Barcelona Restaurants and Reviews
Written by Plexus Radio on 12 September, 2017
Barcelona is a city characterised by great diversity. Food is one of the best ways of exploring this diversity and getting a feel for the city’s atmosphere. A few decades ago eating didn’t have the cultural significance it has today, neither in Barcelona nor the rest of Spain. This has changed completely. Nowadays going out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner is a great way of getting acquainted with the rhythms of the city and the customs of its citizens.
Barcelona is the perfect destination for people who love great food. As in other big cities, it is difficult to avoid fast and pre-prepared food. However, Barcelona has an entire culture built around the sit-down meal. A whole new generation of chefs has made an enormous contribution to this culture by taking Catalan cuisine to new heights, in terms of both modernity and popularity. For example, it suffices to mention Ferran Adriá, the driving force behind the El Bulli restaurant (located in Roses, Girona but with a workshop in Barcelona), who is considered one of the world’s best chefs.
With this in mind, deciding to go out for dinner opens up two distinct options: to simply satisfy hunger or to thoroughly enjoy every aspect of a meal. The decision will probably depend on preference (and budget), but either way it is always good to set out with a few promising leads.
What about tapas?
For example, anyone who comes to the city looking for the typical tapas experience, which is so common throughout the rest of Spain, could end up a bit disappointed. This custom has never been very wide spread in Barcelona and, although restaurants of this kind do exist (many of them bearing Basque names), they are usually filled with tourists rather than locals. However, something that the city has adapted to very rapidly is the arrival of international cuisine from every corner of the world. In addition to the classic Italian, Greek, Japanese and French restaurants, which have been around for years, immigration has brought in many other types of cuisine from countries such as China, India, Pakistan and Egypt to name a few. In turn, the introduction of these new restaurants has opened up a whole new world of recipes and flavours.
Food diversity in Barcelona’s neighbourhoods
In Barcelona there is a restaurant for every occasion, be it a group outing, an intimate dinner, a work lunch, a luxurious meal or just a good, affordable snack… Generally, the average cost for a meal consisting of two dishes and dessert would come to about 20 Euros. However, a very common practice is the special lunch time menu, which consists of a selection of sizeable dishes at much cheaper prices, that is usually available at most restaurants. Let us now take a closer look at some of the city’s different areas …
A seaside neighbourhood that boasts the best and most authentic seafood restaurants in all of Barcelona. The Olympic Port follows the same trend but with a more modern variety of restaurants that don’t retain the atmosphere of the older incarnations.
A very popular area amongst young people during the weekend, definitely leads the way in terms of exotic restaurants (Lebanese, Egyptian, Thai etc..). However, Grācia is also home to some of the most classic exponents of Catalan cuisine. The Eixample is home to restaurants of all kinds, but here quantity often exceeds quality. You can find many prestigious restaurants and very high-end establishments but also some spots where what you paid for leaves much to be desired in terms of quality.
This neighbourhood is home to some of the oldest and most typical restaurants in the city. Meanwhile, the and the Raval, two of the trendiest districts at the moment, sport some of the most modern and international restaurants in the entire city.
It’s all about the ambience
For those looking for a specific ambience regardless of the neighbourhood there are other possibilities as well. For example, nowadays some of the city’s spectacular modernist buildings house classic restaurants. These include outstanding places such as Els Quatre Gats (C/. Montsiķ, 3), the Hotel Espaņa, located just around the corner from the Liceu, or the Casa Calvet (Casp, 48), located on the ground floor of a building designed by a very young Gaudí that won the Best Building of the Year award in 1900. The quality of the food at each of these establishments ranges from good to excellent and there is a significant price difference between the set menu and ordering a la carte.
Those interested in seeing restaurants with a special historical significance should not miss a visit to the Set Portes (Paseo de Isabel II), which was one of the most luxurious cafés in the city during the 19th Century. Another fine example is Los Caracoles (The Snails), located on Calle Escudellers, where the house speciality is exactly what the name says.
It is difficult to highlight a particular restaurant specialising in international cuisine due to the extensive selection available in the city. Calle Verdi, a street in the Grācia district, is an excellent choice for sampling Middle Eastern cuisine from countries such as Egypt at Nut, Lebanon at Al-Waha or even Iran at Mesopotamia. Amongst Greek restaurants, the Dionisos chain definitely stands out. The main restaurant is located on Calle Urgell (corner Diputaciķ) and its curious decor deserves a special mention. And if you’re looking for a blend of different flavours from around the world, you can find no better place than LOu com Balla, located on Calle Banys Vells. This spot is an excellent option, especially for a romantic dinner.
One of the city’s best French restaurants is doubtlessly La Maison du Languedoc-Rousillon (Pau Clarís between Gran Via and Ronda Sant Pere). In addition to fine dining, they are also a tourism office serving the entire south-western region of France, also known as Catalunya Nord (Northern Catalonia). Italian restaurants abound in all areas of the city, but some of them truly surpass the rest: Al Passatore, located in the Pla de Palau, serves twenty-four different types of pizza, and La Bella Napoli (on Nou de la Rambla very close to Avinguda Paral.lel) is famous for its pizzas, prepared in a wood-fire oven.
Those who reserve a special fondness for Asian cuisine can find many Japanese and even more Chinese restaurants. Over the past few years, a vast number of Chinese restaurants have opened throughout the entire city. As is to be expected, not all of them are equally recommendable. A safe bet is Swan, a restaurant where the food is delicious and every choice is a good one. Located on Calle Diputaciķ, Swan is the oldest Chinese restaurant in the city. As far as Japanese restaurants are concerned, Shojiro (Calle Ros de Olano) specialises in an interesting fusion between Japanese and European cuisine, and Shunka (on Calle Sagristans) is definitely amongst the most authentic.
Vegetarians are not overlooked by Barcelona’s restauranteurs. In addition to a number of chain restaurants such as Fresc Co., Lactuca etc. that have locations throughout the city, there are a few restaurants that have gained an excellent reputation. A case in point is La Flauta Māgica, located on Calle Banys Vells or Govinda, on Plaza Vila de Madrid. Both are situated in the Gothic Quarter and are well-known for their excellent organic cuisine.
Many restaurant spaces are now being filled with very modern and trendy establishments. Salsitas (located on Nou de la Rambla), Ra (Plaįa Gardunya immediately behind the Boqueria Market) and Carmelitas (on Calle Carme) exemplify this style. There are countless other restaurants of this ilk located throughout the Raval and the Born that attract a predominantly young clientele in search of new and more eclectic options. For the most part, the servings in these restaurants are not particularly generous but that seems to be of little importance. These spots are very popular with hip crowds and serve dishes that are original in character rather than abundant in size.
For those people who prefer to steer clear of surprises and are looking for a chance to sample other examples of regional Spanish cuisine, a wonderful option is the Casas Regionales (Regional Houses). The Andalusian house, located on Via Laietana, is the undisputed king of “pescaíto frito” (fried fish). The La Rioja house (on Calle Pintor Fortuny) prepares excellent casseroles, a typical dish from the north of Spain. The Valencian house (on Calle Cķrcega) is the best place to try different kinds of rice dishes, and the Galician Centre on the Rambla specialises in seafood and “empanadas” (a type of pie).
Author of the article: Roger Balta