Chanoy Honeymoon: Valencia and Barcelona, Spain, October 2015

After nearly a month and a half on the road, it became clear that K and I were starting to tire. We’d been staying in a range of cheap Airbnb apartments – some better than others, but they were generally smaller, older, and dirtier than what we’re normally comfortable with. While they were fantastic in terms of allowing us to save money by cooking in, they didn’t offer the most comfort or luxury.

That’s why when we arrived in Valencia from Granada and checked into our hotel (Hotel Kramer), we decided to not even bother going out into the city. When you have a hotel room for one night, and the luxury of a large soft bed with clean white sheets, a large flat-screen TV and a clean luxurious bathroom with a rainfall shower, a night in relative comfort and luxury was all we wanted! So while we didn’t see the town of Valencia at all, I can highly recommend the luxuries of the Hotel Kramer, located a little bit out of the centre of town.

I can recommend the hotel restaurant (Kram Bar) for a tasty cheap meal though. It’s not a fancy restaurant, and is more like a modern pub with a selection of burgers, bagels and steaks, with sporting games showing on the various flat screen TVs (we saw Australia win their Rugby World Cup semi-final!). K had a burger (juicy meat patty with a runny egg yolk), and I had some grilled chicken and vegetables. Simple, filling, and less than 20 Euro for both of us with drinks.

After a night of hotel luxury, we drove onto Barcelona for a stay of a few days. Unfortunately as I’ve already previously mentioned, K was struck down with a flu and we didn’t get out as much as we would have liked. Instead we spent our first full day in our Airbnb apartment, K wrapped up in a blanket to sweat it out and watching cartoons on TV. On all the other days we were in Barcelona, we only ventured out in the afternoons for lunch and a little bit of sightseeing – mornings were spent with K having a sleep-in to try and give his battered immune system time to recuperate.

Still, illness didn’t spoil our trip too much. We had two really good meals at Jai-Ca and at Elche, and some good random snacks along the way, including a delicious sweet fresh fig pastry from the award-winning bakery Baluard. Most of the time though, I tried to feed K with food designed to improve his immune system – lots of orange juice naturally, some hearty soups, salads, etc. Thanks to our local supermarket for being extremely well-stocked!

We spent a full afternoon at the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral, brainchild of the eccentric visionary architect Antoni Gaudi. A hundred years after it was first conceived, builders are still working to complete the extravagant building. It’s well worth a visit if ever you’re in Barcelona – and make sure to pay for the audioguide and visits up the towers as well, as both are very comprehensive and really allow you to experience key aspects of this innovative building. I was a particular fan of interplay of light and colour in the building, a result of Gaudi’s careful consideration of how stained glass windows should be used to create a spiritual experience.

Other afternoons, we just spent time walking around the streets of Barcelona…which seem to largely be inhabited by English tourists, chasing the Iberian sun. Speaking of chasing the sun, I was surprised by Barcelona’s beaches. I’ve always heard a lot of positive things about how beautiful the beaches are, but they were a little lacklustre to my eyes. The beach itself isn’t particularly large, with barely 50 metres from the start of the beach to the water’s edge. It also wasn’t the clean, white sand that we get in Australia, and looked a bit dirty. Still, it’s probably still the best beach most English tourists will see unless they decide to come to Australia for a visit!

Overall, given that we were hermits in both Valencia and Barcelona, I feel that we didn’t give either city the amount of love and attention they probably deserved. Barcelona is worth another visit to explore other areas we didn’t get around to visit – perhaps we’ll come back when the Sagrada Familia has finally been completed and we can see it in all its glory?

Review: Elche, Barcelona Spain

In a country where every street will boast at least two restaurants geared towards tourists advertising paella for 14 Euro per person, it’s hard to know what’s genuine and what’s not. The best indicator is the size of the pan they use – do they use a pan large enough for paella for 20 people? In those cases, you know for certain that the paella is never freshly made to order, as they just pre-prepare large batches and dish it out once people order it.


I was determined to have a more genuine paella experience, and so spent some time researching Barcelona paella restaurants. One name kept popping up – Elche. While many people acknowledged that it wasn’t the cheapest restaurant around, it was held up as an affordably-priced traditional paella restaurant where all dishes are freshly cooked to order. That was good enough for me!


K and I went along to Elche one afternoon for lunch, and were seated right by the window in a restaurant that was much fancier than I had originally anticipated. Still, for a casual fine dining restaurant, the prices on the menu weren’t quite as extravagant as I thought they would be.


We started our meal with a bottle of sparkling water to share. The Vichy Catalan is the local Catalonian brand of sparkling water, and even the bottle proclaims its status as a product of Catalonia. The mosaic effect on the bottle is reminiscent of the colourful mosaic tiling (trencadis) that can be found all over Barcelona, most notably on the famous Sagrada Familia.


The complimentary starter at Elche is a foie gras mousse, served with slices of baguette. The soft foie gras was quite strong and livery, and won’t be to everyone’s taste. I thought it was quite delicious and more-ish though, and the only missing element was some crackled black pepper to top it all off.


A few different breads were delivered to our table to accompany the meal, but as much as I wanted to rip into them (freshly baked at a local bakery), I wisely decided to wait until we got our mains so as not to spoil my appetite. This ended up allowing me to use the bread to sop up the paella sauce and oil left on my plate, which just enhanced the fresh bread and really took it to the next level.

Verduras de temporada a la parrilla con langostinos, $8.90
Verduras de temporada a la parrilla con langostinos, $8.90

We shared an entrée – a Chargrilled Vegetable Platter with Prawns. Disappointingly, there were only four prawns offered on the plate, so we only got two small prawns each. Also disappointingly, the tomato was a little bit rotten inside and was in the process of going black, so we ended up just leaving that on the plate. The grilled eggplant and zucchini was excellent, but not enough to justify ordering the whole dish. I probably wouldn’t order this again.


If I could order this tapenade that came with the vegetable platter by itself though, I would! This tomato and olive tapenade was ridiculously more-ish in its saltiness and went well not just with the vegetables but even by itself on a bit of bread as well. There was real depth of smoky flavour in the tapenade, as though the ingredients had been roasted beforehand.

Paella Mixta Parellada Pelada, 16.40 Euro per person (min two people)
Paella Mixta Parellada Pelada, 16.40 Euro per person (min two people)

The piece de resistance of any meal at Elche is the paella though, and we had the Paella Mixta Parellada Pelada – a chicken and seafood paella (without shells). Unfortunately, you only get this not very picturesque photo, as I was much too slow with my camera and didn’t get a shot of the beautiful paella in its pan when the waiter brought it out for our inspection.

For the record, this is how the process works at a ‘proper’ paella restaurant: 1) order your paella (always a minimum of 2 people); 2) kitchen prepares and cooks the paella; 3) waiter brings it out to the table for your inspection; 4) waiter takes the pan away and dishes out the paella onto plates for you. So contrary to what we would normally expect, the paella pan is never actually left on the table for you – it’s always taken away and served onto plates!

For what it’s worth, the paella was quite delicious with super tender chicken thigh pieces and a good range of tender seafood. I did feel that it was missing something though to help lighten what was otherwise a very heavy dish – perhaps more herbs to add a lighter flavour, or even more peas which would have helped to give a fresh burst with every mouthful. That’s the only thing I would change!

Overall, I would suggest Elche as a good genuine paella restaurant in Barcelona. Non-paella dishes (entrees) seem to be a bit hit and miss, but the paella is pretty special and a much better option than any of the usual street-side paella restaurants. Here, you know that your paella is specially cooked to order for best results!

Elche is located at 71 Carrer de Vila i Vilà, Barcelona.

Review: Jai-Ca, Barcelona Spain

After our successful venture into tapas-dining in Sevilla at Duo Tapas, K and I were keen to make the most of our time in Barcelona and enjoy more tapas meals. Unfortunately, he was struck down with the flu during our time so we spent time recuperating at home and didn’t head out as much as we would have liked. Still, we managed to squeeze in a few good meals, and our tapas lunch at Jai-Ca in the Barceloneta district definitely was a highlight!

Recommended by our Airbnb host as one of his favourite restaurants in Barcelona, it came with a caveat – “you like seafood right?” Jai-Ca is known as a tapas restaurant that specialises in seafood, as the owner comes from a family of fishermen – a lot of their dishes come directly from the family fishing boat!


We started our meal with a few of the complimentary nibblies from the kitchen – a small selection of olives, gherkins and carrots pickled in a chilli sauce. The chilli was very subtle, but a nice addition as we hadn’t experienced many chilli flavours in our travels as it just doesn’t seem to be used as often in French and Spanish cuisine.

Cod Fritters, 5.50 Euro
Cod Fritters, 5.50 Euro

The first tapas dish to come to our table was fresh fried Cod Fritters – and it’s nice to see the cooks in the open kitchen preparing your tapas right in front of your eyes! These fritters had a lovely crispy batter and a soft centre, not unlike a croqueta but with a more rustic appearance. The cod mix was very well herbed and just that little bit cheesy as well. Absolutely delicious!

Spanish omelette, 3.80 Euro
Spanish omelette, 3.80 Euro

The Spanish Omelette was delivered with two slices of Barcelona’s famous tomato bread – basically just baguette slices soaked in a tomato salsa sauce. The omelette was really more like a slice of cake rather than a traditional flat omelette. Surprisingly, the multiple layers of thinly sliced potato all cooked through evenly without some of the mushy or overcooked parts that you might reasonably expect. A warning that the omelette is very eggy though, which may not suit all tastes.

Grilled squid, 4.80 Euro
Grilled squid, 4.80 Euro

The large grill with its dancing flames is a real highlight in the open kitchen. We ordered the Grilled Squid, and I completely fell in love with the delicate smoky charring on the tender squid. It’s with dishes like this that you truly begin to understand why seafood is the highlight of Jai-Ca, as this was absolutely the freshest squid you could find anywhere in Barcelona. The super tender and creamy flesh on the body required almost required no chewing whatsoever, while the squid tentacles were nice and crispy and crunchy. A winning dish all around.

Anchovy with fried fishbone, 2.40 Euro
Anchovy with fried fishbone, 2.40 Euro

The next dish we ordered was the Anchovy with Fried Fishbone, apparently the house specialty. While the two slices of anchovy were just as salty as you would imagine (it’s not for everyone!), the fish bones were absolutely delicious. Fried in a thin herbed and salted batter, these bones were super crunchy and tasty. I’m only disappointed that there were so few fishbones offered in the dish, as I could have easily eaten it all by myself without sharing with K!

Grilled prawns, 4 Euro
Grilled prawns, 4 Euro

We finished off our meal with another dish from the grill – two plump and juicy Grilled Prawns. With a bit of lemon squeezed over the fish, the marinated prawns were just delicious, bursting in your mouth with a strong ocean flavour. I’m not normally a fan of sucking prawn heads, but I did in this case as they were so fresh that you didn’t get that dirty savoury flavour that you would normally get with prawn heads.


Jai-Ca serves up some amazing tapas dishes. It’s not the cheapest restaurant around by any means, and you’ll find many other tapas restaurants for almost half the price. Don’t cheap out though – go to Jai-Ca because you will know for sure that the seafood you’re eating is by far the freshest you will find anywhere in Barcelona. I’d definitely go back the next time I’m in Barcelona!

Jai-Ca is located at 13 Carrer de Ginebra, Barcelona.