Tapas of Barcelona
Barcelona is an exciting foodie city with an abundance of quality produce, food and alcohol. You really can’t go wrong with the options on offer, although it behooves to avoid the obviously touristy restaurants dotted around the city.
The art of eating has been truly mastered by the Spanish with multiple meal breaks during the day and dinner being eaten late into the night. Whilst walking through the streets of Barcelona, you will find many people lingering over their food. Meal time is a pause from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It’s refreshing really.
Our trip to Barcelona was the next stop after San Sebastian, we noticed that food here had more modern influences than the traditional Spanish pintxos in San Sebastián. The tapas in Barcelona is eclectic and invigorating, it’s Spanish cuisine having a headlong collision with globalisation. Some of the more interesting dishes mix Spanish ingredients and cooking techniques to prepare a non Spanish recipe such as fish tacos. The city of Barcelona is also heavily influenced by cooking techniques from France and Valencia due to their geographical proximity. The city is definitely worth a visit if you’re passionate about amazing food.
Barcelona is an exciting foodie city; there is an abundance of quality produce mixed with locals who are passionate creating and eating this food! One of my favourite meals in Barcelona was a simple slice of potato tortilla we picked up at a family run deli near our Air BnB. It was a thick slice of tortilla, which was packed full of flavour! A simple yet hearty lunch.
Many of the top quality tapas bars and bodegas are located in El Raval, which is across from the Gothic quarter and is separated by the Las Ramblas. There are a plethora of restaurants on Las Ramblas however the area is very touristy, avoid eating here if you can.
Arume, El Raval
On our first night we travelled into the El Raval district, to a restaurant named Arume. This restaurant is located in the old apartment complex of an imminent Spanish writer Manuel Vazquez Montalban. The restaurant manages to use this to its advantage and has a small shrine dedicated to him below the dining area. We were lucky enough to be seated at the table directly over looking the shrine. It made for a fun but slightly macabre feel to our dinner!
Our AirBnB host recommended paella as one of the must try dishes of the Catalonia region. Arume Restaurant is the top rated restaurant for paella on foursquare and was the primary reason for our visit. We ordered their seafood paella which had a beautifully smoky flavour.
We also ordered their Spanish take on fish tacos and a couple of other tapas dishes that were all fantastic.
Casa Lolea, El Born
This little restaurant serves fantastic home style food and also doubles as a Sangria production atelier. The restaurant bottles a range of different sangrias to try on site or take away (the Casa Lolea sangrias can also be found in Australia!). The food to accompany the sangria is delicious!
We ordered their risoni pasta dish served with cream and cheese. This was the standout favourite dish of the night and was incredibly rich and creamy!
B was also keen to try one of their daily specials a pork Córdoba, which is a stew made of pig stomach in a rich and hearty tomato broth. I am not usually a fan of sweet meats but this dish was actually quite good.
We also ordered a tortilla (we didn’t realise at the time that it was served as whole tortilla and not just a slice) – we ended up ordering way too much food!
Sangria at Casa Lolea
Now as a general rule ordering sangria in Spain is not considered de rigueur. The Spanish have many different ways of blending wine to make refreshing drinks, here is a list of some fantastic drink suggestions to try instead of Sangria. I, however was completely happy to embrace being a tourist and try a glass of sangria from some of the amazing cocktail bars we visited. The Casa Lolea sangria is a pre-bottled sangria so it wasn’t as amazing as a freshly made sangria.
La Pepita, Gràcia
This restaurant is renowned as a top rated tapas bar in Barcelona. We arrived here hungry after a day trying to decipher some of Guadi’s architecture at Parc Guell! The restaurant was open early for Spanish standards and we were able to get an early dinner (6pm) without having to wait in line. The interior of the restaurant is an eclectic mix of handwritten graffiti covered rock walls and old school Spanish furniture. The interior decor of this tapas bar is funky and just seems to work in a city like Barcelona.
The food though is the reason we were here, they serve good quality, unpretentious tapas fare. Overall the tapas was good with a couple of stand out dishes including their gazpacho and pork croquettes.
Cera 23, El Raval
This was my favourite restaurant during our time in Barcelona. It was one of the only restaurants we had to wait for a table, despite arriving for an early dinner time of 8pm! It explains how popular this restaurant is. The cuisine at Cera 23 has a Moorish influence, the dishes on the menu have middle eastern spices added to traditional Spanish cooking techniques. We enjoyed all the dishes we had however the lamb main was the showstopper of the night!
As the restaurant was so busy we were seated at the bar and had the opportunity to chat with the bar tender. He recommended the blackberry mojito, which was delicious. I also ordered their sangria, this was the best sangria I had in Barcelona!
Federal Cafe Gotic, El barri gotic (breakfast)
We visited this modern cafe for a late breakfast on a Sunday, the cafe was packed with small groups of people enjoying a long, leisurely brunch. Looking at the menu I was pleasantly surprised by the locally sourced brunch offerings and the long selection of coffee and freshly squeezed juices. I remember being surprised and was reminded of brunch menus at popular Melbourne cafes. I have now found out that the team behind this cafe are actually two Australians! We ordered the Spanish style baked eggs with chorizo which were fantastic and the coffee was amazing here!
Vermouth Bars, Las Arenas
There has been a renaissance in the drinking culture of Barcelona with Vermouth becoming more fashionable with the younger generation. In the Las Arenas neighbourhood, there are a multitude of old style vermouth bars. The bars distill their own beverages and have seen a recent resurgence in trade due to the increasing popularity of the drink. If you are interested in trying some local vermouth then definitely visit any of the bars in this area, many of them are hole in the wall joints who have their trusty old regulars sipping at the bar. Its a perfect way to explore a everyday life in Barcelona.
Beer’Linale, El Raval
We decided to stop off for a quick snack one night whilst we were on the hunt for Spanish cookware (paella and tortilla pans) in the El Raval and Barri Gotic neighbourhoods. We ended up at Beer’linale a craft brewery and restaurant for a quick bite. They served lots of beer food like fried padron peppers and grilled chorizo. B really enjoyed the selection of craft beers they offered here.
Tips to remember…
- Dinner in Barcelona usually starts around 9pm. Getting a table at popular restaurants can be tricky if you go at this time. Aim to eat around 8pm and you’ll be able to find seats at most restaurants relatively easily
- Sangria isn’t the drink of choice in Barcelona, if you are keen to try one though try and find a good quality cocktail bar. I had a fantastic one at Cera 23
- Vermouth is the speciality drink of the Catalan region, there are many old school vermouth bars scattered around the city. Las Arenas neighbourhood has quite a few
- Patatas bravas, tomato bread and seafood paella are a few of the specialities of the Catalan region. Many restaurants in Barcelona offer these dishes
- Whilst in Barcelona, it pays to do your research before heading out for a meal. There are many tourist traps around especially in Las Ramblas. The Foursquare app works really well in Barcelona