Last summer someone special arrived in Barcelona en route from his Greek family heartland. From his stuffed suitcase I was showered with a number of native gifts, one of which was mastika. Hailing from the Greek island of Chios, mastika is a chewable resin from the mastic tree and, as it was the least appealing amongst the saffron and other gastronomic goodies that I had been lavished with, it sat in the cupboard for several weeks before I ventured to try it. When I finally gave it a shot all I can say is that it was spat into the bin in under a minute. It was pretty vile.
So, when I was planning to postpone the current healthy eating for a sugary Saturday breakfast at Lukumas I was intrigued to see that their most recent blog entry was exulting their new mastika icing topping. Now I really had to go back and sample more of their creations.
Loukoumades is the Greek word for doughnuts which gives the origins of this café’s name. The doughnuts are seemingly hand made every day and this was one of the first places I’ve been to in Barcelona that made the point of serving Fairtrade coffee. In a city of heavy coffee drinkers this should certainly be something we see more of here.
There was quite a selection of candy coloured, icing topped varieties to choose from including ring doughnuts which are the classic luoukoumades, filled strogylo of chocolate hazelnut or various creams, lukumaki which take the sweet filled ones to another level with an iced topping and for those who can stand the sugar hit ekler which have double fillings.
My personal favourites are usually the small lukumaki which contain a couple of bites in each and are a real help for indecisive choosers like me, they are also a snip at 50 cents each. Try to resist passing Lukumas and not popping in for just one of those.
The café is a lovely minimal, bright, airy space and has the now common feature in newer Barcelona cafés of a large communal table. I love if you get this to yourself and can sprawl the newspaper out whilst crumbs drop on it as you read and eat.
Trying to put aside my bad mastika memories I went for that most sublime of sweet combinations, chocolate and hazelnut filling, with the mastika icing. In the interests of blogging research and sticking an all out temporary middle finger to the diet, I also had a mini coconut glazed one on the side as well.
What Lukumas does well where so many doughnuts fail is their light texture and non-greasyness. The mastika was also nothing to fear and added an almost pine flavoured note to the icing. It was pleasant and would be interesting in other dishes or cakes but for me was an unnecessary addition to this already delicious ball of fried dough. The small coconut glazed one was magnificent and made me wish that again I’d gone for a selection of the miniture un-iced varieties.
I’ve discovered few wonderful corners of Greece in Barcelona but this is certainly one of them.
Lukumas, Torrent de l’Olla 169, Gracia
**This article was originally posted on my former blog http://moonrakermorsels.wordpress.com/