The blood-sucking lamprey and otherworldly goose barnacles top the bill in a feast at Barcelona’s leading seafood restaurant.
I’ve eaten at espai Kru before and loved it. You can read my full review here but for the TLDR crowd: just book a table and go. It’s a spin off from Rías de Galicia, located downstairs, which is rated by many as the best seafood restaurant in Barcelona. I was recently invited, along with a few other food journalists (among them El Periódico’s Pau Arenos; you can read his report in Spanish here) to come and try one of Rías de Galicia’s most renowned dishes: lamprey. Available only for a short season (until April), this prehistoric-looking jawless fish is an unlikely delicacy. A vampiric parasite, it clamps onto its prey and sucks out their blood and viscera. When caught and prepared, the resultant bloody mess is enough to turn strong stomachs. Including that of Juan Carlos Iglesias – the affable, epicurean owner of espai Kru and Rías – who felt lightheaded enough at the sight to swear off eating it again. He was persuaded to recant during our lunch, however. It’s just too good to miss.
It’s cooked slowly at low temperature, which yields a rich, thick, dark civet, thickened with the lamprey’s blood. Chef Ever Cubilla was sent by Juan Carlos on a pilgrimage just to learn the finer points of this single dish. The result is meaty and multi-layered; a firm flesh unlike that of any other fish.
The lamprey came near the end of an extravaganza of first-class seafood. As Juan Carlos admits, Rías de Galicia isn’t well placed to compete for bragging rights as Barcelona’s top seafood restaurant. It’s far from the sea and shore, on an ordinary side-street near a venue for trade shows and exhibitions. Lifestyle magazines and Instagrammers are not likely to be wowed by its photogenic location. To compensate, it has to up the ante in terms of product quality, variety and availability. Its goose barnacles (percebes) are as good as I’ve had anywhere and as ugly/beautiful as ever. Dinosaur’s toes? Lizard’s legs? Either way, they’re a gastronomic delight.
The other dishes, from the menus of espai Kru and Rias, were equally exemplary. They included sequences of tuna and sashimi, huge clams, spicy razor clams, piles of Palamos prawns, wagyu beef on its shinbone, comforting torrija (french toast) and much more. Here’s a selection:
If you hurry you might still be in time to try the lamprey; if you’re not, don’t worry. You’ll eat well anyway.
Rías de Galicia / espai Kru: Carrer Lleida 7, 08004, Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 93 424 81 52 / 93 423 45 70; Metro Espanyol