There’s No Shame in a Breakfast That Sends You Back to Bed
Bombas in Barcelona
Breakfasting in Barcelona can initially appear an underwhelming proposition for the uninitiated. Many succumb to poor renditions of the Catalan classic, pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato). It is an exquisitely simple pleasure when properly executed, though hugely underwhelming when prepared with little love. Coffee is universally available but rarely inspiring. However, the Catalans have a slightly clandestine culinary card up their sleeves when seeking their morning sustenance: esmorzars de forquilla (fork breakfasts) are intended to sustain throughout a day of heavy work, or, in my case, a day of heavy walk.
Though it had been on my to-do-list as a dinner destination for some time, I initially encountered La Cova Fumada by chance. During a stay in the La Ribera district, I went for a wander though the streets of the nearby neighborhood of La Barceloneta, sporting a slightly fuddled head from the previous evening’s excessive natural wine consumption in the outstanding Bar Brutal. Using an age-old signifier when seeking good food, I trailed a group of old men through an unmarked facade and took a solo seat next to an open kitchen.
Above a cacophony of Catalan conversation, my order was taken. Glancing at the surrounding tables there seemed only one option to drink and a carafe of the house red was promptly delivered to my table. Blood sausage came grilled, sliced into thick rounds and accompanied by a bowl of buttery chickpeas. Squid simply seared on la plancha and dressed with a little picada of oil, garlic, and parsley came next. Artichokes arrived fried, exposing their crispy innards. Next, the signature dish of the house, said to be invented in the 1950s by the grandmother of the current proprietors. The much celebrated bombas appeared: small spheres of minced meat and mashed potato housed in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, crowned with a cover of potent ailoli and a cap of fiery rust-colored sauce. Since I was already introducing garlic into my system at such an early hour, I ordered a round of the toasted bread, generously smeared with more of the same.
The two gentlemen next to me were clearly construction workers and I surreptitiously watched in awe as they consumed plate after plate, washed down with copious glasses of wine. Whether they were just staring work or just finishing I was uncertain, but either way, surely little of consequence was to be achieved after such a breakfast, neither by them nor I.
To conclude the feast, a fluro-green shot of the traditional digestif, hierbas, was offered as a parting gift from the house. It lacked the herbaceous intensity of the Balearic incarnation with which I was more familiar, but certainly not the potency. It was 9:43 am. Shot downed, bill paid, and sunglasses donned, I walked out into the morning sunlight, vowing to veer from the powerful lure of my pension and the bed that was beckoning me back a mere hour or so after I had left it.