Restaurants in the Eixample
Even before Alkimia was awarded its Michelin star it was notoriously tricky to get a table, and these days it hasn't got any easier. Chef Jordi Vilà is hugely respected, and turns out complex dishes that play with Spanish classics – for instance, liquid pa amb tomàquet with fuet sausage, wild rice with crayfish and strips of tuna on a bed of foamed mustard. There is also an enviably stocked wine cellar. What is lacking, however, is a great deal of warmth in either the minimalist dining room or from the occasionally tight-lipped waiting staff.
A restaurant that is not suitable for all pockets, but it has an amazing sampling menu that is made in the Hotel Palace, devised by the talented Michelin-star chef Romain Fornell. They have a lunch menu that includes two snacks, a starter, a main course, dessert and coffee. All included – Michelin star quality served in the spectacular setting of the Hotel Palace.
Eating well at a reasonable price would be a pipe dream in Barcelona if it weren't for restaurants like Àpat: its lunchtime menu is surprising and scrumptious. The dinner menu brings to the table dishes such as cod steak with sweet apple and traditional chickpea stew.
With a visit to Pho, you’ll be pleased to find a true Vietnamese eatery – simple and delicious – an authentic bar and restaurant representative of Southeast Asian cuisine. The food here is not only flavourful, but healthy and fresh to boot. Vietnamese cuisine stands apart from food from other parts of Asia, with fewer fried foods than Chinese, and less emphasis on spicy flavours than Thai. In Vietnamese dishes, spiciness doesn't pack quite the punch but serves more as a flavouring, blended with an abundance of expertly measured herbs throughout every dish, such as mint (a big player), basil and cilantro.Along Vietnam's Mekong River, women prepare dishes, mostly soups, while sailing in their boats for those along the riverbank to taste. Soups are still the main attraction at Pho (which is what they're called), where Haí Nguyen cooks with the same artistry and exquisite taste she clearly called on to decorate her little two-floor restaurant. Shades of fuchsia, green and white dominate, chosen for their ability to inspire hunger, according to students of colour psychology. Satisfy a big appetite by savouring a bún bò hue, a delicious, spicy soup with lemon herb, veal and pork. You can also get it with chilli pepper, soy sprouts and two kinds of cilantro. We sampled the cha giò rolls with diced meat, noodles and vegetables, fried, crunchy and wrapped with fresh mint leaves and lettuce and dipped in a fish sauce. We also started with the goi cuon chay, summer rolls with bún (rice
Adelf has brought a breath of fresh air to the Eixample with this restaurant, which shines with its own innovative light thanks to the intelligent way it combines Japanese, Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine. Try the octopus marinated in Japanese radish, or the scallop, oyster and guacamole tartar, and you’ll see what we mean.
Three friends who graduated in philosophy, journalism and art history have turned a corner bar into delicious miniature restaurant, where they rework and update classic dishes from Basque and Galician cuisine, served on small plates. On Saturday mornings they offer brunch with toast and a home-made jam that has become an object of pilgrimage.
The secret of Chicoa - a classic example of the city’s rustic-style restaurants – is that they offer first-class Catalan cuisine. One of their specialities is cod, which they serve in every different way imaginable.
Many locals might well give Cachitos a wide berth without suspecting that behind the striking decor lies a truly great food experience. With its excellent, varied dishes, presented entirely without affectation, the cuisine’s success is the result of a careful, common-sense selection of premium ingredients. The barbecued squid and ribs are absolutely first-class. Good wines and cocktails.
A small bar with the feel of a modern bodega where tradition and innovation meet over tapas. Order anything from ensaladilla rusa to cannelloni with hare.
Anyone who misses the meals they loved on holiday in Menorca, come to Talaiot. They serve all the island’s simple, tasty dishes, like oliagu, a soup made from vegetables and dry bread. And of course, dishes with all the flavours of the sea: mussels with celery and leek, or the superb monkfish casserole.
Bars in the Eixample
For all Pere Calders fans – God has heard your prayers. The cul-de-sac named after the writer has recently become home to one of the loveliest spots in Sant Antoni. They have books by the Catalan author, the draught beer flows freely and there’s a selection of tapas that sends shivers of pleasure through the district. Obviously, the best thing to try is the vermouth. They stock four brands, but if you want to try a Priorat, then you should go for the one from Falset. Incidentally, the outdoor terrace is one of the district’s best kept secrets: You’ll just keep coming back.
The gourmet area of Cervesa Moritz, in what used to be the old factory, is a non-stop food and drink extravaganza. In the brewery area, which has the longest bar in the city, you can try unpasteurised beer from a beer tap connected directly to a barrel in a microbrewery. You can also choose from a long menu of tapas from around the world, devised by by Jordi Vilà, which fuses the cuisines of Alsace and Spain. There is also a wine bar, and a French-style brasserie will soon be opening, as well as a gourmet restaurant. In this building, which was completely renovated by Jean Nouvel, you can also visit the microbrewery, but the best thing is to just take a stroll around and discover the little architectural details – the plant-lined walls, the periscope windows – that make the Fàbrica Moritz one of the city’s most amazing public buildings.
This, the most austere of the bars in Sant Antoni, offers a strict diet of good coffee, even better cakes and sandwiches, delicious creams and fruit juices.
Bar Mut has an ineffably Gallic feel, with its etched glass, bronze fittings, chanteuses on the sound system, and (whisper it) Paris prices. The tapas are undeniably superior, however, running from a carpaccio of sea urchin to fried eggs with foie. Other sophisticated food for the soul to look out for includes haricot beans with wild mushrooms and morcilla or poached egg with chips and chorizo sauce. In a word? Formidable.
Surrounded by cool and delicate terraces, this bar walks on its own. Instead of design lighting fixtures and fancy chairs, you will find Iggy Pop and The Ramones concert posters. It is worth going there on a weekday evening when the pool table is available for you and your friends, and the usual ‘parish’ is sitting at the high stools next to the bar counter.
Lovers of good wine and tapas will be happy here: they offer a stunning selection of wines from around the world, with a good range of wines from Catalonia, all at shop prices and with a corkage charge of €4. They also have six different beers on tap. Propped against a barrel, you can enjoy a drink with selected cured meats and tinned products, and unusual tapas such as the quail egg omelette with black truffle oil.
Class and elegance are two words that come to mind once the Manhattan or the Negroni cocktails tickle your tongue at the Noti Goodbar. The ambience also helps to increase the fancy feeling with its expensive design and modern shapes. Housed in the former offices of El Noticiero newspaper, this restaurant has one of the best cocktail bars in the city, from the classic (sample the cosmopolitan), to some of the most daring potions such as the sake martini cocktail or an exotic lychee cocktail that for those who want to treat their palate to something really different.
This fabulous cocktail bar has become an essential drinking place of the new Barcelona 'chic' nights out. The cocktails are not cheap, but it's worth mentioning that they to match up to the stunning interiors of the place.
This is the elegant version of a cinema student room, full of photographs of French actresses who look like they're just waiting for someone to ask them for their autograph.
Barcelona boasts many a dark and classic cocktail bar, so why not try something a bit different? The Italian owner of Why Not brings his vision of a 21st-century cocktail bar. With its bright white bar and stools, it’s got just the right touch of flashy, yet still has an intimate feel. The cocktail menu doesn’t forget its classic roots, but the modern touch brings with it fresh fruits and other fun ingredients you wouldn’t find in the past.
What to see & do in the Eixample
Opened in 2007, the foundation's two floors house the contemporary art collection of businessman Josep Suñol. There are 100 works on show at a time, including painting, sculpture and photography, shuffled every six months (in January and July) from an archive of 1,200 pieces amassed over 35 years. The collection includes historic – and predominantly Catalan and Spanish – artists of the avant-garde: Picasso, Miró and Pablo Gargallo, with international input from Giacometti, Man Ray and Warhol.With superfluities removed, including labels, and chronology abandoned, works are arranged in careful, coherent compositions, by style, colour or even mood, in serene interlinking rooms. Helpful English-speaking staff and a pamphlet aid visitors. Nivell Zero offers a large exhibition space to younger avant-garde artists, with shorter-term poetry cycles, installations and multimedia projects.
This cultural centre for Asia and the Asian Pacific is housed in the jaw-droppingly ornate Palau Baró de Quadras, designed by Puig i Cadafalch in 1904. If you can tear your eyes away from the building’s array of lavish carvings and mosaics, there is a variety of excellent temporary exhibits covering anything from modern Chinese abstract art to Iranian graphics. The underlying function of this organisation, however, is the promotion of Asian culture in Barcelona, with language courses, international conferences and cinema seasons (often subtitled in English). It also features an Asian café on the ground floor and an excellent multimedia library on the fourth floor, which allows visitors to hire CDs, DVDs and books.
Shopping in the Eixample
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.
In addition to wooden letters and antique signs, this shop offers books on typography and a selection of daily objects that show off all the letters of the alphabet.
Possibly the most beautiful children’s clothing shop in Barcelona. Elena Mayoral opened Lotta with the goal of selling ‘pretty things’, which is why she doesn’t much like to talk about brands, but more about the products, which come from all over. Printed T-shirts, wall decorations, retro bathing costumes… It’s a fantasy-like space inspired by beloved children’s character Pippi Longstocking.
Labienplantá is a shop that is constantly reinventing itself, starting with its front window. Although Andriana Fajeda has a weakness for Scandinavian brands, she also embraces many local designers. Different brands come and go, but of late you might find Alexandre Nedderman, the label that Alba Gràcia and Carola Alexandre share, El Colmillo de Morsa, and Borne by Elise Berger on the racks. In the accessories area, the quartz necklaces by Lo Lou and the wicker baskets by Twenty Violets stand out.
Nightlife in the Eixample
City Hall ain't big, but it is popular. The music is mixed, from deep house to electro rock, and there's an older post-(pre-?) work crowd joining the young, tanned and skinny to show the dancefloors some love. Outside, the terrace is a melting pot of tourists and locals, who rub shoulders under the watchful (and anti-pot-smoking) eye of the bouncer. Flyers for City Hall are easy to find in bars and shops around town, and will get you in free.
It would seem that number 22 on C/ Bailén was, is and always will be a space for cabaret. Free-and-easy, with red sofas, rococo lamps, mirrors and velvet curtains, Cabaret Berlín, it's said, has enough room for all kids of artistic endeavours: live music, circus shows, theatre, comedy, fashion, magic, performance art, multimedia.
This Caribbean cultural centre hosts exhibitions, publishes its own magazine (Antilla News) and offers Latin dance classes. But when the sun goes down all cultural pretensions go out the window – it's a hedonistic jungle in there. Salsa shows by entire orchestras and DJs playing rumba, merengue and son until six in the morning will spin your head and parch your throat until the only word you can croak is 'mojito'.
This lovingly renovated old music hall, garnished with chandeliers and classical friezes, is a mainstay on the live music scene and is one classy joint. In between visits from international artists and benefit concerts for local causes, you'll find nightly residencies: blues on Mondays, Dixieland jazz on Tuesdays, disco on Wednesdays, pop-rock on Thursdays, soul on Fridays and vintage and Spanish rock on weekends.
This is a real neighbourhood place in the best sense of the word: everyone knows each other, no one will look down their nose at and no one is worried about keeping up appearances. The club has many good qualities, but two in particular stand out. The first is the dance floor on the lower level, ideal for anyone who’s ready to party and boogie the night away. The second is a karaoke area on the upper floor that's different from the typical Japanese variety: it’s a big, open room with a stage where you can rock out and gyrate like Elvis.
Astoria offers a break from the norm. For a start, the club is housed in a converted 1950s cinema, which means the projections are actually watchable. There are three bars and plenty of comfortable seating, along with a small dancefloor; if you're very wonderful, you may get to sit on a heart-shaped cushion in the tiny VIP area. With all this going for it, Astoria has inevitably become the domain of Barcelona's moneyed classes. Drinks are dearer upstairs.
This place is part of the Arena group and attracts a mixed crowd that share a common desire to dance the night away to the campest music around.
The “La boîte Imperator” facelift has created Duvet, and now house music has replaced pasodoble. By the way, someone should explain that Duvet is a kind of bed clothing to Catalan and Spanish speakers.
Some clubs consider DJ sessions a spiritual awakening. Others, like Minusa Club, have a bit more of a sense of humour about the whole thing, and can offer up the fun of swing night or Italian disco night. Who can resist?
There's no stopping Nick Havanna on the Barcelona nightlife scene, currently popular with uni students who love the top pop hits. Surely none of them knows that they're dancing under a giant pendulum designed by Ingo Maurer and that the design, from the industrial touch to the toilets, set the standard for other clubs round town.