The Winter Garden restaurant at the El Palace hotel lives up to any expectations you might have when you enter one of the great hotels in Barcelona. The exclusivity is in the views as well as in the kitchen. The restaurant boasts spectacular 360-degree views of Barcelona, and you get to choose between two tasting menus (November to April) with an air of French haute cuisine that are perfect for trying a bit of everything along with wine pairings. In the warmer months (April to October), the Jardín Diana garden is transformed into an urban oasis. The hotel's top floor offers signature tapas and Mediterranean cuisine, a selection of cocktails and good music with DJ sessions. Year round, this is an idyllic space away from the noise of the city streets, with one of the best panoramic views in town.
There's a saying in Spanish that translates roughly to 'Small house, big heart', and the owners of Casa Xica (which means Small House in Catalan), Marc and Raquel must have very big hearts indeed. The easiest way to describe what they do is to call it fusion cooking. But that term has become so overused, and in their case it's more of a compilation of tastes they've learned in faraway lands with their own touch added to tempt even the fussiest of diners. Take, for example, the tabbouleh: it's delicious, healthy, made from local ingredients and enhanced with fish practically taken right from the sea. Casa Xica provides that little push you might need on your date to make the all-important first move.
Catalan chef Alain Guiard, with French roots and education, calls his restaurant 'playful, straightforward and affordable dining option in a five-star Relais Chateaux hotel'. The restaurant, which overlooks one of Barcelona's loveliest squares, is pure magic. The brilliance of the dishes allows for them to be mixed and matched with anarchy. The medium-sized portions are made for sharing, though you might not want to: the egg with parmentier, smoked eel, carbonara foam and tobiko is something you'll want all for yourself. Guiard shows off his strengths with a series of seafood and shellfish dishes, such as a sea bass ragout, cockles and mussels with orange and coconut, which is both a classic dish and at the same time a type of hot ceviche. The crunchy potato tacos with crab, sour cream and caviar are unforgettable.
Most of us think about eating by the sea to get a really authentic paella in Barcelona. So it might surprise you to know that when you're talking about Casa Àngela, you can get the real thing in the vicinity of the Sagrada Família. Here rice dishes reign: they've got eight on the menu and all are powerful and tasty. Also in their repertoire is a selection of classic tapas that will satisfy tourists looking for something near Gaudí's cathedral as well as locals looking for quality: garlic prawns, 'patatas bravas', croquettes and cod fritters. The owners say they want to be in there among the top rice dishes and tapas to try in Barcelona, adding that they cook everything from scratch with quality products, and they don't overcharge customers. And a tapas bar and rice speciality restaurant in the Sagrada Família neighbourhood can also be a great place for a date: you'll find phenomenal views of the Sagrada Família itself in intimate and cosy surrounds.
Kenia Nakamura and Anna Peray go hand in hand in this welcoming space where 'kaiseki' rules. This Japanese cooking concept varies throughout the year depending on the season and you’ll find the essence of the product on every plate. The pair have developed a harmonious menu, one that is thoughtful, aesthetic, ceremonial, and stripped of any pretentions. It’s not only a gastronomic project but a life project.
Passing by El Pla you'll see that it's a romantic spot by definition. As you make your way amid the dark and narrow streets of the Barri Gòtic, the scene is being set for your arrival into this restaurant with exquisite low light and an informal yet elegant decor that pairs perfectly with the cuisine. The wines and desserts also go well with the starters and mains, and they're outstanding. El Pla has been open for two decades now, and the work of chef Andrew Smith has lifted it to an especially sweet spot, with dishes charged with flavour and creativity, like the grilled carrot carpaccio withelderflower and horseradish.
It's great for lunch, sure, but dinner at Le Cucine Mandarosso with a friend or family member might be a bit strange. Because the ambience emanates an intangible intimate and cosy quality that's just right for a romantic date. It's all subtle, casual, with retro furniture, and products and books on the shelves that line the walls. Plus the Italian cuisine itself raises the bar on sensuality. If your dinner date still isn't clear on your intentions, Le Cucine will help you out in that capacity. A word of warning (or advice): the burrata cheese can make you lose all your inhibitions.
In the game of seduction and coupling, the element of surprise and a certain blast of excitement can mark a turning point in a relationship. You could meet your partner at the door wearing just sexy underwear and a rose between your teeth. But inviting your sweetheart to a restaurant inside the tower of a funicular could win you even more points, given that it's a frivolous whimsy of sorts in itself. This is when you're ready to bring out all the heavy artillery to say: 'I'm starving, but I'll sell a kidney for you to have a stunning meal.'
You'll find Catalan cuisine prepared more with a focus on ingredients and seasonality than on sticking to the letter of a recipe. For example, the 'fricandó' is thin slices of stewed veal stuffed with Jerusalem artichoke, with a creamy sauce of 'rossinyols' (chanterelle mushrooms) and a picada that's much more than just your typical garlic and parsley. Another memorable dish is one that may seem basic, but it's prepared with the accuracy of sniper: sweet potato with feta cheese. You get the sweetness of autumn with the fresh acidity of the Mediterranean, combined with a savoury sauce of caramelised vinegar and hazelnuts. Wow. They've also set out to revolutionise the vermouth hour a bit – the mussels with bacon wake up your mouth and throat – and at any time of the day you'll find excellent Roman-style pizzas (a crispy and light crust that's fermented for three days) and a pasta of the day, like an incredible meeting of the traditional Catalan galet shell pasta and the traditional Sardinian culurgione stuffed pasta – a burst of freshness, basil and more-ish sauce.
The Grup Confitería have reopened the old Beltxenea (a Basque restaurant that once stood on the same spot and closed in 2012) and renamed it Rilke. Decadent romanticism sticks to the place like syphilis to Baudelaire: it's a stately building that dates back to the early 20th century, boasting an imperial dining room with views of the interior courtyard that's presided over by a Venus de Milo, a fountain with lions, and exquisitely dense vegetation. You sit down with a glass of burgundy, sigh, and have the feeling that any minute a character out of 'Madame Bovary' will appear. If the person you're wooing has goth or ethereal leanings, ask for a table in front of the garden and recite Baudelaire's 'A Carcass' to them. And what the hell, if they're not a goth or a weirdo, the amazing dishes that come out of Rafa Peña's kitchen will win them over nonetheless.
Say it with flowers
Au Nom de la Rose has managed to make roses a part of our daily lives, rather than saving them for special occasions – it’s as if you were living in Paris. At their two locations (in C/Ganduxer, 26, and C/Valencia, 203) you can get anything from a single rose to sophisticated bouquets, like the aromatic roses of Kenya or the roses of Piaget. They also sell jams and sweets with a rose fragrance and scented candles.
A gift for your granny, a floral centrepiece to add colour to a business meeting, a last-minute bouquet to make up with your partner... Navarro, one of the city's most reliable florists, has a huge catalog of products to fit all the needs and budgets of all kinds of clients. Sylvia Navarro represents the third generation of this floral empire, the mother of all flower shops, which is open 24 hours a day.
For years Joan Xapellí travelled the world buying flowers wholesale. So many that he got to know flowers better than anyone and it led him to imagine another business model, where flowers and plants live alongside art. He brought in Fátima Valldeperas and Marta Vidal to create the ideal Bornay team. Their creations are dreamy, exquisite and eclectic. A bouquet could evoke a Matisse painting, a centrepiece inspired by an old sci-fi film. They now sell their original creations retail in this historical space that over time will be covered with lush vegetation until it's among the most beautiful florists in the world.
La Rambla de les Flors has maintained the spirit of the 19th century, when La Rambla was the only place in Barcelona where flowers were sold. You’ll find hundred-year-old stands, like Flors María, that probably inspired the excursions of Ramon Casas and Jose María de Sagarra, as well as other colourful shops that freshen up their look with the changing of the season. In April, the 15 flower stands are painted red to celebrate the tradition of buying roses on La Rambla for Sant Jordi.
At this small florist’s in Rambla Catalunya, they truly appreciate tradition. Maria Ponsà is the latest in a long line of family of florists who worked for the Spanish kings Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. If you need advice on your garden, you’re intrigued by the art of Ikebana or you’re looking for a natural yet original arrangement, you’ll find inspiration in the displays at Maria Ponsà’s shop.
They're known for their originality and unusual bouquets, in which you might be able to admire the beauty of an artichoke, for example. At Herbs they boast more than 300 varieties of exotic flowers and they also work with everyday plants so they can make all your plant- and flower-related dreams come true.
Flora Miserachs has been recognised as one of the leaders in innovation of floral arts, a discipline they know well and have dedicated themselves to teaching and informing people about from the Escola d'Art Floral de Catalunya as well as from their studio in the Sarrià neighbourhood. In this space that combines a workshop with a small garden, all ideas come up in flowers.
Serving Barcelona since 1959, Petit Jardí is a family business dedicated to the world of gardening and floral arts. It's great to have green oases in the city centre, and they say that here you can find the most fragrant and sensual Oriental lilies in the Gothic Quarter.
Tiestö is where arrangements that adorn some of the restaurants in the Tragaluz Group are born. You'll also be able to get for yourself gorgeous bouquets that avoid the norm thanks to combining out-of-the-ordinary additions, such as aloe vera, for example.
Satisfy both your sweet tooth and your taste for nostalgia at this traditional chocolate shop where the chocolates are the product of maestro Michel Laline. His are artisanal creations in the form of strips you can gulp down, chunky bars in an array of flavours and of course, for the more traditional, the good old bonbon.
The latest trends for the modern man, right on the line that runs between the classic and the innovative. This is The Outpost, a shop that has become a point of reference for men who like brands such as Maison Martin Margiela, Neil Barret for Palladium shoes and Maquedano hats. If you want to do some fun and no-pressure shopping, you've come to the right place.
At Regia you'll find the past, present and future of the world of perfumes and colognes. The company started up in 1928 in C/Casp, and opened this shop in Muntaner in the 1960s. It's in this space – now the oldest of the nine distributed around Barcelona and Sant – where they've put their money behind the concept of a signature perfumery. They work with around 50 firms like local names Ramon Monegal and Carner; fragrances from Laboratorio Olfativo and Byredo; and two of the most exquisite: Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Frederic Malle. Classics also shine, like those from Serge Lutens, the successor to Robert Piguet.
Isabel Bocinov is in charge of Ballut Concept Store, a space that has select objects for your home, from textiles to glassware. The common denominator, Bocinov says, is traceability: 'We know by whom, how, where and with what materials each of the pieces we have in the store has been produced.' The selection also focuses on proximity. Eighty percent of Ballut’s objects have been made in Barcelona, and the remaining 20 percent come from small European factories and artisans. The blown glass from Barcelona and the artisanal pitchers are some of the best pieces.
Eliana Sabater's handcrafted soaps showcase the work of the third generation of an Argentinean lineage with Mallorcan origins that has found the art in soap and made it a family business. They have around 30 scents that to spice up our skin: from the classics such as jasmine and rose to the more modern melon, violet and chocolate. You can also wash your hands with soap petals, Gaudí tiles made of soap and even a bar with a hidden message. There is no limit to the imagination of these artisans of soap.
Santa Eulalia has set the standard for fashion in Barcelona, with four generations of experience dedicated to haute couture, tailoring and prêt-á-porter. All the big brands are here: Lanvin, Balenciaga, Céline, Michael Kors, Neil Barret and Rodarte. You'll also find names that occasionally exhibit in the pop-up store of a shop where luxury dominates and where they've been making dresses to order since 1843.
What's original about this sex shop is the natural surrounds of the space and the people behind it: sexologist Mireia Manjón, playwright and polyamory expert Sandra Bravo, musician Pol Garcia, and two journalists, Marta Molas and Imma Sust. Together they make up this team that 'listens more than sells' and knows how to answer any questions posed by singles, couples and those curious about the toys and accessories in the shop. The main goal of this shop is to take away any taboos surrounding sex. So whether you've got something specific in mind or not, it's a great place to have a look around.
The New York cosmetic brand, founded in 1851, has become one of the leading cosmetic multinationals. What undoubtedly has worked in their favour is their desire to work with natural ingredients to really pamper the face, the hair and even those harder-to-reach areas of the body.