BARCELONA, A CITY TASTING TOUR
Explore Barcelona by savouring every bite you encounter from tapas to sweet treats, drinks to chocolates – the Spanish city is a delight for cooks and eaters.
Two old men get up from their seats, making space for us when we enter La Pineda, a small old-fashioned grocery store and Xarcuteria in the Barri Gòtic in Barcelona. “Oh, don’t worry,” says Marta, our guide. “They are retired, they spend all day here.”
Over a platter of cold cuts including butifura d’ou, fuet, chorizo, butifura blanco and llangonissa, along with the ubiquitous pan con tomate (tomato bread), we assimilate the early morning’s food adventures. I’ve eaten my way around Barcelona several times, but today I’m in for a treat, as Marta and I spend eight glorious hours uncovering some well known and some lesser known food gems. I cover the rest of the itinerary over the next day without her.
Carrer del Pi, 16, Barri Gòtic
We start the morning with a pastry at La Colmena in the Barri Gòtic, a bakery, at least 100 years old. I buy coca de llardons (sweet bread with pig fat), a sweet and salty Catalan bread with pine nuts for later and candies that the bakery has been making for generations. Flavours include rosemary, pine and herbal – I send some of these in care packages to friends. The pastisset, a sweet crescent shaped pastry, filled with with pumpkin ‘angel-hair’ jam gets a second glance and we have a school-girl giggle about the cookie called pets de monja, or nun’s farts.
Speaking of nuns, nearby Caelum is a beautifully laid out coffee shop and where can make a selection and sit down with a good coffee or choose from a large variety of sweet goods and alcohol made by nuns and monks. The panellet or marizpan coated with pine nuts is a speciality made for All Saints day, usually.
De la Palla 8, Barri Gòtic, visit website
Former Scot Katherine McLaughlin opened Formatgeria la Seu, a small shop specilaising in the best Spanish cheeses, in 2000 on the site of one of the city’s first butter making factories. Book for a cheese tasting and whatever you do, don’t forget to enquire about the ice cream fridge. We bought some of the best, creamy sweet-savoury cow and goat’s milk ice creams I’ve had to date.
Dagueria, 16, Barri Gòtic, visit website
Chocolate & Churro Wars
While we’re sitting at La Palleressa waiting for our churros and the thick molten hot chocolate I have over the years come to associate with Spain, Marta regales us with tales of family feuds and loyalties over one of two hot chocolate shops. This is her family’s chosen shop, but lovers have been known to dissolve ties or opposing loyalties. Hot chocolate is, after all, a serious matter. Choose with or without cream.
Calle Petritxol, 11, Barri Gòtic, visit website
After a walk around the neighbourhood, buying presents of egg-rich tourron (nougat) at Casa Columina, we’re ready for cava and tapas, and we head towards El Xampanyet. It’s busy, with barely any elbow room. Marta ushers us to a seat in the back and she commences ordering our lunch-time spread of boquerones (marinated anchovies), peppers stuffed with cheese, artichoke flatbreads, marinated salmon and sliced of tortilla – the Spanish potato omlette served with more pan con tomate. End the meal with my favourite Catalan dessert, xuixos (named after a sneeze), a deep fried doughnut with a creme anglais centre. I learn the story about the juggler, in love with the baker’s daughter, who spared his own life by giving up the recipe for this delectable treat. Pop into the Picasso Museum when you’re done.
El Xampanyet: Carrer de Montcada, 22, close to Picasso Museum
I buy smoked Spanish almonds and hazelnuts and sun-dried tomatoes from E & A Gispert, the roasting masters since 1851. To this day the nuts sold are roasted in the old method.
For oils, chorizo and charcuterie to take home, we venture into Can Ravell which is also a restaurant now.
Can Ravell: Carrer Aragó 313, Website
E & A Gispert, Sombrerers, 23, Website
Bread & Cakes
I’ve visited Bubo, the cake and coffee shop in Born a number of times, to buy chocolates and to sample the chocolate cake it’s so famous for. Marta encourages me to venture to Forn Baluart, a new-age bakery making waves in Barceloneta. We buy some pies to eat walking along the beach and savour each mouthful.
Escriba fuses both family history (the business startred in 1906) with pure fantasy. Staring at the displays of exquisite chocolate stilettos and handbags in the window, it’s no wonder that Escriba was tasked with making Ferran Adria’s wedding cake in 2002. Make sure you have a little space to visit for dessert.Bubo:Caputxes, 10, el Born, Website
Forn Baluart: Carrer Baluard, 38-40, Barceloneta, Website Escriba: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 546, Website
Other Awesome Eats & Drinks
- I tracked down master pâtissier Oriol Balaguer in my quest to understand why we associate Barcelona with popping candy. I suppose this isn’t a well known association but I had seen so many references over the years and was keen to uncover the answer. Oriol, slightly amused at my questions told me that he has a fond memory of his mother handing him pop rocks (popping candy) well over 20 years ago, when he was a child. His hazelnut chocolate with popping candy is a extremely popular in Japan. I walk out of the chocolate lab with boxes of posh chocolates embedded with popping candy, tempted to eat it all on the street.
- La Cova Fumada (the smoking cave) has a hefty, old door that virtually screams that behind it lies a mutiny of tattooed goths. Even so, it’s easy to miss, and we really went on a hunt for it. You can’t make a booking but it’s a quirky spot, 5 minutes from Barceloneta beach for a drink and snacks. Yes, you’ll get out alive.
- Monvinic is stylish wine bar, with very knowledgable staff and a local and international wine menu. Pair your wines by the glass with delicious by pricey morsels.
- Tapas dinner: Adria brother’s Tickets Tapas Bar would be my top pick, though getting a table is very tricky. Click on the link for more about my dining experiences there. Another favourite is Cal Pep – queue at 7 30 pm for the 8 pm opening. Portions are large and service rapid. The idea is to eat and leave, seats are filled on a rotation basis in this small bar-style restaurant. I recommend the crisp squid, clams, veal and potato and the quatro of mousse desserts. Click here to read about Tapac 24.
- Chocolate: Cocoa Sampaca, Rajoles and the Chocolate Museum.
La Cova Fumada: Carrer Baluard 56, Barceloneta
Oriol Balaguer: Visit Website for locations.
Monvinic: Diputació 249, Website.
I highly recommend Marta of Forever Barcelona -she is an fantastic, fun guide with a wonderful, compassionate nature. Great source of info on art, history and architecture too.