Monday, March 19, 2007

Sitges, Catalonia, Spain

The appeal of this seaside Spanish resort of Sitges goes back years, ever since it became a bohemian hang-out over a century ago. More recently, this town has been attracting the Barcelona jet set, local Spanish families, and it's also now known as one of the most popular European destinations for gay holidaymakers.
--- BBC Holiday Website
That's about right.

This wasn’t my first visit to see some good friends in Sitges. I’ve been twice before. This was my first off-season visit.
During the summer season, the small, walkable beach town certainly can feel gritty and hectic. If you know some people there, you can find out how to avoid the crowds. And the bad tourist food. There’s a lot of that, especially along the beach and on Carrer de L’1 de Maig 1838, where many bars are located.
I don’t know what the chances are that any of you reading this will be in Sitges some day. But if you do go, I’ll tell you where to eat.

My favorite place in town is called Izarra, a modest tapas bar and restaurant with only three tables. They specialize in Basque cuisine and almost everything I’ve had there has been very good, and relatively cheap.
A couple of important things to know. First, the kitchen does not open until 830 pm. Second, there are only three tables, so you need to cruise by reserve one during the afternoon or earlier.
Every time I’ve been, I’ve started the meal with a Mediterranean Salad for 7.20€. It comes with apple slices, grapes, cured ham, cheese, walnuts, and croutons on a bed of greens with a honey vinaigrette.
My friend C had Cantabrian Rice with cuttlefish, prawns, mushrooms, and two sauces for 8.00€. I forgot to ask what the sauces were, but he loves the dish.
For a main course, I had grilled prawns cooked in the shells with the heads on for 11.25€. They were very fresh and perfectly cooked. It did look a little boring next to my friends’ choice, but I enjoyed them.
Both of them got the crispy duck confit with potatoes and bacon in a port wine sauce 7.40€. They love it. I had a small taste and it was very nice.

For desert C had the warm apple pie for 3.50€. I'm sad to say I didn't try it.

I really wanted to try the “peppery chocolate fondant” but it wasn’t available.

A and I had what the waiter called a “crazy chocolate” dessert. It was layers of chocolate sponge cake with a thick mouse/crème between that soaked into the cake. Very good for 4.50€.

Throw in some bottled water, a couple of beers, and coffee and the final bill for three people was 66.00€. Nice price for a beach town. I’ll be back again.

There are a couple of places worth mentioning on the same street. Another good place for tapas is L’Estrella de Xaimar at Carrer Major 52.
I had nicely sour anchovies in oil and vinegar (seitons en vinagre) for 4.80€.
I also had the German potato salad (esaladilla alemana) for 3.60€. A beer was 2.20€ for a .3 liter glass.
A few meters away is Firenze Café.
They have very nice cappuccino, and you can also have a ham and cheese croissant, or dessert. They have comfortable leather chairs and a stylish atmosphere. Prices are reasonable – a big tomato and mozzarella sandwich on nice bread is less than 5.00€. Most desserts are 4.00€.
And if you want to have a quick, cheap omelette for breakfast, you can try Al Fresco Café.

The eggs are 5.50€ and are very basic.

I had a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich for the same price. It looks pretty good, but it was nothing special really – especially because the toast was cold and hard.

One last piece of advice – if you really feel like being a tourist and nursing your hangover with a hundred others in an airy, sunny spot, you can try Mont Roig Café on Carrer de L’1 de Maig 1838.
They have good coffee, desserts, and yes, hamburgueses.
I was pretty lucky during my visit. It was sunny and warm enough to lie out in the sun for a while. And there was also the annual Barcelona to Sitges antique car rally.
I stayed in a very charming old hotel, El Xalet, built in 1901 and filled with original Art Nouveau style. The rooms have beautiful old furniture. There's a small pool in the back. The place has been renovated, but it is a little rough around the edges. Still, it is a great deal at 35.00€ for a single or 60.00€ for a double.
All in all, I most definitely enjoyed my little slice of bohemia outside Bohemia.

Carrer Major 22
Sitges, Catalonia
Spain 08870
Tel. (+34) 93-894.73.70


Anonymous said...

It looks cleaner, nicer, and brighter than Prague! Is there a new Left Bank of the '90s that I haven't heard of ...

But honestly Brewsta, didn't you miss "cesky gulas" and "smazeny kureci rizek" just a little bit while you were there?

Brewsta said...

It was very sunny, but a bit cool. I'm not sure I'd say it was cleaner. Sitges has an urban beach feel -- like a mini Miami South Beach. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone.