I’ve been meaning to write a post about the restaurants we ate at while visiting Barcelona for some time. As usual though, time has gotten away from me, and now it’s been over a month since we left Barcelona. Good thing we took a business card at each of the places we went to!
Actually, part of the reason that it’s taken me some time to muster up the motivation to write about Barcelona restaurants is that our food experiences there were not as impressive as I had hoped. Trevor and I both love seafood, tapas, paella…everything that you’d expect to eat in a seaside Spanish city. We did our research and tried to find the places with a good reputation for this or that Spanish staple, but time after time we were disappointed. Luckily, the atmosphere at many of the restaurants partially made up for what was lacking in quality of the food (but to someone who loves good food, atmosphere can never fully compensate for bad food).
La Tertulia: Bar-Restaurant; Rambla Poblenou 34, 08005 Barcelona
Our very first dinner in Barcelona threw us right into the Spanish nightlife culture. Our plane landed at 9:30pm, and by the time we got to the hotel it was 11:15pm…and we hadn’t eaten dinner. Well this is not a problem in Barcelona (especially on a Saturday night, but really any day of the week). We ventured out to find a bite to eat (figuring we would have to walk a long way to find an open restaurant) turned the corner from our hotel and found at least 5 restaurants with large terraces outside and plenty of people still eating dinner. In fact, when we sat down at 11:30pm, there were several families who seemed to be just beginning their meal. It was quite a culture shock, even for me. In France, it’s not uncommon to start dinner at 9pm, especially in the summertime, but 11:30 is pushing it. We had some beer and tapas for dinner, wanting to jump right into typical Spanish food. The dishes were by no means gourmet, but they weren’t bad and everything was very reasonably priced (1.90 € for a beer! Not too shabby). We also weren’t expecting amazing food here, since it was basically a bar with a terrace, and we were pretty hungry so this could have affected our opinion.
Da Geppetto; Rambla Poblenou 27, 08005 Barcelona
This is where we went for breakfast every morning (and I use the term morning loosely), instead of paying 15 € each for breakfast at our hotel. The coffee was great, croissants were just okay (but when you’ve just spent a week in Paris, you have to give them a break), and the service was very personable despite the language barrier. The real kicker here was the orange juice- freshly pressed when you ordered it, and delicious!
We read good reviews about this place in our guidebook and decided to give it a try. The atmosphere and decor was well done- modern and inviting at the same time. We were barely able to get in without a reservation, and had to settle with indoor seating. The terrace is right on the beach, so it’s no surprise this is popular. Our server was very sweet and attentive.
We tried 2 tapas to start: fried artichokes and fried calamari. These were okay, but not great. A bit underseasoned, and the sauces they were served with were nothing to write home about. Next I had gazpacho and Trevor tried a meat dish. Now, to be fair to Agua, we probably shouldn’t have ordered 2 fried tapas to start, especially knowing that I have a weak stomach for fried foods. We didn’t finish either of the tapas, but I was already feeling full and a little ill before my gazpacho came. I think the gazpacho was good, but I honestly don’t remember much about it (probably due to the queasiness). One positive here was that, quite appropriately, the water they served came in a beautiful blue bottle that I snuck home in my purse (don’t worry, it wasn’t a water pitcher that the restaurant had to buy…it was just a glass water bottle, like san pellegrino only prettier).
This little restaurant is located in the Born neighborhood of Barcelona. It’s a little hole in the wall, and could definitely be missed if you’re not looking for it. The atmosphere was very warm and romantic, with several different rooms and alcoves throughout the restaurant. The tables were all set up for 2-4 people, so I doubt they get many big groups to break up the romantic vibe. The service was very good, too. Again, though, the food was just okay. The tuna fillet I ordered was completely over salted and overcooked (think rubbery). The desserts weren’t memorable (which I guess is better than memorable rubbery tuna). I wish I could recommend the food here, because it was such a cute place, but sadly, it just didn’t cut it in my book.
Overall: ★★★✩✩ (for atmosphere, and not making me feel sick)
Lonja de Tapas, Pla del Palau 7, 08003 Barcelona
Finally a place we were enthusiastic about! After several disappointing attempts at good tapas, we decided to give them one final go. This place was in a plaza, with a nice-sized, inviting terrace. We split several tapas for lunch, and really enjoyed all of them. We topped it all off with a beer, and then espresso to finish the meal. Lovely! You might notice, this is the first place we took pictures of, because the food was actually worth photographing.
Pitarra Restaurant, C/ Avinyó 56, 08002 Barcelona
This was was such a disappointment. If you search “Pitarra Restaurant” on google, you’ll find lots of positive reviews about the place, in Spanish, Catalan and English, which is always promising. The whole reason we went here was because I hadn’t yet tried a Spanish paella, and I read several online reviews claiming Pitarra’s paella to be the best. I was in Spain and determined to find a good paella! When we arrived, I opened the menu and went straight to the paella. I was surprised to see that it was a “starter,” but figured it must be a small paella. I trusted that the restaurant would be true to the concept of a starter, and ordered veal cutlets as my entree. When the paella came, I was shocked to see that it was HUGE. Much bigger than I would have expected even an entree to be. I dug in, hoping that my all of my paella wishes would come true. The rice was well flavored, and not overcooked, as is so easy to do when making paella. But the quality of the seafood was so poor that it ruined the paella for me. The shrimp were so shrunken that their bodies & tails were huge on them, the scallops and calamari were chewy, the muscles were overcooked. I made a small dent in the paella rice, but knew that I had an entree coming, so I didn’t go crazy.
Having seen the portion of paella, I guess I should have expected what was coming for the veal dish, but I didn’t. Imagine 5-6 big veal cutlets- enough to feed a family of 4 in my book. I mean, these were bigger than American-sized portions. Plus, the dish wasn’t very good. I ended up eating one of the veal cutlets, and stacking up the other ones into 2 piles, hoping it wouldn’t look like I ate more than I did. Our favorite part of the meal was the wine, and the nice server we had a long conversation with in broken Spanish at the end of our meal. I was really rooting for this place, but it didn’t live up to its reviews for me.
Tarantino; Baixada, Sant Miquel 4, 08002 Barcelona
On our last day, we spent the morning walking around the gothic area of Barcelona. We weren’t particularly hungry for lunch (1pm is early for lunch in Spain), but needed to eat something before heading to the airport. As soon as Trevor saw Tarantino, his heart was set. Being a big Quentin Tarantino fan, how could he resist menu items like “Mr. Pink,” “Sin City,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Vincent Vega.” I protested for a bit because the restaurant was dead empty. The decor was creative, with lots of posters from Quentin Tarantino’s films everywhere, but I hate to eat in an empty restaurant. That’s never a good sign. In the end, we compromised and ordered a “Vincent Vega” pizza to go, and ate it in a nearby plaza. The pizza was good, and I bet this place is really fun when it’s more filled up. It probably picks up around 2-3pm…in true Barcelona fashion.