HOME > Chowhound > Spain/Portugal >


barcelona, hi end to lo end?

  • g

interested for mix of restaurants from low end to hi end. looking for a wide ranging catalan experience in a 5 day period in the middle of may. money doesnt matter so much as getting great food wherever it is. above average spanish language skills, but not catalan dialect.

other ppl in the group have/ are making resies at Abac, Alkimia, Ca L'isidre, moo, i think. and everyone is scrounging for local recs for food. we are staying in the gothic quarter near the correos. thx in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know if I'd call Catalan a "dialect" as much as "Italian and Martian whirled together in a blender" -- but be aware that many menus are only in Catalan, so bring a food primer with you.

    Cal Pep (Plaça de les Olles, 8) has excellent tapes and above-average prices, though it's generally full by 20:30; actually all the tapes bars on that road between the Ronda Litoral and Via Laietana are quite good (Euskal Etxea, Sagardì Taberna, Taller de Tapas, etc.) Euskal Etxea also has a full-on jatetxea in the back where they start serving at 21:30 and has good classic Basque cuisine, with heavy use of garlic. Unfortunately they have stopped doing the txotx (the incredibly entertaining and inebriating celebration of the new cider) but their cider is also very good. El Xampanyet (say "sham-pan-YAY") has a wondrous selection of cavas and is a lot bigger than it looks.

    If you've absolutely got to eat on La Rambla, go to La Boqueria (Mercat Sant-Josep) and do wine and tapes toward the back of the market, if you can get a seat. Another restaurant which doesn't suck is Mikel Etxea (La Rambla, 33) -- they have a branch in the Barri Gòtic as well; their tapas are very tasty, the cider is quite good, and the arròs negre is usually pretty tasty.

    If you end up over in Diagonal Mar, the pickings are pretty slim (especially if you don't want to be wandering about La Mina after dark), but Man Go (c/Josep Pla, 27-33, across from the FNAC in the shopping centre) is quite tasty for being essentially a
    suburban outpost.

    Finally, if you find yourself craving Italian food, Fratelli la Bufala (I believe it's in c/Pau Claris -- yes, I know it's a chain, but it's a REALLY good chain) has excellent pizze and very, very good buffalo steaks.

    One place to avoid -- there is a restaurant on c/Doctor Joaquim Pou, just a half block off of Via Laietana, that advertises a €7,75 menú at lunch -- it's horrible. I don't even know the name of it, but we were stuck in the rain one day and decided to eat at the next place we saw -- ended up with canned asparagus with bottled mayonnaise, a deep fried merluza fish stick, limp fries, tinned flan, and a litre of translucent plonk each.

    You've absolutely got to have some gelat from Farggi (there's two in Plaça Catalunya alone) -- get the crema catalana, and try the yoghur amb mores (yoghurt with blackberries).

    I assume you know that lunch is usually taken from 14:00 to 16:00 and dinner from 21:00 to 24:00... and that you will be overwhelmed with pa amb tomàquet (which in May may not be very nice, given that tomatoes don't come in until July).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      thx for the help and the glossary. great!

      1. re: Das Ubergeek

        A note about tomatoes... The very best tomatoes in Spain come much earlier than July. In the spring, we can get "tomates raf" (a.k.a. pata negra). The are dark green with red streaks and they are hands-down best tomatoes I've ever tasted.

      2. This is recent report because we were in Barcelona around the 3rd week of April 06. We ate at Abac, Comerc24 and Senque Sentits. It was good but I've eaten better at some of the good NYC restaurants so to me there was nothing unique about those places. Minimalist designs and small portion food (except maybe for Comerc24 which was a fun place) but surely not worth a plane ticket to Barcelona. Famous 'Cal Pep' was a great experience because of the freshness and the preparation of the food, even though the place is touristy, it reflects a real Spanish tapas bar and it's a must go as far as I am concerned. Just a few door down from Cal Pep there is a great restaurant called 'Passadis del Pep'. It is bit hard to find because there is no sign, just the street #. You do not get a menu, the waitstaff starts poring unlimited Cava as soon as you are seated and food starts arriving....and more food, until you tell them to stop. This food is what I call Catalan cuisine and it was to me one of the best things we had in Barcelona.

        1. Don't miss Cal Pep, where they don't take reservations and a line starts forming around 8:30. You sit at the long bar, look around and you'll want everything in sight. They'll put a bottle of Cava in front of you and charge you for what you drink. We went back the next night. Did eat in one of those highly touted places in the expensive part of the city and didn't like it. Another tapas place we loved is Raminet (I think that's the name, if not very close) in Barceloneta.

          1. I liked Senyor Paridilla (sp?) on calle Argentia for traditional style food.

            1. From a report earlier this year:

              "Senyor Parellada, c/Argenteria 37

              A well-known restaurant with Old World charm. Friendly, but quick -- almost hasty -- service, presumably an effort to move out the crazy foreigners who begin their dinners at the unholy hour of 9:00 to make room for the locals who begin lining up at 10:00+. In any case, I had my best plate of the entire trip (which included Languedoc-Roussillon): fresh cod beneath a blanket of garlic mousselline atop a bed of creamed spinach. I would've gone back for a second helping another night but we found:

              El Barkito, c/Corcega 225

              A kind of neighborhood seafood bistro at the edge of the Eixample, where nary a word of English was spoken nor, apparently, understood. Coming from the Midwest, I'm a sucker for fresh fish at a good value and the series of squid (grilled and fried), shrimp (ditto), and turbot (al maresco) we tried over a series of two nights was stunningly fresh and simply but well prepared. The patron and staff were friendly and steered us in the right direction when it appeared our selections were moving into uncharted, out-of-season regions. (Italian came in handy here.)

              Bon Vivant, c/Diputacio 280

              A darkhorse that we stumbled upon--I'd seen it recommended nowhere--near Passeig de Gracia. About two years old with simple but elegant decor, it proved to be a wonderful place for an upscale lunch. The menu focuses on seafood with some fusion elements, but we stuck with the regional specialties, splitting potato/cheese timbals (floating on a pool of truffle oil and wild mushrooms), tuna medallions (encrusted with pepper and herbs), and squid (stuffed with black sausage), well-worth the 50 eu tab (bottle of wine and water included). We'll be back for dinner on our next visit."

              1. I highly recommend Cinc Sentits. We just ate there a few days ago. Tasting menu was 50E for lunch, wine pairing 25E. Excellent food; in fact, I enjoyed my meal there more than the one at the Fat Duck a few days before. Maple syrup shooter to start and suckling pig were standouts.

                17 Replies
                1. re: emily

                  Interesting.......I found Cinc Sentits' good but that was about it. The chef actually did most of his cooking in San Francisco and that is what the restaurant reminded me of. Would not go back to Barcelona for that.

                  1. re: fatboy44

                    Chef Jordi Artal did not cook in San Francisco. He worked in the high tech industry in the Bay Area. He returned to Barcelona and with his family opened Cenc Sentits. Although many of his clientele are Americans, his food is thoroughly contemporary Catalan, unlike anything that we have in San Francisco. For value, I think it is one of the best restaurant in Barcelona.

                    1. re: PB

                      For value (and great food) the best thing in Barcelona is 'Passadis del Pep'. There is some real Catalan cooking for you. If you haven't been I would suggest the next time you are in Barcelona you put it on your list. People tend to be a bit intimidated because there is no menu or a price list in the place. The food is just spectacular! Price, 150euro for two (including tip). We had I believe 7 or 8 courses and it included 2 bottles of Cava, some liquors, dessert and coffee. I did not say Sentits was bad, I actually mentioned it was good, but you mentioned value? Where was that. Sorry, it is just not the Barcelona experience to me but, if it comes to picking between contemporary restaurants in Barcelona I think that Abec is a step up from Sentits (IMO). I ate at both restaurants back to back a couple of months ago. If I want to eat at 'Ferran Adrea' wannabees restaurants I can find plenty of that in the US (WD50 NYC for example) and really don't have to spend the money or the time to travel over seas. By the way...the San Francico comparison I made was simply because that is where the minimalist designs (food plating and interior) was conceived. Walking in Senc Sentits was like walking in a restaurant located in San Fran. There was nothing Catalan about it.

                      1. re: fatboy44

                        Hi there -- do you have an address or contact info for Passadis del Pep? That sounds so reasonable although I guess the menu price can vary quite a bit. I've heard Sauc has a very good value degustacion at 36 E.

                        I'm taking friends out for a celebration dinner and looking to spend 100 Euro/pp, before wine. So far, I have res' at Abac and Gaig, but can't decide between the two.

                        1. re: trotsky
                          Das Ubergeek

                          Plaça del Palau, 2
                          08003 Barcelona
                          (+34) 933 101 021
                          Metro: Barceloneta (L4)

                          Link: http://www.passadis.com

                          1. re: trotsky

                            Passadis link is below. You won't be disappointed with Passadis, just let the servers take care of you. It will also be within your budget. Abec is better then Gaig.

                            Link: http://www.passadis.com/

                            1. re: fatboy44

                              I emailed Passadis Del Pep for a table and I hope it comes through. Do the waiters speak English -- I only ask because I'd like to be able to take some notes on the various courses. I'll have a food glossary with me but I really don't want to be doing research while I'm trying to enjoy my meal... I'm thinking I'll replace my Abac reservations with Passadis del Pep since it sounds like a great embodiment of regional Catalan cuisine. I think my friends would enjoy the vibe/decor of a place like Abac but the food at Pep sounds great. So I don't ever need to mention an upper limit for prices? I just trust that I won't get a 500 E bill? With no Spanish skills, I'm a little afraid of getting fleeced.

                              1. re: trotsky

                                I was amazed how reasonable Passadis was. Half through our evening my wife said to me, how much do you figure all this fantastic stuff is going to cost? My answer, 2 maybe 2.20. I was thoroughly surprised when the check came and left a 15% tip on top, which is pretty high for Spain. Make your reservation by phone, they'll get an English speaking guy to take the call, that's what I did. Just keep in mind the time difference, east coast 5 hrs, west coast 7. Call them around 8pm their time. Dinner is popular starting 10:00pm in Barcelona so book something around that time or later. We went for 10.30 and there were a few open tables. An hour later they had a line up. Good luck.

                                1. re: fatboy44

                                  thanks for all the info -- if I don't hear from Passadis del Pep by this afternoon via email, I'll call since I think they're one of the few places open for dinner on Mondays.

                                  We also have lunch res at Sauc and lunch reservations at Akelare earlier in the week. Akelare is insanely expensive, even at lunch. I think if the weather sucks that day, we might skip it since I'm partially willing to pay such high prices for a beautiful view.

                                  thanks again

                                  1. re: trotsky

                                    Small correction on the time zones... Barcelona is 6 hours ahead of New York and 9 hours ahead of Los Angeles... so if you call within about an hour of now you should get somebody.

                                    Very nearly everyone in Barcelona speaks SOME English, but you'll definitely want your food glossary -- and in fact, the Generalitat de Catalunya has a great one that translates from Catalan and Castilian (aka Spanish) to English, French, German, Italian and Dutch.

                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                      Doesn't matter. East coast 5 hours. west coast 8 hours. Difference of 1 hour when daylight savings set in. Mostly you won't get anyone on the phone in Barcelona until about 8:00pm their time, unless the place is open for lunch.

                                      Link: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock...

                                      1. re: fatboy44

                                        The East Coast is 6 hours behind. Spain goes to daylight savings time before the US, so there was a week or two (at the end of March) when the East Coast was 7 hours behind.

                                        1. re: butterfly

                                          O.K. -- I made the reservation at Passadis Del Pep (I think i did, anyway, we did this in Spanish). I'll have some friends confirm for me when I get to Barcelona this week.

                                          thanks everyone. If I end up with a bill for 500 Euro (for 4 people) I'm going to be so mad at you guys... thanks again.

                                          1. re: butterfly

                                            O.K. -- I made the reservation at Passadis Del Pep (I think i did, anyway, we did this in Spanish). I'll have some friends confirm for me when I get to Barcelona this week.

                                            i'm going to be so mad at you guys if I end up with a bill (for four) at 500 Euro... thanks again!

                                            1. re: trotsky

                                              Don't worry, you'll be fine. They serve the food fairly quick so you tend up being full in no time. Tell them to stop if you had enough so you have space for dessert. I know that if you do not tell them to stop they will ask you if you want more and say no if you are full. You have to know that all the cava they pore is included in the price (consider that free). With your dessert they'll give you liqueurs on the house. Anyways, All the plates that come to the table are shared between all of you. If you are going to be overwhelmed by the experience you lose out on the fun. I think that this whole event is going to cost you about 300. You won't see to many tourist in there because it seems that everyone is scared of the unknown, so lots of locals. Have fun!

                                            2. re: butterfly

                                              well....you learn something every day.

                        2. re: emily

                          Ate at Cinc Sentits last year - fabulous. Also Comerc24 - very good and Cal Pep is fun.

                        3. How can I get a copy of that food glossary from the Generalitat de Catalunya? We're going to Barcelona in late October. Thanks.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Brooke in SF

                            You're probably looking for this: http://www.gencat.net/ctc/llengua/ein... -- there's a thread on Not About Food that has other links, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/....

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Hi there, we were in Barcelona in July and ate at Commerc 24, Cinc Sentis and Gaig. We were booked in to Abac but their refridgeration system had shut down so they got us a table at late notice for Gaig. I have to say the experience and food and Cinc Sentis was by far my favourite. Then Gaig then Commerc 24... Commerc 24 was not as enjoyable due to language difficulties. I by no means expect everyone to speak English but when eating unusual combinations and forms of food it adds to the experience to know what it is the ingredients are.. I would ove to eat again at Cinc Sentis, amazing Foie Gras with crackly sugar topping and succulent Iberian roast suckling pig. Had the wine tasting menu to go with which I would reccommend...