Spain - a tour around the top tapas bars uncovers the best of Barcelona’s gastronomic scene, which tantalises the taste buds while you mingle with the locals
Barcelona may be associated with flamboyant footballers, famed for its glorious city beaches and unparalleled in its architecture and culture; but come to Barcelona for the food alone, and you won’t be disappointed. It might not often feature as a culinary destination, but it has experienced a revival in its cuisine, particularly tapas, with up and coming restaurants opening every week. Even Michelin adorned chefs are sitting up and taking notice.
Of many of the places I have travelled to, Barcelona never fails to surprise me when it comes to firing up the taste buds. A wondrous haven for foodies, with countless dining options from fine dining, (including the consistently voted 'best restaurant in the world' just a stone's throw away) to rustic family run tavernas. Is it any wonder this city is a delightful destination for a food-trip? Here's my guide for top tips to tapas bars in Barcelona.
La Boqueria Market
La Rambla, www.boqueria.com
The centre of the Barcelona food universe, this is the best place to start to get a feel for Catalan cuisine in its most basic form, and to understand how and what to eat. Said to be one of the oldest markets in Europe, La Boqueria is paradise for food lovers and an institution in itself. Hop on a stool at one of the many colourful stalls and sample delicious pastries while you sip strong cafe cortado. This is not just a market in the traditional sense, but a meeting place, in abundance with local tradition, and its history very much entwined with that of Barcelona.
This market is as much about the people as the tantalising food on offer - fresh seafood and fish, and cured meats vie for your attention with tempting vibrant fruit, and countless stalls offering coffee, tapas, wine and even cava by the glass. El Quim de la Boqueria (La Rambla, 91; 34 93 301 98 10) is a fine family business and one of the best to try. Serves mouth-watering omelettes and pastries, and a good selection of tapas all day long. Don't leave without some spicy chorizo to take home with you.
Quimet y Quimet
Poeta Cabanyes, 25; 34 934 423 142; district : Poble Sec & Montjuïc
Small, friendly, quirky and quintessential Catalan best describes this wonderful find. A miniscule but cosy bar, with tiny plates of perfectly formed and tantalising tapas from a huge menu. Tapas are prepared in full view to order, and it truly is an authentic experience. Local cheeses are a speciality here, try everything from nevat (tangy goat cheese), to torta del Casar (soft, creamy country cheese). Preserved mouth-watering tinned fish, seafood, tiny sardines, and salty cockles and clams are in abundance.
Barcelona is famed for its tinned seafood, which is considered a delicacy, and this place is one of the best. Decor is basic, traditional and mainly focused on the huge array of bottles of wine that line the walls from the ceiling to the floor. Order a plato combinado, which is a large platter containing a variety of the tapas that are on offer - big enough to share with a loved one! Tapas range from € 5 -€ 12, and expect to pay about € 20 per person (depending on your appetite!).
Placa de les Olles, 8; 34 93 310 79 61; www.calpep.com; district: Ciutat Vella
One of the more expensive options, but I've saved the best for last. A bustling busy spot at anytime, but this rustic eatery really comes alive at night. Incessant chatter, animated waiters - this has a warm and welcoming ambience. Luscious lobster stew, perfect prawns slow-cooked in red wine are just two dishes that may tempt you! Typically rustic, hidden on a small placa, this is without doubt my favourite spot in Barcelona, but I'm not the only one. It’s so busy, you really need to book. Don't be put off by the queues, they do move quickly. Whatever you do, don't miss this one. Tapas range from € 5 - €15. Expect to pay about € 20 per person.
Types of typical tapas dishes:
Ok, so you're tempted to take a trip to Barcelona to sample the tapas? Well here's a few vital tips on types of dishes :
Patatas bravas: My personal favourite. Chunky or cubed potatoes smothered in a creamy alioli with a hint of chilli
Chipirones: Tiny tasty squid usually deep fried in a light crispy batter. Great with lemon mayonnaise.
Pulpo: Succulent octopus lightly seared in lemon and garlic. Just mouth-watering.
Croquetas: Croquetas are a favourite with the locals. Meat or fish are dipped in a creamy cheesy sauce, dusted in breadcrumbs and deep fried
Pan con Tomate: A Catalan twist on the Italian Bruschetta. Hot white country bread drizzled with olive oil, and rubbed with juicy tomatoes. Great as a side-dish to any tapas.
Raciones: Usually just indicates a larger portion.
Montaditos: Miniature sandwiches, or small portions of bread with a topping
What to drink while enjoying tapas
My recommendation is always to indulge and have a cool glass of bubbly cava with your tapas.
Where to stay
Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona - A beautiful boutique hotel, classic, luxurious, and best of all its location on Passeig de Gracia is unbeatable. Its neighbour just happens to be Gaudi's La Pedrera. Rooms are simply gorgeous, some of the nicest I have seen, many even have their own terraces. A true luxury in any city. Rates from about € 140 per room.
Murmuri Hotel Barcelona (Rambla de Catalunya) - Elegance in the Eixample. A sister hotel to the Majestic, but unique in character and style. Right in the heart of the city, this offers an oasis of uber-stylish calm and tranquillity. Rooms are roomy, light and modern with truly luxurious touches. I love this hotel for the bathrooms alone, and the complimentary spa products. Even the standard rooms offer a luxurious experience decorated in pale velvets and warm creams. A respite from the busy city and a great haven to unwind. Rooms from about €180 per room.