The best restaurants in Barcelona for Catalan cuisine
Barcelona has a wealth of eateries that have improved over the years. Many are back on the map after having been forgotten, and some have the added bonus of having modernized without going over the top, to catch up with the demand for good quality products that their clients want. One such case is Agut in the Barri Gòtic, where they've saved many a traditional dish from certain extinction, such as brains in batter. Booking ahead is essential: every Sunday morning you’ll see queues of hungry customers waiting to get in here.
One of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona, Set Portes' eponymous seven doors open on to as many dining salons, all kitted out in elegant 19th-century décor. Long-aproned waiters bring regional dishes, served in vast portions, including a stewy fish 'zarzuela' with half a lobster, a different paella daily (shellfish, for example, or rabbit and snails), a wide array of fresh seafood, and heavier dishes such as herbed black-bean stew with pork sausage, and 'orujo' sorbet to finish. Reservations are available only for certain tables; otherwise, get there early at dinnertime.
Here's yet another traditional Catalan restaurant that really should be protected under by UNESCO as a local heritage site. Every once in a while a crafty tourist or two sneaks in to Can Boneta when wandering too far off the Rambla route, thinking this can't be for real. But rest assured, you're not dreaming when you find this cuisine treated by the loving care of family and assisted into existence by modern technology. The house that Joan Boneta built – himself an architect-turned-cook – surprises with its highly imaginative treatment of the Catalan tapa and and small dish, where you won't find typical croquettes or clichés. At lunchtime they offer a stunning set menu.
Josep Maria Freixa's kitchen is the starting point to a festival of good traditional Catalan cooking, with a focus on haute cuisine and a dash of renovation, but without going overboard. So you can expect pig's trotters blanketed in prunes and pine nuts; meatballs; prawns; and what are perhaps the best macaroni in Barcelona. Freixa is what they call a chef of chefs: he's more than earned his stripes in top restaurants around town, and has put all his collected wisdom into a rejuvenated Catalan cuisine, with dishes such as cannelloni with three kinds of roasted meat, and cod with tomato, prunes and garlic mayonnaise. Here, every day is a reason to celebrate.
This popular restaurant epitomises, as few do, the midday meal, with relaxed conversations where those who work in the area recharge their batteries to go back to the grind in the afternoon or those who have a bit more free time drink wine from a 'porró' while reading the newspaper. The whole menu is written on a blackboard, and features well-crafted hearty and traditional dishes, such as pork cheeks or cod with tomato.
A charming restaurant with a range of classic dishes from Catalonia’s culinary culture that are always good to revisit or discover. There's not a Catalan chef who has never made cuttlefish meatballs. And any good traditional Catalan restaurant will serve them. At Senyor Parellada, they pass the test with flying colours. The 'croquetes de l’àvia' (granny's croquettes), French beans, and cod casserole are also among their standout dishes from the Catalan cookbook.
Home cooking. Few places can say that about their cuisine these days, but Can Vilaró is among those that can. It's a classic, authentic restaurant that's earned its place in Barcelona's culinary history. Every day Sisco and Dolors welcome a legion of faithful customers who know how to pick a good spot to eat as though welcoming them into their own home. Located in front of the Sant Antoni market, Can Vilaró could be called a restaurant of true market cuisine, but what they really do well is home-made meals, like traditional Catalan 'escudella' soup and stew, 'fideuà a la cassola' (a hearty and meaty vermicelli-type dish), lentils with chorizo sausage, and plenty of traditional offal delicacies.
Few restaurants in Barcelona that opened in 1897 are still around. In 1945, a family took over one such restaurant, L’Havana, keeping its name and its commitment to home-made Catalan cuisine. Now two sisters and their families boast a faithful following of regular customers. The restaurant offers a variety of traditional Catalan starters that are prepared and presented well, and ideal for sharing. The battered artichokes and aubergines are superb, as are the battered squid rings, which are sometimes hard to find done just right. The tripe, the cuttlefish meatballs, and the stuffed calamari are specialities that attract the local clientele and are always in high demand. You have to try the Catalan cannelloni with béchamel and excellent filling. Their home-made flan and 'crema catalana' (custard dessert similar to crème brûlée) are the perfect end to a meal.
The traditional cuisine of Casa Agustí, with its excellent cannelloni and the superlative oxtail, is a joyful reminder of past times, before the tidal wave of tourism arrived.
The great-grandson of Casa Agustí opened this restaurant in 2012 with a distinctly traditional feel to it: white tablecloths on every table, and classic dishes that had all but died out: lamb’s brain in breadcrumbs and pig’s trotters, for example, and les we forget the meaty 'escudella i carn d'olla' stew, which is excellent with a good red wine.