Barcelona restaurant reviews

by Alison

A salty pasta dish at Classic Gotic, Barcelona, Spain.

May 2009
[ Vacation photos Ibiza, Spain ]

Barcelona is a food city. Go hungry and open-minded.  The best meal you have may be tapas from a beachside café.  But also do some research in advance to ensure you don’t always drop into to the first restaurant you see – as there are many.  Sponteneity can lead to both hits and misses, as long as you are willing to take the risk.  We were.

Classic Gotic
c/de la Plata no 3

Luc: Hah! I knew we could find this place again!

Alison: I’m amazed. It’s a labrynth around here. Looks like they are re-opening after remodeling. Hope that’s a good sign. It is our first real meal here.

Luc: Hmmm. Well, let’s still try it. I like the look of it, and besides, we get a free cocktail to help them celebrate.

Alison: You are usually really good about picking places…Ah, let’s do it.

And later, after meal is served, and first bites taken….

Luc:: Hmmm.  My food is really salty.

Alison: Mine, too.  And you know if I think something is salty … What a bummer, as normally my pasta (see image  above) should taste great, with the grated reggiono, mushroom sauce, fresh peas and balsamic vinegar.

Luc: Sorry sweetie! Looks like I didn’t do so well this time.

Alison: It’s not your fault!  Besides, we got days to eat good food.  It’s only our first night.

El Pi Antic
Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol (Oça del Pi)

Barcelona El Pi Antic

Click image for beautifully mapped directions to Barcelona restaurant El Pi Antic.

After a rainy morning spent touring La Seu Cathedral, then exploring,  we came upon a charming restaurant tucked deep in the area bordered by La Rambla, Puerta Ferrisa and the cathedral.

Housed in the Palau Fiballer, circa 1571,  El Pi Antic has all the warmth and amenities of an old time tavern.  Just what we needed to warm our bones and fill our empty stomachs.

Alison: I think that must be the owner.  He seems to be greeting all the regulars.  Oh my god, did he just change his shirt in the middle of the restaurant! A little too much intimacy!

Luc: Mais, non !

Alison: Mais, oui !  And how would you know,  you weren’t looking that way.

Luc: Sigh.  Can we just order? There is a table d’hôte for 12 euros.  Let’s try that.

Alison: It’s a lot of food.  Sardines, fried calamari with french fries.Then paella. Plus dessert.  Ah, why not?

Luc: That is very good.  We will have to come back.  You aren’t going to finish your sardines?

Alison: It is just too much food! I think they must get tired by the time dessert comes around – what did you get, a cup of pre-packaged ice cream?  My flan was OK, a bit watery. But, hey, who cares.  It was just what we needed.

Bodega Latinaja
Esparteria 9 El Born

Have to admit we missed a big opportunity: Finding a Barcelona restaurant/club that played traditional Spanish guitar.  There is an Guitar Festival that runs from Feb. 21 -June 10, 2010, featuring concerts by Quimi Portet, John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension and Paco de Lucía.  So to forgive ourselves for this major oversite, here is an amazing  performance by M. de Lucía circa 1970s.

We did find a Barcelona restaurant with great atmosphere that served traditional Catalon dishes, setting was rustic and cozy – like a big cavern with the front opened to the street and the stone walls crammed with shelves of pottery of all sizes.

Alison: I am so happy we found a restaurant that specializes in Catalon dishes.  I mentioned that I worked with someone who is from here,  Sylvain Amoros.  I want to share with him the meats and cheeses we tried: Boll, Cleda, Urgelia.

Alison and Luc enjoying an evening at Bodega LaTinaja, Barcelona, Spain.

A blurry Luc and Alison enjoying an evening at Bogeda La Tinaja. Great atmosphere with authentic Catalon food.

Luc: This is a lot of food!

Alison: I am hungry. And you know how much I love cheese. What do you like the best?

Luc: This sausage is my favorite. Nice and spicy.

Alison: I wonder if those pots are for sale…Let’s ask the waiter.

Luc: Told you they wouldn’t be for sale.

Alison: Well, how was I supposed to know they date to the 16th century and that a representative from the church makes a monthly trip to take inventory.

Luc: And what a bummer that they lost so many in an earthquake … I’m going to ask someone to take our picture.

Restaurante Sailor
Paseo Colón

Marinated octopus topped with spicy paprika at Restaurant Sailor.

Marinated octopus topped with spicy paprika at Restaurant Sailor.

Luc: Enough shopping and browsing. I’m hungry! Let’s wind back toward the hotel. This boulevard has some good places. And it’s good for people-watching

Alison: I like this place. Restaurente Sailor. It has nice big white umbrellas, and the sun is starting to get kind of intense. Plus it reminds me of what one of those Monaco seaside cafés would be like. I watch too many movies.

Luc: Try this bread with the tomato and olive oil spread. It’s amazing!

Alison: Yum. That bread is so soft. I could eat this for lunch. Think I will get sardines. They are so good here.

Luc: For an appetizer, I’m going for octopus!  After  that treat at the Ibiza Medieval Fair, I am craving this stuff. And I am going to get the iberican ham.

Alison: So, what’s the verdict?

Luc: This was soooo good, I may want to come back!

La Botiga
Rambla Catalunya 27

Luc: After walking around all day and going to the museum, I am exhausted. Plus its starting to rain again. Where should we eat? I don’t think I can go any further. Here, this looks good. Let’s just try it.

Alison: I don’t know what really sounds good here. I think I’m going to just get smoked salmon and capers.

Luc: I am going to try the crab salad and the squid.

Verdict: The salmon and capers was fine. Nothing amazing and a bit thin. The crab salad and squid were downright awful. In sum, La Botiga is more style than substance.

Cavamar
Vila Joiosa 54

Frank Gehry's Le Peix (Fish)

Frank Gehry's Le Peix on Port Olimpic

One afternoon, we took a long walk on the Barcelona beach and the board walk, stopping to check out the yachts parked in the harbor – marvelling how much money it took these days to even get the boat out of the harbor.

On Port Olimpic, we checked out a huge fish sculpture, whose coppery glint is like a siren call, you have to get closer to it.  And when you do, the apparent lushness of the scales that lured you transforms into bare bones wire.

The Peix fish sculpture was actually designed by  Canadian Frank Gehry for the 1992 Olympics and measures 35  x 54 meters.  Our photo doesn’t do the size justice but then perhaps it is because competing against Spain’s two tallest buildings, the Hotel Arts (Gehry was of the architects) and the Mapfre tower.

Read more about Frank O. Gehry and Gehry’s Peix (Fish).

We strolled through a nice park, where Luc took a photo of a woman on bench holding an umbrella to shield herself from the sun.

Alison enjoying the tapas peppers at Cavamar.

Alison savoring the peppers at Cavamar Tapas Bar.

After our long walk , we stopped at Restaurante Cavamar for a cold beer. Seats at the beachside restaurant are a premium, and to stay, we had to order food.  Quickly scanning the Cavamar menu, I impulsively ordered “hot small green peppers.”

Alison: These are pretty big for “small peppers.”  Mmmmm check out the sea salt.

Luc: Wow!  And I mean WOW!  You have to try these.  They are amazing.

Alison: Not too hot?

Luc: Not at all.

Alison: Ohhh!  These are better than French Fries!  And that healthy, green taste.

Luc: I am going to make these at home.  The recipe cannot be that hard.

Alison: This is perffect with the beer.  And I wasn’t even hungry!

Luc: Good job, Alison. Out of all the good food we had at Barcelona restaurants, his may be the best thing we’ve eaten the whole trip! And for just 11 eros (2,50 each beer; 6,00 for the pimentos del padron)

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tom Volpe May 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Great post guys, thanks for all the tips. When I was in Barcelona a couple of months ago I went to a cool little placed called El Tropezon in the Gothic Quarter. It was very rough around the edges but was recommended by some guys who live there. The food was amazing, they have tortillas on the bar that are the size of wheels. Very cool!

2 Alison May 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Tom, really appreciate the feedback and contribution. Recommendations from locals is the way to go. And aren’t those places that are “a little rough around the edges,” often the best? I hope to get back to Barcelona and will definitely add El Tropezon to my list. Just wondering if you had the chance to go to any clubs with traditional guitar music? We didn’t.

3 Tom Volpe June 2, 2010 at 6:40 am

We did go to a flamenco show which was on Plaza Reial, the guitar playing was really impressive but the whole atmosphere was a little awkward and false. They did a show every 45 minutes or so and you had to leave straight after your show.

We actually were walking down a little alley way near Plaza Sant Filip Neri by the cathedral and heard the most amazing guitar music coming from a house there. We just hung out in the alleyway for ages listening to those guys jamming. That was a way better experience and totally free :)

4 Alison June 2, 2010 at 7:34 am

Tom, too funny! Isn’t that usually how it happens. All you needed was a bottle of wine and sturdy box to sit on. Again, thanks for the insights on Barcelona. Am a bit slow on the take – just I checked out your site. Very nice. Would like to add it to our blogroll. And will definitely support as a contributor.

5 Tom Volpe June 3, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Thanks Alison! That would be great!

6 Wandering Trader December 29, 2011 at 10:57 am

The marinated octopus from Sailor Paseo looks delish! Does it taste anything like squid?

7 Alison January 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Yes it was delicious! Luc is an amateur of octopus. We even brought some canned, marinated octopus home.

I was not sure what I would think the first time I tried octopus at the Ibiza Gastronomic Festival. But WOW – it is amazing grilled and sprinkled with hot paprika.

For me, the difference between squid and octopus are in the texture and the taste. Squid is a bit more rubbery, which I don’t mind. In octopus, that is not such a great quality. And while really tasty, squid is less flavorful on its own. Octopus is meatier and can stand on its own.

Luc says that squid, even when cook properly, has more resistance than octopus which is much more soft in the mouth. As for the taste, he did not come up with any comparisons, but admits he likes both, but prefers octopus.

Hope that answers your question. :)

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