It’s never been better being a vegetarian. Especially if you love sampling new cuisines and local food – and not sticking to Indian restaurants – while travelling abroad. Of course , you must do a little research beforehand but that’s the rule even if you aren’t a veggie – walking into a cute looking cafe does not guarantee good food.
It was while doing the said research before my Spain trip that I was surprised to find so many restaurants that cater to only vegetarians. Spain , I understand , is a place where people relish meat , especially jamon or ham. Reading trip reports and travel blogs , one would imagine the only vegetarian dish available is ‘patatas bravas’! Let me put to rest all this speculation – we had some fantastic vegetarian food in Spain and not in some sad looking cafe but in lovely restaurants , buzzing with crowds and full of character !
The following are my top 3 picks for vegetarian food – 2 in Barcelona and 1 in Madrid. It was a little more difficult finding vegetarian food options in smaller cities but we had a good lunch at Hiccuri in Granada , an okayish one in Vantana (Seville) and a great meal in Ronda in an Indian restaurant Curry & Grill (I know , I know – but the biryani was brilliant!)
Our first dinner in Barcelona. We had table reservations , made through thefork.com. The restaurant is small and cozy , with friendly wait staff and reasonable prices. They also have live music on some days and there was a man playing the cello the day we had dinner there. The menu is entirely vegetarian , with a few vegan options. We had potato with goat cheese and caramelised onions , vegetable and nut crocquettes , patatas bravas , canneloni with spinach and ricotta cheese , potato confit with egg and truffle oil. The food was finger licking yummy and the best dish of the evening was – yes , you guessed right , ‘patatas bravas’! We had this tapas dish in many other places but somehow , nothing could match upto the one we had at Cafe Mandacaru.
Our lunch here was by far the best food we had in Barcelona and the rest of Spain. The restaurant itself is tucked away in a quiet street in Barri Gotic. Looks quite unassuming from outside but we walked in to a full restaurant. Had to actually wait for a table – something I never imagined would happen in a vegetarian restaurant in carnivorous Spain! We had wrinkled potatoes with corriander and pear sauce , sphaghetti aglio olio , nachos with cheese and tomato salsa and 2 egg dishes. To end the meal, we chose a chocolate mousse and chocolate truffles.
The service was a bit slow but I think there were only 2 waitresses serving all the tables , so it was ok. This is another thing I noted in both Spain and France – small cafes typically had only 1 or 2 wait staff , so service was always on the slower side. Maybe we are used to the innumerable brusque young men running around and waiting on tables in the Udipi establishments of Mumbai!
It is a small place , owned by 2 Spanish guys who are also ISKCON members. We went for lunch one day and had the set course – they do not offer a la carte during lunch. We walked in to the chant of ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’playing in the background and knew that this is going to be a different experience.
They do not serve alcohol so we were given lemon tea , which was refreshing after our long walk in the sun. There was a vegetable soup , followed by rice served with 2 different vegetables – one dry and one in a coconut based gravy. It was all flavorful and seemed like a fusion of Spanish food with Indian spices !
For desserts , they had 4 options so we tried one each. The carrot cake was the best of the lot. All this, for just 7.5 euros per person! This was by far the best value for money meal we had 🙂
With a bit of research online and reading up reviews and menus , it is possible to have great vegetarian food , at least in Spain. No need to carry those packets of ready-to-eat meals anymore!!