We’ve lived in Terrassa, Spain for almost year now and on the rare occasion do we actually make the effort to go to Barcelona. It’s not that we don’t have an interest, because who wouldn’t want to experience the magic and mystery of the winding medieval streets and small boutique shops that change as quickly as the tourists who peruse them, but the amount of time it takes us to get in and out of Barcelona by train and foot from our little (little is relative when compared to Barcelona) town is approximately two hours. Therefore, when we strap on our walking shoes, put our cameras in our bags, and prepare ourselves for the journey, we do so with the unspoken agreement between us that we are required to eat or drink something we’ve never had before, making the experience both memorable and exciting.
El Xampanyet was an experience we’ve chalked up to a great representation of traditional and authentic cuisine from Barcelona. Last Friday night, as the Mediterranean wind gently dried the enormous drops of sweat beading our necks as tourists bustled past us, we walked through the cobblestone labyrinth of the Ribera Quarter to the crowded and boisterous bar owned by Joan Carles Ninou. Founded in 1929 by Joan Carles’ grandfather, this family run bar has gained an international reputation for their house-cured anchovies and cava.
What makes this bar so special, or so I believe, is the perfect blend of history, authenticity and quality. There are hundreds of bars that could boast of the same rich history, where one’s family has run their small traditional Catalan bar the same way for centuries, constantly vigilant to preserve their history and culture, but few will have Joan’s charm as he asked to take our photo over the pathetic skeletal remains of the perfectly cured anchovies he himself prepared, nor will they provide you with a great house cava that may not be the cheapest house cava in Barcelona, but it will be worth every cent you spent on it. The bar doesn’t claim to have the best food, wine or service, El Xampanyet is busy and completely packed because they do what they do best, run a traditional family business serving homemade wine and food from the hands of the family that served the very first anchovy.
Will we go back and visit Joan again? I hope so. Although there are zillions of other bars to experience in Barcelona, I hope our paths will cross again in the future, if nothing else than to see Joan’s caterpillar like eyebrows jump up and down as he entices us to another glass of cava and plate of anchovies!