The first time I visited Barcelona was in November 2005, and back then, I made the mistake of not making any dinner reservations in advance, which meant that by the time I rang up highly-sought-after Barcelona restaurants, I was too late. So instead of swanking it up at the likes of Comerc 24, I ate several highly-forgettable dinners in indifferent tapas bars (you know, the randomly-chosen type that look crowded with locals but turns out to be filled with locals who must not care what they’re eating)
Still, there’d been bright spots last time – enough to make me long to revisit. I remember lunch at Cal Pep, for example, where my neighbor at the counter, an old Spanish guy, grabbed my right hand (which was holding my fork) and forced me to stab some of the braised calamari right off his plate.
So Jon and I returned last weekend for three full days of good food and relaxation, dividing most of our time between the winding medieval streets of the Born and the upscale gridiron of the Eixample district, where we stayed in what was effectively our own enormous flat for 90 euros a night (rented out as “the Chimney Room” by BarcelonaBB).
Because it was a holiday weekend in Spain, too, Cal Pep was closed. But having become a much more seasoned eater and traveller over the years, I had in mind lots of other options. (Many thanks to this August 2006 post by Chocolate & Zucchini, and to this July 2008 article and this April 2009 article from the New York Times, as well as the very up-to-date TimeOut Barcelona guidebook).
We had very good (2 pm, of course) lunches at ready-for-franchising Taller de Tapas and grande dame seafood specialist Els Pescadors and smile-inducing snacks at Bar Pinotxo in the Boqueria, and even at a local chain, Café Viena.
Dinner on Sunday was at 10:30 pm at the super-lively Bar Mut and on Saturday night, we had a truly outstanding, I-can’t-wait-to-go-back dinner at Gresca, each of which I’ll blog about in upcoming posts.
We enjoyed the browsing, tasting and yapping of buying Spanish wines at the Vila Viniteca, which also happened to be steps away from Santa Maria del Mar, whose interior spaciousness and natural brightness is both surprising and memorable. (We ignored it the last time we were in Barcelona – it was on our way to Cal Pep – but having just read Ildefonso Falcones’s melodramatic-but-touching novel, Cathedral of the Sea, Jon and I were especially keen to see the place this time around). And inevitably, we ate a lot of gelato (courtesy of the fresh-and-fast Gelaaati!).
Of course, research and planning only take you so far. We had a pretty horrendous snack at Bar Boqueria (in the Boqueria, which goes to show you that there are truly miserable tourist traps even in Food-Lover’s Ground Zero) and a mediocre lunch at Ferran Adria’s foray into fast food, Fast Good. We also spent almost an hour searching out Jamonisimo, the jamon sh0p where Adria, Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon buy their cured meats, only to find that the shop inexplicably closed on Monday (and no, it wasn’t siesta time).
Sometimes you just get unlucky.
Still, we were so lucky to have been able to go back to Barcelona. I ate my weight in navajas (razor clams) and jamon and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather. It was the perfect weekend break.
Taller de Tapas, Carrer l’Argenteria, 51; +34 93 268 85 59; Born district; closest metro station: Jaume I
Els Pescadors, Placa Prim 1; + 34 93 225 20 18; Poblenou district; closest metro station: Poblenou
Bar Pinotxo, practically the first stall you hit in the Boqueria as you enter from Liceu metro; closest metro station: Liceu
Gresca, Carrer de Provenca, +34 93 451 61 93; Eixample district; closest metro station: Diagonal
Bar Mut, Pau Claris, 192; +34 93 217 43 38; Eixample district; closest metro station: Diagonal
Vila Viniteca, Carrer de Agullers, 7; +34 902 32 77 77; Born district; closest metro station: Jaume I
Gelaaati!, Carrer de Llibreteria, 7; +34 93 310 50 45; Barri Gotic district; closest metro station: Jaume I
Fast Good, Carrer de Balmes, 127; +34 93 452 23 74; Eixample district; closest metro station: Diagonal
Jamonisimo, Carrer de Provenca, 85; + 34 93 439 08 47; Eixample district; closest metro station: Hospital Clini