Food Quest: Barcelona
by Cristina Mora, owner of Cristina Mora Literary & Film Agency
photos by Marla Norman
Barcelona has been for some years now, one of THE places in Europe and the world where both locals and visitors can enjoy very good food. And the city keeps on improving day by day, year by year.
I cannot talk of every bar, or restaurant in the city otherwise we would be in for some weeks of discussion, but I’ll pick up a few, some of my favorites.
Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis
My favourite spot for some very good, fresh oysters right before dinner is the oyster bar at El Nacional in Passeig de Gràcia. You can choose from a wide range of French, Galician or Mediterranean oysters, and the standard drink to wash them down is a glass of cava from a Magnum bottle of Juve & Camps Reserva de la Familia, a classic Catalan cava. But you can have champagne, too. The oysters come with bread and butter as well as a French vinaigrette of shallots, or lemon, and both red or green Tabasco. I like them natural but it is good to have such a choice! There is also Norwegian salmon, Mediterranean tuna and caviar to choose from.
However El Nacional is not only about oysters, it is a multi-zone culinary establishment in a building from 1889, that initially housed a cafè-theatre, later a fabric dye factory, a car dealer’shop before the Spanish Civil War and finally a garage before becoming what it is today: a meat restaurant, a fish restaurant, a tapas and rice restaurant and a fast deli restaurant AND the oyster bar. And it is an impressive place from the architectural point of view as well as the décor. It is a must if you’re in Barcelona. You won’t be disappointed. Just a small piece of advice, go early!
Carrer de la Diputació
I’m sure you’re waiting to hear about good tapas places, so here we go! Although my belief is that you will get the best tapas in Andalucía and the best pintxos (that’s what tapas are called there) in the Basque Country (especially in Donosti/ San Sebastián). But, of course, there are some good places in Barcelona where you can have delicious tapas, too. The product is always fresh, and it may come from different areas of Spain, but always only the best!
An interesting place to go is Tapas24. The owner is chef Carles Abellàn, who has a Michelin star and worked with Ferran Adrià. Abellàn owns some restaurants and bars in Barcelona, Sevilla and also a Tapas24 in Montréal! The tapa you cannot miss is the Bikini Comerç, a crustless grilled sandwich with ham, cheese and black truffle, to die for!!
You will also find the classic tapas: patatas bravas, crisp french fries doused in a spicy tomato sauce and a thick garlic aioli, or “croquetes” of Iberian ham, “ensaladilla rusa” which is another classic tapa, clams, olives, and some “platillos” which are small portions of more elaborated dishes such as “Rabo de toro” (ox tail stew) and of course “pa amb tomàquet, a Catalan classic, which is bread with tomato and some oil, delicious!!
EL VITI TABERNA
Passeig de Sant Joan, 62
Another wonderful place, my favourite in fact, where I go for an aperitif on Saturday midday, or for tapas some evenings is El Viti Taberna They’re quite new in the city, barely a year old, but with a good clientele already, very good produce and a mix of Asian, Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine.
You must try the super-tasty bao of Iberian Jawl (in Spanish Papada Ibèrica) with cucumber and tonkatsu. You will struggle to have only one!
Wonderful “tacos de rabo de toro” with guacamole and chipotle, a delicious grilled squid with potato confit and “piquillo” cream and the speciality of the house are the “torreznos”, delicately fried small portions of tasty bacon. My other favorite is “patatas al remolino”, patatas bravas revisited.
As far as drinks are concerned, they just have one beer, but a very good one, Estrella Galicia, and then a wide range of wines, red and white, Catalan, Spanish, French and even some German, and also some vermouths. Staff is very nice and helpful, so you feel a bit like home. They also have a wide terrace, since they’re located in a boulevard, so on Saturday and Sunday middays, when the sun is shining, it is the best place to be!
Passatge de la Concepció, 13
For a special treat, my favourite is Petit Comité, nestled in a small alleyway close to Rambla de Catalunya, a very nice boulevard that goes down as far as the sea. The property is owned by chef Nandu Jubany, who also has a Michelin star for his restaurant in Calldetenes, a small village 70 km away from Barcelona. The staff is very nice and helpful and you will get Catalan fare, as they say “local products and contemporary presentation. The landscape, the culture and the emotions of the land on a single menu.”
To nibble on first, order the red baby shrimps with sea salt, just delicious! The artichokes with foie-gras and crispy Iberian ham are outstanding, as are the zucchini canneloni stuffed with mashed cod and black garlic. Also offered is a classic of the Catalan cuisine: grilled pork ear with trinxat (cabbage & mashed potato), garlic & parsley. A seasonal menú for 52 euros is also featured. They have a wonderful wine list with Catalan, Spanish and French wines.
Almirall Aixada, 23
Tradition has it that you will have the best paella in Valencia but, we have some very good restaurants in Barcelona where you can have excellent paellas, too!! And since you’re in Barcelona, why not walk down by the sea and have paella with a good bottle of chilled white wine or cava?
My favourite is Can Majó, right in front of the beach, at la Barceloneta (small Barcelona). You can sit inside, however, they have a beautiful terrace and since Barcelona typically has great weather, it’s almost always lovely outside!
The restaurant has been open since 1968 and it is run by a couple, María and Enric, now helped by their children, and it has become a part of the city. Here you will find dailyfresh fish and shellfish, either from the Mediterranean or from Galicia. But since you’re here for the paella, the recommendation goes for the paella with clams and crayfish!! And to start with, something not very often on the menus and that I love, “ortiguillas de mar a la andaluza” (a kind of sea weed fried in delicate batter).
Cristina Mora lives in Barcelona, where she spent seven years at Editorial Anagrama dealing with foreign rights and eight years at Grupo Planeta setting up the Foreign Rights department. In April 2010, she launched her own literary company, Cristina Mora Literary & Film Agency. Her other passions, apart from literature, are travel and gastronomy.