I’m a big fan of brunch, both the word (an American portmanteu of breakfast + lunch) and the meal itself.
Brunch isn’t defined by the food eaten (it can be anything from a traditional full english breakfast, to pancakes and maple syrup, to eggs benedict,) or the beverage with which it is served (a coffee or a bloody mary are both equally acceptable, depending on the chemical needs of the diner,) so much as by the time of day at which it is consumed. This ranges from 10.30am in its earliest, caffeine-fuelled version, to 4pm at its most decadent, cocktail-swigging. In the anglo-american world, when you wake up at the weekend, late and slightly hung-over, you get dressed (showering is most definitely optional,) drag yourself out of the house, and settle down to eat brunch and gossip about the events of the previous night.
I initially struggled to find a brunch venue that fulfilled this requirement in Barcelona. Very few places claim to offer it (the Marmalade/Milk chain is the most well-known, and others I’ve tried include Dostrece in Carrer Carme and Formiga and Meatpacking Bistrot in Gracia), and all do a poor man’s imitation of the American Brunch menu. I’m sorry, but the English muffins in eggs benedict cannot be substituted with french bread, that’s a crime against humanity, and yes, I’m talking to you, Marmalade.
However, I eventually discovered that, as so often, the battle was just as much linguistic as it was gastronomic . What I really needed to look for was what is known in Catalan as an ‘esmorzar de forquilla‘, literally a ‘fork breakfast’ in English. You can tell immediately from the name that this is a heavy, cooked breakfast in a place where eating the kind of breakfast that requires the use of a fork isn’t the norm. Apparently the meal was a traditional speciality in some towns in the interior of Catalonia, and one that Josep Pla lamented was on the wane in El Que Hem Menjat, his collection of essays Catalan food culture. Whatever its origins, the important thing is that it exists, and there are places that are trying to revive the tradition in Barcelona.
La Pubilla is tucked away in la Plaça de la Llibertat, in my very own neighbourhood of Gracia, and their ‘fork breakfast’ is brilliant, precisely because it doesn’t try to copy the American brunch. Yes, there are plenty of pork and egg based dishes on offer, but instead of bacon or scrambled eggs, you’ll be offered sobrassada with honey or truita del dia (omelette of the day). Breakfast is only served until 11am, so it is at the very edge of the acceptable brunching window, but it is so good that it is worth setting the alarm clock that little bit earlier for.