In Barcelona, food is a lifestyle. Traditional and avant-garde delicacies are put together in an outstanding expression of Mediterranean cuisine, and eating out is both a social need and a custom deeply rooted in local culture. From tiny and crowded tapas bars to stunning fine dining venues, these are ten of the best cultural restaurants in Barcelona.
The latest celebrated project by world-famous chefs and brothers Albert and Ferran Adrià of El Bulli is called Tickets and is dedicated to showcasing the very essence of the pleasure of eating. With a colorful and exciting decor, this Michelin-starred gastrobar hosts different circus-themed spaces and serves sublime traditional and modern tapas creations. ‘La vida tapa’ is the slogan of this lively and contemporary tapas bar that has become a very popular venue for Barcelona’s foodies; the waiting period to enjoy this stunning dining experience can be around two or three months!
El Xampanyet is one of the most prestigious tapas bars in Barcelona, with a history spanning over 80 years. Decorated with tiled walls and marble tables, and located in the trendy Born neighborhood, El Xampanyet is an authentic venue that retains its vintage charm and a great personality. Famous for its spectacular anchovies and Iberian charcuterie, the singularity of this establishment is also granted by its selection of local Catalan cava (‘xampanyet’ means ‘little champagne’ in Catalan) that can be ordered as the perfect accompaniment to the traditional tapas.
Koy Shunka is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Barcelona, and was awarded with its first Michelin star in 2013. The venue is the second and most sophisticated of chef Hideki Matsuhisa’s outlets, opened after the initial success of Shunka, big brother of Koy Shunka. Its menu offers the chef’s elaborate savoir-faire in an exquisite mixture of the most refined flavors of Japan with the best of fresh Mediterranean produce. Every delicacy is prepared with meticulous care for the properties and underlying flavors of each ingredient. The espardenya nigiris, the wagyu or the negitoro temaki are just some samples of Koy Shunka’s impressive culinary accomplishment.
La Cova Fumada
La Cova Fumada is a family-run and small-sized tapas bar situated in the seaside neighborhood of La Barceloneta. Locals and foreigners are attracted by the renown of its legendary bomba patata, a delicious potato filled with meat and a choice of three sauces, graded by spiciness. The menu focuses on authentic Mediterranean delicacies, from fresh fish produce to vegetables, along with a wide selection of Spanish wines. La Cova Fumada is a typical old tavern that embraces the best of Barcelona’s tradition, with white marble tables and simple dishes bursting with flavor.
In the heart of Barcelona, close to Las Ramblas, Bar Cañete comprises two separate spaces; the Barra offers tapas in a informal and fast-paced environment with a very long counter as the main center of activity, and the Mantel is a bistro space where generous courses can be enjoyed in an intimate, relaxed and more refined atmosphere. Bar Cañete serves fish and seafood from Catalonian fish markets and seasonal vegetables from local farmers, moulding them into classic and contemporary Spanish specialties. The fried squid sandwich and the red salted shrimps are a must-try.
Quimet & Quimet
Family-run Quimet & Quimet has over 100 years of history. First opened in 1914, this tiny and bustling establishment is now managed, with close attention and friendliness, by the fourth generation of the family. With no chairs to sit on, the diners can eat at the bar counter or at small tables, choosing from an assortment of montaditos, or tapas toppings, prepared with some of the finest Spanish seafood, meat and cheese. These tapas can be enjoyed together with an outstanding selection of wines, which literally reaches up to the ceiling, and the venue’s own home-brewed beer. Renowned among the locals, Quimet & Quimet is still not on Barcelona’s tourist maps.
Ocaña is the ultimate trendy venue to enjoy on a night out in Barcelona. Cafe, cocktail bar, restaurant and terrace meet in a unique environment with one common denominator – creativity and Berlinesque inspiration. The menu is Catalan inspired with a dash of Asian and North African fusion elements, and is prepared with high-quality ingredients in a way that represents the restaurant’s philosophy – simplicity in manufacture, reverence for the product and a careful overview of popular icons. Ocaña is a casual spot where fun meets gastronomy, followed by impressive cocktails such as the Moscow Mule, a Berlin staple.
Cal Pep is a crowded tapas bar in the fashionable El Born district and one of the most popular venues in Barcelona. Always filled with locals and visitors in a buzzing atmosphere, Cal Pep offers an excellent selection of Mediterranean cuisine prepared with fresh seasonal products, and always recommends the day’s best food, from fish and seafood to meat and vegetables. The extensive variety found on its menu features tapas alongside generous main courses – squid, shrimp, botifarra with beans and Spanish omelette and seafood paella are among some of the specialties. Diners can sit at the bar counter facing the open kitchen and watch the food being prepared in front of them, but it’s also possible to book a table in the intimate back dining room.
Xemei, situated in the historic neighborhood of Poble Sec, is considered to be one of the best examples of Italian cuisine in Barcelona. However, this restaurant goes beyond the standard expectations of Italian gastronomy and presents specialties from a single part of Italy; Venice. Chefs Stefano and Max Colombo, Italian twin brothers, offer the best, traditional recipes from their hometown with an extraordinary selection of elaborate plates, from cuttlefish with polenta to the best burrata. Natural fresh produce and organic wines are served with creativity and a delicate presentation in a vintage and glamorous atmosphere.
La Boqueria Market is a point of reference for traditional food markets all over the world. Inside, Pinotxo Bar is an unmissable stop. Wedged in between endless market stalls and vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood, Pinotxo Bar offers bites of traditional Catalan cuisine, prepared with the freshest produce from the market. This is a true institution within the market, always crowded with loyal locals and curious visitors.
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