In Barcelona, one of the few cities in the world where it’s acceptable to drink cava at nine in the morning, good food (and wine) is high on the agenda. Step off Las Rambla and the Barceloneta boulevard to seek out Barcelona’s best eats. My Barcelona experience was all about low-to-high dining, from hunting down jamón flavoured Ruffles (yes, 'Ruffles' still exist in Spain) in convenience stores, to queuing for hours to sample the finest fruits of the sea in a legendary restaurant. Here are my top recommendations for where to eat well in Barcelona.
Plaça de les Olles, 8, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
One of those restaurants that has limited opening hours and is always guaranteed a queue, CAL PEP was so good I went (and lined up) twice. With all the flair and pizzazz of Spanish culture, CAL PEP chefs know their food and serve it with love. Never have I witnessed a chef de-bone a fish before my eyes with a spoon in mere seconds.
There is no menu as such at CAL PEP. After you've waited your turn for a seat at the bar, you’ll be offered a selection of tapas, mains and wines, but your waiter practically chooses for you, which (a) takes the drudgery out of deciding and (b) ensures you get to try the best, freshest food on offer.
As you sit at the bar sipping on wine and savouring fried squid and pimientos, you can watch the chefs working feverishly in the background, with a chaotic harmony that comes from years of preparing food they love and respect.
Calle Pau Claris, 192, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
Hidden just off Avenue Diagonal, Bar Mut is a quirky bar and restaurant that serves great local beers, wines and tapas. I popped in here late one afternoon after having explored Park Güell under the hot Barcelona sun. While the kitchen was busy preparing for its dinner service, they still served up a selection of cured meats, cheeses and seafood for me to enjoy with my cold Spanish beer. I look forward to returning one day to sample more of the menu.
Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Cava and sandwiches from 9am until 10.30pm, six days a week – need I say more? Located in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta, a few streets back from the waterfront, Can Paixano is an experience. To drink the cava, which is ridiculously good and ridiculously cheap, you’ll need to purchase a bocadillo (that’s Spanish for sandwich) – hey, they might serve you booze at 9am, but they do it responsibly!
Choose from jamón, jamón and jamón, or sausage. These sandwiches are seriously good; so good they've been serving them in this fashion since 1969. Ordering can be a confusing process, but rest-assured one way or another you’ll get meat, bread and bubbles, and more change than you’d expect.
Rambla, 91, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
At Barcelona’s largest public market, which dates back to 1217, your senses are treated to vibrantly coloured fruits, sweets and tantalisingly fresh produce. Roam through aisle upon aisle of fruits, meats, cheeses, seafood, spices, nuts and confectionery until you feel your eyes and belly might explode.
Sit down at one of the resident market restaurants and taste freshly prepared tapas – you can’t go past a fresh seafood platter served with patatas bravas (potatoes fried and served with a spicy tomato sauce or aioli). Open every day except Mondays, pop into the market to pick up fresh bread, meats and snacks for a picnic in one of Barcelona’s many splendid parks. It really is magic here.