On our recent visit to the Spanish port city we had an opportunity to eat three evening meals. Our hotel was the Sheraton Four Points on the Diagonal in the Sant Mari district. According to one taxi driver the area where the Sheraton was built had been an industrial area where all the manufacturing jobs fled to Morocco, the Philippines and Thailand. Many of the office buildings here are new and the architecture is eye-popping. The most noticeable building is just down the street. It is shaped like a bullet and changes colors from reds to greens and blues. At the moment it is vacant, has been purchased by an American hotel chain to be converted into a six star hotel. The problem is the current mayor was elected on a slow growth platform. So she was able to withhold permits for electricity, which stopped the project. At this writing, the taxi driver informed us that the mayor has not proven popular and more mainstream candidates are competing against her.
The Sheraton is walkable to the Sagrada Familia, but a cab or metro ride to the tourist areas of the Barri Gotic, Cuitat Vella and Port Olimpic. All three restaurants were recommendations from staff at the hotel.
We ate two of our meals near the hotel, one on the Rambla Del Poblenou about three blocks from the hotel called La Broquet and its specialty is of course brochettes. The second, is about ten blocks away by the name of Masia Raco De La Vila, which is off the beaten path at 33 Cuitat de Granada and clearly serving locals and at local prices. Finally we ate at a famous although expensive place, Los Caracoles (the snails) which is on Carrer dels Escudellers. Los Caracoles is a block off the Placa Reial, a square off La Rambla. We wanted to attend the Flamenco show at Los Tarantos at 17 Placa Reial and wanted a place close by.
The restaurants all served variations of the same Barcelona staples: Paella, seafood, fish, chicken and beef. Tapas are extensive, but the usual tapas list. The meals were all excellent.
Los Caracoles has the most atmosphere, with large murals on the walls, testimonies from probably famous people in Barcelona, but no one we recognized. It is an old building. You go through the bar, the kitchen and a room with decorative wine barrels to the rooms in the back and upstairs. Our waiter had an attitude, but became friendlier as the evening went on. Probably because we ordered the expensive appetizers as well as full meals and a medium priced bottle of wine. The seafood was excellent, I enjoyed the razor clam appetizer, although my spouse expected them to be the same as we enjoyed in Chile. In that South American country they are baked with two clams on the half shell with parmesan cheese and a little milk. But that is another Blog (Back Roads Wanderer: Chilean Wine Country –The Unexpected Value). In Barcelona, the clams are long and thin and steamed. They taste like clams in the US, however, they are about three inches long.
Masia Raco De La Vila, primarily serves locals. It is similar in that you go through the kitchen to the rooms in the back. Its décor attempts to capture some of the history of the city with decorative wine barrels and plaster and stone walls. We found the room we were in a bit noisy although there were only three other tables occupied while we dined. If all tables has been occupied, it would have been nearly impossible to hear each other. As someone who always likes to try something I’m not likely to find elsewhere, I ordered the Segovia Suckling Pig and shared a plate of assorted cheeses. It was very moist and flavorful. The cheeses were a nice variety of hard and soft cheeses. They supplemented the meat and went well with a Muga Reserva Tempranillo wine.
La Broquet is smaller than the other restaurants. It has outdoor tables on the Rambla, which is a pedestrian walkway in the center of the street. The appetizer was interesting. It was a slice of toast a clove of garlic and small whole tomatoes. Basically it was a do it yourself tapas. You crushed the garlic, rubbed it on the toast, then you were supposed to smash the tomato on the toast and eat it. Not being a smashing type, I ended up chopping the garlic and spreading it over the toast and then sliced the tomato. This appetizer proved very tasty and refreshing since it was as fresh as you can get. My spouse ordered the chicken broquet (brochette) which came on a hanging stand, a very nice presentation. On the brochette was chunks of chicken, pineapple and jalapeno. The chicken was nicely moist and tender. The fruit and pepper gave it a nice flavor. I shared a seafood Paella with another member of our party. The seafood was lonely in the sea of rice, although the two prawns and single langostino were large in comparison to earlier paellas I sampled on this trip. The seafood also came in the shells with heads and tails, so my spouse had no interest in watching me behead and peel my meal. The rice had a nice flavor, which made it a tasty dish, although disappointing overall. But that may have been just because I’d had several dishes with much more seafood and less rice.
Everywhere you go in Barcelona you will find sidewalk restaurants. Most serve one version or another of paella and tapas. But there are some fine places to dine that are not the average tourist trap as we found. The cuisine can be extensive, representing many different cultures, if you’re willing to look for it. While we were wandering off the Placa Reail and La Rambla, we came across a restaurant that has a Frank Sinatra theme, called My Way. Mostly Italian, but they also had the omnipresent paella and tapas on the menu we read in the window.
My takeaway about eating in Barcelona: you’re so close to the Med that it’s crazy not to try the seafood and fish. They serve it in an impressive variety of ways, and the range of creatures that appear on your plate is extensive. Whether you like salmon, swordfish, monkfish, hake or even dogfish (yes, they have dogfish on the menu in some places), muscles, razor clams, prawns, calamari, or langostinos, you can find them all in a single grill plate if you wish.