There’s paella, and there’s wet yellow rice with 4 pieces of green peas mixed in. Although Barcelona is known for amazing delicious food, it’s still not free from restaurants that serve… well… bad, inedible items they try to pass off as food. ¡Que horror! After 3 trips to Barcelona, I’ve had my own share of not so exemplary cooking: patatas bravas swimming in oil, rubbery calamares and how can I forget the wet yellow rice with a few pieces of peas labelled being sold as paella.
But of course there are those really good ones, too. My knowledge of food stops in Barcelona is by no means comparable to a local’s. But what I do have is a list of places that I’ve been to and enjoyed. In your trip to Barcelona, if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of one of these places with your stomach grumbling, this map (followed by short descriptions) may prove to be helpful:
COFFEE/CHURROS CON CHOCOLATE
Restaurant Bella-Tapa Rambla de Catalunya, 8 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Just off Placa Catalunya, this is the perfect churros con chocolate stop either early in the morning (if you feel like having churros for breakfast), or as a mid-afternoon snack (a.k.a. merienda) whilst you rest your feet after a day of touring.
Ciudad Condal Rambla de Catalunya, 18 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Cervecería Catalana Carrer de Mallorca, 236 08008 Barcelona, Spain
If you’re craving for tapas, Ciudad Condal and Cervecería Catalana have a lot to offer. The restaurants are just a few blocks from each other along Rambla Catalunya. If you’re walking along La Rambla and feel like having some tapas, ignore all the restaurants along La Rambla and a go a few minutes more towards Rambla Catalunya. A few more metres of walking will give you tapas, food, service and ambiance that are miles better than those in La Rambla. I visited both restaurants for dinner and found them packed and buzzing with locals enjoying their famous 11pm dinners that last ’til the wee hours of the morning.
Mercat De La Boqueria La Rambla, 91 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Mercat de Santa Caterina Avinguda de Francesc Cambó, 16 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Cuines Santa Caterina Avinguda de Francesc Cambó, 16 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Getting food straight out of local markets is always a good way to sample authentic local fare. Be warned, however, that since both La Boqueria and Santa Caterina are in the tourist routes, there are a lot of stalls that sell overpriced fruits, nuts, cakes, etc. But if you look closely and carefully, you will find offerings that are not only delicious but also quite inexpensive. If you’re in Santa Caterina, you may also want to consider doing a proper sit-down tapas and cava tasting at Cuines Santa Caterina—I highly recommend pairing the cava with the seafood tapas.
BY THE HARBOUR
La Fonda Del Port Olimpic Moll de Gregal, 7 08005 Barcelona, Spain
La Fonda is located around Port Olimpic by Ritz Carlton’s Hotel Arts Barcelona and have a terrace that give you a view of the water without the Ritz’s price tag. La Fonda and its neighboring restaurants transform their strip of the harbour into one big open air party at night, with the clatter of plates and clinking of glasses as the background music. It’s a great spot especially on warm summer nights; the constant sea breeze will keep you cool as you dine, or wine, or both.
LA RAMBLA OPTIONS
Restaurante Amathu La Rambla, 73 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Restaurant Centonze La Rambla, 111 08002 Barcelona, Spain
If you can help it, time your trip so hunger does not hit you whilst you’re at La Rambla. The street is just filled with sub-par food offerings catering to the undiscerning tourist. Caught in the middle of an anomalous downpour and achy feet in the middle of La Rambla, KD and I walked into Amathu and we were actually pleasantly surprised by the food. It doesn’t come anywhere close to all other items in this list but we expected worse. If you have more budget, the better option is to go to Centonze—Le Meridien Hotel’s in-house restaurant. We had late lunch at Centonze when we stayed at Le Meridien in 2009. Its food is the best in all of La Rambla (based on my experience), but of course you must expect five-star prices.
BEST PAELLA IN BARCELONA — FIT FOR ROYALTY
7 Portes Paseo Isabel II, 14 08003 Barcelona, Spain
In 2009, my sister and I went on paella mission in Barcelona. The mission was simple: to have paella for every meal of every day of our 6-day stay in the city. We stuck to this all the way to the airport where we had very bad “pasta paella” right before we boarded our flight. By the time we got back home to Toronto, it felt like our blood has turned to paella. Yet our mission failed—we did not find the paella that we were looking for.
You’re sitting on the king’s chair!
It was not until 2012, following a tip from a local cabbie and a bunch of Filipino waiters, that we found out about 7 Portes. The restaurant is beautifully elegant complete with a live pianist, the service was top notch, and the paella was fit for a king. Literally. Towards the end of my dinner at 7 Portes with my mother, a lady from the table next to us asked if she can have a photo taken at my seat. Apparently, I was sitting exactly where King Juan Carlos I of Spain sat when he dined at the restaurant. Other famous illustrious diners include Queen Sofia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salvador Dali. And I should make it clear, the paella is the best I’ve ever had.
SPECIAL OCCASION SPLURGE
Enoteca Paco Perez Restaurant Carrer Marina, 19 08005 Barcelona, Spain
For a special occasion, celebration or if you simply feel like splurging, I recommend Chef Paco Perez’s Enoteca. You may want to read my post “Enoteca: Paco Pérez’s obra maestra” to learn more about this culinary masterpiece. With two Michelin stars, you know you’ll can only expect the best of Spanish cuisine.
Here’s a shortlink to the full map with all the food stops I recommend: http://goo.gl/maps/G5Xog