Barcelona residents need the sea as much as the air they breathe, which is why when the sun shines, having a vermouth in Barceloneta is a favourite plan. I recommend a classic venue, La Cova Fumada, and a relative newcomer that marks the return of a prodigal son, L’Óstia. Baptised with the nickname of the area, this gastro-tavern fills the space left by La Botavara (its rice dishes are still much missed) with tapas born from another neighbourhood legend, and creative small dishes. Behind it are Jaume Muedra, heir of tapas bar La Bombeta, and Sebas Matarrodona, trained by Mey Hofmann.
Rice dishes, noodles, fresh fish and seafood, fried fare… The fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barcelona has a range of dining options based on the fruits of the nearby sea that you will never get all the way through. If I really have to choose, I’d head either to Ca la Nuri Platja, which combines a prime position on the beach with fabulous paellas, or to La Mar Salada, whose menu ranges between traditional and innovative, with the result that they don’t need anybody standing outside trying to tempt customers in. Take note of the set lunch menu: amazing gastroporn choices for €15.
It’s the reason why Barcelona is the city it is today: Mediterranean, cosmopolitan, and with a pleasant climate almost the whole year – benefits locals don’t always fully appreciate.
Barceloneta has retained the spirit of a fishing village. The low houses allow the sun to reach the narrow streets – a design created to fight against the insalubriousness of the 18th century – and they manage to make you forget that if you turn your back on the sea, you’ll find the city. There are no big chain stores here, and small businesses have been able to survive. In the 1980s, legend has it, the store Santos Jeans (Maquinista, 38) sold Levi’s that were cheaper than in tax-free Andorra. But the most famous enterprise in the area is Forn Baluard (Baluart, 38): the queues that form outside this bakery to buy bread cooked in a wood oven seem to go on for miles.