My Top 5 Favourite Tapas Bars in Barcelona
I spent most of last Autumn hanging out in Barcelona and while I was there, I discovered plenty of little tapas bars around the well worn tourist path. There are SO many crap tapas bars in Barcelona. I hope my little list will at least give you brief glimpse into what you can find if you scratch the surface and get away from the tourist ghetto of Las Ramblas and Carrer de Ferran.
As Barcelona is full of tapas bars, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one, the ones that I found were, for the most part, recommended to me by friends who live there or colleagues who visit often.
So without further ado, here they are in no particular order:
Bar del Pla (Born): I found this place one night after we had visited a few other tapas bars in the area. The Born is part of the Barrio Gotic and Tourist Central but there are still great places to be found. Bar del Pla, while not exactly hidden, is not on a main street in the Born but off one of its little alleyways and from the outside doesn’t look like much, although it always seemed to be packed with a mix of locals and tourists. Don’t let the tourists put you off, the menu features fresh and modern tapas with a twist and traditional foods as well as fresh salads. I remember ordering grilled calamares with chickpeas – so delicious, we ordered a second round! We also had a sardines on toast combo with mango and rocket, another inspired combination. The wine list is a mix of Spanish and foreign wines as well as house vermouth – which I love! The prices are a bit more expensive than the usual tapas bars but worth it and the staff was very helpful in making recommendations. I’ve been told the staff speak English, although as we all spoke Spanish, we didn’t put them to the test. Carrer Montcada, num. 2, 08003 Barcelona, +34 93 268 30 03
Quimet & Quimet (Poble Sec): A favourite of locals, Quimet & Quimet is not in a fashionable part of Barcelona. The Poble Sec neighbourhood is up and coming, as they say, but isn’t really on the tourist trail yet. You have to take the metro and then it’s a bit of trek down a side street to get there but well worth it. I can’t quite work out if it’s a wine bar that sells food or a food bar that has its walls covered in wine. Quimet & Quimet is well known for their montaditos which are basically round toasts piled high with such interesting food combinations as salmon with truffled honey, red pepper and smoked sardines or anchovies with green olive tapenade and smoked tomatoes. They also have a wide range of Spanish cheeses and, of course, a few of the more traditional tapas like croquettas and boquerones. As well as the walls of Spanish wines, they have a wide selection of cavas and serve strong Belgian beers from the bottle. The ordering system is a bit chaotic – you shout your order (over the shoulder of the customer standing in front of you) to the barman behind the counter. Somehow, they know exactly what you’ve ordered and a plate and glass of whatever you’ve ordered is handed back to you in a few minutes. Go early if you want a fighting chance of getting a spot to stand (there are no chairs). Occasionally a tour bus load of tourists will invade the spot but they usually have a montadito, take a pic and are back on the bus in 20 minutes – phew! Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, 08004 Barcelona +34 934 42 31 42
Can Cisa (Born): Can Cisa is on one of the main streets of the Born but is so cleverly marked that it’s easy to miss it. They actually have two entrances, one on the main street, Princesa, and one facing the warren of alleyways that constitute the Born. Can Cisa bills itself as a natural wine bar and they do have plenty of those available. It also boasts a small restaurant with seasonal dishes. The main draw for me though is the very cute bar that sits halfway between the front and back entrance. The wine list is small but they do have an interesting list of wines and cavas and will let you sample them before you buy. There is a small selection of nibbles, order the plumb green olives or the toasted almonds if you’re feeling a bit peckish. Or, for something more substantial they have plates of charcuterie, (try the mortadella – melt in your mouth delish!) and cheese. Bar staff are friendly and speak excellent English as well as having an extensive knowledge of the wine list. Any questions, just ask. Can Cisa is mid-priced, good value for the money. The decor is funky, colonial, shabby chic, that’s the best description I can thing of! A great place to start off the night…or end it. Carrer de la Princesa, 14, 08003 Barcelona, +34 932 95 47 97
El Nacional (Gracia): Moving out of the Born and into the fashionable Gracia part of town, one of the my favourite spots to go for an aperitif is an underground parking lot that has been turned into a restaurant destination. Although El Nacional is on one of the main streets of the city, the Passeig de Gracia, the entrance is a plain downward sloping ramp that leads into the ex-car park. El Nacional is actually four restaurants and four bars in one. Upon entering, you are greeted by a large island bar where you can order wine and nibbles. I love sitting at the bar and doing a bit of people watching while sipping on cava. There is also an oyster bar, a beer bar and a cocktail bar scattered around. The restaurants are all situated along the outer walls of the venue. I loved the decor, all dark wood and hanging ferns, very art nouveau in style – a classic upmarket venue. An extra draw is that the restaurants all feature fresh produce, fish and even vegetables from the Nacional’s garden. The prices are reasonable for the venue and the area. The place is full of locals and ex-pats which is usually a good sign. Passeig de Gràcia, 24, 08007 Barcelona, +34 935 18 50 53
Bar Jai-Ca (Barceloneta): If you can, avoid the tacky, microwaved food restaurants that line the main road to the beach from the Born and Gotic areas and take a detour into the side streets of Barceloneta. On a little tree lined corner there is a tapas bar called Bar Jai-Ca. It is in all the tourist books but as it’s not on the beach but in the asphalt jungle, many people skip it for the chiringuitas on the seaside. Bar Jai-Ca is a small tapas bar that serves the usual – boquerones, croquettas, patatas bravas, tortilla, pulpo a la gallega, etc. They have beer on tap as well as serving big tall glasses of vermouth. You don’t really go there for the food, though it is totally up to par, but for the atmosphere. It’s full of locals; young couples, families with babes in arms, grandpas and tables of little old Spanish (or young) ladies all engaging in jovial or sometimes heated conversations. I often felt as if I was sitting in someone’s sitting room on a weekend afternoon amidst all the shouting and laughing. If you can, snag a table outside in the balmy air, though the place is decorated in a classic Barcelona style with lots of tiles, posters and er, interesting ceramics lining the walls. Calle Ginebra, 13 | Ginebra 13 y Ginegra 9, 08003 Barcelona, +34 932 68 32 65
So there are my top 5. There are quite a few other places that I like but they’re not tapas bars or I’ve forgotten the names – the perils of going out to eat and drink in Barcelona. I’ll have to take better notes the next time I’m there, which hopefully will be soon!