Eating Out

Flamenco feast

October 9 - 15, 2019

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Flamenco feast

Barcelona is a colourful city boasting vibrant art, striking architecture, beautiful beaches and fabulous food with 20 Michelin star restaurants to relish in.

There is something for everyone in the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. It is a lovely destination to explore and thanks to the InterContinental Regency Bahrain’s FIESTA ESPAñOLA’s event, it feels as though I finally did….and didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg to do so either.

The five-star property’s Noor Lounge has been transformed into a sensational Spanish-inspired setting featuring bright, colorful lights and decorations, a buffet full of authentic Catalan cuisine cooked up by Barceloni Chef Jordi Gimeno and a stage for the Sarsare Flamenco dance troupe to entertain guests as they feast.

The week-long festival of food, which runs daily until Saturday from 7pm to 11pm, features an array of Spain’s folksy fare from paella to gazpacho and tapas.

Hotel manager, Mohammed Sanad, said: “The food is absolutely amazing and we are excited to be hosting this festival that showcases Barcelona and Spain’s rich culture.”

Jae Hak Lee, the director of food & beverage at the hotel, added that this event isn’t just about the food. He said: “This is not only a culinary event. We wanted to offer our diners the full on experience of Spanish culture from its food to its traditional flamenco dancing. Spain is the country of passion and we wanted to share that with food lovers and music lovers across the island.”

The GulfWeekly group attended the lively affair on its opening night on Sunday where other members of the media and dignitaries also shared in the feasting fun.

As I entered the hotel, I couldn’t help but whiff the savoury aromas wafting from Noor Lounge into the lobby.  Chef Jordi, who has more than 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, was bustling away in the lounge as the property’s chefs and culinary team assisted in preparing a bountiful buffet full of Spanish delights. This is not Chef Jordi’s first food rodeo as he has hosted festivals over the years in India, Hungary, Oman, Malayasia, Kenya Morocco and even in Bahrain. As people began to pile in, Chef Jordi started cooking up his famous paella, a Valencian rice dish that originated in that eastern coastal Spanish city. It is richer, smokier and denser than a pilaf, drier than a risotto and definitely more satisfying than either.

According to the chef, the secret of making phenomenal paella is all in the stock. He added vegetables, seafood and chicken and cooked it on the spot over a huge fire while diners watched an expressive flamenco dancer’s intricate percussive footwork and body movement as the rest of the troupe played and sang along. The show was spectacular and a great way to start the evening’s fiesta.

The buffet featured a variety of succulent meats, saucy seafood and sections for salads and tasty treats. The Gazpacho section, which featured Spain’s classic cold soup made of raw, blended vegetables, also included some interesting nibbles such as the piquillo peppers filled with fish and seafood. It was a surprisingly scrumptious starter. I then added Fideuà to my plate, as it reminded me of Bahrain’s balaleet. It is a seafood dish originally from the coast of Valencia that is similar to paella, and even more so to arròs a banda, but with noodles instead of rice.  It was another hit in my books. The culinary success continued with the Ternasco of lamb with rosemary potatoes, the octopus Galician style and the popular eggs estrellados with mushrooms. I devoured the gambas al ajillo which was my favourite. It’s a popular dish found principally in the south and center of Spain. Its primary ingredients consist of shrimp, garlic and olive oil but there are many variations. It’s often served in Spain’s tapas bars as an appetiser. Another super starter was the chicken and beef croquettes which were meaty, crunchy and divine.

Although a few other dishes looked delish too, such as the red snapper with sauce a la llauna, I made sure to leave room for the pièce de résistance, the paella. The seafood and chicken were seasoned well and the rice and stock tantalised my taste buds. It was the perfect balance of savoury and spice and of course…oh so nice.

No festival would be complete without some desserts. There were plenty of choices to devour at the cheese section (that’s like dessert for me) and at the sweet station. After nibbling on some cheese, I opted for panellets and leche frita for an authentic feel. Apparently, nothing says autumn in Barcelona than having a bite of roasted chestnuts, sweet potatoes, and panellets which are small cakes or cookies baked in different shapes, made mainly of marzipan (a paste made of almonds and sugar). That little ball of marzipan packs a punch of energy which would be great after a workout. The leche frita, a Spanish sweet typical of northern Spain, was the star for me.  It is made by cooking flour with milk and sugar until it thickens to a firm dough which is then portioned, fried and served with a sugar glaze and cinnamon powder. In other words, heavenly fluffy bites!

My full belly and I then “flamencoed” our way back home, leaving me with fond memories of a blissful Barcelona experience. 

The festival is priced at BD25net including a buffet, entertainment and soft beverages. Those that dine with the hotel will also have a chance to enter a raffle draw to win either a private dinner for two in the presidential suite prepare by the property’s Italian Chef Luigi, a brunchism voucher for two or a Lazy Legendary Lunch for two.

Also this Friday, the hotel, will host a pink brunch and BD1 per person will go towards The Think Pink Bahrain Breast Cancer Society.

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