Barcelona… A dream, right? There must be many among you who assume that living in Barcelona is lighter and easier. Spain. A country which brings positive associations for most of us. Because it’s sunny, because the beaches on Costa Brava or Costa de la Luz run for kilometres, because the weather is always perfect. Because of lively cities, mysterious and intriguing Basque country, flamenco sounding Andalusia. I can go like this for hours! And if you ask the public what words come to their minds in relation to Spain they will probably say: siesta, fiesta, flamenco or Sangria. Spain sounds nice but it tastes even better! And Barcelona is not only about Gaudi’s magical art, La Rambla and matches on Camp Nou but also about EATING!
Spaniards have a lot to boast about when it comes to cuisine. No doubt about that. It’s here, especially in Catalonia or Basque country where best restaurants of the world are located. It’s here where the uber-talented chefs work. I guess everybody must have heard about places like El Bulli (Roses, Girona), El Celler de Can Roca (Girona), Mugaritz (San Sebastian) i Arzak (San Sebastian)!
Apart from accomplishments in fine dining category, Spain has a lot of tasty, simple and widely available culinary treats to offer. Especially tapas. I love them! Tiny portions that give you the possibility to try 4-5 different tapas in one go. I also love Spanish way of eating called para picar which means ordering different tapas for a few or even more people and trying a bit from every plate. That’s what makes Spanish dinners one of the best culinary experiences – full of life, laughter, talks, slowly nibbling on the snacks and washing them down with wine or sangria. Nobody buries themselves in their plate. Here, you eat together. And damn IT FEELS GOOD!
Barcelona is a perfect place to try Spanish cuisine. And the Catalonian colourfulness only adds up to the great impression…
WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT IN SPAIN?
1) PAN CON TOMATE (pa amb tomàquet)
Pan con tomate. Memorise this phrase if you’re going to Barcelona or any other place in Catalonia. Pan con tomate is a traditional Catalonian meal. So easy, so delicious. A baguette, olive oil and mashed tomatoes. Perfect to try at home too! In Catalonia it’s served before almost every meal and the baguettes we get when we buy sandwiches are served with tomato spread too.
2) TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA
Or simply tortilla de patatas. One of the most ordinary tapas but I love it so much that I always order it. A fluffy omelette made from potatoes and eggs, sometimes onion too in basic version. Often served with peppers, ham, mushrooms or Spanish spicy chorizo sausage. If you get a whole tortilla, you best eat it with friends with everybody sticking a toothpick in their piece. Breakfast version often comes in a sandwich!
2) PATATAS BRAVAS
You don’t eat French fries in Spain. Ok, you can but you shouldn’t. You eat patatas bravas – fried potatoes served with spicy tomato and peppers sauce and often with aioli too. The sauce differs depending on the region and I have to say I prefer Madrid’s version to the one served in Barcelona. But it’s still worth trying! Another perfect ‘para picvar’ starter!
3) CALAMARES FRITOS / CALAMARES A LA ROMANA
Fried calamari is a special meal for us: it was over fried calamari we first met on the market square in Wrocław! I’ve already fallen in love with them in Spain before! I was surprised and my mom was too that I’m eating this ‘awful seafood’ but it was indeed calamares a la romana – fried calamari rings that was the first kind of seafood I fell in love with. And that’s still my top of the top. However lately I prefer them served as…
4) BOCADILLO CON CALAMARES
I always knew that the people in Spain love calamari sandwiches but I always considered it a bit weird.. how is that? A calamari sandwich? Calamari in a bun? No, thanks! Until our trip to Barcelona this year on which I absolutely fell in love with calamari sandwiches which are super simple and super delicious. A crispy baguette, fried calamari rings and obviously some tomato spread which comes with every piece of bread in Catalonia. Two sandwiches in Bar Estudiantil cost us 4.5 euro and were enough to fill us both. Have a freshly squeezed juice with it and the day instantly gets better!
5) PULPO A LA GALLEGA
Pulpo a la gallega stands for Galician style octopus. Despite its name it’s also served in tapas bars outside of Galicia. In Barcelona we tried it in Bar Estudiantil and Can Majó. Slices of octopus served with potatoes and spiced up with hot pepper make one of our favourite flavours. A cool alternative for all who would like to try an octopus but aren’t brace enough to eat a whole grilled tentacle 😉 So much recommended!
6) PIMIENTOS DE PADRON
Small green peppers, just for one bite. Quite a rarity in Poland while in Spain it’s mostly gently fried in olive oil and sprinkled with large crystals of sea salt.. Łukasz’ favourite. When we stayed at my friend’s house in Madrid he sometimes grilled it at 3 am! In Barcelona you must try it at least once a day! But beware! Eat it holding it by the stem! 🙂
7) BOQUERONES EN VINAGRE
Boquerones en vinagre is one of Łukasz’ biggest Spanish loves! Perfect for anybody who loves fish, yet the flavour of this sardines is unmistakeable. Boquerones fritos are cool as well! To be honest, I first liked the fried version!
Don’t mistake it for croquettes! 🙂 Spanish croquetas have nothing to do with Polish ones which we often eat with borscht. Croquetas are tiny – round and oblong and prepared from béchamel sauce with various additions. One of the most popular option is croquetas de jamón or croquetas de bacalao – with ham or cod respectively. Perfect if they come crispy outside and with hot filling that gently pours out when you cut them with a knife. Try them in MontBarze near Plaza Universitat for instance. It makes you wanna order a second helping real fast!
The only meal on my tapas list. I still prefer tapas, but you can’t leave Barcelona without trying paella! It originates from Valencia and usually they serve it with seafood. If you’re not into seafood, take a version with vegetables, chicken or rabbit meat. Paella is usually served on a huge pan for two from which you help yourselves to second, third and more helpings.
10) PARA BEBER!! (TO DRINK!!)
If you want to eat, you have to drink too. Did you know that people in Spain do not drink tea and consider it something suitable for those with stomach problems? I still remember that the flat I stayed in during my studies had no kettle! What for? Tapas are best washed down with Spanish wine and its lighter versions such as sangria when it’s hot. Or tinto de verano made from red wine and fanta/sprite/sparkling lemonade mixed 1:1.
Don’t like wine? That’s OK! Just learn this few words: ‘Una clara, por favor!’ and you’ll get a refreshing beer mixed with Sprite or lemonade. Perfect thing for a 30 degrees heat!
You know what to eat. How about WHERE?
This time we didn’t focus on tapas places while in Barcelona since we were looking for best confectioneries and we only had two days! Still, we managed t pay a visit to 3 cool places and a local which we trust culinarly suggested the rest.
Check out those places:
1) CAN MAJÓ
A charming place right next to Barceloneta beach recommended by Michelin guide. Perfect for a night with sangria or wine. Great paella, fish, seafood and a must – croquetas. A cult classic for us – we’ve been there on one of our first trips together in 2010. Since then we’ve sent plenty of people there and everybody liked it. Now we returned after 5 years and ate the same stuff you can see o the picture from the pas 🙂 And after dinner, we went for a walk along the beach!
Bar Estudiantil is an absolutely unusual spot. A student’s bar on plaza Universitat. We got there accidentally for breakfast and fell in love with calamari sandwiches. We returned on numerous occasions and pretty much all kinds of tapas were delicious and not too pricey. Close enough to La Rambla to pay a visit, far enough to void crowds of tourists. Don’t expect luxuries though. That’s the place where you’ll feel the vibe of a Spanish corner bar;)
3) MONT BAR
A place for a dinner for two or a pleasant evening with friends. Not too big and very charming. How about the prices? Quite expensive. How does it taste? Tapas, seafood but served in a more sophisticated, original way.
We didn’t get there but had it on our list:
1) LA FLAUTA – a great place for tapas. Near plaza Universitat, you need to take Aribau street from the square. In the evenings it’s crowded as hell so you best book a table in advance. When you get there, you immediately get tempted by all the goods laid on the counter. We got there right after we landed but unfortunately we didn’t get the table. They say chipirones (tiny calamari) are a must as well as montadito de bacalao (a tiny sandwich with cod.).
2) CERVECERIA CATALANA – also for tapas, this time on Carrer de Mallorca 236. It’s also crowded. Best sit at the bar – best vibe! 🙂
3) for seafood: np. Cal Pep
Just go and eat! 🙂 Barcelona is one of the best destinations for a weekend and it’s also a great place for start if you’re planning travelling around Spain. A place that never bores you, where there’s always something to do. It was my fifth time there but still, every time I leave I miss it… But I usually can’t get enough of Spain 😉
Same as in Paris, we stayed in a flat rented via HomeToGo in Barcelona. HomeToGo allows you to browse through more than 150 websites with houses and apartments i.e. Interhome or HomeAway. Often, you can find real bargains – in great locations and with great vibe. And waking up in ‘your’ own flat and going for breakfast in a corner bar makes you feel like a real Spaniard or if you’re in Barcelona – like a Catalonian 😉
* the entry was written in cooperation with HomeToGo