Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Restaurant Review: La Barra de Traddiction, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

We're just back from Gran Canaria, having spent a very pleasant week away. Travelling avec child (Zosia is 9 months and counting) can be a bit of a nerve jangler, let me tell you, but all in all it was a lovely time, made all the lovelier by the fact my parents were on hand to watch the baby monitor while we slipped out for some nice food of an evening, such as that which I shortly will begin describing to you.

I often wonder whether it's preferable in the long run to actually have a proper regional or national cuisine (like the French or Spanish, or most countries for that matter) or not (like us knackers in Britain). At least doing so means that there will be a core canon of dishes which most people understand, and that your average food-imbiber has some general knowledge of ingredients, techniques and so on. On the other hand, it can also mean that one restaurant is much the same as the next, weighed down a little by the demands of tradition. Baseline standards of nourishment may still be cataclysmically shit in Britain, but if you seek out the good stuff it's at least likely to be eclectic and varied.

So, in Gran Canaria we ate a fair amount of papas arugadas (potatoes cooked in salt water until it forms a crust on their skin, served with pokey red or green mojo, a vinegar-based sauce), ropa vieja (chickpea stew with beef), jamon, croquetas and so on, as you do. But we also visited a simple but fantastic fish restaurant where you pay by the weight before they hoy it on the plancha and found delicious, unusually sweet morcilla, made with almonds, in a pretty inland village restaurant. For our holiday treat, I consulted the Michelin Guide of all things, to find somewhere that was taking a slightly more irreverent approach to Spanish and Canarian cooking, and that somewhere was La Barra.

We turned up unfashionably early (they don't open til 8pm), but it was as well we did, as all the tables in this neat little place filled up sharpish. Down one side is the kitchen/bar in front of which you can sit if you like. The place is decked out in fun cartoons and light woods, with spotlights over the table meaning even those with fading eyesight should be properly able to ogle their plates. The lovely waitress spoke no more English than we did Spanish, so we wrestled a bit with Google Translate before settling on what sounded like a fun line-up.

Pan  con tomate
Pan con tomate was certainly the most straightforward dish of the evening, just nice light bread rubbed with decent tomatoes. I have to say, Canarian tomatoes didn't blow me away; maybe it never gets hot enough - the temperature is pleasant all year round - to produce really banging toms, I don't know.

Berenjenas asados a la parmesana y globa de mozarella
Next up, something altogether more fun. More foods should be served in balloon format, as the mozzarella was here, although it looked better inflated than when popped, after which it had something of the used johnny about it. The star of this dish were some delicious nuggets of grilled aubergine and a sensationally rich and savoury paste, possibly made with tomatoes, that had a miso-like tang to it.

Tartar de remolacha
Beetroot tartar was a nice riff on the interplay of sweet, sour and savoury flavours. Sails of chicory stood comically upright in a bed of beets which had been marinated so as to emphasise rather than strip away their earthiness. Raw raspberries brought out their sweetness while blobs of creme fraiche calmed things down. This was light, carefully seasoned and very tasty.

Pan bao de pato teriyaki con cremosa de foie; Pan bao de panceta de cerdo con mojo verde
There was a section on the menu for bao, so we had to try a couple. A teriyaki duck effort came with a seperate pot of foie gras cream for the diner to apply themselves, which was wildly rich and livery. The saltiness of the pancetta job was cut by the acid from one of those traditional mojo sauces. In both cases the buns were that nice balance between floaty light and stodge.

Croquetas de jamon iberico
 Things got insanely, dangerously rich with the next two dishes. Hot crisp croquetas of fine bechamel were served draped in serious jamon, rather than it being chopped into their innards. The ham fat melted to a glistening sauce. Phwoar, etc.

Albondigas con calamares
Meatballs of, possibly, pork and veal, were cloaked in squid ink, then scattered with almonds and tiny chipirones. Neither of us were quite so keen on this, the meatballs having a slightly pallid interior and the whole business just being a bit too salty.

Papas "Arrubravas" La Barra
Their take on papas bravas was, on the other hand, superb. Tiny little spuds were partly hollowed out then filled with a fabulous complex spicy tomato sauce and topped with a disc of almost eggy aioli. Man, these were great.

Homenaje a la ambrosia Tirma
We shared a pud, "Tribute to ambrosia", mostly because we liked the name. I'm guessing "ambrosia" is some sort of Spanish biscuit? Anyway, it was pleasant enough. The Pedro Ximinez sherry we had with it was, however, superb, as dark as tar. In fact, all the wines, from a short list were nice, and reasonably priced.

This lot came to approx eighty euros, but we ordered enthusiastically. Service was great. I felt a bit like I was on The Trip when trying to look impressed and interested as the waitress reeled off whole screeds of descriptions that we would tragically never understand. The chef/owner is Angel Palacios, who is apparently a bit of a name in these parts.

Las Palmas was a fun place to be based for a holiday because it is an actual place, and therefore has restaurants like this. We drove past some of the more touristy spots darn the sarf of the island: not for me, thanks. If you're visiting Gran Canaria, I'd heartily recommend checking La Barra out. The food is fun and makes a nice change from some of the more staple dishes you'll be used to, but not ever by sacrificing deliciousness.


La Barra de Traddiction
Calle Joaquin Costa, 25
35007 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Phone:  928 93 97 03


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