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Eating Barcelona: Can Paixano
Enjoying good champagne back home (Canada) requires a decent income and an occasion; here, you need only pocket change and an afternoon. Before 5 pm, bottles of cava go for less than five Euros; you can have it by the glass for about €1.30. Get a bottle, either dry or semi-dry—everyone goes for the latter, an easy-drinking rosat. This deep-pink sparkling wine they serve in old-school coupes: less finicky than a flute, and far more fitting. This place ain’t pretentious, or delicate.
The atmosphere of “La Xampanyeria”, as this cava bar is known, can be crowded and bustling (it really isn’t much more than a counter), yet remains relaxed and convivial. Some patrons linger, sharing a bottle, while others stop in, have a bite and a glass, and step out again. As the hours progress, the floor by the counter fills with a tide of sandwich wrappers and napkins. When the trash threatens to hit ankle-deep, someone from behind the counter comes, bearing a push broom. The crowd parts, the path is cleaned, the drinking and eating continue.
La Xampanyeria offers standing-room only, pretty much (there is at least one table towards the back, but it’s probably taken). Stake out a spot next to the bar or along the wall and order from the counter; the staff speaks English well enough to help you and the service is prompt and efficient.
Buying a bottle requires ordering some food. Establishment policy. The available options include a collection of snacks (e.g. plates of ham, cheese, olives, pickled vegetables) and numerous sandwiches; I suggest the plat variat (a variety of fried meats – chorizo, blood sausage, etc.), the plates of thickly cut ham and manchego, and the cecina de León (basically a beef ham; terrific). But order anything, with confidence.
As far as prices go, choices begin at €2 and rarely exceed €4, so with a bottle of cava and four plates, you can expect a bill of around €15. A bargain. (Try getting a glass of champagne for that price in North America.)
Authenticity – the word comes to mind when I think of Can Paixano. It is a place with a sense of place, one that could exist nowhere else. To me the restaurant is an ode to the good things in life: simple, satisfying food; a decent drink; conversation and companionship. Not to mention, it makes for a hell of a way to waste an afternoon.
Strongly and loudly recommend.