Last December, just before the Christmas rush, I travelled to Barcelona with a 2-person team from Lifestyle Network. It was a surprise bonus from being Samsung Digital Home’s brand ambassador at the time. We filmed some interstitials called “DAPHNE Diaries” that will soon air in Lifestyle Network. I have quite a few stories about this trip that I’ll be sharing in future entries.
Barcelona is one of those cities you can just lose yourself at while wandering through its streets. There are the must-see sites for visitors, those listed in all travel guides. But the true beauty of Barcelona is in what you discover while walking around. This is what happened to us in terms of food. We had a couple of pre-planned dining spots, but we left a lot of our meals to whatever came our way, wherever we were. Hope you like my list.
Our hotel Hotel Silken was located just off of La Rambla, the main tree-lined promenade with kiosks that sell newspapers, flowers and souvenirs. We were within walking distance from La Boqueria and other great spots.
We arrived in Barcelona on an afternoon flight and found ourselves famished by 5pm, too early for dinner. Euskal Taverna was a random discovery on our way to the Picasso Museum. They had a pintxos bar! Pintxos (or pinchos) are little snacks served in bars common in the Basque country. They are like tapas, but pintxos are spiked with a skewer or toothpick on a piece of bread. They are served and billed individually. You may either order them or just pick them up in a buffet setting. You are then charged for each pintxos based on the number of toothpicks on your plate.
EUSKAL TAVERNA, Placeta de Montcada, 1-3_08003. Tel +34 933102185
I can just imagine living in Barcelona and having La Boqueria market right there. I’d be picking up fresh food every single day. There would be very little cooking done, just tossing of all the fresh ingredients in hot olive oil and everything would taste so good. This is a place that is frequented by locals and tourists.
La Boqueria’s full name is Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. The earliest record of La Boqueria dates back to 1217. It went through many names and changes. It wasn’t til 1826 that the market was legally recognised. The construction of the permanent market structure started in 1840 under the direction of the architect Mas Vilà. The metal roof from the 1914 fish market still exists today. .
There’s my baby. I bought a big chunk of this and had it sliced and vacuum packed. Bellotas means acorn. This Iberian pig ate only acorns. It came from a farm in Jabugo. The ham was aged for 5 years. That’s the story of my jamon.
LA BOQUERIA, La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona. Telephone +34 933 18 2584.
One of my unforgettable meals was in this amazing market stall at La Boqueria. El Quim does not take reservations. We took our chances and got there in the morning before the lunch rush started. El Quim started in 1987 with a three-metre long bar and just five stools. It now is one of the most famous eating spots in La Boqueria.
El Quim specializes in fried eggs, hence the egg emblem on the chefs’ jackets. They also have sandwiches, seafood and basically whatever fresh comes in to the market that day.
EL QUIM DE LA BOQUERIA, Stalls 584-585-606-607-608-609, La Boqueria Market, Rambles. Telephone 93 301 98 10
Escriba is a pastry and chocolate shop with a lot of history and awards. We visited its second shop situated along La Rambla. The main confectionery showroom is at Gran Via. This shop along La Rambla was formerly Casa Figueras, makers of pasta and semolina. The corner shop shows beautiful Art Nouveau decor, with the founding date 1820, laid out in mosaic. The shop was refurbished in 1902 by stage designer Ros Guell who supervised some of the best craftsmen in the Art Nouveau movement.
If you don’t have time to sit and have coffee and sweets at Escriba, just drop by and get some xuixo, a pastry filled with crema catalana that is deep fried and covered with crystallized sugar. It was so good, I had to snap this selfie while walking down La Rambla with some crema in the corner of my mouth! Oops.
ESCRIBA, Rambla de les Flors 83, 08001. Telephone 93 301 6027
One of the most charming places we went to was Formatgeria La Seu in Barri Gotic. This was highly recommended by our guide, Fabio. Formatgeria La Seu, a lovely cheese shop, is run by Katherine McLaughlin who personally picks the variety of cheeses from all over rural Spain. Her passion has brought her to some of the best cheese farms in Spain. At Formatgeria La Seu, you are guaranteed carefully selected cheeses, presented in optimum conditions.
We sat at the tasting room in the back, where we sampled a couple of palettes of cheese and a glass of vermouth.
Vermouth was having something of a revival in Spain. It was an old-fashioned aperitif that was eventually replaced by beer or wine. But now, it is again in vogue in the Barcelona brunch set. People drink vermouth straight up before a meal or on Sundays after mass. Some say, vermouth’s resurgence has to do with the poor state of the economy. Vermouth has 15% alcohol by volume, offering the best value for your euro. The vermouth at Formatgeria La Seu was homemade, sourced though Katherine’s exploration of rural farms in the region.
FORMATGERIA LA SEU, Carrer Dagueria,16,08002, Barcelona. Telephone 93 412 65 48
In one of our walks home to our hotel, we stumbled upon El Nacional. At the time, it was just newly opened. El Nacional is located in a huge warehouse-like structure that dates back to 1889, the height of the industrial revolution in Barcelona. It used to house a cafe, a theatre, a fabric dye factory, a car dealer’s shop before the Spanish Civil War. Then it became a garage.
The building of El Nacional has now been converted into this beautiful dining hot spot with six different food specializations that reflect various recipes from the around the Iberian Peninsula. Loved the interiors!!! We didn’t get to try anything here, so feel free to let me know in the comments section how the food was. I just wanted to show photos of the stunning space.
EL NACIONAL, Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis 08007. Telephone +(34) 93 518 5053.
Stop & Mos was random find while shopping at the Mercat dels Encants, one of the oldest markets in Europe, dating back to the fourteenth century. After going through stalls of peddlers in the antique market (I will share with you my finds later), we went up to the mezzanine and looked for a place to eat.
Stop & Mos is one of those market stalls that caters to people on the go. Their logo says “natural take away food.” So this is not your typical fast food joint. We found a picnic table and seats, where we ate our food in take out containers outdoors. It was December and it was cold. Everything we ordered was so good.
STOP & MOS, Castillejos 158, Fira Bellcaire Mercat dels encants, Barcelona.
Casa de Tapas is an interesting concept restaurant that put together award-winning, Michelin-starred dishes from other Barcelona restaurants and chefs, all under one roof. It’s like being able to have a sampler of all the best dishes at one time. This was our only scheduled meal in Barcelona where we actually had reservations. Excellent.
CASA DE TAPAS CANOTA, Calle Lleida 7, Barcelona. Telephone +(34) 93 3259171.