If you're planning a mini-break to the Catalan capital anytime soon, or just looking for some last-minute holiday inspiration, here are five foodie hot spots not to be missed. Make sure to reserve some time in your busy schedule of beaching, shopping and Gaudí-hunting to give food and travel writer Richard Mellor's top picks for drinking and dining a go.
ON A BUDGET
Tapas always seems like an excellent budget suggestion, until the eventual bill ends up totaling €40. The trick is to find a place which serves decent portions of filling fodder. Step up Bar Celta Pulperia. One of many Barcelona eateries focused on food from Galicia—Spain’s northwestern region— it does chunky tortillas, thick squid rings, and a house tapa of octopus dusted with paprika. Wash it all down with bowls of Ribeira wine. If the original Gothic Quarter venue (address below) is too busy, head east to a sister bar on Carrer de la Princesa in La Ribera. Carrer de Sim. Oller 3 (+34 93 315 0006, www.barcelta.com)
HIP & HAPPENING
The chefs and waiters at Nobook wear jail-style jumpsuits. Porque? Because they’re all “prisoners of their cooking passion.” If you can forgive this slightly cringey joke, there’s lots to like about this street food-inspired joint, part of a glut of buzz-worthy restaurants springing up in L’Eixample. The 16-dish menu’s a wacky mash-up of ingredients and styles from across the globe: Chilean lamb legs atop pumpkin and banana, tikka masalas with quail, and soft-shell crab burgers below Cajun sauce, all supported by superb cocktails. Bright orange walls and an open, metallic kitchen lend a surreal spaceship-esque feel. Despite the name, you can book ahead. Calle de Provenza 310 bis (no phone, www.nobook.es)
There are three near-certainties when it comes to restaurants around Barceloneta beach: they’ll be tiny, they’ll be crammed with Catalans, and they’ll serve seafood paella (never with bits of chorizo included, that’s considered sacrilege), which hails from down the coast in Valencia and uses devastatingly fresh, caught-that-day fare. You’re advised to arrive ahead of peak time—say 7pm—and wear comfy shoes, just in case. Particularly good and handily located between the seaside and Metro station is bustling Bar Bitácora. The paella there is accompanied by shoulders of lamb, patatas bravas, and chocolate puddings, and three courses generally cost south of €20. Toast your good fortune on the semi-hidden rear terrace. Carrer de Balboa 1 (+34 93 319 1110, www.facebook.com/bitacorabarceloneta)
You’ll find Catalan classics such as escalivada (chargrilled eggplant/aubergine, roasted red bell/sweet peppers, and onions served cold with anchovies) and esqueixada (salt-cod salad) amid an all-Iberian menu at La Vinateria del Call. You’ll find lots of snack plates, too, from artisanal cheeses to cider-cooked chorizo. You’ll find top-notch desserts, none better than the homemade fig ice cream. You’ll find an extensive wine list. You’ll find a lovely locale: El Call, the higgledy, small-laned, Jewish portion of the Gothic Quarter. And you’ll find, on arrival, a large and off-putting telly at the door. But ignore this—you’ll find that to be a very good decision. Carrer de Sant Domènec del Call 9 (+34 93 302 6092, www.lavinateriadelcall.com)
You usually need a password to access Dry Martini’s SPEAKEASY—through the kitchen from its main bar—as part of a 1920s vibe. Think white-jacketed barmen, wood-paneling, and vintage bottles. The beautifully made drinks encompass truffle-infused vodkas and the local vermouth, but, ultimately, there’s only one respectable order: a Dry Martini, of course. Keeping track of how many have been made thus far, the counter has already passed one million. If you’d prefer somewhere brighter, head for the Barceló Raval Hotel and the city’s premier rooftop terrace bar: 360° has panoramic views, to back up its name, and an extensive cocktail list. There’s a solarium to top up your tan and a pool to cool off in. If that’s not enough, live DJs play every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Carrer Aribau 162 (+34 93 217 5072, www.drymartiniorg.com); Rambla del Raval 17–21 (+34 93 320 1490, www.barcelo.com)
More food & drink recommendations for Barcelona and the rest of Europe can be found in Richard Mellor's Foodie City Breaks: Europe.