When I’m in Barcelona my employer puts me up at the Hotel Catalonia La Pedrera (formerly Catalonia Corsega). It has nice enough rooms but a rather mediocre breakfast. On the plus side, it’s well placed on Calle Corsega, which is the border between the touristy Paseig de Gracia and the residential neighbourhood (and former town) of Gracia. No prizes for guessing which area I prefer to spend my evenings in.
Gràcia is a proudly Catalan district with a big hippy community and a famous summer carnival, Festa Major, held in August. Carrer Verdi and Carrer Torrijos are the main pedestrian streets, and are heaving with locals every night. It’s a real residential area, unlike touristville down the hill.
Here’s my Google map for the whole of Barcelona. It shows most of the places below and many more.
In terms of entertainment there is a theatre called Teatre LLiure at 47 Carrer Montseny. There are also two foreign language cinemas owned by the same company at 32 Carrer Verdi and 49 Carrer Torrijos which show un-dubbed foreign films. Here’s their website.
You’ll find the local market, Mercat de l’Abeceria, at 186 Travessera de Gràcia. Lots of fresh produce for hotel picnics here. There’s also three bars and an Iranian grocer. In June they have a tapas evening inside the market.
There are heaps of tiny tapas places, ethnic restaurants and cool little bars all over the barrio. There’s always lots of change in the restaurant scene every time I come here so please don’t take this travelogue as a definitive guide.
Below are the gems I’ve found so far, and some to avoid! For more upmarket food near the hotel you may want to check my post on nearby Diagonal.
These reviews are from 2014:
La Panxa del Bisbe (High Intermediate A), 37 Calle de Rabassa, Tel. 93 213 7049, www.lapanxadelbisbe.com, opens at 8.30pm.
As it has an entry in Where Chef’s Eat and very favourable reviews on the net, I decided to try the Bishop’s Belly for ‘gourmet cuisine at knock down prices’.
It’s probably better to reserve or arrive exactly at 8.30 in order to be sure, perhaps after a drink in nearby Placa Rovira i Trias. If you didn’t reserve and don’t get in, you have San Kil just around the corner as a good plan B (see below).
English is spoken apparently but I managed to get the gist of the Catalan menu without too much help.
The freshly made Bunyols de Bacala amb Romesco (salt-cod croquettes) were beautifully fluffy, and some of the best I’ve ever tried (A).
Next ths unphotogenic Picanya de Bou Gallec amb Fils de Patatas I Bearnesa (rump steak with skinny chips and Bernaise sauce) which in terms of flavour was great (B+), but if I have to be critical, the steak was a little cold and the fries made a little soggy by the sauce. But you should definitely still order it! B+ is still B+.
I loved (A) the two glasses of Coto de Hayas red from the Campo de Borjas DO (a garnacha, syrah blend) that I had with the beef. Definitely one to track down if you can. The nice server gave me ‘super copas’ in order to finish off the bottle. It was just €2.20 a glass.
For dessert I was advised that ‘sticky toffee es la bomba!’. As a major STP fan this was like a red rag to a bull and I had to give it a go, although it was served with icecream rather than my preferred caramel sauce. It was good (B), but I know pubs in Derbyshire that do it better. A glass of decent Moscatel (B) went well with it.
Although the bill was hard to decipher, the total cost, €38.60, was great value for money in my opinion. I could hardly fault anything here and, if I had the chance, would love to come back several times and slowly work through their menu, especially the Japanese influenced dishes which I didn’t get to try.
I’d definitely like to try the Menu del Dia too, maybe after a trip to Park Guell, which is not too far away.
San Kil (Intermediate A), 22 Carrer Legalitet (about 20 mins walk up Passeig Sant Joan, 4th left off Carrer Escorial). GEM ALERT!
I love this place and always come here whenever I’m in town. I can´t get Korean food in Sheffield so I always pig out in a major way here. The bill once came to €34 but there was enough food for two people! The Spanish menu doesn´t really describe the food adequately so just tell them you want the following classic dishes:
Start with panch’an, 4 little bowls with bean sprouts, potatatoes, spiced cabbage and Kimchi (chinese leaves fermented with chilli, the national dish of Korea).
Move on to pulgogi (or bulgogi) which is sizzling beef that can be wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves smeared with miso bean paste. Yum!
Finally, try bibimbap (a meal in itself) which is rice, shredded carrots, peppers, onions, bean sprouts, beef (easily left out) and a couple of things I have no name for, seaweed maybe? Its topped with a fried egg and the waiter will mix it all together for you with as much chilli paste as you can handle. Bottles of Estrella 2.90. A plain and simple place but completely authentic.
Quimet (Low Intermediate A). 23 Carrer de Vic
My friend Mark brought me to this little neighbourhood tapas bar. He’s a real foodie and has lived in Barca for a few years so he knows his stuff.
The food is great here and it has a very warm cosy atmosphere which means that it’s packed all the time. It’s best to get in as early as poss if you want to sit down.
Seafood seems to be the thing. Traditional dishes are presented in quite modern ways, on pieces of slate with smears of sauce.
I can vouch for the mixed fish fry and the Galician style octopus but the oysters were my favourite.
Can’t remember what this dessert was but it looks nice!
Can’t remember what the bill was either but I’m sure it was pretty reasonable.
Not to be confused with Quimet i Quimet, the famous tapas bar in Poble Sec (see this Guardian article).
To follow on you could go to Roure, also mentioned in the article, which is just a short block away at 7 Carrer de Luis Antúnez.
Himali (Intermediate B+). 60-68 Carrer Mila i Fontanals, closed Monday
A Nepalese place that I go to when I’m feeling homesick (curry is now the national food of Britain) or trying to save money. You can get plato combinados (curry, rice and bread) for around €9. It’s simple but good fare (B).
Café Salambo (Intermediate A), 51 Carrer Torrejos, www.cafesalambo.com
A nice theatre café with free Wi-Fi and a pool room upstairs.
Bar Canigo (Elementary A-), 2 Calle Verdi, near Placa Revolucio
You can get a cheap Magno brandy for €2.50 here which is as cheap as it gets.
Placa del Sol is another nice square with several cheap but decent bars where you can eat and drink outside.
These reviews are from 2008-2010:
Cantina Machito (Intermediate B), 47 Carrer Torrijos (next to the Verdi Park cinema, Tel. 93 2173414)
I’m not usually keen on Mexican food unless I make it myself but this place is ok for a change. The Orden de Tacos starter is good though you may want to ask for extra jalapenos. They also have a good range of beers. Expect to be paying about €25 for a starter, main and 2 beers. Maybe reserve to avoid the cinema crowd at peak times. Avoid the seats by the door in the winter!
Carrer Verdi used to be good but now seems to be dominated by competing kebab restaurants displaying dodgy photos of their food on the street, a definite no-no!.
Avoid these next two places:
Zeinab (Elementary C/D), 31 Carrer Verdi
The portions are big but the food is not particularly nice. The humos was ok if a bit steep at €7, and the pita bread was stale. I couldn’t eat my Cuscus Carne and my companion not more than half of his Shawarma Pollo.
As ever in these situations the saving grace was the Rioja. Ok, we ate for €30 each but it still wasn’t worth the money.
Iuagari (Elementary C), 11 Carrer Verdi
A Syrian restaurant that’s a bit cheaper than the Lebanese place. I had the plato combinado for €10.40. The meat was a bit tastless but just about edible (C) unlike the place above.
As a general rule of thumb I’d say Gràcia is better for international cuisine whereas the old town districts are better for more traditional Catalan food.
Although most of the barrio is residentrial low rise, There is some posh architecture around.
This nice Modernista building is Casa Fuster at 132 Paseig de Gràcia. See my Quadrat d’Or post for more photos
And there’s this nice tiled public drinking fountain on Travessera de Gràcia.
Please click on these photos to see them properly.