Whether you fancy traditional Catalan, creative signature cuisine, food from the Basque Country, Italian, Asian or French, you'll find gorgeous dishes in lovely restaurants around Barcelona.
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 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.
Chef Paco Pérez earned two Michelin stars for Enoteca – no longer is it just another restaurant in the Hotel Arts, but a heavyweight in Barcelona in its own right. Few chefs can translate the flavour of the sea into haute cuisine the way he does, and his art speaks to the imagination and recalls the swell of the sea. The heights Enoteca's 'espardenyes' (Mediterranean sea cucumbers) have hit make them deserving of their own chapter in Catalan avant-garde cuisine, and their rice dishes will satisfy the biggest food snobs and Catalan cooking fundamentalists alike. Surrendering to their fragrant rice with lobster is the best way to pay tribute.
Albert Raurich creatively demonstrates the close links between Asian and Spanish tapas, and at such a high level of quality and innovation that it earned the restaurant its first Michelin star. Dos Palillos is a perfect fusion of a blue-collar bar and haute-cuisine Asian restaurant, a place where there are no tables and where, if they don’t have the time, they’re not going to come along to pour your wine. But consider this: part of the Michelin star is always based on service, so the fact that they still got one speaks volumes about their phenomenal Asian tapas.
Jordi Cruz has regained Àbac’s second Michelin star, making his restaurant once again the essential haute cuisine establishment in Barcelona. He reached such heights by creating cuisine filled with expertise and sophistication. Take, for example, the egg with asparagus. Sounds simple enough, but Cruz has done a number on the egg that is something out of an R&D think tank. First the yolk is cooked at 62°C, then cured in salt water to give it just the exact subtle touch of salt. Served with white asparagus, a divinely thin slice of Serrano ham and a spoonful of caviar, it's nothing less than spectacular.
Dos Cielos offers high-level cuisine, produced by the twins Javier and Sergio Torres, on the top floor of the hotel Melià Barcelona Sky. Very original cuisine with flavours from distant countries, including dishes like cream of Amazonian roots with sagu caviar, yet you'll still find creations based on recipes from closer to home, like the suckling pig with pumpkin chutney and a touch of fresh citrus and flowers. They've got three very well-deserved Michelin stars to their name, and while you dine you get one of the most incredible views of Barcelona there is.
For 13 years Alkimia operated from C/Indústria, 79, and after a year in the works, Jordi Vilà and Sonia Profitós reopened their restaurant in the Fábrica Moritz. On Indústria it was a good spot for getting to know the basic concept of a modern Barcelona restaurant, but for the reopening, from the first floor where the Mortiz family once lived, Vilà made a surprising announcement of the great offerings they'll have in a minimal space. 'Six tables for 18 people. We all know what they say about gastro restaurants not being profitable. If it's not profitable, why make it bigger? We'll make it better,' he said. In fact, their move to the former flat in Sant Antoni wasn't about expanding (though they do have a fantastic open kitchen) but rather about redefining.
Manairó is not just a great place to eat well and experience high-quality gastronomy, it's also the laboratory where Jordi Herrera, a part-chef part-inventor eccentric, carries out his experiments with special equipment toget the best out of his concoctions. There's his grill with spikes tocook the food on the inside, and a device which uses centrifugal force to reducethe loss of moisture in cooking. This is science in the service of art.
The Adrià brothers have triumphed again with this ambitious Barcelona-based round-up of their philosophy of tapas. With four different sections – seafood, the grill, sweet treats, and little inventive surprises – you'll get 'El Bulli' versions of all tapas from all over Spain. Squid in its ink with almond paste or grilled watermelon are just a couple examples. And the Tickets cocktail bar, 41, offers a nightly tasting menu which is as close as you'll get to El Bulli.
Jordi Cruz has taken Angle from Bages to C/Aragó. Like he says, it's a garden-variety restaurant with a Michelin star, meaning you can have a set lunch menu that gives you great value for money with high-quality cuisine. They use good local produce, like roasted guinea fowl with foie gras, and Eastern touches as well. Examples of Cruz's imagination and undisputed creativity include lemon fish ceviche with grated cucumber and cherries.
The Roca brothers have reinvented their Michelin-starred Barcelona restaurant. It used to be Moo, and now it's Roca Moo: with the kitchen now in the main room, chef Rafa Panatieri has fewer barriers between the cooking and serving spaces so he can finish dishes right at the table before your eyes. There's also a bar where you can see how they prepare the house specialities, which are their own interpretation of Catalan cooking. In addition to the menu, you can choose between two tasting menus with pairings: the Los Clásicos and the Joan Roca menu. And weekdays at lunchtime you can try their third tasting menu, the Menú Moo, for around €50.
Rafa Penya has become an undisputed leader in the world of gastronomy, a daring chef with enormous creativity, yet his dishes are still consistently recognisable and delectable. Take the octopus with 'butifarra negra' (black sausage), for example. Or the ginger squab. Or the mouth-watering omelette made with herbs and wrapped with a paper-thin slice of Catalan bacon. No longer is Gresca a small restaurant with minimal equipment, and since it's grown in size as well, you can now eat at the bar, with a view of the kitchen, and enjoy the show that features a strong foundation and a French spirit.
This is the oldest Basque restaurant in Barcelona: it opened in 1942 and Agustín Elorza Jr carries on the tradition. When it started it was literally a trucker restaurant, as the whole neighbourhood was full of northern transport agencies. In more than 75 years the biggest change on the menu has been that now you can order dishes in half portions, which is good news for those who want to try a bit of everything. Elorza is the son of a Basque father and mother from Rioja, and you can tell his origins in dishes such as fresh 'pochas' beans and an excellent oxtail stew, with bone-in meat cooked over a slow flame – forget about futuristic ovens here. You get impressive value for money, as seen in the 600g Galician 'mediana' steak for just €20.
Big fans of good food already consider Igueldo to be a model for traditional cuisine with a modern flair, and they're pleased to find that it's not too over-the-top or pretentious. Owners Ana and Gonzalo, with backgrounds in big restaurants, live up to the high expectations they created for this one. Even better, their presence has raised the quality of other places in the area, whether their excellence spread out to their neighbours or they simply forced competition, and we are definitely thankful for that. They don’t offer a set lunch menu, but regardless, superlative cuisine and reasonable prices draw in not only gourmets from this area of the Eixample, but also faithful patrons who come specifically to enjoy the delicious, no-frills fare.
If you ask fans of Basque restaurants, many will tell you that Taktika Berri is possibly the best in Barcelona, and their pintxos have a lot to do with their reputation. The cooks hail from San Sebastián and serve up some 25 different pintxos, hot and cold. They're classic and simple: cod omelette, sausage, battered hake, an unsurpassed cod with pepper... And since you have to elbow your way to the bar to get the much-coveted hot pintxos, we recommend a cold speciality: the scrambled egg with red peppers and garlic.
When people talk about where the best pintxos are, the phrase 'haute cuisine in miniature' often comes up. And after 15 years in the business, Irati most definitely tops the rankings in this field. Restaurant manager Alex Monjas says that each of their pintxos has at least four ingredients, and that they have carefully studied the best ways to combine all of them. The elongated bar, free of stools, is topped by some 50 varieties of tapas, both hot and cold. On a good night they can dish up 600. A marvel among them is a hot tapa made of scorpionfish cake on a base of sour cream and egg. And definitely try the slice of bread that becomes a tiny empire of 'sobrassada' sausage, with honey, apple and crispy Idiazabal cheese.
This genuine Italian 'trattoria' run by Pino Prestanizzi (from Calabria) and Patricio Sodano (from Naples) opened in 1989 when, Prestanizzi recalls, 'there was only one pizzeria in the city, and going to dinner in an Italian restaurant was a sign of distinction'. It seems like time has stopped in La Bricciola, but in a good way: they've managed to keep their restaurant and what they serve at a top level, and all their products they work with, including the water, come from Naples. Though you might have an instinct to describe the decor as kistch, it's just too authentic for such a label. The Campione pizza – with spicy salami, rocket, goat's cheese, chicory, oregano and parmesan – reminds you how good these guys are at what they do.
This Italian with home cooking and top-quality pasta will more than meet your expectations. It's worth a visit for starters like fresh burrata and parmesan cheeses, and tasty mains like the linguine with cherry tomatoes and basil, or papardelle with ragout, for example. Pair it all with a good wine to ensure that a dinner at this lovely Italian eatery is a rousing success.
It's not the same to say you're going to an Italian restaurant as it is to say you're going to a Venetian restaurant. One must respect the differences, you see. When the Colombo twins (‘xemei’ means ‘twins’ in Venetian), Stefano and Max, opened their eatery in Poble-sec, they brought to Barcelona a transalpine cuisine that finally went above and behond pasta Bolognese quattro stagioni pizzas. They gave us fish prepared just like it is in Venice, and we had got to learn what 'sarde in saor' and 'baccalà mantecato' are, rendering any other type Italian cuisine practically unacceptable.
If you can't get to Italy often enough, your best bet is to bring a bit of Italy to your city. Le Cucine Mandarosso, a small space that more than does justice to true Italian cuisine, has also got a genuine charm and decor that brings a smile to your face. We might not be doing Le Cucine Madarosso any favours by going on about its treasures – usually they're overbooked and they must feel shivers of fear running down their spine whenever anyone publishes a rave review of their culinary skills. The truth is that we were so pleased with their lunch menu that if we go back for dinner, it might be a real religious experience.
Obe is a small restaurant in Plaça de Santa Caterina, and its location in the middle of a part of the city busy with out-of-towners might make you think this is a restaurant set up just to take advantage of tourists, but nothing could be further from the truth. Obe, whose name sounds deceptively Japanese, is in fact a petite and honest Italian restaurant with respect for the food they serve. The aubergine parmigiana, for example, tasted like it had just been taken out of the oven in Sicily.
The popular Asian dumpling you might know as 'dim sum' has a different name nearly everywhere you go: ‘gyoza’, ‘momo’, ‘siomay’... Josep Maria Kao approaches his dim sum from the perspective of haute cuisine. The idea is to offer ambitious cuisine at reasonable prices, and there are some spectacular results, such as the fried rooster crest with beef, courgette and ginger. Kao doesn’t just make dim sum: you can also try dishes with Chinese and Catalan touches, such as the rib roast with sweet-and-sour sauce or the green beans sautéed with bacon and Maresme peas.
The kitchen at at Ramen-Ya Hiro is like a steam train, with its perpetual triple boiling going on. The other side of the bar boils with customers slurping up broths that have spent ten hours on low heat overnight. Hiroki specifies that they only make three varieties of ramen because they want to specialize in quality and speed. The menu features the classic ramen recipes: soy, miso and seafood. The home-made noodles are a marvel: you can put them on your plate and swirl them around your chopsticks tightly until the broth escapes and they’re still perfectly elastic.
Yashima is a traditional luxury restaurant where you sit at low tables as if you were in Japan. They've also got a coveted 'teppan' (grill) that diners sit around, while the chef offers you whatever he's just cooked. It’s not cheap here, but the quality of the food and service make it worth the expense. Eating at Yashima is a real experience.
This is the more gourmet and more intimate sister restaurant of Nomo. Here you’ll find top-notch Japanese cuisine that’s not afraid to give a nod to Catalan cooking, such as the brie or foie nigiris. They’re also not afraid to innovate: try the warm flambéed salmon nigiris or their impressive crab in tempura with Padrón peppers, and you’ll be won over.
Bangkok Café is a small space on whose walls the different types of curries are written – yellow, green and red curry, panang, massamang – showing off a cuisine that is sandwiched between the Japanese and Chinese culinary empires that reign supreme in Barcelona. Definitely get to this top Thai restaurant, but just be sure you're ready if you order spicy.
For some time now, Chen Ji has been known as the Chinese-Chinese of Barcelona – that is, an authentic restaurant without the usual ornaments such as red balls, dragons or illuminated panels with waterfalls. It’s the most normal place you could imagine, all very simple and practical. They have long opening hours. From 9am to well past midnight you can stop off for a bowl of noodles or soup, or try the self-service menu for about €5. What's that? You've never had steamed dumplings for breakfast? What are you waiting for?
Mosquito is the height of exoticism. They prepare excellent Cantonese cuisine, especially the lovely Chinese dumplings known as dim sum. Owner Giles is an Englishman who, after travelling round Asia for years, decided to open a Chinese restaurant in Barcelona, while avoiding clichés. To make it even more different from the norm, he's got four taps of exquisite English beers and an offer of more than 70 brands of bottled craft beer from Catalonia and around the world. If you're in the mood for a certain type of beer, just ask. Giles seems to have written the encyclopaedia on the stuff.
Au Port de la Lune has reopened in the Eixample. And although the new space might not have the charme of the old location in the Boqueria market, you'll still dine on great French cuisine. Their lunchtime menu is varied, with an excellent paté and steak tartare. At night, the menu offers a wider range of this menu, and you can feast on 'rillettes', patés, and French cheeses at a price that will make your wallet as happy as your stomach. Guy Monrepos still takes a regular trip to southern France – also called le Midi – in search of gourmet products.
Le Bistrot de Pierrot is a highly recommendable example of a popular French classic trying to spread the word by the best means possible, through its flavourful dishes. Owner Pierre Verchére is from Lyon, the French capital of gastronomy and home of exquisite food and cooking with butter, but he wanted to combine ‘the influence of home with specialities from all around France, so people can discover dishes from Lyon but also from the Alps, the south-east, and so on’, creating a kind of greatest hits under the bistrot's roof. This is a place to eat seriously and well.
Chef Julien Rioiron and his colleagues in the kitchen, Christophe Almodovar, and in the dining room, André Despacha, boast unbeatable credentials: they're from the gastronomy capital of France (Lyon), and they've got experience with traditional cooking as well as in kitchens that have earned Michelin stars both in France and in Barcelona. You'll notice their ambition in the French lunch menu comprised of precise and refined, yet down-to-earth, dishes. For example, a cauliflower purée with a cod micuit and capers. At night their menu expands to include ten dishes, among them rillettes and French croquettes (with reblochon cheese!), purely home-made with their own spin on everything.
At Cafe Emma two Michelin-starred chefs, Romain Fornell and Michel Sarran, have come together and entrusted their kitchen to Daniel Brin, who previously worked in the gone-but-not-forgotten Maison du Languedoc Roussillon. A true bistrot, Cafe Emma offers a daily set lunch menu featuring traditional French cusine. Among their top dishes are the 'blanquette de veau' (veal stew), the punchy onion soup, the onglet with challots, the macaroni with lobster and the steak tartare.
The goal at L’Atelier is to offer traditional French bistro cuisine that's simple, quick and very tasty. They offer a well-priced set lunch menu on weekdays, and from the regular menu, well-executed dishes that deserve special mention include the starter of duck rillettes – tender, well-crafted and served with excellent bread, and the onglet – a juicy cut of beef with glazed shallots and very French mashed potatoes with butter and fresh parsley that brings to mind the extravagance of Paris. Another of the sure-fire hits is the steak tartare, the most emblematic dish of a French bistro. Among favourites on the dessert menu are good French pastries and an excellent plate of carefully chosen and well-presented cheeses.