Since we started offering the option to make a restaurant reservation online, you, our readers, have been defining and refining your preferences. Here are your current favourite 20 restaurants as determined by those establishments with the most online bookings by Time Out Barcelona users.
I'd heard the best thing about Gamba de la Costa were the grilled prawns, a simple dish where the outcome depends on the right grill, the quality of the prawns, and most of all, on the chef not cooking them like they did in the early '70s, before the arrival of the maestro Jean-Louis Neichel: with all the tenderness and flavour of the sole of a shoe. I went to Gamba de la Costa with my 16-year-old son whose stomach has the capacity of an industrial cement mixer. First the little angel ordered monkfish and prawn cannelloni with a side of artichoke chips, and for his main, black rice with squid. I ordered grilled prawns and rice with tuna and artichokes. The prawns were juicy and tender, including the oft-left-behind meat you can get out of the head. Between conversations (mostly about Barça and YouTubers), my son let me know that the artichoke chips were crispy and fried well, and that the cannelloni, with tomato bechamel sauce, had the perfect balance of flavours between the prawns and the monkfish. The problem came with the rice dishes – well, one of them, anyway. Black rice with squid is usually a lovely recipe, though in a lot of restaurants black rice can taste only of the squid ink, so it can be a risky order. However, that wasn't the case here. On the other hand, my rice was a bit overdone, and looking at it from previous experiences, I think the guilty party here is the tuna. It often falls apart and drags the rice down with it into certain tragedy. In spite of my son'
The best thing you can say about a vegetarian restaurant is that it doesn’t seem like one. Forget about the vegetarian clichés of sad tofu salads, here they offer a lunch menu featuring imaginative, tasty, nutritious dishes such as beans with cream of polenta and sage or home-made stuffed pasta, and always with an aperitif tapa included. In the evenings they unveil a range of tapas such as papas arrugas, Argentinean pies, burritos and fajitas. A small, well-chosen selection of wine and beer is available.
Manel and Daniel have opened another bodega like the one their family used to run next to the Monumental bullring. The menu does not include the dishes of the day, but once you’re at the bar you can try trotters, capipota, pigs’ cheeks or tripe with chickpeas and chorizo. They also sell cask wine.
Behind the rather hippie-ish name (it means 'Rainbow') lies a small, bistro-style family restaurant, very well-lit and lively. Maybe it’s because of the location (lots of offices and businesses nearby), or its simple, tasty cuisine (salads, soups, creams, bulgur, moussaka, plus vegan options), but the fact is, at lunchtime there aren't many empty tables. People on a lunch break have to get back fast, though, so just have a seat and wait a bit. Peace and quiet, and good food.
This is one of the city's first pintxo bars – and they know how to keep a good thing going. Help yourself to dainty 'jamón serrano' croissants, chicken tempura with saffron mayonnaise, melted provolone with mango and crispy ham, or a mini-brochette of pork. They've also got vegetarian and gluten-free options among their nearly 30 varieties of cold and warm pintxos available throughout the day and night. Hang on to the toothpicks spearing each one: they'll be counted up and charged for at the end. And if the jungle of elbows at the bar is too wild for you, be sure to head for a table in the dining room at the back.
El Cañota is a Galicia-inspired seafood tapas bar, and it comes with a pedigree. It's the younger brother of the renowned Rías de Galicia, one of the greatest Galician restaurants in the city and the country. El Cañota serves traditional dishes: fried fish and seafood, patatas bravas, Galician octopus, 'ensaladilla rusa', and draught beer and wine. All of it is top-quality, and served in a laid-back venue that's perfect for a celebratory meal, or for dinner after taking in a show at the Teatre Lliure, Mercat de les Flors or BTM, which are all nearby.
Escairón is particularly remarkable for its Galician entrecot (sirloin steak) and caldo gallego (Galician broth). Jorge and Pilar make you feel at home, while the clientele are mostly regulars. Aside from the entrecot, main dishes include barbecue, stews, and especially the eponymous dessert, Escairón (crème caramel with a kind of nougat ice cream). Unforgettable fried potatoes accompany the meat dishes. This is the perfect place to delight your palate with the very best of Galician cuisine and fresh, quality market fare at reasonable prices and with excellent service.
Mediterranean fish cuisine with modern touches, and in a chic setting: the cable car tower that looks down over the port. As you can imagine, bringing lobsters, wine and oil 75 metres uphill is not easy or cheap. So you can calculate about €80 per head, at least. Treat yourself, just for a day. Another, cheaper option is to book during the week and try their lunchtime menu.
This quirky, original restaurant that bears a resemblance to a New York eatery combines American dishes like barbecue pork rib burgers with a touch of the Mediterranean, like the tuna with wasabi mayonnaise variety. Have a slice of cheesecake for breakfast á la 'Sex and the City', or drop in for lunch or dinner.
Tucked away in the 'barrio' of Barceloneta, this quaint space with two quiet terraces is mostly overlooked by tourists, and consequently suffers none of the drop in standards of some of the paella joints on the seafront. Spectacular displays of fresh seafood show what’s on offer that day, but it’s also worth sampling the velvety fish soup and the generous paellas. Other locations El Nou Ramonet, C/Carbonell 5, Barceloneta (93 268 33 13).
A Barcelona classic that opened over 20 years ago and is a haven of peace and quiet. This neighbourhood brings in a variety of customers: CCCB employees, locals of all ages, trendy types who have just arrived in town... But all who enter this family restaurant can relax and enjoy a meal in the calm and mutual respect that fills the place. They offer traditional vegetarian cuisine as well as vegan options, all made using the best organic produce.
As a master of the balancing act between elegance and cosiness, La Terraza del Claris is a safe bet for a great time. The view from the large rooftop is fairly good, but the true strength of this terrace is its unbeatable atmosphere of well-being and its stylish design. Unlike many other rooftop bars, La Terraza del Claris also boasts a top restaurant in the space. While there are certainly cheaper places to dine out, well-prepared Mediterranean specialities and the friendly wait staff make sure you get what you pay for.
Tonkotsu is unique in its class for one very clear reason: according to its owners – who are the only Catalans I've come across dedicated to ramen – they serve ramen with a 'tonkotsu' broth made exclusively with pork bones. 'It's much more complicated than just boiling a pork bone; the broth needs to come out emulsified, thick and creamy,' explains co-owner and cook Albert Mata, who went to Hakata, the birthplace of this variety of ramen, to master the craft. The hardest part is finding suppliers of pork bones: they need that coveted piece of ham. The tare sauces add hints of different flavours, so it’s easy to distinguish the broths; the taste is very strong but measured out, and has an excellent, sweet pork taste. For a real party for your taste buds, you can add extra bacon – they can even add it to the broth.