Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vegan eating in Barcelona

If you love hummus and you ever visit Barcelona, it's very important to remember one thing.

Hummus is not - repeat, not - pronounced 'hum-mus'.

Oh no.

Learn from my mistake. You've got to pronounce it 'hooomooos', and thus avoid looking like a total eejit in a supermarket while trying to describe how to make hummus with the two words of Spanish that you have - "Er, garbanzo? Limon? Er, make hum-mus with garbanzo?" - in an attempt to explain what you're looking for.

So how did I end up in a supermarket trying to learn how to pronounce hummus like a Spaniard?

In May, I spent a glorious week in Barcelona. I was there with my boyfriend Cormac and friend Fiona (and met up with other friends there) for the Primavera Sound festival, four days of live music at the Parc Del Forum, but I also managed to cram in a little sight seeing.

And lots of eating.

My lovely cousin, Jill, lives in the city with her boyfriend Dave, and we stayed with them for two days before starting our Primavera adventure.

We flew in late on the Monday night in Barcelona, lugged our suitcases onto the bus and landed at Placa Catalunya thankful that we had a bed awaiting us. Our first stop though on that humid night was the Irish bar where Jill was working, where nothing tasted as good as my first rum and coke.

After hugs, kisses, drinks and much catching up, we made it to Jill's apartment, and to bed.

Truly, nothing prepared me for opening the glass doors in our room the next morning and feeling the blast of heat that hit me, hearing the sounds from the street below and getting my first glimpse of the mighty Barcelona.

The city is big and bustling, but still retains that sense of 'laidbackness' that Mediterranean countries tend to have. It's the sort of place where people don't roll out of bed until noon, and stay up into the late hours eating, drinking and chilling out. I absolutely loved it.

As my birthday fell on the Thursday that we were there, I decided to have a little get-together with some friends at the funky vegan café Juicy Jones, which I had already scoped out with Jill and Cormac the day before.

When I eat at places like Juicy Jones I just want to weep - with excitement but also frustration that we have nowhere like this in Ireland. It was ridiculously cool - a *huge* menu, fresh juices, smoothies, sandwiches, salads, curries, was like vegan heaven. And the best bit? It was totally normal. Not some freaky 'vegan only place' or a crunchy hippy restaurant. Just a cool place to go grab a bite to eat. Amazing.

I went for the chocolate, banana and coconut smoothie and the incredible thali (Indian meal with a selection of items) - I had my compact camera with me, hence the terrible state of these photos, by the way!

It was so lovely eating with great friends (there were two veggies there besides me - hey Lauren and Sean! - as well as my friends, fellow food blogger Aoife I Can Has Cook and her boyfriend, Niall, Cormac, Fiona and Kim) in such a relaxed place.

A tip - if you eat at Juicy Jones, go for the 'menu del dia' - it's a three-course lunch for just €8. Bargain!

Eating vegan isn't difficult in Barcelona, thanks to vegetarian and vegan restaurants, but most of the time I did as I usually do, and ate in regular places. Due to the language barrier and my mis-reading one or two words, I ended up with egg in a stir fry once (I actually picked out the tofu and wiped off the egg! I was so hungry but too embarrassed to ask for another meal as it was my fault there was egg in it). I also ended up drinking some of a fruit drink with milk in it - who the hell puts milk in juice!?

Contains milk....deceptive. I never noticed the word 'leche', which means milk in Spanish. A definite lesson to read your labels!

Fresh fruit is absolutely delicious in Spain, so every morning - whether at home or eating out - I went for something like melt-in-the-mouth pineapple. Yum, yum, yum.

We did do some shopping for our self-catering apartment, but I ate the majority of my meals out due to being at the festival - and luckily enough, there was a vegan food stand in the (pretty small) catering area! You don't get that in Ireland, believe me.

I had to avert my eyes from the gloveless workers touching the food but hey, when there's vegan food, I've gotta try it. I went for the vegan burger, which was a vegetable patty on white hamburger buns with some salad - nothing outstanding but it totally hit the greasy-food spot. Fiona had a seitan 'beef' baguette which she said was really tasty.

It was the desserts that stole the show, however. Some of the best vegan desserts I've ever had. The only problem? I can't for the life of me remember what the name of the company that made them was....

I think that the key to the taste is the soya milk that's available in Spain. It tasted completely different to the soya milk here. Anyone know why?

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get vegan food in Barcelona, and I barely scraped the surface of the city. (I didn't, for example, get to go to Sesamo restaurant, which was recommended to me by Mary of Petite Treats and is supposed to be wonderful).

Between the health food shops....

The restaurants...

And the markets...

There is a lot to choose from. However, like in any country, not every restaurant will be able to cater for you perfectly. It's good to do your research before you go, look up the words for 'vegetarian', 'vegan', 'milk', etc in a good dictionary and learn some handy phrases to use in restaurants. Take advantage of the abundant fresh fruit and vegetables, and embrace the flavours and textures.

Above all: don't stress. You're supposed to be on holiday, so who cares if you can't get a 'perfect' meal every time? The key is enjoyment, and with a little research and preparation you can get that. And don't forget to see as many of the sights as you can. I'm already itching for my return to beautiful Barcelona.

And next time, I'll remember how to pronounce hummus.

Some more information on eating vegetarian and vegan food in Barcelona:

9 comments: said...

Awesome, Barcelona's very high up on my must re-visit list. I was last there when I was 13 & not even vegetarian so blog posts like this are super helpful. I'll definitely be checking out Juicy Jones. Also whilst I was travelling in Switzerland last year I bought a juice, took a big swig & realised it had milk in it - so gross but you're definitely not alone!

Adventures in Veg said...

Hey! Thanks for the comment :) I can't wait to go back - it's so lovely.

Glad I'm not alone in drinking juice-milk stuff - it's so bizarre isn't it?! Like you I thought it tasted weird and it was only then that I read the label. I remember years and years ago there was an orange juice for sale here that had dairy in it, it tasted similar.

Juicy Jones is super, you should definitely go. The desserts aren't amazing but are still really nice and not heavy at all. The thali is to die for!

Glauce said...

Glad you had an amazing time, I love Barcelona. Juicy Jones is amazing but I would have more suggestions for you, such as Gopal and a new vegan bakery :) Well, next time!

Adventures in Veg said...

Thanks Glauce! there will definitely be a next time. To be honest I was only in the city for a day properly as the rest of the time we were staying by the Parc Del Forum so next time I'll have more of a chance to really go and eat :)

Tea and Sympatico said...

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities, love it! Can recommend spending New Year there, have done it 3 times!

Lauren said...

I still think about that thali! We ended up going back really late one night and it was the only thing they were still serving. So tasty.

Vegan Miam said...


I really would love to go visit Barcelona because it's affordable to travel here. But here I am, in f-king Vienna for a month and half already.

Great post though!

xxx from Vienna

Shaheen said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip with us. I will have to keep all this in mind for when we travel to Barcelona, but first its Ghent.

And yeph I'll rememeber hoomoos

Velovegan said...

SO JEALOUS! I love Barcelona and haven't been there for years now... the only place I really knew was vegan was Maoz falafel so I ate mostly there, at the fruit market and from supermarkets! I really wish I'd known about juicy jones back then and other places mentioned by Glauce in her recent blog post... Although I don't know if those places even existed back then. When I get a new job, I'm SO going back to Barcelona and I'll go check out Berlin too!