Bracing ourselves for the backlash of not mentioning the place your grandfather swears has always had and will always have the best patatas bravas in the world, we dare to pick the 20 best places in Barcelona to get this popular tapa of thickly cut and fried-to-perfection potatoes piled high and served with a spicy (by Spanish standards) sauce. Purists will opt for recipes passed down from generation to generation served in bars like granddad recommends, while many will discover new and innovative formulas that are just as delicious in their own right.
Creative patatas bravas
The best ideas sometimes spring from need. Carlos Ortiz, chef of this little bar/restaurant with very serious intentions, had to prepare a meal for 400 people one day. Salvation came with this idea: patatas bravas whipped up and served in a glass, a tasty potato confit slow-cooked for five hours at 60° C, and then topped with a sauce made of garlic, chilli and paprika. A small yet great variation.
Paradox: this example of creativity applied to patatas bravas is already a classic, a paradigm of modern bravas – cylinders of golden brown spuds, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, served with a tasty red sauce, and topped with black sesame seeds, chives and Maldon salt. A flavour explosion that, according to chef Toni Simoes, 'we haven't changed in seven years'. Every week they serve about 250 portions, and even more delicious, in the whole seven years, the price gone up by only one euro.
This tapas spot – with a 'do it yourself' charm that's hard to explain in words – is a step in the right direction of solving the modern-tapas crisis in Poblenou. Amos Martínez mentions that 'Bohemian bravas', a tribute to his friend and former classmate Mandu Gimeno of Bohèmic. The bravas at El 58 are similar, but different. Try one of the generous portions, covered with two sauces: mayonnaise made from garlic confit, shallots, chives and black pepper, and the other from dried tomatoes, black pepper and cloves. A baroque and tasty rainbow, where, in addition to the spicy punch, you can also enjoy the subtle flavours.
In the old part Sarrià with a terrace full of trees sits Vivanda, where chef Jordi Vilà has cooked up a recipe for patatas bravas that are quite different from those he came up with for the Fàbrica Moritz – and carry on his tradition of innovation. This is a potato that is more roasted than fried, with a creamy texture, where the alioli sauce meets with the oil from a cooked spicy sobrasada sausage. On the side you get a bottle of spicy oil, so that hardened bravas junkies can really feel the burn. You'll get a good, generous portion of bravas that once again proves the strength of a Vilà kitchen.
Much has happened since Francesc Gimeno opened this little Sant Antoni bistro featuring tapas and small dishes which has made its mark not only in the neighbourhood but in the city as well. The bravas explain a small part of the secrets of his success. Gimeno's mother, who manages the dining room, refuses to reveal any details about the sauce and says that her son makes it behind closed doors. This secrecy has contributed to the legend of these incredible bravas, where the 'alioli' is blended with a sweet sauce that's almost like a syrup (ñora peppers? chorizo sausage? smoked pepper?) ... we're pretty sure we can pick out the taste of sauteed shallots ... .
There are plenty of reasons this brewery is a haven for beer lovers: 30 taps pouring craft beers, unusual brews such as the 60-proof beer, a tapas menu, sandwiches, burgers and Peruvian specialtiies, and a waiter (and partner) called Manolo who makes you want to shout out when you walk in, 'Manolo, an order of bravas!' Square-cut, symmetrical, well presented and served with a mild sauce, the bravas go great with, for example, a couple of ZZ Naparbier beers.
Gal·la and Nilson met while working at another hamburger joing in the city, La Royale, and in 2012 they decided to open their own place. Quality meat, reasonable prices, generous portions and side dishes like their chips with three sauces (alioli, ketchup and a very spicy bravas sauce) have made this small, cosy place a staple in Sant Gervasi neighbourhood. Their Agria potatoes are cut long and well fried, and the potent brava sauce is made with homemade tomato sauce emulsified with garlic oil and chilli. Excellent.
Jordi Cruz isn't just another pretty face on the telly. His career in prestigious kitchens and his collection of Michelin stars make him one of the most renowned chefs in the country. The bravas at Ten's (Cruz's low-cost option in the Born with prices much more suitable to us average joes than his other baby, the more upscale Àbac) are served with a foam 'alioli' and a bravas sauce created from high-quality tomatoes. The rest of the menu, from the squid to the barbecues, is also wonderful.
The story of these bravas dates back to the summer of 2010, when co-owner Juan Carlos Iglesias took home some baked potatos left over in the kitchen. He liked them so much he decided to put them on the menu accompanied by 'alioli' and none other than the bravas sauce made by his partner Albert Adrià. Now these are the star tapa of the place, ranked number 1 by the customers themselves. Mild, lovely, nothing excessive, these are undoubtedly the most different type of bravas on this list. When you go, make sure to try the beef oxtail burger and the croquettes. You'll be back.
Classic patatas bravas
Young chef Omar Díaz has come up with a variation of patatas bravas that deserves a standing ovation: the key lies in a three-part sauce made of zorza (minced chorizo sausage), a tomato sauce with roasted chilli, and homemade mayonnaise. The potato is a Galician Agria, fried with the skin on. Together they make up a little bit of manna that will have you wondering if it's really such bad manners to lick the plate clean.
Their bravas are deservedly among the best if not the best, in the city. They're served with a smooth and creamy 'alioli' that grabs you by the taste buds and has you wondering why they're so phenomenally different until Ramón, owner and chef, tells you it's that the garlic is roasted. They also come with just the right amount of bravas sauce and a touch of black pepper. The ambience is sophisticated and trendy, in a place where it classic tapas (don't pass over the mushroom croquettes) live happily alongside sandwiches and more creative tapas.
A word of advice from chef Jordi Vilà: when it comes to patatas bravas, half the texture battle is won potato and fridge are never introduced, otherwise the starch will change the texture. In the Fàbrica Moritz they've developed two kinds of bravas: ours and theirs. Ours, Catalan style, are topped with 'alioli' and spicy oil; Theirs, Madrid style, come with the classic combo of mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce. Not to play favourites, but going by taste alone, we have to say we prefer the texture and the smooth contrast of ours.
This Sant Andreu classic has been in business for 70 years, and has been owned and operated by the same family for more than three decades, with lifelong customers who ensure that the quality stays as good as it's always been. Since their patatas bravas are so popular in the neighbourhood, we head in hoping to leave with the recipe in our pocket. But we were denied. The potato is sweet, not oily at all, and it's fried and served with a secret bravas sauce that's quite mild, and a lovely creamy 'alioli' sauce. They also have an endless menu of meat, fish, tostadas (open-faced toasted sandwiches), and salads.
Paradise is in Horta and it's called Guns'n'Roses (a sandwich with onion and cheese), patatas bravas and a beer. Always busy, Louise Se Va has a menu of items named after rock bands, a nice neighbourhood feel, sandwiches, salads, good vibes, and bravas that, like all good things in life, are adorably imperfect.
This burger joint, big sister to the popular El Filete Ruso, opened with the aim of offering quality 100% beef burgers in New York–style environs and out-of-this-world sides. Enter the punch-packing bravas, which are subjected to three different cooking stages (sear-boil-sear) and are accompanied by a spicy tomato sauce with a thousand nuances, from Tabasco to cayenne, and a very reliable 'alioli'. For those who aren't afraid to show their feelings in public.
Diced potatoes that are a bit smaller and more roasted than the norm – they use Monalisa potatoes, which result in a sweeter flavour – fill your plate with a very generous serving. On the side are two bowls with different sauces in each one – a mild 'alioli' and a spicy tomato sauce, with a hint of green pepper – that invite you to dip your potatoes at will. Owner Albert Santos is so generous that he has no problem revealing the secrets of his home-made salsa that also includes perfect amounts of almond and chilli.
Together sister bar Obon, La Gamba is the paradigm of a tapas bar anchored in time, and all the good and the bad that goes along with that: a long bar-fridge shows off their arsenal of tempting tapas, and a general grunginess and dilapidated air hangs about the place. The bravas are very good: tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, the mixture of mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce very well balanced. Your best bet is dining on the terrace: in the heart of the Congrés neighbourhood, far from the city centre, you're guaranteed an entertaining show of the local customs.