Sinking your teeth into a good croissant is like taking a step into paradise with each light, crunchy, flaky bite. Every bread and cake shop in Barcelona sells them, but not all croissants are created equal. Here are some of our favourites.
In winning the award for Best Butter Croissant in Spain in 2018, Albert Roca also became the first pastry chef to hold the title twice, having first won in 2009. All the recognition is well-deserved: his butter croissant is a wonder of airy nooks and crannies and the perfect balance between sweet and salty, and his chocolate croissant, made with strong dark chocolate and just as airy and flaky as the butter, is perhaps the best you'll ever taste. San Croi is a fantastic signature pastry shop, where Roca focuses on innovation with one foot in tradition. In his case, innovation takes shape in solid recipes, and is applied as much to his cakes, where fact and fantasy become blurred, as to his everyday pastries.
Pastisseria Canal plays an important role on the city's pastry panorama when it comes to artisan baking. Their croissants are a breed apart. In fact, they can boast the title of Spain's Best Artisan Butter Croissant in 2016, awarded by the School of Patisserie of the Union of Barcelona. They excel in all the requirements: a classic shape, with a pile of very thin layers of pastry, and an inner honeycomb that gives it an ethereal kiss of butter. Anyone with a sweet tooth will fall in love with their chocolate croissant, which is the kind of deliciousness people create fan clubs for.
It’s no secret that you can find some of the best croissants in Barcelona in Ochiai. Other than an excellent all-butter croissant (they were awarded the best in all of Spain in 2013), Takashi Ochiai has developed his own very personal line of croissants: you have to try the green tea one, but you absolutely must get your hands on the mango-filled one. We know from personal experience that when you bring a tray of Ochiai croissants anywhere to share, the mango is the first to go.
Carles Mampel opened Bubó ages ago, bringing a superlative pastry shop to one of the most touristy parts of the city. His gorgeous all-butter croissant is akin to the best in France, although Mampel reminds us that 'although the croissant’s origins aren't French, France has touted theirs as being the best in the world'. While the humidity in Barcelona can be lethal for a croissant because it can quickly turn them to mush, Mampel boasts a unique fermentation technique so that 'despite being made in Barcelona, they're still crisp in the evening'. His chocolate croissants are also extremely recommendable.
To talk croissants with Señor Madern (J.V. Foix's cousin) is to look at the history of the croissant here in Barcelona. From the '40s to the end of the '70s, butter could only be smuggled in and, of course, had to be rationed. So a croissant made of a combination of butter and lard was created. When rationing ended, bakers were able to make them with butter again, but clients kept asking for their hybrid favourite, since back then, a croissant made with pure lard could stick to the roof of your mouth and almost choke you. Now the all-butter croissant at Foix is a flaky, delicate remnant of days gone by.
J. M. Rodríguez Guerola says his battle isn't with pastries but with cakes. But boy do you have a reputation to protect if you’re a world-champion pastry chef. He says a croissant should be 'light, crunchy, and not too sweet, with a reasonable price for the quality'. His sublime all-butter variety lives up to his own definition, but Guerola lets his imagination fly with over-the-top recipes such as the toasted crema catalana croissant bathed in cinnamon sauce, and topped with lemon zest. Be advised that when you try the cappuccino one filled with a coffee and chocolate cream, whatever you do, do not order a coffee to go with it.
For 50 years, Jaume Bertran has been adding some sweetness to the lives of residents in Sant Antoni and the Raval, first with his bakery on Av. Mistral, and since the '70s, on Rda. de Sant Antoni. Didactic, he remarks that the key to a good croissant is the lard. Bertran uses one of very high quality, which ensures him he'll get the unmistakable flavour and texture of a good croissant. He imports the butter he uses from France, because he hasn't been as satisfied with anything he's tried locally, and for the fillings he uses chocolate with 70 percent cocoa. All studied with care. All made with premium products. And his mini croissants are a vice.
Without a doubt this monument to sweet cuisine is one of the best in Barcelona: it was recognised as having Spain's best artisan all-butter croissant in 2010. So it’s important to keep in mind that while they take croissants very seriously here, they also add a dash of creativity. In their enclave in the Born, you can find croissants filled with mango, mascarpone, cheesecake, Sachertorte... and one with a very original chocolate: instead of a thick chocolate, as in the majority of Sachertortes, they instead opt for a liquid chocolate cream.
In this bakery that provides the Poble-sec neighbourhood with organic bread, the bakery itself looks as though it has come straight out of France, just like owner Yoann Simonte. So it's no surprise that one of their specialities is an almond croissant, a pastry that's very common in the bakeries in the north of France. Its secret lies in the filling, reveals baker Óscar Santiago; it has a cream similar to marzipan, but more fluid, which is achieved by mixing equal parts almond and butter. This magnificent little pastry will give you the energy (and the joy) to get through even the roughest of days.
Sometimes bakery croissants have a bad habit of being just too lardy. More than once, we’ve thought that we’ve found a good, old-school croissant but have been unhappily surprised by a ball of grease that's impossible to swallow. We're happy to report that the croissants at Baluard don’t suffer from this problem. They're delicate, crisp and flaky with a soft aroma of butter that we can already tell has been handled by hands that know their craft. Now you know why Anna Bellsolà is one of the great master pastry chefs of the moment.
If you have a certain fundamentalism when it comes to croissants and can only conceive of them as a French product, then this is your place. A café add-on in Caelis restaurant, L'Epicerie offers an ample range of home-made French pastries with very high standards. The classic all-butter croissant is impeccable, but don't overlook their pain au chocolat, a delicate rectangle of brioche with chocolate that's so similar in appearance to the popular Spanish chocolate-filled pastry 'napolitana', yet quite different in taste.
Strawberry, chocolate, frangipane (almond cream), tuna, frankfurter, spinach, sausage, date and bacon, Jabugo ham… The variety of croissants created in Sacha are just as impressive as the amount: every day they sell more than 600. The man responsible for this flood of goodness is Gonzalo Duran, who has dedicated himself to the development of croissants and pastries for 42 years; in other words, he’s been baking them from the moment he opened Sacha in the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi neighbourhood. With every bite you take, you can tell that they know what they're doing. Delicious.
And now for something truly indulgent. This contemporary bakery has delicious coffee, home-made pastries that are seriously better than your everyday fare, and all-butter croissants that are a level above the rest: light, tasty and well-balanced. If you find you can't decide, your best option is to pay your respects to the Ferrero dynasty by trying the croissant that's filled with Nutella and icing sugar. Yes, you’ll have to do a bit of black magic to burn off the fat, but there’s a reason they call it a guilty pleasure.