While making the most of a visit to Barcelona we went to check out El Quim de la Boquería, an emblematic tapas venue in one of the most vibrant markets in the world. For almost 30 years, Quim has been running a venue where chefs such as the Roca brothers or Ferrán and Albert Adrià come to eat lunch. “That is my big Michelin star; the fact that great gourmets come to eat”.

We sampled three specialities: a sauté made of five types of mushroom with egg and caramelised foie gras, garlic shrimp with a reduction of champagne and sprouted peas and, naturally, his famous fried eggs. “We use it as a logo because we defend fried eggs; we combine them with everything. I’m always telling customers that I’m willing to prepare them with whatever they fancy”. They are free range hens’ eggs that are brought from a farm in Calafat. “We’re always looking for quality so that the customer can tell the difference”. The fact is that for Quim the secret lies in simply using the best produce.

17 years ago he had a kind of culinary epiphany on finding out that in Via Veneto they were serving fried eggs with eels. It was a fabulous combination that he wanted to adapt to suit anyone’s pocket by using llanqueta, a tiny white fish found in the Mediterranean. The problem is that this sort of chanquete (an anchovy-like fish) is only caught during three months in wintertime because it needs very cold, turbulent water. One customer who was very disappointed because they were unable to try the star dish out of season asked him to prepare it for them with chipirones (baby-cuttlefish). Thus it was that the almost perfect substitute for the rest of the year was born even though Quim prefers the lighter, more balanced taste of the dish when it’s made with llanqueta.

La Boquería—and Barcelona in general—have changed immensely over the last 30 years, as has Quim’s place, too. The kind of clientele has thoroughly transformed; previously, they were locals whereas nowadays most of them are tourists. The world of gastronomy has also changed; for both better and worse, it has turned into a show.

Quim adores his unusual restaurant where he serves food that is real, simple but of excellent quality and where he works side by side with his son, of whom he is deeply proud. “I don’t have any Michelin stars, but I’m happy. I’ve got something that all chefs envy; I’ve got the world’s smallest restaurant with the world’s biggest storeroom”. For any lover of fine cuisine it’s a mandatory visit when passing through Barcelona.

www.elquimdelaboqueria.com

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