It's approaching Saturday lunch time. I had a night with no sleep, which was followed by a much happier breakfast in bed with the sun streaming through the windows. I forced myself out for a long run, looking forward to the sun shining on my face. This was not to be. As soon as I arrived at the park the heavens opened and the wind tried to blow me many, many miles away. I have returned home, bedraggled and exhausted, dreaming of the blue skies and sun we saw only a fortnight ago in Barcelona. It seems like it was months ago. And all of a sudden I have a craving for another Saturday lunch at Can Maño.
From the outside it doesn't look nondescript, it looks unappealing, it looks like the kind of place were you peer in to the fogged up windows and see the plastic tables crammed together, the crumbling ceiling and floor, the chairs which have been there for longer than I've been alive (and not in a good way). The kind of place where you stick your nose in before turning to the person standing next to you and telepathically agree to keep walking. However, this is Barcelona, this is Spain. And if there is one thing we learned on our short trip, it was that a sleek, chic restaurant does not mean good food. I think, in his role as economist, B has drawn a graph in his mind which shows this relation between décor and food, and according to that, this restaurant was going to be one of the best. It was.
In many of the reviews we had read it had said that this place did not welcome tourists; that the service was unpleasant and abrupt. Sounds perfect. We were shoved up against the wall, a menu thrown down, and drinks plonked next to us. A beer for B. A bottle of wine for me. I asked for a glass and was a little taken aback when he bought me a bottle. I looked around. Everyone else had a bottle. It's a dangerous system: he gives you a bottle, you drink what you want, and he estimates how much that is. The whole bottle is only €4.50 so it's never your wallet that will suffer. Just you.
Locals filled the rest of the tables, which were adorned with water glasses (no sign of wine glasses here - far too much of a faff), and plates and plates of fish and sea food. So we followed suit, trying our best to imitate their orders, trusting that the regulars knew best.
Fried aubergine and peppers appeared first. Any nutritional value removed in the cooking process. They tasted so good that I soon got over my neurotic watch on vitamin intake. A plate of six sardines, perfectly aligned, staring up at us, immaculately shining, beautifully simple, drizzled with a parsley butter sauce. Alongside them, a mackerel, cut open brutally, yet perfectly down the middle, baring its heart to us, covered in the same speckled green sauce. There was little conversation as we ate, working our way round the bony fish, eating every scrap of flesh, desperate to not miss a single mouthful. Eventually we were left with just a pile of bones, very full stomachs, and a smug feeling that we had discovered a miracle. And a slightly sad awareness that we wouldn't be eating as well as this for a very long time.
Highlight: the freshest of fresh fish. Oh, and the added bonus that the bill only came to €17.