. With perfectly soggy chips underneath. Everything covered in parsley and oil. B's dorada was served identically. The whole fish had been cut down the middle, split perfectly in two. Just caught, just cooked, and served just like that. With seafood this good you can ask for nothing more. So we didn't. We drank and ate and smiled and admired. And I think it was the best birthday lunch I've ever had. I intend to return, again and again.