For those that can’t get the hard copy of Metropolitan Magazine, check out the on-line link to the piece about my favorite place to eat rice in Barcelona, El Vell Sarrià. Don’t miss my cameo at the end.
Pau Claris, 192 (with Diagonal)
The city’s finest bar. Small, marble floored, lined with wine bottles, and filled with natural light from the wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, it offers an incomparable tortilla de patatas for breakfast and interesting creative Catalan cooking any time. Dinner is served in two turns – at 8:30 and 10:15. Reservations needed. There are just two table-topped barrels and some marble counter space. The piano in the corner even gets set with two places. It’s that popular.
Option: A pre-dinner glass of wine and a plate of their boquerones.
Wild mushrooms delivered from: Petras, the legendary La Boqueria stall.
La Granada del Penedès, 25
The tortilla española is a cultural staple in Spain. It is eaten for breakfast, lunch, for merienda for kids when they get home from school, as a tapa, for dinner…. Simple, cheap, tasty. The classic has just four ingredients – potato, egg, salt, oil. But it is a dish given to endless varieties. In this hyper-stylish tortellería that opened in 1970, there are over 70 options, from basic (with, say, eggplant) to decadent (cheese and truffles) to complicated (Basque style with roasted red peepers and bacalao). They’re even to desert ones (with candied fruit and covered in a coffee sauce).
The decor: white leather booths and chairs and white walls with black murals of a Twiggy-like model taking photos.
Waiters: stiff and a bit overly formal – though many of them young – in buttoned-up white jackets with shiny brass buttons.
The clientele: decidedly mixed though relatively up-market and includes everything from architects to elderly couples to gorgeous young things with hair falling over the eyes and attitudes of privilege, or at least imminent success.
Also, the best: hamburgers in Barcelona, no bun, very rare, and served with a tray of mustards.
Churros con chocolate might be a madrinleños 6 a.m. nightcap after a long night out, but for many in Barcelona – me included – they’re a mid-morning or mid-afternoon indulgence. Churros are long, coiled deep-fried fritters, lightly crunchy and sprinkled with sugar, traditionally dipped into a cup of hot, thick drinking chocolate, and eaten with the fingers. La Palleresa – found along a lovely, slightly twisting street called Petritxol lined with interesting shops, galleries, and a couple of old cafés – is an old “granja,” creamery. That means they made their own nata (whipped cream) but bring in the churros hot and wrapped in butcher paper from a nearby churrería as needed. Order the chocolate topped with fresh whipped cream and its called a suizo. The best.
An option to a suizo: order a cup of chocolate and a side plate of nata (whipped cream) and do the mixing yourself.
After: walk down Petrixol to Plaça del Pi, the loveliest square in Barcelona.
QUIMET & QUIMET
Poeta Cabanyes, 25
Opened in 1914 and passed down the family, this tiny space with a vast selection is always at the top of “best of…” lists. Tiny, with a big selection of enlatadas, things in tins. As they say, the best of the seafood catch goes in the tin, and Quimet & Quimet has the best of the best: mussels, clams, cockles, navajas (razor clams), mussels, line-caught bonito del norte, and so on. Numerous cheeses, too. Though I prefer to have a couple of always interesting montaditos (things “mounted” on a piece of bread) created for you from an array of simply top-quality materials at the bar.
Be warned: they close at 10:30 pm.
Mercat de la Boqueria
Tucked just inside the La Boqueria, the cavernous food market halfway down La Rambla, Pinotxo is a small, narrow bar with twelve or so stools. Here you’ll find traditional, seasonal Catalan cuina de mercat (market cooking) at its finest. I like to come for a substantial breakfasts (“with fork and knife” as the Catalans say), and usually order the stewed chickpeas with blood sausage, pine nuts, and raisins. Some days I get the baby squid flash-fried with tiny white beans or, in winter, when a cold wind is blowing through the market, one of their other specialties, cap i pota, a rich stew made from the head and feet of veal. Famous Juanito greets everyone and pours cava and makes cortados while his two nephews – Albert and Jordi – do the cooking. Watching them work is the best education in town.
If you want a stool: around 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. for a late breakfast.
To eat with your fingers: codornices en escabeche, quail marinated in vinegar, oil, and herbs.
Decadent, at least for breakfast: baby squid with small white beans.
Decadent, anytime: najavas, long, narrow razor clams grilled and dashed with olive oil and a bit of sea salt.
A new bar del barrio in the Poble Sec neighborhood. Come for a beer and a pate of anchovies or a meal’s worth of finely crafted tapas. Favorites include La pulga de Inopia, a small piece of toasted bread topped with salt cod, tomato comfit, and olivada; bravas con salsa mixta, their version of patatas bravas, with a smoky, deep tomato flavor to the sauce; ventresco de atun con mojo picon, a silky piece of seared tuna belly with a pool of tangy sauce. Comfortable and, without trying to be, very stylish. Perhaps the perfect tapas bar. One of the owners is Albert Adrià, the pastry chef of El Bulli and brother of Ferran.
If you want a stool: go not long after they open at 7:00 p.m.
Beer: Moritz draft.
Ask for: “pipes” de conejo, meaty, individually cut ribs of large rabbits, fried, and eaten with the fingers, dipping them in a smooth garlic mayonnaise.
Nearby: Casa Lucio, to make an evening of drinks and tapas.
Perhaps learning on the bar beside you: Ferran Adrià.