A pitcher of full-bodied wine, infused with the flavours of plump, buxom fruits, splashed onto rocky ice, and served chilled on a warm sunny Saturday.
Bite into the oven-baked crusty bread and savour the unexpectedly fluffy crumb. Over-indulge in the food and ingest a few catchy Spanish words along the way.
A food tour in Barcelona? Doesn’t sound too bad.
Barcelona isn’t just about the spires of Sagrada Familia or the sandy Mediterranean beach. Churros, sangria and jamón, they are Spain’s best gifts to the world.
Okay, maybe Fabregas, Pique and Iker Casillas. Too.
Drawn by the sweet aroma of churros and hot chocolate, we travelled to Barcelona in search of a paradise for our palate. The grazing started from the moment we saw the first shard of sunlight and got more and more intense through the day.
As the night became darker and livelier, the vigorous grazing evaporated and transformed into slow sips of cocktails at the local bar, two people too sluggish to move but utterly contented. I guess that’s what you’d call a ‘food coma’.
In today’s post, I will write about the good places to eat in Barcelona. They are ‘good’ principally because of their prime locations (i.e. close to the attractions or main streets of the city so it makes visiting more convenient and faster), their less touristy ambience and of course, most importantly, their very ambrosial food!
A rather economical establishment of the Michelin-star rated chef, Carles Abellan, Tapas 24 is a little basement tapas haven located just under a 10-minute walk away from the famous shopping street La Rambla.
In here, classic Spanish tapas are given an innovative twist and reasonably priced. You may be seated high on the bar stool, literally rubbing elbows with the people next to you and watching the nimble fingers of the cooks as they prepare your food.
One of the many specialities is the Bikini Sandwich (last picture above) – light bree, jamón and truffles toasted to perfection on thin crust-less bread. Simple, yet with a stunning taste.
A few reviewers online pointed out that the size of the sandwich is inadequately small, but I personally think that it’s enough to satisfy because with such richly flavoured fillings, too big of a sandwich would leave one feeling quite uncomfortable.
Comparatively, the conchinita pibil (slow roasted pork) tacos is a lot less impressive. We didn’t get to try the Mcfoie-burger that day because it simply wasn’t on the Catalan ‘Tapes del Dia’ (Tapas of the Day menu).
Other specialities include: squid ink black rice (arròs negre de sípia) and chocolate balls in olive oil with wafer (sal i oli).
For those of you around the Rambla, this place is undeniably a great rest stop to put down your shopping bags and soak up the local dining atmosphere.
Address: 269, Carrer de la Diputació, 08007 Barcelona, Spain; No reservation available.
If Tapas 24 is too loud for you and you fancy a calmer Spanish lunch away from the crowds of the Rambla, head to Telefèric. Spacious, polished with contemporary deco. Most importantly, only 5-minute walk away from the main street.
This is the second restaurant of Maria and her brother, Xavi. Charming, remarkably friendly and fluent in English, you could find her most times at the restaurant explaining the wide array of tapas to her keen clients.
In here, all the dishes are prepared to their best quality and placed enticingly on the long bar.
So how this works?
Basically, they are separated into warm tapas and cold tapas, you pick the ones you want, hand them over and just wait at your table. Each type of tapa is priced differently and so they come with different types of toothpicks.
Among all the creative choices, these two below are my favourite:
This Galician-style octopus is a warm tapas. I was worried that it might have the usual rubbery texture which makes it hard to chew, but it didn’t. It was creamy on the inside, fleshy and very tender.
And with this tapa? Let’s say it’s a math equation – caramelised onion plus foie gras plus brittle toast equal? Too good to be true. The melt-in-your-mouth texture combined with the thin crumbly bread…
Yes, I had two.
If you still want more, I recommend you to give the steak a try. The meat is really fresh and they come in bite-size.
Address: 27, Plaça del Doctor Letamendi, Baixos, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Hurrah for the midnight diners and supper club members! A modern and impeccably friendly tapas bar throbbing with high energy until as late as 2am is here to serve your needs.
Don’t be fooled by the tiny entry. This place is chock-a-block with merry eaters and feeders. We arrived at around 9pm on a weekday without reservation and waited for almost 45 minutes before being seated, which was fine because right next to La Pepita was a traditional pastry shop selling stacks of churros.
Killing two birds with one stone. I certainly didn’t say no.
As we walked into La Pepita, it’s difficult not to be distracted by the colourful comments and compliments scrawled in different languages on the wall, undoubtedly the greatest tip from the clients to the jovial owners.
The food served here is a reinterpretation of the traditional fare.
Starting with the tapas:
The first one is the Bouquerones, an appetizer of anchovies marinated with vinegar and olive oil. In La Pepita, they are given a personal touch with home-made green olives jam, which perfectly balanced out the salty and slight acidic taste of the anchovies.
The second one is the Croquetas, crispy and hot breaded fritters with a soft creamy texture on the inside, usually served as an afternoon lunch with beer. The main ingredients are mashed potato, meat and cheese. This plate of croquette, covered with generous amount of thinly sliced Iberian ham is a three-year old creation of La Pepita, cleverly named the VIC, “Very imporTant croquette, for very important people”, said Sofia, the creative young owner, cheerfully. This lady knows that when good ham and potato come together, things can never go wrong.
The third one will be the perfect dish to go for if you don’t eat pork. Ceina is a flavourful dish of cow’s cured ham, a classic from central Spain, Leon and Bierzo. In La Pepita, it is served with braised artichokes, hazelnut vinaigrette and dry tomatoes. That night, the light fragrance of roasted hazelnut, crunchy celery roots and sweetness of the ham all came together as one very delicious affair.
And finally, the big hit – Pepitas! This main dish is a twist from the traditional pepito sandwich. Thinner, lighter, crispier with more variety of fillings compared to the original pepito that only uses chicken or beef.
This is the beef pepita with grilled tomatoes. A classic of the house and also my favourite one between the two, served with mashed potatoes and home-made beef sauce.
This is a traditional sausage pepita with romesco, a classic Catalan sauce, served with grilled zucchini and asparagus.
I couldn’t really feel the starchy taste of the bread as I bit into these sandwiches, which made them rather delicate and even more perfect for late-night meals.
Address: 343, Carrer de Còrsega, 08037 Barcelona, Spain ; Open weekday until 1.30am & weekend until 2am ; reservation is recommended.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous and don’t mind finding your ways round the dimly-lit alleys of backstreet Barcelona, then by all means, venture into the zone of Cera 23.
This is the project of three young Galicians, offering fusion food – Galician, Mediterranean and Italian. It has a very informal and casual vibe, akin to a gastro-pub, and I absolutely enjoyed the entire dining experience.
The complimentary gazpacho
The is a crunchy chicken entrée. The taste is as ingenious as its presentation.
Highly recommend this squid ink paella. I love how the dried bonito flakes adds a distinct layer of taste and texture to the whole dish.
This restaurant also offers a selection of really excellent wine and cocktails. Don’t be put off by the location.
Address: 23, Carrer de la Cera, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
I was very excited watching the re-run of Masterchef finale few weeks ago. Not for the Malaysia-born Ping but because one of their challenges took place in Escribà ! (Not mentioning that Chef Carles Abellan, the owner of Tapas 24, was one of the hosts as well.)
Escribà is opened by the legendary World Chocolate Master, Christian Escribà. The interior is simple, bright and filled with spectacular sculptures made of sweets and chocolates. It’s a very pretty and fun place to have breakfast in.
The thick and velvety hot chocolate, the slightly burnt and flaky pastries. They didn’t wake me up that morning. They sent me straight back to the loop of my cherubic, sugary dream.
Address: 546 Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 08011 Barcelona & 83, La Rambla, 08002 Barcelona, Spain.
With love x