Escape the centre and head for the neighbourhood of Sant Narcís. No one ever said it would be easy to find quality patatas bravas! Sometimes you have to make a bit of effort to get to a place where you can enjoy some really good ones, and the ones made by Paco, the maestro 'brava-maker' who's in charge of the bar at the Penya Barcelonista (a club for fans of FC Barcelona) in Girona, are really, really good. The potato, crispy on the outside and tender inside, is the classic Monalisa variety cut into irregular chunks and covered with a pink sauce that perfectly combines tabasco, ketchup and brandy. It's spicy but not scary if you have a palate that's a little less brave.
Going to König and not ordering bravas is a bit like leaving your house and forgetting your keys. Before trying the most famous sandwiches in the city, you should whet your appetite with a portion of their patatas bravas; they're almost more iconic than the König restaurant itself. The potatoes are cut into irregular cube shapes, just as the gods of cooking intended and a sure sign that these patatas are the real deal (ie, cut by hand). As in all the best recipes for fried potatoes, the ones at König are soft on the inside and crispy on the out. When it somes to the sauce, the recipe is a closely guarded secret. It doesn't matter what threat or bribe you try, the waiting staff will never reveal a detail of it, keeping the traditional list of ingredients close to their chests. Investigation suggests the base is mayonnaise and there are specks of black and red pepper, although it's definitely on the moderate side of spicy. We suggest you head to one of the branches of König and try to work out the mystery for yourselves.
El Doll's reputation tends to be based on its range of beers, but there's much more to it than that. They also have a wide range of tapas, among which the bravas are a definite highlight. The owners of the bar are particularly proud of this dish, and we agree they're right to feel that way. The potatoes used are once again the Monalisa variety, which are excellent for frying. The size is standard: cubes that are neither too big nor too small. And they've got the textures right, as well: fluffy on the inside, and crunchy outside. The sauce? Well, like all the best places, they guard the recipe jealously. In fact, they'll only admit something that's obvious to anybody, that the base is made of mayonnaise, and add that they use spicy red pepper and guindilla chilli. That much is clear from your first bite! To douse the fire in your mouth, select a beer and take your fill from one of their taps.
These are the kings of artisan beer in Girona and, when it comes to bravas, one of the candidates for some day winning the crown for the best ones. They don't stick to the standard format, and instead cut the potatoes in fine circles; and the first time you order them, you might think that the sauce is a bit too green. But don't worry, that's down to the fact that they make it with a parsley base, and the result has a flavour similar to chimichurri. There's no need to ask for the exact recipe at the bar; we've tried that various times, and it's almost like a state secret. If you love a more traditional sauce, on the side of the plate you'll find a small portion of both mayonnaise and tabasco.
Even though they're torchbearers for the most innovative tapas in the city, Bubbles Gastrobar has decided to keep bravas on its menu, albeit giving the dish their own interpretation. As the traditional spicy sauce didn't sit well with the clientele, however, they changed it for one that's more popular nowadays, 'allioli' (garlic mayo), and it was a hit. They also add romesco (another Catalan sauce made with tomato, garlic, dried red pepper, almonds and hazelnuts), 'sriratcha' (a spicy Thai sauce with a vinagery touch), and Lea & Perrins. The potatoes are always fresh, and slow cooked so that they soften nicely. Afterwards, they're left to cool and then fried at 180ºC.
As well as being the most reformist restaurant in Girona, thanks to the fact that it's also the headquarters of the Casal Independentista (an association that's interested in achieving Catalan independence from Spain), the word on the street is pretty much in agreement that at El Forn they serve a quality portion of patatas bravas. Unlike other places, they make it clear that the potatoes are organic and from the Empordà. Cut into irregular cubes, they're first slow-cooked to get them tender inside and then, when someone makes an order, they're fried at 180ºC to give them a crispy coat. In terms of the sauce, they don't bother with the classic fresh egg mayonnaise and instead prepare, in the blink of an eye, a 'lactonesa' (mayonnaise without egg), using milk, garlic, parsley and vinegar. In addition, they also add other ingredients such as tabasco, sweet and spicy smoked paprika, black pepper and salt.
Even though it has to compete for clients in the Plaça de la Independència with another eatery – a place famous for its patatas bravas – l'Aztan is up there with the big boys on this list thanks to its classic formula. The tapa of bravas is made with Monalisa potatoes cut into irregularly shaped cubes, and then cooked in two essential phases (heated and, when an order comes in, fried) to achieve the soft interior and crispy exterior that everyone hopes for. As for the sauce, apart from deducing that it's a type of mayonnaise, it's impossible to get the staff to reveal any other detail, no matter how much we ask.