Barcelona: A Culinary Treasure

Earlier this summer I tagged along with Jose to Barcelona, Spain. He was there for Barcelona Bridal Week to show his gowns (check out his portfolio) and I was there to uncover the best that the city had to offer over a handful of days. See more details on our Barcelona itinerary from a previous post.  Having lived in San Francisco, California for almost a dozen years I was skeptical that Barcelona could live up to all of the hype that I had heard about “delicious and innovative” food. Well, I was simply floored with our experience. The food is exciting and authentic and the dining experiences are thoughtful and engaging. My friends gave me recommendations and suggestions before I left and I wanted to “pay it back” and share with you a recap of our culinary adventure. Share this with your friends and bookmark it for your own future trip. You will not want to skip the opportunity to experience this feast. ¡buen provecho

Barcelona Bridal Week

We arrived Barcelona early in the morning and we were able to check-in at our hotel, shower and get changed for a leisurely first day out on the town (more to come on hotels and activities in a later post).  Staying close to Las Ramblas we headed straight to the La Boqueria to have lunch at the highly written up tapas bar called El Quim de la Boqueria.  This bar is nestled inside the market so you feel like you are in the hub of it all.  A simple bar with stools allows you to “belly up” to the edge of display cases filled with Spanish delights.  You’re handed a paper menu and paper order form along with a small pencil to place your order.  The guys that work behind the bar are jammed together pouring wine, sautéing squid and ensuring that everyone is getting what they need.  We enjoyed a glass of white wine with a freshly gilled artichoke, a plate of freshly sautéed baby squid, padrón peppers and of course, bread.  Simple, clean, delicious.  We talked about how great it would be to have a market like this near our home and just watched and watched the locals prepare for their day.  Not to miss.

El Quim de la Boqueria
La Boqueria Mercat
Rambles 91
08001 Barcelona
+34 933 019 810

Roasted artichoke

Grilled baby squid

Padron Green Peppers

On the evening of our first night in Barcelona we ventured up to the top of Tibadabo.  As you might recall in the movie Vicky Christina Barcelona, they head up to an old amusement park that has amazing views of the city.  This is Tibadabo Amusement Park.  While I had visions of photographing children enjoying rides as the sun was setting we were a bit disappointed as the park closed early on the evening that we chose to make our way to this vantage point.  Nonetheless, we walked the grounds and then proceeded to ABaC Hotel which also houses ABaC restaurant.  This establishment came highly recommended by a local Angelino so I knew we were in for a treat.  The grounds of the hotel are modern yet comfortable and the landscaping takes on the feeling of the beautiful park that is adjacent to the property.  I have eaten at The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley and I must say, ABaC gives them a run for the Euro.  Exquisite food, attentive and approachable staff and an elegant and privately designed room (only a dozen or so tables).  We enjoyed a cocktail on the patio before our reservation and words from Jose’s mouth, “this is the best Mojito that I have ever tasted.”  Well, I won’t question this exclamation coming from my Spanish speaking partner.  We then enjoyed a several hour tasting menu that looked like it was going to be more food than we could have ever enjoyed.  However, we ate every morsel and drank all of the wine that was paired with our courses.  I always feel like I am going to be full for days after a tasting menu but we left feeling satisfied and indulged.

Tibadabo 1
08022 Barcelona
+34 933 196 600

Entrance to ABaC Hotel & Restaurant

The best Mojito ever!

Ready for dinner…

Culinary art!

While in Barcelona I was able to connect with the son of one of my high school volleyball coaches who now lives in the city and enjoys life as a recognized DJ within the club scene.  We met at our hotel and strolled through the streets of L’Eixample and ended up at Federal Cafe which had coincidentally been recommended to me by a friend of mine from Houston, Texas.  The cafe is a an outpost that has been created by a few relocated Aussies from Down Under.  Open air, casual, fresh and with a rooftop patio where we enjoyed a glass of wine, a grilled vegetable sandwich and some amazing fries.  I have heard that this place is great for breakfast and brunch as well.  Perfect stop for a rest while touring the sites.

Federal Cafe
Parlament 39
08015 Barcelona
+34 931 873 607

En route to the Palau Musica Catalana to see the pop sensation, Ana Torroja we went to Cuines Santa Caterina in the Santa Caterina Market which is a beautifully designed and recently renovated marketplace.  Cuines Santa Caterina feels like a market itself with communal seating and energetic vibe.  The daily tapas specials are displayed on a ticker style message board that spans the length of the open kitchen (think stock quotes on Times Square) .  We enjoyed a rocket salad (aka arugula for us Americans), fresh grilled calamari and Spanish sausage with white beans.  Oh, and a glass of crisp white wine to compliment the flavors!  This is a great place for an on-the-go meal that doesn’t cut corners on freshness or taste.

Cuines Santa Caterina
Francesc Cambo 16
08003 Barcelona
+34 932 689 918

Mosaic designed roof of the Santa Caterina Market

Handsome in Trina Turk

Open air design

Grilled calamari with fresh asparagus

Spanish sausage with white beans

After our concert we headed back to our hotel and went to the rooftop bar called Visit.  The roof is filled with plants, private seating areas, hurricane candle lanterns, hip locals and great music.  Jose and I nestled into a cozy sofa and enjoyed a late night port, dessert wine and a chocolate chip cookie before turning into bed.  Excellent end to our day.

Visit Cocktail Bar
Hotel Pulitzer
Bergara, 8 (Rooftop)
08002 Barcelona
+34 934 816 767


One afternoon I decided to roam the L’Eixample neighborhood and came across a small tapas bar called La Flauta.  There is a tiny bar inside and a handful of tables on the sidewalk where they serve up fresh tapas and from what I could tell, the guests serve up their daily dose of gossip to one another.  The staff didn’t speak English (which I loved) so I quickly practiced my Spanglish and used my iPhone translator to place my order.  I always tease my sister for loving her traditions but I must say that when in Barcelona I think I could eat Padrón peppers, calamari and bread for every meal.  Wait, I think I did have it at least once a day!  Anyway, this is a great place to feel like a local (although, this white boy from MI would never be mistaken for a beautiful man from Barcelona) and to catch your breath as you explore the city.

La Flauta
Aribau 23
08011 Barcelona
+34 933 237 038

Tapas lunch at an outdoor cafe – true Barcelona

I read about Dry Martini bar and the adjacent Speakeasy restaurant from an article a few years ago in Details magazine where Dolce & Gabbana gave a listing of some of their favorite places and things in Barcelona.  I figured that if these two stylista’s love it then it would be the perfect spot for Jose and I to enjoy a cocktail and dinner.  Dry Martini is in the front of the space and it is what you would envision as a real man’s bar.  These guys know more about alcohol and drinks than you can ever imagine.  The bartenders wear white coats, the bar and walls are done in beautiful wood and you can have your shoes shined while you sit at the bar with your perfectly made martini in-hand.  After our drinks we headed through the kitchen, past the restrooms and down a hallway into what felt like it would be the storage room for the bar.  In fact, you are entering Speakeasy restaurant which actually is the storage room for the bar.  Bottles and bottles of liquor and wine line the walls of the space on backlit shelves.  The food is fresh and the service like the bar is second to none.  I have to say that I did feel like I was at an exclusive, insiders only establishment.  Mushrooms are a favorite and having an entire appetizer dedicated to the fungus was perfect followed by an amazing Ahi Tuna tempura.  Excellent.

Dry Martini
Aribau 162
08036 Barcelona
+34 932 175 072

Aribau 162
08036 Barcelona
+34 932 175 080

The bar

The “perfect” drinks

Wild mushrooms with my favorite: morels

Tempura Ahi Tuna

While in Barcelona we also had the opportunity to celebrate Jose’s 50th Birthday and we wanted to be sure to have an amazing culinary experience.  Before the trip we had read several reviews about the top restaurants in Barcelona and we chose Cinc Sentits (Six Senses) because the food was supposed to be local and fresh and the aesthetic of the space appeared to be “designed” but not over thought.  Our inclination was correct and we had one of the best dining experiences of our trip at this restaurant.  When we arrived we were greeted by a beautiful and gracious hostess who gave us the lay of the land and walked us through their tasting menu options.  Another one of the servers was a slightly older woman who kept checking in with us to ensure that we had everything that we needed.  After talking with her for a bit we learned that the restaurant is a family business.  She owns the restaurant with her two children.  Her daughter is the beautiful hostess and manager and her son is the head chef, Jordi Artal.  She told the story of how they established the restaurant with a smile from ear to ear.  From that moment on we felt like we were guests at their family dinner table.  Every course of our 7-course meal was something that we had never tasted before and each of the courses was presented beautifully.  There were no details left unturned including the presentation of three different kinds of flavored sugars to be used with your after dinner coffee.  We left satisfied and happy and I must say, a little drunk after 7-courses of paired wine and an extra glass of champagne to toast the birthday boy!  Please pay this family a visit while you are in town.

Cinc Sentits
Aribau 58
08036 Barcelona
+34 933 239 490

50th wish!

Our last night we ventured out to a beautiful part of L’Eixample where there are high-end boutique shops and great cafes and restaurants.  Jose wanted to take me to a restaurant that he had visited on a prior trip.  Cerveceria Catalana is a traditional tapas restaurant with an upscale and vibrant neighborhood flair.  The place is so popular that you can barely nudge your way around the bar to put your name on the waiting list.  You really feel like you are somewhere that you ought to be for good food and fun.  We finally ordered some red wine sangria and ended the evening with a mouth-watering lemon ricotta cheesecake.  After dinner we walked back through the tree-lined pedestrian thoroughfare and said goodbye to a wonderful stay in Barcelona.  Gracias.

Cerveceria Catalana
Mallorca 236
08008 Barcelona
+34 932 160 368

We finally had Sangria on our last night

Lemon ricotta cheesecake