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.
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.
An admirable specimen of the croissant, a daily task for any master baker, can be found here in Xacolata. Jordi Sala has been decorated more than Patton (Torreblanca, Escribà, Mas Pau, El Bulli), and his bakery is where he makes some of the best high-end pastries in the neighbourhood. His croissants are heavenly, very crunchy, and the perfect balance of springy and savoury. He makes them so the pastry is flaky and crescent-shaped, which is a lot more difficult than just having an oblong result. And he uses butter. Lots of butter. 'If I were in Sarrià,' says Sala, 'I would sell them for a euro fifty, but I’m in Poblenou.' He also makes croissants filled with chocolate, Iberian ham and cheese, spicy Catalan 'sobrassada' sausage, tomato, mozzarella, and olives.
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.
Albert Badia is a magician among magicians on the current pastry landscape, but his pride as a baker pushes him to make excellent traditional pastries. When it comes to croissants, he aims to create a product that 'has a lot of layers but without lots of levels, making a perfect ramp'. The croissant’s flavour is everything its form promises, and with the same dough he makes a croissant filled with 'gianduja' – chocolate with 30 percent hazelnuts – that combines crisp, soft and sweet in a truly sinful way. The chocolate croissant is also delicious, and other than buying his croissants at Badia Roca, you can also find them at Xococake (Condal, 15 and Gran de Gràcia, 17).
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.
Oriol Balaguer, defending champion of the best all-butter croissant in Spain, is a confessed croissant fanatic. The award was well deserved: Balaguer’s croissant is such a perfect toasted caramel colour, so buttery and light, that it’s impossible to question the quality. Although after trying a few airy croissants, we decided to try the raspberry, filled with an organic compote of red berries. It was delicious, and it keeps you from destroying your own croissant just so you can try and open it to slather it with jam.
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.
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.
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.
Another place for Francofiles, Le Petit Gourmet was started by young entrepreneurs from Gascon as a place to show off their know-how with modern techniques and their love for tradition. They do amazing things in their small space, including making croissants, baguettes and pain au chocolat every day that are made with sourdough starter and butter from Poitou-Charentes. And they have a wide range of French pastries that can be difficult to find locally: eclairs, canelés, frangipane… Oh la la!
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.