Tapas and Barcelona are two words that seem to be made for one another. Surprisingly however, the tapas and pintxo traditions are not very Catalan but belong to the Basque country, Castillo and Andalucía.
In Catalunya there is a tradition of ordering ‘racions’, small portions of tapas style nibbles to your table. But a free tapa is not served with your drink as it might be in Madrid or the south, and bars with an array of nibbles to choose from are not a local tradition but an import from other parts of Spain. Since Barcelona became stratospherically popular with tourists in the 1990s, more and more tapas bars have opened to serve foreigners a taste of the “Spain” they expect.
Barcelona is now arguably one of the finest places to eat tapas in Spain, given its wonderful local cuisine and tradition of serving wonderful, exotic flavour combinations involving meat and fish (mar i montanya).
Here are out pick of the best tapas bars in Barcelona:
The Basque country is the spiritual home of the pintxo and one of Spain’s finest tapas regions. There are dozens of Basque tapas bars across Barcelona and Maitea is probably the best. The main offering is pintxos –a delicious morsel of meat, cheese or seafood garnished with tapenades laid on chunks of bread and skewered with a wooden toothpick (lending the name pintxo, which means spike in Basque).
Remember to keep all your toothpicks as these will be used to create your bill at the end of the night. Pintxo start at €1.55.
Carrer de Casanova 157, +34 93 439 5107
Don’t let humble appearances deceive you here. Reserve judgement until you have tried specialities such as perennial classic tortilla de patatas or the patatas rabiatas (a hearty plate of fried potatoes drenched in a piquant bolognese sauce). Or be brave and try the morcilla amb confitada de cebollas (black pudding with braised onions) or the pimientos de Padrón (scotch bonnet peppers).
Carrer d’Elisabets 2-4, +34 93 317 5826.
Quimet i Quimet
We love this problem but it has one problem – too much of a good thing! Okay so that is not a real problem. This lively bodega style bar serves up exotic and delicious montaditos and is famed for combinations such as tuna with caviar and balsamic syrup, rabbit with figs and sausages with squid. If you find yourself bewildered with the choice, just ask for some help from the people behind the bar who will help you to create an unforgettable plate.
Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes 25, +34 93 442 3142.
Els Sortidors del Parlament
A more international affair this time and somewhere where wine lovers will be very happy. Els Sortidors offers a vast selection of wines from around the world (which is quite unusual in Spain), though naturally Catalan wines are very well represented here, especially from the prized Girona region. These are all sold at shop prices and with a corkage charge of 4€ – a very reasonable deal.
Carrer del Parlament 53, +34 934 41 16 02
The identity of this old favourite is very unmistakably Catalan. This is quickly apparent on arrival, with walls bedecked with FC Barcelona shirts, photos and flags.
By evening this can be quite a rowdy place with a lively atmosphere, it is popular as a meeting place before a night on the town. Especially on a match night!
During the daytime bar Roure caters to an older clientele of locals, serving classic Catalan fare such as esqueixada (salt-cod, tomato and onion dressed with the eponymous sauce), escalivada (chargrilled aubergines, peppers and onions dressed with oil, parsely and salt) and fuet and llonganissa (Catalan Salami style cured sausages). This is also a great place for paella though it is only served on Thursday lunchtimes.
Carrer de Luís Antúnez 7, +34 93 218 7387.