Where to eat in Barcelona – a few foodie finds

by sophie on September 25, 2007 · 6 comments

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A slight diversion from the usual healthy/sustainable themes this week. I’ve already touched on the subject of holiday food in a roundabout way already but for about six weeks now I have been meaning to post a few notes about all of the great places to eat that we found on our trip to Barcelona. I was still procrastinating when we went out with our good friends Roger and Núria a couple of weeks ago and was amazed by Núria suggesting that we might like to pass on some of our Barcelona recommendations to her and Rog. Núria is from a small town about half an hour away from Barcelona and knows the city like the back of her hand, hence my surprise, but I guess when you know somewhere really well it is easy to stick with your old favourites. And I owe her a big favour for telling us to rent an apartment in the trendy Born region of the city, where we thought we had died and gone to foodie heaven.

Here are a few of our favourites from our stay in Barcelona, starting in El Born and spreading further afield (there is a map showing all of the locations further down the page). Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments – I’m already planning my next trip so would love to know!

La Vinya del Senyor
Plaça Santa Maria 5, Born
A great wine bar with a frequently updated wine list. The wine servings are deliberately small allowing for a great deal of experimentation to be entered into, a way of drinking which was right up our street! They have a small food menu to help soak up the alcohol (with particularly good cheese), but we did find that we had to move on find something more substantial later in the evening. The bar itself is tiny with most customers to be found outside on the terrace, where competition is fierce for a seat. Be prepared for a wait or to start your evening early. Once you’ve got a seat relax, you’re in the perfect people-watching spot of a bustling square right outside the Santa Maria del Mar church.

Caputxes 10, Born www.bubo.ws
Bubo has two premises side by side in the Placa Santa Maria. The first is Bubo Bar, a nice enough bar/eaterie, but the star of the show is the Bubo shop selling artisan chocolates, pastries, petit four and an astonishing array of macaroons in the most vivid shades imaginable (bright red, yellow and lime green when we visited!). Take-away coffee and pastries whisked back to your apartment for breakfast are also to be recommended.

Cremeria Toscana
(I couldn’t find the exact address for the Born branch, the other one is C/ Muntaner 161)
A beautiful, old-fashioned ice-cream parlour with a huge choice of heavenly homemade flavours. I sampled the nectarine (sweet, fresh and full of real fruit) and the coconut (creamy and perfect). I’m not an ice-cream connoisseur but I don’t think I have ever tasted ice-cream with such ‘true’ flavours! Cremeria Toscana has another branch in Eixample (directly opposite Paco Meralgo – see below)

Al Passatore
Pla Palau 8
No terrace and not particularly pretty but in very busy area of Barcelona where a table can be hard to come by La Passatora deserves a brief mention for its gigantic, traditional Italian pizzas, served quickly and without any wait for a table.

Mercat de Santa Caterina
Avinguda de Francesc Cambó www.mercatsantacaterina.net
All guidebooks recommend La Boqueria as the must visit food market but for a more leisurely shop we loved the Mercat de Santa Caterina, half as busy and housed in a stunning building designed by the late Enric Miralles, architect of the Scottish Parliament. Also housed in the market is La Torna, bread specialist and adjoining tapas bar. We particularly liked their tasty hot tapas dishes and enjoyed a few glasses of by far the best house white wine we encountered (so good we dragged a bottle home with us).

Formatgeria La Seu
C/Dagueria 16 www.formatgerialaseu.com

A tiny shop specialising in Spanish cheeses. The owner of the shop, Katharine, is very knowledgeable about cheese-making and it is worth a trip to the shop to chat with her and to do a small tasting (three cheeses, one each from a goat, sheep and cow along with snifter of red wine for a few euros). I thought I loved cheese but Katharine is so enamoured of cheese that when the shop closes for August she spends her vacation working with artisan cheese makers around Spain.

Eating in Barcelona

Paco Meralgo
C/ Muntaner 171
A splendid tip from Chez Pim. The first night we tried to go this tapas bar (a relative newcomer on the Barcelona scheme but already very popular) we were thwarted by an almost city wide power cut. I’m so glad we persevered; this was the best place we ate at in the whole holiday and we liked it so much we went back for a repeat visit despite it being on the other side of the city. The staff are very friendly and happy to make suggestions; we ate magnificently based on their recommendations including great baked scallops and pajaritos de la huerta (arty deep fried spring onions). The seafood is especially fresh and good here – with a seat at the bar you can sit and watch the razor clams wink in and out of their shells on the seafood ice bath for many a happy hour! I must admit I was a bit disappointed by the wine we had in a lot of the places serving tapas but not here. We had a stunning crisp apple flavoured cava (Rovellats I think) and a bottle of Torres Atrium Merlot from Penedes, the local wine growing region. Paco Meralgo fills up quickly but I think you can book a table (we just turned up unfashionably early, about 8.30pm, like the tourists that we are).

C/ Sant Antoni Abat 52 www.sesamo-bcn.com
The perfect cool, dark oasis for a leisurely lunch away from the heat. A member of slow food, Sesamo serves hearty vegetarian food with a different menu every day that is inspired by what is fresh and seasonal (the set lunch menu is excellent value). I think we both had the chunky potato, egg, green bean and avocado salad and then Nik tucked into a perfectly cooked cherry tomato and goats cheese quiche while I sampled the smoked tofu, lentil and butter bean stew with parsley rice. Sesamo is a little away from the beaten path but was deemed well worth the excursion even by my vehemently carnivorous husband.
I’ve made a Google map of all of the places above called ‘Great places to eat in Barcelona’ (click view larger map and you can whiz about and do clever things with it):

View Larger Map
Non Foodie Stuff
We’ve been to Barcelona before which didn’t stop us going round all of Gaudi’s fantastic buildings again (with the exception of the Palau Guell in the Raval which was hidden under a large overcoat of scaffolding having a bit of a makeover). The picture below is of a couple of the ornate chimneys on the roof of Gaudi’s La Pedrera.

La Pedrera

A new discovery this time was the Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Paul, one of Barcelona’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites (there is a quick photo of the Hospital Sant Pau, the other name it seems to go by, in my Flickr photostream). The Hospital is an architectural curiosity of colourful tiled pavilions and beautiful landscaping connected by subterranean network of tunnels (its hard to describe – just go!). Despite its lofty status the hospital is still in use (but not for much longer) and so in amongst the tourists snapping away are patients sitting on benches catching a spot of fresh air and nurses having a furtive cigarette by the pavilion back doors.

And obviously a girl’s gotta shop. Planned way before the holiday was the purchase of a pair of funky but comfy winter heels from Camper, the quirky Mallorcan shoe maker (there are numerous branches dotted around the city). The tiny streets round our apartment were littered with purveyors of gorgeous jewellery but the pick of the bunch had to be the shop of Helena Rohner, born in the Canary Islands and trained in London. In addition to beautiful jewellery, Helena also designs very unusual ceramics.

A few last little tips. The Time Out Barcelona guide was the only guidebook we took along and was spot on in its food, drink and shopping recommendations (it is also very up-to-date at the moment as it was only published in early 2007). If you are planning on visiting anywhere that involves travelling any distance make sure that you double check both the opening times and opening days (we got caught out a few times)!


susan lopes July 18, 2008 at 17:05

Just returned from Barcelona and ended up trying all but two of your suggestions. Paco Meralgo was unbelievable. The razor clams and French Toast-like dessert (forget the name but it’s a specialty of Barcelona) were outstanding. We then went to the other restaurants of the same owner – Tuset and L’Olive. The others are more formal. We liked Paco best, then Tuset with it’s open kitchen and L’Olive last, only because it felt a little more elegant than we wanted.
At Mercat de Santa Caterina there is a store that sells olive oils, with tastings. They package it for bringing home. The tapas place you recommend, also had incredible razor clams.
My favorite non-foodie shopping experience was at La Manuel Alpargatas in Barri Gotic at C/Avinyo 7. It is an espadrille shoe factory and has a ton of styles. It’s crowded but worth it.
Thank you for all of your suggestions – they made our trip!

Sophie July 19, 2008 at 13:51

Thanks for dropping by Susan. I’m so pleased that you liked the places that you tried out. It’s about a year now since our trip so it’s also good to know that these places are going strong.
Paco Meralgo was just fantastic. Thanks for your tip – we’ll definitely look out the other restaurants owned by the same people next time we’re over (soon hopefully!)

Heather September 5, 2008 at 16:01

I just stumbled upon this article because I saw the user created map while looking at apartment locations on google maps. Thank you for all these tips for places to eat! I am about to venture to Barcelona for work and I’ll be there a few months. A friend of mine, who is both a vegetarian and a cheese fanatic, will be coming to visit me and it looks like Formatgeria La Seu and Sesamo would be great places to take him. Thanks again for reporting on your finds!

Harry March 3, 2011 at 11:25

I’ve been to Barcelona a couple of times, and finding a restaurant without actually doing some research can be very difficult. Hotels do not offer any local dishes, they mainly stick with continental dishes, but restaurants close to hotels can always be a good choice.

Unless you get a guide, or best ask the concierge at the hotel, it is very difficult finding a good restaurant in Barcelona.

Tyron July 18, 2013 at 17:03

Paco Meralgo is a really good tapas restaurant in Barcelona, if you want to eat good italian food you can go to Bimbas restaurant, one of my favourites!

Walter August 27, 2013 at 10:58

I was in Paco Meralgo, amazing tapas there! In addition I went to diner at Cheri restaurant, a friend recommend to me cause it’s a new restaurant and it was so cool!

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