Barcelona | Bucket list | Comfort eats

Barcelona bucket list of comfort eats

On the spectrum of food, Barcelona will go down in the history of high cuisine thanks to universally-known chef, Ferran Adria, propelling Barcelona at the forefront of of gastronomic revolution. However, Barcelona goes back much further. As the capital of Catalunya, it was an important centre for Catalan medieval cuisine in the Middle Ages. Due to its strategic location as an important goods port in the Mediterranean, Barcelona had always been cosmopolitan and open. It was the city of counts bringing together the counts of Barcelona and the monarchs of Aragon, hence it is a mixture of all these cuisines that influenced it to be what it is today. The result, a rich traditional heritage.

I did some research of where we should go eat and understand in depth the role of soups in this region to gather inspirations but 5 days was really not enough to eat through the list I made up. Moreover, some of these places were difficult to find, too far apart and some were really crowded and not suitable for kids. For us, we tried our best to find the places recommended, but at the end of the day, we just enjoyed walking around, lingering in a delicatessen shop with products fit for the most demanding gourmets, enjoy many drinks before settling down for a meal in a restaurant. Walking around a neighbourhood, gave us the opportunity to visit the grocery stores, the bakeries, the local art scene and that non descript statue in the park. Not the most productive if all we wanted was to eat our way around the best places in Barcelona. But it gave us the opportunity to stumble upon many great finds too that turned out to be memorable experiences for us. Here, I would take the opportunity to highlight some of the food places we visited which are worthy of a second visit.

Mercat de La Boqueria (La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain)

The Mercat de Sant Josep commonly known as the La Boqueria,  is perhaps Barcelona’s foremost tourist landmark situated along the stretch of La Rambla. Manuel Vazquez Montalban defined La Boqueria as the “Cathedral of Senses”. The current market was built in 1840 in its current location although the earliest mention of the market was in 1217. Today, it is a bustling market filled with tourists from day to night. There is probably nothing you cannot get here, from freshly squeezed juices, to light bite of tapas, a cone of freshly shaved jamon, a sit down freshly cooked to order seafood meal by the bar, to the cornucopia of well displayed fruits, vegetables, hams, meat and spices. Some would say this is a tourist trap, but it is definitely highly recommended for a visit as it does showcase the best produce from around Barcelona. It is enough just to be aroused by the smells, flavours and noises when one visits.

La Boqueria Market entrance

The Boqueria Market, as it is known today, has been through many phases of life. The first mention was in 1217. The origin of the market was that of a travelling open-air market, placed in the Ramblas of Barcelona. In Catalonia, towns and cities have been founded around markets and the same rings true for La Boqueria. It was founded in front of one of the gates of the old city wall (Pla de la Boqueria) where fruit and vegetable traders from local towns and farms near by would sell their products. The spaces inside the city at that time were too small to establish a big market of the current Boqueria kind and it was necessary to set them outside the walls.

A tapas bar in La Boqueria

A common sight of tourists enjoying the tapas sitting by the bar.Tapa glorious tapa! Look at the amazing array found at just one taperia!

Freshly squeezed juices and fruits

Another common sight with many fruit stalls offering freshly squeezed juices at 1 euro and cut fruit cups for 2euros.

Carving of the jamon

Another popular item sold at the market is the Jamon. Originating from different places, different types of feed, vacuum packed into different packaging to allow tourists to bring them home. There is something for everyone.

Seafood purveyor in the La Boqueria market

It is amazing with the meat market and the seafood market and the vegetable market all situated together, there was hardly any smell when we stepped into the market. How do they do it? After all, it was summer and even in an airconditioned place like a supermarket, seafood and meat would always make their presence known.

Spices sold at La Boqueria Market

The exotic co-exist with the locally grown produce. Saffron, paprika, chillies, all can be found here. I am not too sure about the prices here, but it does seem a little more expensive than in a supermarket but I suppose the quality should be better here.

Plump tomatoes at La Boqueria Market

Amazing displays of colourful fruits and vegetables. Visual merchandising is serious business here. Everyone takes a lot of pride in creating a visual feast for shoppers. The Catalonians have a lot of pride and everything is deliberately placed to tickle our senses.

Pinotxo (pronounced as Pinocchio) (La Rambla, 91, 08002 Barcelona)

Near the front entrance of La Boqueria market is Bar Pinotxo. It is the most famous of all the eateries inside the marketplace and has since become an institution serving traditional Catalan cuisine for more than 50 years. It only has a bar counter and 14 seats and most of the time, it is constantly buzzing and there is rarely an empty seat during its operation hours from 6am to 3pm.

Bar Pinotxo at La Boqueria market

We were really lucky that the morning we were there, the place was surprisingly not crowded and we seized the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a meal

Joan Bayen of Pinotxo

The familiar picture of Juanita Bayen commonly known as Pinocchio, dressed in his characteristic waistcoat and bowtie and his signature thumbs up, has gone all around the world. He is the owner of iconic bar and is always quietly taking orders and recommending hungry tourists what to eat.

There’s no printed menu here. Everything is prepared depending on what’s fresh and seasonal. Juanita spoke little English but we we were still able to communicate asking us was there anything we did not eat and was quick to give us a recommendation. At times, we just pointed at what other people were having.

Squid with haricot beans

This is one of the recommended dishes by everyone online, so we had to have it. Baby squid or chipirones . Bathed in a warm sauce of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the beans and squid were a perfect combination.

Carne stew

Beef stew with peas and potatoes. The beef was really tender and the tomato based gravy was good.

xuxos de la crema

Highly recommended is the xuxos de la crema . This was Elijah’s favourite. He had 2 himself!!! Xuxos is a Catalan pastry, made from viennoiserie pastry that is filled with crema catalana, deep-fried and then rolled in sugar. We had a few cafe con leche made by skillful Juanita too. He is a real smooth operator behind the bar counter.

Tast a la Rambla (La Rambla section called Rambla de Santa Mònica from Centre d’Art Santa Monica to Columbus Monument)

We were just strolling along Barcelona’s famous Rambla Street and stumbled upon all these food kiosks that seemed to be manned by some real pro looking men in white. We were souper stoked when we realised that this was Tast a la Rambla, a gastronomic explosion of the best restaurants and gastrobars coming together whether it was traditional cuisine or new world Spain modern interpretation. This is a yearly event in June and we were real fortunate to be in Barcelona to experience it.  It is similar to Singapore’s Savour, which showcases restaurant food by top chefs in Barcelona in tapas size portions at reduced prices. The only difference is this is not an exclusive event that one needs to buy tickets to get in. We just had to buy tasting tickets that entitled us to choose 4 tapas dishes for 16 euros. This year there were altogether 47 stalls with at least 15 of them were with Michelin stars. How cool is that? It saved us the trouble to locate all of them separately!

The weather was great and  they had all these lawn chairs and low tables for us to sit and enjoy our food. We bought 16 euros worth of tickets and I thought it was quite a steal considering if we were to go have tapas at a bar, it would have costed us 2 to 4 euros per tapa anyway. It will be odd to travel to each of this restaurant separately and only eat one dish. This was indeed convenient for us to explore and try their foods.

Tast a la rambla

Tast a la Rambla happening at the the section of Barcelona’s famous Rambla street called Rambla de Santa Mònica which is from the Centre d’Art Santa Monica to Columbus Monument nearest the port. Indeed we feel souper stoked to be able to attend this world class restaurant food festival in June 2015. Many of Barcelona’s top chefs offered samples of their best cuisines. This picture was taken about 11 am. Tourists are getting curious and everyone was probably trying to figure out what was going on.

A beautiful day in Barcelona. Kids playing their favourite snakes and ladders. It was really nice that they could do this right in the heart of the city. Something perhaps the Singapore organisers of Savour should consider?

A beautiful day in Barcelona. Kids playing their favourite snakes and ladders. It was really nice that they could do this right in the heart of the city. Something perhaps the Singapore organisers of Savour should consider?

Basilico Gastrobar

Basílico Gastrobar 100% beef meatball sauce, fricassee with Saint Georges ‘mushrooms in black bread and crispy onions.

Fresh baguette from Triticum at Tast a la Rambla

Butikfarra: Fresh baguette from Triticum filled with Duroc sausage with bacon, mushrooms and crispy onion. The crispy onions was a nice touch to the baguette. Essentially, Butikfarra is a high end gourmet hotdog place using the freshest ingredients.

Iberico Jamon croquettes

Mont bar: Corn fed Iberico Jamon croquettes, made fresh to order. These were really yummy. It practically melts in your mouth and this was Elijah’s favourite. Gooey in the centre filled with bits of jamon.

berican pork with rice and prawns

Cala Nuri: This was my favourite tapas of the 4. The flavours were really well balanced and the rice was cooked perfectly. Only later, I did a google and found out this place had been around for a really long time. It was started by a couple, and now the business is run by their son. A true rice dish in Spain is where the ingredients take second stage. The rice and its flavors are the most important.

 Cuines Santa Caterina (Mercado de Santa Caterina, Avinguda de Francesc Cambó, 16, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)

Cuines Santa Caterina is located in the Santa Caterina’s market – renovated by top architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue.  Cuines means kitchens in Catalan. Cuines with a S because this restaurant offers foods from 4 different types of kitchens: Of the World (Asian), Mediterranean, Charcoal Oven (Italian) and Vegetarian. Their motto is market food to share.

We chanced upon this restaurant while walking in the Barri Gothic area. I recognised it as I have seen this restaurant’s interior being featured in design magazines. This place seems very popular with locals and tourists alike.

We were told by the wait staff that  the people sitting outside were having tapas menu. The inside seating was strictly for restaurant food and no cross ordering allowed. There were some unhappy guests but I understand why this was so. The price difference between tapas and a dish was almost double for most and some even triple. It just would not make economic sense to have the average spend at 10 euros per pax.

We opted to sit in the restaurant . We loved the interior decoration which reminded me of Scandinavian interior design by its simplicity of the materials made of wood, stone. There were even ficus trees planted in between rows of communal tables and  an entire wall composed of shelves stacked with bottles of wine, olive oil, vinegars and flours.

Cuines Santa Caterina

The outdoor seating is very popular with the locals and tourists. We were however warned that there have been plenty of snatch thieves targeting their customers.

Cuines Santa Caterina

The interior of the restaurant. The foods are made in the open kitchens flanking the dining area

Food wise, we loved it. The way the menu was designed. It is being sectioned into categories such as vegetables, fish/shellfish, pasta, rice dishes to name a few. On the other axis, it is being sectioned according to the different cuisines offered. You can choose a wild salmon tartar, a cantonese fried rice followed by a creme catalana for dessert. They do have a huge selection of food items including thai chicken curry, california rolls and mushroom stuffed ravioli.

This place also has a reputation of rude and unfriendly staff from reviews on TripAdvisor. Coming from the same industry, I do empathise. In my opinion, the place is just too busy. The highly productive staff were very efficient in taking orders, serving the food, clearing the tables and seating guests. With the kind of volume, there just wasn’t much time to engage in small talk or be extra attentive to customers waving their hands for something. Generally, customers would perceive such behaviour as rude and snobbish. One thing we do notice is that tipping is not a norm and typically most places don’t even levy service charge. So perhaps this may be a precursor of the less than ideal service standards in Spain. Generally the prices were reasonable and the quality of food was good.

Steamed mussels at Cuines Santa Caterina

Good fresh mussels steamed in its juices with garlic, bay leaves and rosemary.  Price: 11 euros

Roasted chicken Mediteranean style

The roasted chicken was served with popped corn and sprinkled rosemary leaves. Just a simple well executed dish. The popped corn was an interesting addition to the chicken dish giving it extra crunch. Price: 13 euros

We went back a second time for an early lunch on a Sunday afternoon, but this time for the tapas menu. Prices ranged from 4.5 euros to about 10 euros. Menu items included the usual suspects like patatas bravas, anchoas and the not so commonly seen shrimp tempura, and thai chicken curry with prawns. This is actually quite smart, repeating items from their restaurant menu and selling them at tapas portion size.  The place was significantly less crowded and what a beautiful sunny day to sit outdoors. We were warned however to take good care of our belongings as there had been too many incidences of snatch theft.

Tapas at Cuines Santa Caterina

Clockwise from right: Cod fritters, fried artichokes, grilled vegetables and pimentos de padron. My favourite has to be the pimentos. It was surprisingly not hot and pretty sweet to taste. The grilled vegetables was very good and at 5.4 euros, it was definitely very worth it.

Clockwise from the right: Mini fillet of pork and foie gras, gazpacho, breaded calamari.  The gazpacho was ordered from the main menu of the restaurant as they did not have it in the tapas size. This was perhaps the most dissapointing dish we had as it was priced at 9.8 euros. The pork fillet was only 6.2 euros and was far more better value.

Clockwise from the right: Mini fillet of pork and foie gras, gazpacho, breaded calamari.
The gazpacho was ordered from the main menu of the restaurant. This was perhaps the most dissapointing dish we had as it was priced at 9.8 euros. Apparently, on one of the days, they have a tapas size at 2 euros!!! The pork fillet was only 6.2 euros and was far more better value.

Pasteleria La Colmena (Placa de l’Angel 12, 08002 Barcelona, Spain)

While walking in the Barri Gothic area, we stumbled upon La Colmena Pasteleria and was immediately taken by its quaint shopfront. We saw plenty of people walking out with these beautifully piped meringue looking desserts and decided to check it out. Google informed us that this was one of the oldest patisserie in Barcelona dating back to 1864. Time seemed to have stood still and everything looked pretty old school giving it an air of antiquity. I could imagine in its hey days, families stopping by in their Sunday best, after mass service at the nearby cathedrals to give their kids a sweet treat, a reward for being obedient children during the week.

Pasteleria La Colmena

La Colmena is one of the oldest patisseries in Barcelona, established in 1864. Isabella and me intrigued by the wide array of biscuits  and pastries in the shop front window trying to decide which one we should have. I just loved how old school everything was from the display counters to the tin boxes used for the biscuits.

La Colmena

Traditional pastries sold here at La Colmena. We were contemplating whether we should get this creme filled flaky pastry.

Pasteleria La Colmena

Our final choice was the lemon meringue, piped high into a cupcake tray. It tasted very much like a pavlova in texture and lightness. The whole cone was meringue. There was no biscuit base. The core was pillowy soft. My only gripe was that it was just way too sweet for my liking. Isabella thought it was really interesting, something that looked exactly like soft serve ice cream on a cone, yet it was more like marshmallow.

Churrería El Trébol (Carrer de Còrsega, 341,08037 Barcelona, Spain)

Many would say how could one visit Spain and not eat churros. Churros is a fried dough pastry something like a Spanish version of doughnut or our local Singapore dough fritters, often served with a cup of thick hot chocolate to dip the goodness in. I have never really been very much of a fan as most of the ones I have eaten were either rock hard or just too doughy.

We stumbled across this place after a long walk from Parc Guell to La Pepita. (*by now most of you would have noticed that we have a knack of stumbling on great places to eat! LOL! This is what happens when we just keep walking and walking. Great way to explore any city) Unfortunately, it was Sunday and they were closed. Kids were getting tired and hungry. Papa kept telling the kiddos we were reaching and it ended up to be a 1.5 hours walk. We saw these lovely thick churros in the display and we just could not resist. They were really good. I must say the best I ever had! The churros were thick and crunchy, crispy and at the same time it had the softest interior. They were lightly coated in sugar and cinnamon upon request. These were best eaten dipped into their signature hot chocolate. It was so good, that we went back to get some more a couple of days later.

The place was non-descript and small, with just a small counter filled with churros, a long bar table with high stools and a small kitchen at the back.  Little would I know that this place is actually Barcelona’s oldest churreria launched in 1950. They have various kinds of churros from custard filled ones to chocolate coated ones. For us, the traditional ones are still the best! The owner, Cecilia Martínez, started making and selling churros with her husband in the 40s, before they opened the doors to Xurreria El Trebol a couple of years later. Today it’s Martínez’ children and grandchildren handling the business.

Xurreria Trebol

Barcelona’s oldest churrería, El Trebol (meaning clover), is a local favorite for this fried ecstasy. A family-run churro shop, El Trebol is popular for its thicker and crunchier churros. They are open 24 hours on weekends. Apparently, they are really popular with party goers. A Spanish friend told me this is what they would eat after a night of partying before going home to bed.

Churros

Coated lightly with cinnamon and sugar, these churros were to die for! I love them plain. Isabella would not let them out of her sight. 2 euros for a small bag, there were at least 10 sticks in the bag.

Churros dipped in hot chocolate at El Trebol

The kids really enjoyed them being dipped into hot chocolate. There was just a nice touch of sweetness to the crispy dough fritters. The chocolate way of eating, just too messy for the kids. We used up a whole packet of wet wipes!

Fabrica Moritz Barcelona (Ronda de Sant Antoni, 41, 08011, Barcelona)

Fabrica Moritz

Fabrica Moritz

Moritz is an iconic Catalan beer brand founded in Barcelona by French immigrant Louis Moritz Trautmann in 1856. Moritz beer was initially brewed in a small factory in the Raval area of Barcelona’s old city. In 1864, they moved to a larger brewery at Ronda de Sant Antoni in the Eixample district, where they brewed the popular beer for just over 100 years. However, Moritz closed the factory in 1966 and moved production outside Barcelona to Parets del Vallès. The business continued to grow steadily but in the 70‘s oil crisis seriously affected various sectors of the economy and Moritz owners decide to sell their part of the shareholders and the company closed in 1978.

Moritz beer re-emerged in 2004 when the fifth and sixth generation of the Moritz family resurrected the brand which is now brewed under license in Zaragoza. The old factory building on Ronda de Sant Antoni stayed in the hands of the family. It underwent a 30 million euro renovation by celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel to house the Moritz beer museum, the microbrewery, restaurant and novelty gift store. They wanted to position themselves as the “Beer of Barcelona” and oust the already known and accepted by all citizens Estrella Damm. Loving the David and Goliath spirit here! Go Moritz! Today, there isn’t any doubt, after 10 years of this relaunch, the Moritz beer is a closely linked and rooted brand in the city of Barcelona.

Fabrica Moritz Barcelona

Fabrica Moritz: one of the largest microbrewery in Europe. This was the original Moritz brewery and has since undergone a major refit and today it houses a concept store with Triticum bakery, a section selling fresh unpasturised beer and another area selling designer objects and Moritz merchandising from T shirts, to bicycles, to books on craft beer brewing.

Fabrica Moritz

The original walls of the underground area used to store beer. A must visit is to the toilet where one can see the original wall and floors of the building. It also houses the vats and fermentation tanks .

Fabrica Moritz

Fabrica Moritz. The M concept store within selling merchandising.Great for getting trendy novelty gifts and souvenirs.

Fabrica Moritz

Souper cute couch converted from a yellow Fiat. Overhead, it hangs graphics and pictures that can be bought home for decoration. Great branding initiative.

Fabrica Moritz

Fabrica Moritz: The Epidor: fresh draft beer, strong bodied toasty lager on tap. The  fresh unpastuerised beer is piped from the microbrewery below.

Fabrica Moritz

Fabrica Moritz: the poussin a la Moritz served with chips is one of the highly recommended dishes from the restaurant.

Fabrica Moritz

Fabrica Moritz: Bomba de la Moritz (homemade beef and potato croquette served with a spicy brava sauce). This was really good! Bomba is bomb in Catalan.

Nomad Coffee Productions (Passatge de Sert, 12, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)

We had our fair share of cafe con leche in Spain for our caffeine fix, but call us snobs, but we were missing our well made cafe latte from full bodied Brazilian and Colombian with cherry, floral and chocolate notes. We stumbled upon this coffee shop when we were exploring the El-Born area. There is such a thing as Third Wave coffee in Spain! Cøffee Lab & Shop opens Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 3:30 where we met two times champion, Jordi making all kinds of magic using a DC/PRO that glows, AeroPress, V60 with Hario Buono pouring kettle. The beans are carefully selected and roasted here. They don’t have much desserts except for two different varieties of cake. I had the Colombian which had cherry notes, at 3 euros per latte. I should have opted for a double shot when he asked me. One shot was pretty weak for the size of the cup they were using. We were there in the afternoon, and there was some sort of coffee appreciation being conducted.

Nomad Coffee

Nomad Coffee

Nomad Coffee

Minimalistic interior with cool vibes at Nomad Coffee. Aren’t all Third Wave coffee shops the same? LOL..

Nomad coffee

A well made Cafe Latte at Nomad Coffee. Great robust flavours with notes of chocolate and cherry.

Casa Lolea (Sant Pere Mes Alt, 49, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)

Just round the corner from Nomad Productions, is a must pit stop! We stumbled upon Casa Lolea, ( * for lack of a better word .. we stumbled.. again.. LOL, as I was proofreading this, I could really count the number of times I used stumbled in this post alone!) a small little cafe restaurant with a retro decor. What caught our attention were the beautiful polka dot bottles of sangria and the story of how they make their sangria on little folded cards written in English. We were pretty full after coffee and lunch, but we had to go in to experience the decor and of course the sangria! Sangria is a traditional and popular drink in Spain, with every bar and every household having their own recipe. However, the quality cannot be guaranteed as most bars would use whatever is available, or was going to expire or using cheap wines for mixing. I have tasted really bad ones before and nothing like Casa Lolea’s. Casa Lolea makes sangria using good wine and natural ingredients, and I have gotten information that Albert Adria was involved in helping to come up with recipe for the concoction, so this must be consistently good!

Casa Lolea

Casa Lolea: Steps away from the stunning façade of Palau de Musica yet far from the flow of mass tourism, Casa Lolea offers a charming, quality alternative to the overpriced pitchers of sangría that dot the plastic tablecloths of Las Ramblas.

Casa Lolea

Casa Lolea ups the ante on the traditional vermouth bar, serving up a refreshing new brand of artisan sangría and with a interior decor and facade like this, no wonder, it is fast becoming a favourite with the urban foodies in Barcelona.

Casa Lolea

Thanks to its retro air and bright décor, Casa Lolea has brought a much-needed burst of style to Sant Pere Més Alt. Just look at the floor!!!! It has also quickly become an elegant meeting spot for both urban foodies as well as young Catalans looking to revamp their grandfather’s Sunday afternoon tradition.

Casa Lolea

Casa Lolea: The menu outside. I have read pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor on its food, especially some of the tapas dishes they serve. It was pity we were just too full to eat.

Casa Lolea

Casa Lolea serves handcrafted and all-natural red and white varieties of sangría. This is the no.1, a red wine sangria and my favourite too. A light cherry red tone, clean, bright and attractive with a slight effervescence of fine bubbles making this drink really refreshing. It is of cherry, orange peel, lemon drops, cinnamon and sour strawberry. It was very pleasant to drink, full bodied yet crisp and fruity. I can drink a bottle myself!

Casa Lolea

Casa Lolea: Homemade carrot cake, not by the restaurant, but someone else. Nonetheless, it tasted pretty homemade and was really good enjoyed with the sangria.

We loved it so much and decided to google and see whether anyone was selling this in Singapore. To our excitement, we found Vinos Exclusivos, the local distributor in Singapore. We contacted Ruben and  we are souper stoked that he came on board to be one of the partners for our #tsstakemetospain campaign sponsoring some sangria for our lucky winners. Ruben, a Spaniard himself, told us how he too stumbled on the shop exactly like us. Highly recommended for those of us who love refreshing cocktails!

Bar del Pla (Carrer Montcada, 2, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)

Situated right near the Picasso Museum and surrounded by tapas bars in the Barri Gothic, this place is easily missed. However, I assure you, the food here is good and highly recommended. According to TripAdvisor, they serve plenty of very good dishes and the place can get crowded at night. We visited it about 5 pm, and there were just a few ladies having some drinks.

Jaume Pla, Jordi Palomino and chef Jordi Peris opened Bar del Pla in 2008.  The partners, all seasoned professionals, wanted a place to hang out in, somewhere joyful, casual, easy to share with friends – a bar, but with a virtuosic kitchen, a well-stocked, wide-ranging cellar and accessible prices. The kitchen uses mostly local produce and works from a traditional foundation, relying less on the fryer and more on fresh preparations. The menu is familiar in content – bravas, anchovies, croquetas – but they do have unique dishes some clearly with Asian influence in taste. I think it is this spirit of reconceptualising and innovating on the old with imagination peppered with international influences, breathing new life into the same old tapas that makes Barcelona a breeding ground for experimental nouvelle cuisine and gastronomy.

Bar del Pla

Bar del Pla: This long, cozy bar, located in a not very obvious spot between the Picasso Museum and the Santa Caterina market in El Born, looks like just another tapas joint, with its big wooden cask out front, hams suspended from the ceiling and colourful tiles on the floor inside.

Bar del Pla

Bar del Pla: The oxtail with foie gras, a modestly sized but incredibly potent dish that plays the meltingly soft braised beef against a shatteringly crisp phyllo wrapper. Topped with a piece of seared foie and small bits of deep fried onions! This was quite an innovative dish but most importantly, the flavours came together wonderfully. We ordered drinks and only one tapa here only as we were really full from all the eating and the kids wanted to use the bathroom!

La Pepita (Carrer de Còrsega, 343, 08037 Barcelona, Spain)

Sofía Boixet and Sergio Andreu started La Pepita in 2010 with not very much money but with plenty of help from friends and family. (Sounds oddly familiar! The Soup Spoon story!)  He was an industrial designer with academic background but decided to give it all up when he recognised his true vocation was in culinary arts. After a spell at the cookery school run by one Michelin starred restaurant, Hoffmann, he moved to Paris with Sofia to work for two years in the kitchens of El Fogon, the restaurant run by the chef Alberto Herraiz, a well-regarded Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant. In 2010, the couple returned to Barcelona and opened La Pepita in the neighbourhood of Gracia.

At La Pepita, Sofía takes care of the front of the house, while Sergio fine-tunes the menu with creativity drawing inspirations from the latest innovations in the culinary sphere and fusing it with Catalan and Mediterranean traditions. Result: Culinary magic! Old world food infused with varied flavours that are modern, globally influenced but yet so warm and familiar at the same time. We enjoyed most of the dishes we ordered but some stood out more. I would definitely come back and try the rest of the food as it resonates with me what the couple is doing, good old tapas with a creative twist.

Pepita sandwiches are supposedly their speciality, inspired by the pork loin sandwich, pepito de lomo. They created a whole slew of varieties with fish, seafood, vegetables placed between two crunchy wafer thin slices of bread. We however did not order any of these sandwiches! We figured we would be too full to eat anything else. I saw some peeps eating it when we were there, and I regretted not ordering it ! A good excuse for me to go back next time!

La Pepita

La Pepita is a prime specimen, with its passionate owners while anchored in the tapas tradition, reinterprets classic dishes through the cross-pollination of other cultures’ ingredients and ideas to serve tapas with a creative twist. Tip: Go early for lunch and there would be no queue. I have read that they can get really busy in the evenings and the wait can be crazily long. It was not a problem as we got in at 1230pm.

La Pepita

The subway tile lining the walls of the walkway corridor is filled with graffiti scrawled by customers and friends – a kind of nod to the Paris métro. The traditional bluish looking tiles with patterns add Andalusian charm to the space behind the counter, where hams and strings of garlic and chillies hang. I have read an interview on Sofia that she is a Barcelona girl with Andalusian ancestry.

La Pepita

La Pepita is such a cool, vibrant place full of quirky details.  Almost every inch of the restaurant was covered with graffiti. While waiting for your food, you could leave your own little message. Such a gem! I wonder whether they will give the place a fresh coat of paint when every cm is filled with scribbles and blessings?

La Pepita

The waitress was really friendly, brought out permanent markers for the kiddos to write, draw or just adding their little touches to the already crowded walls. Isabella found the right spot, the glass panel behind where we were sitting was perfect! It had a little curtain drawn across it so it hadn’t been explored much compared to all the other inches of the surrounding walls.

La Pepita

La Pepita: Loving Isabella’s little cartoon drawing of the whole family to tell the world we were at La Pepita in 2015. Indeed, a good reminder of our time spent dining. Quirky but memorable dining experience.

La Pepita

La Pepita: Vegetarian “Tapalatas”- tapas served in tins which remind us of traditional Spanish tinned preserved foods. In this case, we ordered a hummus topped with chopped beetroot, mint and cucumber. Drizzled with good olive oil and served with very thin slices of toast.

La Pepita

La Pepita: This was the “Very Important Croquette” It was made with a lot of cheese and mashed potatoes, fried and topped with slices of jamon.

La Pepita

La Pepita: Chicken croquettes with romesco sauce.

La Pepita

La Pepita: An example of culinary magic! The best dish of the lot! Foie gras with chopped hazelnuts, cocoa, coarse salt and piped white chocolate. Topped with finely grated lime zest.

La Pepita

La Pepita’s aubergine fritters with goats cheese, honey, apple sticks and balsamic reduction was probably the weakest dish of our lunch. The fritters were a bit soggy and the taste was overwhelming. I loved the crunchiness of the apples though!

We made a version of crema catalana based on the one from La Pepita. Recipe is up on the blog now! Real easy to make too!

La Pepita

La Pepita: Crema Catalana is essentially a creme brûlée.  Sweet and creamy with a crunchy exterior, this was light and delicate. Loved this!

La Pepita

La Pepita: A cool way to present the bill! Loved this!

This place will never be like the traditional tapas institutions like Quimet & Quimet, El Xampanyet and La Cova Fumada, but it has my respect for challenging traditions, giving their own interpretation of these dishes and infusing them with global flavours. I enjoyed most of what we ordered and I would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Barcelona.

Bodega 1900 (Carrer de Tamarit, 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain)

Bodega 1900 opened quietly back in September 2013 and the man behind it is non other that Albert Adria. This hole in the wall restaurant specializes in vermouth and tapas, two of his greatest passions. The name pays homage to the bodegas, small corner shops where one can grab a quick bite and a glass of vermouth, and the year of the building’s construction (1900). It is decorated to feel like a turn of the century tavern.

It  mimics an old-school tapas bar (and calls itself a ‘vermutería ‘, though it only stocks Martini), draws inspiration from Adria’s childhood, when his father would take him to a neighbourhood bodega for the traditional pre-lunch drink and snack known as a “vermut”.  With an Adrià at the helm in the kitchen, one can be assured that it would be somewhat innovative, while still staying true to the flavours that dominated in local food from the early 20th century: the smoked, the salted, the grilled and the pickled.

I read an online interview Albert gave, and the motivation for opening Bodega 1900 was to be able to close this pre dinner place at 8pm. A few years back during the El Bulli days, his wife Sylvia told him that their son was growing up quickly and he should try to be part of that process . He needed to slow things down instead of working 16 hours a day. This was something that resonates with me and I can fully understand as an entrepreneur and a parent of 2 young kids.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900 is housed in a building dating from 1900, hence its name. I have read that Albert himself was responsible for the interior decor. His aim was to make customers feel as if they were stepping inside a time honoured bodega that has been “in the hood” for years.  The restaurant is charming yet unpretentious. There is an outdoor sitting and in the front room, the ambience almost feels too casual and felt somewhat great for lingering a few hours, with little to suggest that it comes from one of the world’s most lauded culinary geniuses. The only giveaway were the impeccably dressed wait staff in their starched whites.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: On entering the room, there is a waiter with a clipboard with the evening’s reservation list and he would greet us too. There is a scattering of small round marble topped tables, pushed into corners and some bar stools against the side of the wall. This space is used for customers who just wanted some drinks and light nibbles. One can opt to sit at the small terrace to enjoy the warmer days and nights in summer months.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: I loved the old fashioned feel of the place.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: In the bustling back room, there is more space which has a scattering of tables and this space is shared with a bar and an open kitchen. Not seen here, behind the bar is a series of  great old school refrigerators with windows acting as the wine cellar. The low ceiling with wooden beams, the old photos decorating the walls and the marble tables give a cosy and relaxed atmosphere to the restaurant. The big Martini picture seen here is a testament that this place was inspired by the ‘aperitif’ culture.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: the back room has larger tables for more comfortable dining. With its classic tiles, marble table tops and wooden chairs, in addition to other ‘vintage’ decor, it is at once a restaurant and homage to the past. The faded polaroid shots of customers and framed pictures just added a very personal touch as if we were eating in Albert’s home.

We managed to make a reservation for 5pm, Lol! Who eats at this time except tourists! The place was not crowded at all.  What truly impressed us was how impeccable the service was. Originally, I was afraid they had a no kids policy, after all, this is common for most Michelin starred restaurants. The restaurant staff were very friendly and accommodating to the kids. A special shoutout to our waiter Alberto. We were not sure what to order, so he suggested that he would have something put together for us to enjoy, a few starters, something for the kids and they would bring food out until we say stop. He also asked us if there was anything we were allergic to or did not particularly fancy. It was a welcoming change to receive such wonderful thoughtful service. Each time, our food was served, Alberto was there to give an explanation of the dish, how to enjoy it which made the food and experience that little more special. Thus far, in Spain, the service level has been spurty, staff can be pretty harried and can come across as rude possibly due to our language barrier.

We thoroughly enjoyed the selection of food by Alberto. Everything was light and delicious with the use of top quality ingredients executed masterfully by Albert’s team.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Starter: Fried Seaweed crisp with sesame seeds. It was really something nice just to nibble on. Nothing new for those of us coming from Asia, as we do eat seaweed as a snack and more recently, the thai version that comes in a pack deep fried. We saw the kitchen staff at Tickets, also one of Adria’s, opposite Bodega preparing it when we came and recce the place a couple of days earlier. Tickets has a higher price tag and difficult to get a reservation. However, due to the small kitchen at Bodega, quite a few of the tapas are made by Tickets. Ain’t that a steal!

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Souper thin potato crisps which the kids adored very much. Alberto taught us to have the chips drizzled with their homemade  tabasco like sauce. The ingredients on the bottle stated wine vinegar, smoked sweet and hot paprika from Vera and black pepper. I have read that food critic José Carlos Capel raved about the chips and he lauded the cuisine at Bodega 1900 as being the perfect blend of East and West.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Chicharron (Pork rind with paprika) :I have always steered clear of this as most of the time, they were pretty greasy and oil drenched and at times tasted rancid. However, boy was I surprised, these were the crunchiest and most high quality pork rinds I have ever eaten.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900:  These freshly made chicken nuggets were for the kiddos. Chicken breast breaded with smashed potato chips that gave it the extra crunch! A great idea that I should try in the future when we have a kids party over at my place.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Aubergine fritters with a gazpacho like sauce drizzled with kicap manis! I am not kidding, it tasted like kicap manis (sweet dark soy sauce) and I don’t think it was balsamic reduction. I asked Alberto regarding the gazpacho like sauce, and he told me it was salmorejo, a thicker version of gazpacho accented with garlic notes. Salmorejo is made with more or less the same ingredients as gazpacho—bread, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and tomato—but the proportions are different. More bread, less tomato, no water to thin the puree. The aubergine sticks were very lightly coated with semolina like batter and deep fried till barely golden in colour. As a result, very crispy on the outside with a melt in your mouth interior.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Of course, there were iberico jamon on the plate. These thinly hand cut slices were from Joselito, cured for 5 years. They practically melts in your hands. Served with traditional pan con tomate (bread rubbed with tomatoes).

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Razor Clams pickled  in olive oil, with black pepper and a bit of citrus. The texture was different too, from a grilled clam. They were more moist and almost thickened. These were very good. In the background, marinated anchoas, a speciality here in Catalonia.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Next platter to arrive to the table was the assortment of cured and smoked mackerel, tuna, eel and sardine. This plate we were instructed to start with Mackerel and finish with the sardine for intensity of the different flavours.  The eel was smoked with saffron and the wind dried tuna with almonds. I really loved the diversity of flavours here.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Hot skewers beautifully grilled on charcoal. We were served a lamb skewer with Moroccan spices and leek, a pork skewer marinated with Japanese sauce. The middle was almost pink and there was a good taste of char on the outside. Actually, to be honest, I could not really tell which meat was which. The meats were so well marinated and texture wise it was very hard to differentiate.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Alberto did not order this for us, but I have read so much about this, it would be a wasted trip not to try these famous olive spheres.  Certainly one of the more unique items on the menu, and most definitely a homage to Ferran’s molecular gastronomy.  I actually liked it. Once in the mouth, the faux olive popped! They tasted like really briny, very good olives but the texture was that of  egg yolk. Mind blowing!

And now to end our tapas style dinner with irresistible desserts! How could we forget Albert’s moniker “the pastry chef from elBulli”!

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Chocolate brownie encased with a chocolate covering . This looked like an unassuming Magnum ice cream.

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Inside the dark chocolate shell was a moist soft chocolate cake aka brownie topped by an intensely chocolatey ganache. This was awesome , it was soft and crunchy, gooey and moist all at the same time. Kinda felt I was eating a souped up Mars Bar!

 

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Desert was melon injected with gin and white vermouth with finely grated lime peel on top. The melon was very ripe but it didn’t taste of melon so much, it was more of a background for the rest of the ingredients – the gin the vermouth and the mint.

The bill came up to be slightly shy of 150 euros for drinks and food for 4. Not cheap but for the quality and the chance to experience the magic touch of Albert Adria in a fuss free manner, it was definitely worth it. Highly recommended to anyone intending to visit Barcelona.

I have read that Albert Adria sometimes works at the bodega during the day and would pop over to Tickets, opposite for dinner service. Never in my wildest dream, would I think we would actually see him at Bodega 1900. He popped into Bodega cladded in T shirt and jeans. I was souper stoked. I was a fan girl asking our waiter Alberto, whether I could take a picture with Albert but he thought it was best for me to ask him myself. But in the end, he told us he would try to ask, if he was still around the restaurant. When we finished our meal, he was nowhere to be found. I suppose at that moment, anyone could see the disappointment written all over my face! LOL!.

We took our leave and guess what, we saw him having a discussion with his staff in the space next to Bodega 1900. Normally, I would not intrude but I felt that if I did not ask, I may never get a chance to shake his hands and say hello. In a very apologetic manner, I knocked on the glass door and asked sheepishly whether I could have a picture taken with him. He smiled and said YES! That was a relief. He came out, shook our hands, even spoke to us a little bit asking where were we from and spoke about the weather in Barcelona. He was just so humble and nice! One of the wait staff across at Tickets, told me I was really lucky as he would not normally be around. Aww..

Bodega 1900

Bodega 1900: Picture taken with Albert Adria. While I was souper stoked, my husband had to burst the bubble and said that I may have one tapa too many! Oh well, time to get back on the souperdiet, eating clean and healthy after all the travelling is done!

Still in Catalunya, we went on to our next leg of our trip to Corca and finally up to the Pyrenees in Andorra. Bye Barcelona! We enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.