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Aug 27, 2007 12:19 AM

Barcelona—lunch or dinner?

We'll be in Barcelona (for the first time) for a long weekend this week. I keep reading about all these "fun places for lunch" but what is the situation in the evening? Are there good typical places you can go on the early side without a reservation?

Also, I have a reservation for Saturday lunch (a slot we like at upscale restaurants) at Cinc Sentits. Any thoughts on this? Have the tasting menu? Don't? Go elsewhere?

Is Sunday lunch a big thing as in Italy? (must be) Would that be a good time to go to Barceloneta for seafood? Is that a good idea at all?

In general, we like a mix of places on our trips—traditional, traditional interpreted, snacks, and cutting edge with a local accent. And I doubt I can persuade my husband to wait in line for more than five minutes.

Many thanks.

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  1. Anything that involves eating in Barceloneta is "a good idea". If you strike lucky you will find yourself in a place with no tourists - in which case, enjoy the startlingly fresh seafood that'll be on offer.

    As you might have gathered, it's my favourite part of town.

    1. Both lunch and dinner are equally popular. Many still take their main meal at lunch, especially on weekends, but that is changing. Most people in Barcelona do not take dinner until well after 9pm, therefore, restaurant do not gear up to serve until then. One of the problem of spending a weekend in Barcelona is to find that most restaurants are closed on Sundays and many Saturday evenings.
      As stated in the above post, Barcelonetta is popular for seafood. It is a Sunday ritual to stroll on the promenade along the harbor and lunching at one of the outdoor seafood places in Barcelonetta. Some are better than other; Set Portes and Can Majo are very popular but I think a bit overpriced, Try Squet de l'Almirall or Can Ros.
      Sunday evening is a problem with most restauants closed. Some of the best Barcelona restaurants are located in hotels and a few might be open...might try Moos. Two excellent tapa/pinxto places opened on Sunday nights are Paca Meralgo and Mam i Teca. Barcelona''s best seafood restaurant, Rias de Galicia, is open on Sundays. It is expensive, especially if one order eels, lobster, langoustine but it serve only the freshest and best seafood.
      If I have to pick one restaurant for modern Catalan cooking, it would be Abac and I believe it is open Saturday nights. Cinc Sentits is a good choice for similar type of food. I find the decor somewhat sterile but the service is very good service and the tasting menu, about 50E for 5 courses plus cheese and dessert, is a good way to go; it includes some items that the chef does well: foie gras, scallop, rice, suckling pig.
      If you are there Friday night, might want to explore the old style tapas bars that specialize in pulpo, around c/Ample in the lower Barri Gotic. Or take Saturday breakfast at one of the stalls inside the Boqueria.
      I posted a list of moderate traditional restaurants in an earlier post on Barcelona.

      3 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        Many thanks to you both.

        I now have reservations at Abac Saturday evening, so will probably cancel Cinc Sentits or try to move it to Monday lunch. I doubt we could handle both in one day. Monday evening I have reservations at Alkimia, which I will cancel if we go to CS that day for lunch (which was available). Thoughts on CS vis à vis Alkimia? Although we don't exactly speak Spanish or Catalan, we aren't seeking English-friendly or anything. And we certainly don't need more than one place on the cutting edge (those foams give me the pip). Why isn't CS in the Michelin? (Well, why aren't a lot of places? Who can fathom?)

        I still have to deal with Sunday, which I hope will be fish.

        We arrive Friday evening and will reach our hotel, near Paral-Lel metro, at about 9 pm. We had hoped to prowl for tapas near the hotel rather than worry about missing a restaurant reservation if our plane was late. Is that sensible, or should we take a cab to c/Ample and prowl from there?

        1. re: mbfant

          I am not too familiar with the area around the Paral-lel metro stop. I think it is fairly quiet and residential. A very good tapas bar, Guimet y Guimet is in that area. It is small, very crowded, mostly stand up and except cheeses, jamon and chorizo, the ingredients are can/jar packed seafood. The ingredients are exceptional and very tasty. Also excellent and inexpensive wines.
          Though tapas and pinxtos have taken over Barcelona, I find that it is more difficult than say Madrid to tapa crawl. The really good tapas/pinxtos are scattered about for too much walking. Exceptions are the old Galician bars around c/Ample and c/de la Merce and Ribera/el Born area, especially around Placa de Santa Maria del Mar. La Vinya del Senyor right on the Placa is an excellent wine bar (good simple tapas) with tables outside...great for Friday night people watching. Nearby are many tapa/Pinxto places. For me, no better way to spend Friday night, especially if you will be in Abac most of Saturday evening. There are many tapas/pinxtos places in Eixample but the good ones too far apart to make for easy crawling.
          Abac and CS are similar but I find Abac more ambitious and the food a notch better. It is also more expensive with the tasting menu around 85E. Although the cooking has many cutting edge elements, I find the food extremely grounded, allowing the central ingredients to come through...pork tastes like pork; a scallop tastes like a scallop; rice is rice and not caulifower pebbles. The only other restaurant I've been to in Barcelona that can compare to Abac is Drolma. Alkamia is probably the most cutting edge of the three. Beside the inconsistency, that is probably the reason I like it the least. As for Michelin stars in Spain, like Italy, who knows and care.
          There are many fans of Cal Pep on this board. The fresh seafood is simply prepared but I find much of it very salty, even by Spanish standard. And I am not big on standing behind the counter watching people eating while waiting for their seat at the counter.

          1. re: PBSF

            The area around Paral.lel is called Poble Sec and yes, Quimet i Quimet is NOT to be missed, even if you weren't staying in the general area. Do a search on this board and you'll see what others have to say.

      2. I persuaded mine & we've returned to Cal Pep every time now he liked it so much. Even ditched a free meal on a Silversea Cruise to have dinner there.

        I hate to sound paranoid, and know I've said his before, but we witnessed 2 purse snatchings just while having 1 lunch in Barceloneta, so be careful!

        1. I'm rather surprised that the Windsor has no mentions on the board.

          Had dinner there a couple of years back and thoroughly enjoyed the food and surroundings. In spite of its English sounding name, it is very "modern Catalan".

          Link to the English language page on the website:

          4 Replies
          1. re: Brit on a Trip

            This is a very impressive collection of advice and tips and my thanks to all. My one remaining doubt is about just how cutting edge I want to go. If I do say so myself, we're pretty sophisticated diners, but we do most of our sophisticated dining in New York and Italy, where food still tastes like what it is, no matter how many forks it's served with.

            1. re: mbfant

              IMO, Italy and Spain are the only countries in the western world where great pride is taken in food tasting like what it is, without it being messed about with too much. And I include your country and mine in that - unfortunately.

              1. re: mbfant

                My taste in food is similiar to yours, but for gastronomic interest, I always try to eat at one of the cutting edge restaurant whenever I am in Barcelona. I have been rarely disappointed, may it be Abac, Cinc Sentits, Alkimia, Hisop or Comerc24. Not all the food is well conceived or taste great but always interesting. From my experience, what is disappearing are the traditional Catalan restaurants that uses the best ingredients and prepare it simply. Other than Rias de Galicia and Hispania outside of Barcelona, I haven't found another. I also had excellent meals at Sauc, modern but not over the top.
                Have a great trip and please post back.

            2. I'm back. I'll post my report separately, but here I'll just reiterate my thanks for the invaluable help.