I travelled to Barcelona with Jet2CityBreaks who offer great hotel and flight city break packages. Jet2 fly to El Prat Airport in Barcelona which is a short hop from town and very handy for a city break. I wanted to explore Barcelona from all edible angles, traditional to modern and budget to blowout. Every recommendation is researched in advance and tried and tested by my demanding palate. I went on a food tour too. You will love Barcelona, and all of the wonderful things that you can eat there.
Everyone loves Barcelona, even contrarians like me. It seems like everyone has been, and if they haven’t, they want to go. An individual city, so much sets it apart from quirky Gaudi architecture to the beautiful engraved pavement tiles, the most famous of which is the Flor de Barcelona pictured below. Barcelona is a city that loves beauty and attracts artists, a bohemian place that is relaxed and fun and also very stylish. Barcelona has the calm of the sea and beaches as well as a busy city centre lined with restaurants and bars.
As with most busy cities with lots of tourists, you need to do your research before you go. Barcelona does better than many similar cities with a consistently decent standard and it is still an excellent choice for a food lovers break. It is best discovered off the beaten track and where the locals go. As with lots of Spain, Barcelona combines a passion for the authentic and traditional with restaurants that are innovative and very exciting. I covered the breadth of this on my visit with the aim of producing a guide that would showcase Barcelona well on a short break.
Where to Eat in Barcelona
Bodega 1900 is one of Albert Adria’s Barcelona outposts (I went to two on this trip). You will be familiar with the Adria name, Ferran (Albert’s older brother) was the brains behind El Bulli, and Albert was the pastry chef there. Following El Bulli’s closing Albert has established himself as a culinary tour de force independent of his brothers empire. His restaurant Tickets is world famous and I was curious to see how his other restaurants stood up.
Bodega 1900 is a nod to the old traditional vermuterias and the Barcelona culture of meeting for a vermut or glass of wine and tapas. Vermut is the drink of Barcelona (along with cava made in nearby Penedes), and the Catalan for vermouth. Familiar to many in martinis, in Barcelona vermut is served solo on the rocks, with a twist of orange often, and an olive. Dry and bitter, it is very fresh and a perfect aperitif but you shouldn’t stop there.
Vermut is a great food wine, and Bodega 1900 know this. The menu opens with a vermut section, and matching tapas. Homemade potato chips (one of the many reasons I love Spain is that these are available everywhere, and of a fantastic quality) with house vermut sauce were fantastic. The gordal and piparra oliva-s are a must, a nod to Albert’s El Bulli past. An olive but not an olive, it is a an olive jelly enclosing a rush of piparra pepper juice, almost brine. Fun and exciting, and perfect with a glass of vermut. I ordered a selection of charcuterie and preserved fish, all very enjoyable. A highlight for meat lovers is “La rubia gallega”, beef tenderloin cured in salt and spices. I can also highly recommend the razor clams in white escabeche and tuna belly (also escabeche).
The food is very good, and the drinks list interesting. The room is beautiful too, contemporary with a nod to the past, high ceilings and marble as you walk in and lots of the food that is served with the wines (hams, charcuterie, preserved fish, olives, cheeses). You should reserve here, I didn’t but I was lucky and when I went early I managed to grab a stool at a barrel outside. Prices are on the high end for Barcelona, but worth it.
Bodega 1900, Carrer de Tamarit, 91, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
Another of Albert Adria’s restaurants this time a Mexican restaurant in collaboration with Paco Méndez. I adore Mexican food (despite having never been to Mexico) and was curious as to how Albert Adria would handle Mexican fine dining. I have had brilliant Mexican food in Madrid at Punto MX, so expectations were high. The room is open and relaxed with lots of Mexican curiosities in a modern setting. Hoja Santa is fine dining, so there is a tasting menu. I chose to go a la carte.
There are lots of molecular quirks here (that same olive as Bodega 1900 but lots of inversions and surprises here on top of that). Too often chefs become consumed with the technique and story, however here Hoja Santa never forget about the taste and deliver bright authentic flavours in a fun and clever way. This extends to the drinks menu also so be sure to explore that. I ordered many dishes, many of which are just bites especially at the start of the menu. I love to eat that way, I get to explore much more and to experience and enjoy diverse flavours.
Avocado gazpacho served in avocado skin was light and fresh with a bite. Clarified black bean broth was rich and gorgeous. Caesar chicken skin was a chicken skin cracker with a spherification containing the flavours of a caesar salad, the textures provided by the skin and some lettuce on top. It worked well, who doesn’t love crisp chicken skin and the richness of a good caesar? The flavours of familiar tacos come in reinvented presentations. The cochinita pibil infladita was delightful, a bubble of corn with pork inside, a pop of pleasure, intense and light. Durok pork ribs with Granny Flor’s adobo was clever and very flavourful. Chicharon took the place of a taco here. I loved it. Over lunch with a couple of drinks my lunch came to €95, a bargain at the price. Booking recommended.
Hoja Santa, Av. de Mistral, 54, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
The Boqueria is well known and heaving with tourists, which does take from it a little bit (unless you go first thing in the morning). Elisabets, just a short walk away, is a proper local serving excellent tapas and drinks. Run by two brothers, you would be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t in the heart of the city and just off one of the busiest streets, but in a family run taverna in a local town. Nearby there is a lovely quiet spot with locals playing chess and relaxing.
The bomba here is very good, larger than normal but with great flavours and excellent sauce. As is everything I tasted, which was patatas bravas, chorizo (the soft cooking kind), padron peppers and jamon. Elisabets has an excellent value Menu del Dia so ask for that if you go at lunchtime during the week.
Elisabets, Carrer d’Elisabets, 2, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
La Cova Fumada
Home of the bomba, the Barcelona croquette shaped like a cartoon bomb with some firey sauce on top, La Cova Fumada might be the perfect tapas bar. On one of the narrow streets that leads to the sea, while reasonably well known it is very local, I only spied a couple of other tourists when I visited. The food is excellent and very well priced. Excellent seafood, fried, from the grill and fresh. I grabbed a spot at the bar and watched things as they came out, requesting the same for myself. Service is very friendly and the locals were too.
I started with cold mussels with garlic. Yup, cold, and why not I thought as I tried them. They were good! I have had raw mussels before but cold cooked was new, and enjoyable. I ordered calamari, and was asked if I wanted it fried or from the grill. I went for fried but I was full of regret when I saw the grill ones go by. (Mine were good too, you know how it is, I always have order envy). I have a thing for razor clams, you will have noticed. They were served small here and very simply cooked. Perfect. I had a small glass of house wine with the food and the bill came to €22.50, making it my best value lunches of the trip (and also one of the best).
La Cova Fumada, Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
By the sea, Kaiku is a great place to try fiduea, the Catalan noodle dish (which is often compared to paella but which is its own thing). There are dishes with an Asian influence also, and the seafood here is particularly good as it should be. More razor clams, this time with Iberian bacon, turmeric and coconut. Fresh and bright and a lovely alternative if you are looking for a change from the traditional tapas. Tuna tartare with crispy seaweed and ginger mayonnaise was very good also. Fiduea normally needs 2 people to order it, I took a risk and asked if they could prepare it for 1. They agreed (and they didn’t know I was there reviewing it). Fideua is a lovely dish and it is well executed here. It is particularly Catalan so I would suggest you order it if you go. It is rich and bright with the freshest seafood.
Kaiku, Plaza del Mar, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Cal Pep has earned a great reputation over the years, after my last visit I feel it is a little soured by just how touristy it has become. However, once you get through the queue (one hour on my last visit) and the fact that the only locals are the ones serving and cooking your food, the food is still good and it has a charm, albeit a brusque one. The menu changes daily and is based on what is at market. The staff ask what you like and what you don’t like, and serve you food based on that. I had clams, tortilla with a garlic mayonnaise spread on top, and pork. All very good. Was the queue worth it? I am still not sure. I would suggest you visit the others above first, and only here if you want to satisfy your curiosity. It is reviewed everywhere (even here), after all.
Cal Pep, Plaça de les Olles, 8, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Fun spot with gorgeous creative doughnuts. Worth a detour for a sugar rush!
La Donutería, Carrer del Parlament, 20, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
This post was brought to you as a result of the #Jet2Europe blog trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Jet2Holidays. I flew with Jet2 from Manchester to Barcelona. I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site, as always!