Best butcher in Barcelona

Manel i Elisabet, San Antoni market

Welcome, dear reader,

This week, meat. 

When The Plek (my partner) and I first moved to the San Antoni barrio, Mercado San Antoni was housed in two enormous tents on Ronda de San Antoni. The food tent was above the Metro station, shoppers and stalls packed in like sardines. Outside the smallest store there was always a large queue of locals ordering a vast array of unusual cuts of meat from three souls slicing while confined to a 3 x 2m space.

We queued. We ordered. We paid. We went home. We cooked. We fell in love with each other (again). Aaah. And with Manel i Elisabet, the finest butchers in town.

From thereon in, we were delighted to join the throng – old folk, young folk, restaurant owners and anyone with a good eye for meat shops.

San Antoni Market from outside, Barcelona

Shopping is changing to a ticket system now, but many places in Spain still adhere to the rule of bowling up, asking ‘Who’s last?’ (El ultimo?) and finding your place in the queue. Albeit there are always a few ready to jump the line if you don’t make yourself known sharp.

The stall is housed in the magnificent, reformed Mercado de San Antoni; this iron structure built in 1882 is once again the centre of our neighbourhood.

 

Manel i Elisabet shop sign, San Antoni market, Barcelona

Manel i Elisabet is a third-generation butcher who first started serving the good citizens of San Antoni in the 1930s. Manel is of true butcher stock, learning at the knee of his grandfather and father after completing military service aged 19. Elisabet is from a line of poultry sellers whose shop was next to Manel’s – they met, and the rest is history. 

 

Locally-sourced produce

Selection of meats at Manel i Elisabet, San Antonio market, BarcelonaOnce married, they joined the two shops together and now sell a delicious range of beef, lamb, chicken, poultry and pork products. The majority comes from nearby Girona or Vila Franca de Penedes, and the rest from Catalonia. 

Elisabet said: “We know where everything comes from, which farmers, and we get fresh produce every day.

“We eat the produce we sell and the smell of proper, well-kept meat opens up the appetite and the stomach.”

 

Back in the day

Locals are fondest of the homemade burgers – prepared right in front of your eyes – along with chicken breasts. “I prefer to cut pork ribs,” said Elisabet. Manel prefers what the Argentinians call ‘la arañita’ cut, or pedaset in Catalan. It’s a small cut of meat, usually beef, near the thigh socket.

He explained: “Not many people ask for it, and it’s really tender when you fry it. Many years ago, it was only men that were butchers and they would do all the cutting early in the morning and then leave the women to work and serve for the rest of the day.

“The men would then go and fry up some pedaset and drink red wine. It’s changed now.”

Arguments (rightly) rage about the quantity of meat in the modern diet, the industrialisation of production and its effect on animal welfare, but Manel i Elisabet know their farmers. What hasn’t changed is people’s desire for good food. 

 

Locally-sourced shoppers

Elisabet said: “We have a lot of loyal, local customers. We see a few new faces. We see a lot of parents stocking up the freezers for their kids, those that have come to Barcelona to study and want to make sure they are eating well.

“People know we know where our stock comes from, that we have good quality at good prices, and hopefully that’s why we’re busy.”

Now you know – Fridays and Saturdays are always buzzing, as are mornings. You can always order ahead and then just pick up and pay.

The Plek and I will no doubt be wandering around there next weekend, then off to the bodega to find a nice red to go with the pedaset.

 

Opening hours and contact

Manel i Elisabet, parades 1-2, Mercado San Antoni

Tel: +34 934 263 378

Mon, Tue, Sat: 8am-3pm

Weds-Fri: 8am-3pm / 5pm-8pm

Jardins de Cándida Pérez, Barcelona

Jardins del Cándida Pérez, Comte Borrell, Barcelona

Welcome, dear reader,

I’ve been living in the San Antoni barrio (neighbourhood) for three of the nine years I’ve called Barcelona home.

Along with my partner, known as hitherto as The Plek, we seldom need to walk more than four blocks from our front door to find almost everything we enjoy.

This blog is about what we love about our part of this city; the people, food, bars, shops, animals and whatever else we encounter.

There’s a lot of life to be seen from our 10m2 balcony that looks over the Jardins de Cándida Pérez – and that’s precisely where we start.

Jardins del Cándida Pérez, Comte Borrell, Barcelona

 

Gardens (Jardins) Cándida Pérez

The Plek and I reckon, Rear Window style, there are about 200 other flats that peer into this central courtyard along with Biblioteca de Sant Antoni-Joan Olivé.

Some trees and bushes line and dot what is essentially a kids’ playground and outdoor gym, with some benches and seats.

It’s named after the singer Cándida Pérez, a master of warbling ‘cuplés’ (variety songs) who lived in Brazil, but was born and bred (then dead) in Catalonia.

Fortunately there is no audio homage playing here.

Afternoon siestas are often accompanied by a lilt from our resident blackbird who also likes to toot at sundown, sometimes sat on our washing line. The tax we pay is the occasional dropping on what were freshly-washed towels.

There is also a whopping great chimney in the middle of the park, the remnants of the Tarda Dolcos (sweets) factory. Locals reliably inform me that Tarda produced boiled sweets, chocolates and turron and closed its doors some 40-50 years ago.

 

Wildlife of San Antoni

Our lead singer is not alone. Flop down into one of our balcony’s street seats – furniture left in the street by neighbours for others to use – and a fine supporting chorus appears.

Swifts’ distinctive chatter greets us every morning in the summer. These migratory birds fly in and out of the balcony like charged alien spacecraft. They launch from the nests they’ve built in walls and crevices around the Jardins.

At night, bats compete to snatch a mosquito meal. Such rapier flight is essential; Peregrine Falcons have been reintroduced and we’ve seen one scouting for a swift meal.

Pigeons roost here, too, always watchful of seagulls who think nothing of attack-and-kill tactics. There are often a set of wings on display on a roof, folded out like an angel but lacking any body.

There are also a dozen or so domestic cats that scour these plains, looking for a kill. They are, however, absolutely awful hunters and we’ve never seen a successful chase.

 

Human’s in El Barrio

The gardens are incredibly important to the community. They are a space to hold a birthday party or concert and somewhere to let the kids blast off steam, to name but a few social functions.

OK, some Sunday mornings the screaming at 10am is a bit much, but apparently these children are to be considered as newts – and newts are good.

“If you can see children, it’s probably a healthy and happy city.” says Liz Zeidler, chief executive of the Happy City Initiative, a research centre based in Bristol. Read more here.

There’s a boules/petanque group, teens who come to learn dance moves, people training and keeping fit plus a plethora of dog walkers and the occasional drunk. 

Candida would perhaps be proud of the karaoke parties, hear a rhythm in the pot-banging that has accompanied Catalonia’s political ups and downs of late, and, like us, want to shout at the folk who let their dogs bark at all hours.

Oh, and did I mention I saw some very impressive meteors burning up in the atmosphere one evening, just over the Med.

Hardly any neighbours use their balcony for meals, drinks and enjoying the breeze, so we get this almost all to ourselves.

Oh, and hats off to the guys who watch TV all day, every day, too. We know you won’t be reading.