Friday, 5 August 2011

Barcelona by Mouth

Earlier this week, I ate at Movida Acqui for the first time.

This Spanish restaurant in Melbourne, Australia is the latest outpost of chef Frank Camorra's popular series of Movida restaurants, the first of which is in an alleyway next to the wildly decorated Forum Theatre.

Movida Acqui has a more formal setting, being in the city's legal quarter; in fact, there's a fine view of the Supreme Court dome from its first floor premises.

I was soon enjoying some great tapas in the company of a bunch of travel-related people. A highlight was Movida's signature anchovy on a crouton, topped with smoked tomato sorbet. Other memorable items included the calamari sandwich, and artichoke heart filled with pigeon.

As good as the food was, we were there for a purpose - the launch of Camorra's new book (co-authored with Richard Cornish), Movida's Guide to Barcelona.

As the title suggests, it's a guide to the cuisine of the Spanish city which Camorra was born in. Leafing through its pages, what struck me at first was the attractiveness of the book itself. Though a paperback, it's bound in a sturdy bright orange cover with gatefolds at each end, one of which unfolds to reveal a multicoloured map of the city and its districts.

Given that it's filled with beautiful photos and longer articles, along with restaurant reviews, hotel reviews and practical information, Movida's Guide to Barcelona would function equally well as a coffee table book or a guide on the road. In fact, given the thicker-than-a-paperback heft and quality presentation, it's likely been produced with just that dual purpose in mind.

The longer pieces cover interesting topics which are a good read in themselves: 'A Brief History of Catalonia Through Food', for example, or a piece on the architectural highlights of Barcelona. 'The Essential Dishes of Barcelona' or 'Wine in Barcelona' would be handy reading in any city where Catalan cuisine is available.

The shorter reviews are sorted by district: El Raval, Poble-Sec, Poblenou, etc. Within these sections are short and snappy reviews of both restaurants (titled in blue text) and food shops (in red), with practical info such as opening hours and price ranges. There are some gems in here which are fun just to read about.

To give you an example, in the first few pages under El Raval I read about organic bakery Barcelona Reykjavik, the fading modernist Bar Muy Buenas, the century-old Ca L'Estevet, and the traditional eatery El Quim De La Boqueria in the lively La Boqueria Market ("Nobody raises an eyelid when a market porter sits down to a plate of tripe with a beer at 9am - he has been up for hours").

Movida's Guide to Barcelona is an entertaining read regardless of whether you're intending to travel to Barcelona. Mind you, if you are - and lucky you - this guide would be a great companion on a journey through its foodie possibilities. Camorra's final line in the book's introduction - "You have our permission to be swept away" - seems the perfect cue to plan a trip to Catalonia. 

Movida's Guide to Barcelona is published by Melbourne University Press, $32.99.