Barcelona might just be the food capital of the world. People dine, and when they aren’t eating, they are talking about food and where they will be dining next. This part of Spain has more Michelin Star restaurants than anywhere in the world. I was only able to try so many on our trip in October 2015 but we are returning this November (2016) to eat and drink our way through as many more as possible.
My favorite restaurants:
La Pubilla – this “market restaurant” is a well-kept local secret and packed from the moment it opens till they close their doors. Our first time dining there (and there was more than one experience) we had reservations at 3:15. Arriving, we had to maneuver through the mob outside, a line of people winding around the block hoping to get a table. The lunch menu is €15 and gets you 3 courses including a glass of wine (if you want a second, it will cost you a hefty €1) – we certainly took advantage of this steal and were a wee bit tipsy leaving!
The meal began with a bowl of local Arbequina olives in oil of the same, with crusty bread to dip. Our appetizer was cauliflower with Jamon Iberico, sweet garlic, and green onion (so simple and so perfect together), plus a dish of mackerel interlaced with diced peeled tomato, and lovely segments of bright and juicy orange on some well-dressed greens. We followed that with a rice dish, filled with sausage and tender cod, and the pork cheek with potatoes (the meat melted in your mouth, the best pork I have ever tasted). Our dessert choice was a lemon tart with Italian meringue and the apple and pear compote with clove and cinnamon.
Cinc Sentits – located in one of the hipster parts of town, you would easily walk past this unassuming door, never knowing what treasures lay inside. Once you step inside you are hit with the minimalist environment but the food will soon change this illusion.
The chef Jordi Artal wants you to use your five senses (hence the name) and creates far from traditional flavors, but with incredible tastes, smells, textures… no wonder he achieved Michelin Star status. We had the tasting menu with the wine paring and begged to purchase the Vermouth (one of the parings) and the olive oil (part of the bread + course), they agreed and enjoying them both in NYC!
ABaC – this was our favorite dining experience. I cannot imagine we could surpass this anywhere in the world. Located in a quiet, upscale part of the city, in a newly constructed pavilion adjacent to the hotel’s gardens, the atmosphere inside is sophisticated and soothing. As you begin your meal with a cocktail in the garden, your entire body seems to totally relax. As you move into the small, intimate dining room, you notice the superb cuisine at another table, knowing your experience is yet to come.
This Michelin-starred restaurant is known to be one of the best in the city, and Chef Xavier Pellicer produces food not only photo worthy, but so delicious you remember the taste and feel long after you leave. The atmosphere is so soothing you may want to linger after dinner and have that digestif back out in the garden.
Other top restaurants we will try next visit:
- Sauc – named after an elderberry plan with curative powers, I have read that this restaurant leaves you feeling refreshed and satisfied, “gastronomic healing”.
- Alkimia – means “alchemy” in Arabic, and that is what Chef Jordi Vila is known for. He turns great ingredients into magical meals. His style is minimalist and he leads the way in delicious contemporary cuisine. He takes Catalonia’s traditional cuisine and adds that perfect twist. The menu is highly innovative, and stocked with a wine cellar that complements this fine food.
- Roca Moo – Owned by the Roca brothers who run their three-star-Michelin restaurant in Girona, this one Michelin star restaurant offers a choice of counter and table seating. At the counter, chef Juan Pretel and his team prepare the dishes in front of you, with the feeling that you are watching a story unfold. Has a bar downstairs, where they serve “street food” and more casual share plates.
- Angle – in the Hotel Cram, C/Arribau, 54 – Michelin star chef, Jordi Cruz, offers attentive, warm and friendly service. This small restaurant ensures that each course tantalizes all of your senses.
- Comerc 24 – set in a building that used to house a traditional Barcelonan store selling pickled foods, salted fish and preservatives, it takes its name from its address. Michelin starred, it offers a contemporary angle to the food, with service in the elegant tradition, blending the new and the old.
- Hofmann – new haute cuisine, but with strong Catalan influences (and the most beautiful desserts). Chef Mey Hofmann calls her food “simple and not overthought” but read about her Catalan blood sausage with praline sauce, so not sure that is absolutely true!
Favorite Tapas Bars
- Paco Meralgo – (quality of Cal Pep, less hype and tourists) – Carrer de Muntaner, 171 – we ate here twice so it says a lot about the quality and atmosphere. Sit at the large bar area, ensure Rosa is serving you, and enjoy the food and personalities of this fun tapas bar. Rosa will only speak to you in Catalan but understands, and I would bet, speaks perfect English. To say she is a character is an understatement. And the food – Barcelona tapas at its best.
- Quimet & Quimet – Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25 – my friend, Vivian, who was living in Barcelona ate here after we left, but sent us many photo teasers to ensure our return.
- Tapac24 (Comerc 24’s Tapas Bar) – You will certainly feel the pulse of Barcelona in this wonderful tapas bar. And it will be one of your most affordable, most approachable options to sample the El Bulli alumni (chef Carles Abellan, formerly worked for the 3-star Michelin El Bulli). It doesn’t have the traditional tapas, but more modern and innovative small tastes (some call it Spanish “fast-food” but like no fast food you have ever tasted). Very casual.
- Elsa y Fred – Carrer del Rec Comtal, 11 – An excellent gastro tapas bar in the Old City right near Arc De Triomf at the edge of the Born neighborhood. With its early 1920’s decor it provides an elegant understated vibe. It’s a great place for a morning coffee and paper, tapas lunch and delicious dinner. On Tuesday nights they have Jazz which provides for an extremely romantic evening. The music is wonderful, yet not too loud. On weekends they’re always packed for brunch, with an extensive menu that lasts until 4 pm. This is a wonderful restaurant for an intimate evening meal or even a romantic lunch
- Cal Pep – (great tapas, long lines, tourists) – a tapas bar and restaurant, and always packed. Get there early to get one of the best seats at the front. There is a cozy dining room in the back, but you will miss the show.
- Bar Velodromo – Carrer de Muntaner, 213 – from early morning to the wee hours, chef Jordi Vila produces an endless succession of dishes and tapas with the full menu available all day. So eat whatever you desire, whenever you desire!
- El Xampanyet – (family run, drink Cava of the house) – funky little eating and drinking spots in Barcelona. Located down a narrow alley near the Picasso Museum, this is he coolest bodega/tapa bar in town. Named after the home-made sparkling wine it serves, serves quality tapas in an unpretentious but lovely setting.
Other Tapas Bars to try:
- Ciudad Condal – Rambla de Catalunya, 18
- Cerveceria Catalana – (same family as Ciudad Condal, locals)
- La Cova Fumada – Carrer Baluard 56
- Roure – Carrer de Luís Antúnez
- Morryssom – Carrer de Girona
- Tossa – Carrer de Nàpols 291
- Maitea – Pixos (one of the best in city) Carrer de Casanova 157
- Casa Jacinta – (tiny local bar, excellent Rioja reserve) – Carrer de Tamarit 154
- El Rincon del Cava – Carrer de Blasco de Garay
- Irati Traverna Basca – Carrer del Cardenal Casañas, 17
- Pintxos Attack – 7PM till they run out
- Txirrimiri – 12:30 & 8:30 bar fills up with tapas