It was as the warm late-afternoon sun was going down after a fascinating two-hour tour of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter that we found it. The ideal location. The kind of setting I’d been searching for the entire trip.
My tapas dream.
Anyone who’s been to Barcelona will know that there’s no shortage of tapas anywhere. You can’t get away from it. By the end of our first day my travel companion and I were already making sarcastic jokes: “Look! A tapas restaurant! You don’t see many of those round here!”
We thought we were funny.
We had our first tapas experience at La Fragua outside our apartment on the Rambla del Raval. Calamari, pan con tomate (bread covered with olive oil and rubbed with tomatoes), king prawns, meat croquettes, a Russian salad, green peppers and Spanish omelette.
A veritable Mediterranean feast! Melt-in-your-mouth meat croquettes (if a bit dubious – ‘meat’ croquettes? Meat non-specific?), and the Spanish omelette absolutely divine. Our waiter was also incredibly helpful and friendly, and situated just off the Raval it was great for people-watching and just admiring one of the city’s most buzzing, multicultural districts.
La Fragua, Rambla Raval 15, 08001 Spain
I should note that, as dinners go, tapas is not cheap! You’re looking at €20 per person standard. You do get several plates of food, and this occasionally covers a dessert or a drink or two, but tapas is not the cheapest choice if you’re looking to save the pennies.
On our second day we gave Bar del Raval a try, still keeping it close to home. Chicory with a balsamic dressing, pâté, ham croquettes, cod fritters, ham sprinkled with paprika, potatoes and fried eggs, green peppers, pork and potatoes, pan con tomate and a Crema Catalana to finish it off. Again, delicious! The sheer variety (and amount) was astounding, and the portions plentiful, one of the best value for money meals we had.
The paprika-sprinkled ham was something we had several times, and was no less worth mentioning here. Light but bursting with flavour. And not to mention the wonderful Crema Catalana, with which I had a bit of a love affair. Although I must say I still prefer the French créme brûlée, the Catalonian equivalent has had a space in my heart from that moment on.
We then made a beeline the next day for El Jardi, situated in the beautiful green courtyard of the Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu.
Looking into the 16th century courtyard, we enjoyed blood sausage, potatoes with cheese and mayonnaise, a balsamic Mediterranean salad, a selection of cheeses with Melba toast, ham, Spanish omelette, anchovies and pan con tomate. In terms of tapas, El Jardi was definitely my favourite. The blood sausage was a sort of Spanish black pudding (which, despite its dubious content, I happen to love), and the anchovies had a wonderfully powerful taste and my mouth watering for more.
El Jardi, Carrer de l’Hospital 56, 08001 Barcelona
And then we found it. The Plaça de Santa Maria del Mar. A fantastic square swarming with restaurants right under the looming presence of the Gothic cathedral.
This was our view from dinner. Twice we went back.
First we waited for twenty minutes for a table to open up right outside the cathedral. It didn’t happen.
We settled for Caputxes, a restaurant slightly further back from the main square. It didn’t offer much privacy from the next table, but the tapas was definitely worth it! Second in line to El Jardi, truly some of the best tapas I tasted that entire trip. Try the Norwegian salmon and sundried tomatoes – and watch out for the hot green peppers!
We went back early the next day to try our luck with the Santa Maria del Mar Restaurant and – voila! A table! We sat right under the façade of the cathedral, watched the sun go down over overpriced tapas and tucked into crema Catalanas. Sigh.
Caputxes, Carrer de les Caputxes 4, 08003 Barcelona