On the CasaMara website is the story behind this family run Spanish Bistrot. Mara was brought up with a love and respect for Spanish food and her mother ruled the kitchen. Moving to Edinburgh, she discovered what exactly was missing, her mother Mara’s food … “it was uplifting, it was joyous.”
Barcelona is renowned internationally for its culture of eating and the Catalan concept of 'May Y Mantagna', Sea and Mountain, ('Surf ‘n Turf') combining fish and meat, notably seafood & chicken Paella. Traditonal cuisine has been jazzed up by experimental chefs – e.g. Ferran Adria, the founder of El Bulli restaurant, to put the region on the gastronomic map.
So gathering together favourite recipes, an ambitious plan of action, a sprinkling of artistic style and oodles of passion, CasaMara was born in early Spring 2018.
There are four distinctive menus depending on the time of day. Visit for a very well priced lunch, Menu del Dia, between 12pm and 2pm. Three courses for under £10, with complimentary bread, a choice of dishes such as as Cocido con pelota de olla, Chicken, chickpea and pasta, to start and then Gambas envueltas en lenguado, Prawns wrapped in sole, and finish with orange and chocolate sponge cake. The Early Evening Menu includes a glass of Catalan House Wine or ½ Estrella Damn draught (5.30pm - 7pm); For dinner, Mara’s Taste of Spain and A la Carte menus.
We were offered the A la Carte menu which has an enticing selection of Appetisers: a bowl of olives, Aged Zamora Cheese and Iberian ham with bread, ideal for sharing, Tapas-style with perhaps a glass of sherry, Don Jose Oloroso.
As an aperitif we asked for a glass of Cava but curiously this is only served by the bottle. Opened bottles of fizz keep well in the fridge with a stopper or offer individual mini bottles, as this is a most popular pre-dinner tipple. Instead we had a glass each of (unchilled, lukewarm) Jaume Serra White wine, which we sipped with salty olives. Complimentary bread (as given at lunchtime) would have been welcome. Slices of bread with allioli is an extra £2.50.
From the eight Starters (Potato and cabbage cake with ham; Tuna filled Boiled Eggs, Ken selected Squid with prawns, egg and almonds, which is extremely tasty (I sampled a forkful or two). Meanwhile, I tackled a huge round Truita de patatas, Potato Tortilla, a portion sufficient for 3 or 4 people, I would say. Unfortunately, this was heavy in texture, bland in flavour, and the presentation would have been improved by a green or tomato salad garnish.
For main courses, classic Catalonian dishes are highlighted such as Galtes i peus de porc, Slow cooked pig’s cheese and trotters with tomatoes and onions, and Pollastro amb prunes, spicy Chicken casserole with prunes and brandy. We could not resist the seafood Paella, sharing a huge skillet pan of Arroz Negre, full of juicy shellfish, the rice blackened with squid ink. This was simply superb but even after helping ourselves to several platefuls, we couldn’t quite finish it. Finger bowls would be ideal for sticky fingers. With our main course we shared a bottle of dark berry-fruit Tempranillo. After this feast, we could not manage anything more, but delicous rich and creamy desserts on the menu for those with a sweet tooth.
On the night we visited it was fairly busy with just one energetic guy in charge as host/ manager/bar tender /waiter who rushed around trying to take orders, serve water, wine, food, sort bills, so be prepared for a leisurely, casually laid back meal. While we sat on the comfortable Banquette, the café-style hard wood chairs are not designed for sitting over a couple of hours.
If planning a meal out for up to eight friends, there’s a private dining room – ideal opportunity for all to experience Mara’s Taste of Spain menu for a dinner party.
This is an exciting new venture and with a little attention to detail regarding design, drinks and hospitality, CasaMara will soon be on the culinary map for authentic Catalonian cuisine. Book a table soon to sample Madre Mara’s “uplifting, joyous” home cooking - one thing for sure, you won’t leave hungry. As they say in Barcelona, 'Bon Profit'!