Every time I set foot in a European city I am so thankful for living on this incredible continent. Even if it is on a small island just to the left. As a self-confessed foodie, Europe is an absolute haven for culinary delights.
Madrid may be the Spanish capital but Barcelona is certainly the food capital. It’s the city of utter gluttony. A wealth of beautiful architecture, designer stores, and high-end restaurants lining the streets, tiny lit up bars serving glass after glass of cava and plate after plate of tapas. It’s difficult to know where to start. If you are planning on visiting the City of Counts soon then this is your go-to culinary list. Enjoy!
You can barely walk a few steps in Barcelona without stumbling upon a shop or stall selling all the versions of Jamon Iberico you could possibly imagine. Each different adaptation of the cured meat offers different flavours and characteristics but the distinct oily, slightly nutty taste synonymous with Iberico will always be there. For a small taste try one of the meat stalls in Mercat de la Boqueria. Tick off 2 items on this list by buying one of the small punnets that contain both Iberico and a bit of our next treat…
Made in the La Mancha region of Spain this sheep’s milk cheese is, in my opinion, the perfect companion for your Iberico. Nutty, sweet and caramel in both flavour and colour. It makes the perfect addition to the fatty, rich Iberico.
3. Pa amb Tomaquet
Arguably one of the best Catalan inventions of all time, Bread rubbed with tomato. Sounds basic, tastes incredible. The bread should be ideally sourdough and toasted, maybe even slightly charred, a sprinkle of salt on the bread, the tomatoes should be on the vine or of the hanging variety, the tomato is sliced in half and rubbed over the course bread releasing all of the natural flavours. The finishing touch? A drizzle of high-quality olive oil. Bon profit!
4. La Bomba
Potato and meat bombs. Sound amazing, taste amazing. These are large balls of mashed potato surrounding usually a pork or beef centre. The best are served piping hot and with a spicy sauce and a traditional alioli. Go to Paco Meralgo for their “Bomba Paco Meralgo” which is my personal favourite!
5. Paella (Catalan style)
Paella is easy to get wrong and there are countless restaurants in Barcelona that will serve up frozen versions to the tourists roaming the city. For a real Catalan version, you should expect at least an hours wait. Catalan paella is slightly different, once the rice is added to the pan the pan is not stirred, this allows the ingredients to relax and gives you that incredible “soccarat” that you look for in a good paella. I recommend going to Pez Vela Chiringuito, directly on the beachfront in the shadow of the glamorous W hotel, this is the perfect place for a bottle of wine and a few paellas to share. Pez Vela do around 5 different versions and charge per person so try a few different flavours. My favourites are the Baby squid, black rice & artichoke and the Squid, prawns & clams rice.
6. Padron peppers
Don’t mistake these for a boring dish. Hot, blistered peppers sprinkled in sea salt are the perfect pal to an ice cold glass of Albariño.
Often heralded as a lesser Champagne but don’t dismiss this sparkling wine. 70% of this refreshing beverage is produced in Catalonia and so there is no better place than to enjoy a glass/bottle than in one of Barcelona’s many wine bars or bodegas. Can Paixano aka La Xampanyeria is a great old fashioned tapas bar, popular with tourists and locals alike, that serves up very reasonably priced glasses of Cava if you order a small portion of food. Not that you need convincing…
8. Patatas Bravas
We all know and love this fried dish don’t we but it can go so horribly wrong. Chunks of roughly cut potato cooked in high quality oil accompanied with a sales (occasionally spicy) and alioli. For the best in Barcelona try Bar Tomás whose secret sauce recipe is closely guarded. If you aren’t a huge fan of spice and heat then try Elsa and Fred’s version – this is a milder take on the classic but doesn’t fail to pack a punch with its flavour profile.
Croquetas don’t strictly have an all Spanish origin but the first thing I look at ordering when I’m in Spain are these little babies. Originally they were made from leftovers, bound with a bechamel sauce and then deep fried. Nowadays you can find them served up with a whole range of fillings. If this is your first time trying them then opt for the Jamon variety. You just can’t beat a classic.
10. Crema Catalana
Quintessentially Catalan. The recipe is very similar to that of a Creme Brulee but don’t you dare let the locals hear you compare it. This dessert is the perfect finish to your evening meal, light citrus infused custard with hints of vanilla and cinnamon topped off with the iconic crunchy layer of scorched caramel. There is a very sweet story behind the origin of this dessert here.
Vague, I know. Artichokes are native to the region and there a plethora of tapas bars that serve up different takes on this versatile ingredient. Try them stuffed, roasted or most commonly, fried into chips. Ciutat Comtal does a fantastic version, as do many of the tapas bars within Mercat de la Boqueria.
Churros (Xurros) may not originate from Barcelona but you can find some phenomenal examples of them, particularly if you stray away from the hoards of tourists and into some of the quieter back streets. There are plenty of small Xurrerias (Small, snug shops that specialise in the deep-fried treat) that offer up not only the traditional version with a pot of dipping chocolate but also stuffed and empanada style versions. For the best in Barcelona try Xurreria San Roman, Xurreria Trebol or La Xocolateria (by Oriol Balaguer).
If you are a foodie in Barcelona it doesn’t matter if your preference is more Market stall than Michelin you can truly get a taste of Catalonia no matter where you go!