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Feb 12, 2011 11:20 AM

Barcelona--prime casual spots for seafood? AND Comments on my itinerary, por favor

I've not been to Barcelona in about 10 years. On that trip, I fell head over heels with Cal Pep and had several stupendous lunches and dinners there. I've read, however, that the food is perhaps not as it was and that the restaurant is patronized mostly by tourists.

Where else can I go to have that experience--sitting at the bar, eating fabulous, simply prepared seafood?

I will have a week in the city, beginning in early March. I will travel with a friend whose budget will not allow 100 euro dinners. This is what I have planned so far for dinners:

Sunday night: Paco Meralgo

Tuesday night: Hisop

Wednesday night: Tickets (this will be the night after the opening)

Friday night: I hope to book Cinq Sentits

So, I have three nights remaining and am seeking the (usually excellent) advice of Hounds here..I like the experience of eating at the bar but would like to be able to book ahead. I am willing to eat early by Barcelona standards--8pm is fine.

Places on my possible list include Tapac 24, Can Ravall, Quimet Quimet, Lolita and Taverna del Clinic...

One lunchtime I would like to travel out of the city for calcots. I did not get much response about this on another thread, but have compiled a few names of restaurants including one in Vilanova i La Geltru (Cal Xarli) that sounds good.. And another near Sant Cugat.

I also planned a couple of early lunches at La Boqueria. I've read reams of reviews, but I would love to hear comments here on the various eating spots within the market and what to order at these.

I am a big fan of seafood, and of artichokes, but basically eat almost anything. (Should I try those sea cucumbers/espardeneyes that seem so gruesome in Chinese restaurants in the US?) Particularly love clams, berberechos, and any kind of shrimp or prawn.

Should I really cross Cal Pep off my list?

I am considering a dinner at Passadis del Pep; could we just have the parade of seafood tapas and forego the main course? (Again, I do not want the meal for two to get into the 200 euro range)

Mil gracias...

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  1. Hi Erica, I've seen your post on calcotada and thank you for starting it. It will benefit others on the forum in the future.
    I've had sea cucumber in Chinese restaurants many times. It's braised until very tender and served usually in a stock made with soy sauce, chicken soup and corn starch. The sea cucumbers in Barcelona are very different. Much smaller (thank goodness!), less monstruous.
    We had a very enjoyable meal at La Taverna del Clinic. The morels in creamy foie were delicious, as was the oxtail stew, gambas de Palamos and the scorpionfish. House specialty is a modern patates bravas: little cones of potato with a spicy topping. Avoid the tuna in soy sauce, which is served like a Japanese tataki. The beautiful raw fish had been marinated for way too long, then grilled and sprinkled with coarse sugar. Sodium overload. This place is not cheap though. With all the items named above, we spent 50 Euros a person.
    I was a big fan of Inopia and had the good fortune to eat there last summer. If you don't go to Lolita, perhaps you could try the new Adria brothers tapas/cocktail lounge in L'Eixample (sorry, I haven't been following this on Chowhound. Is there any news?)

    1. "Should I really cross Cal Pep off my list? "

      Noooo. I am a Cal Pep fan. I have not noticed it's food standard wavering. -- Indeed it is one of those restos that seem never to do the same dish the same way. And if you have not been back to Barcelona for 10 years, Cal Pep's reputation has been growing and the line gets longer all the time. I think its food standard is par with Paco Meralgo, but Cal Pep is much more fun, with the long counter; and Pep holding court, and all your neighbors experimenting with you. Another thing for which I prefer about Cal Pep is its neighborhood. Paco Meralgo is such a schlep to get to. How many nondescript blocks are there? I never figured out. it was absolutely kafkaesque.
      My Boqueria fave is El Quim. Love the sautéed clams and cipirones there. I never saw the appeal of Pinotxo. Seems everything comes out soggy there.
      All your choices are good and Aleta's reply can't be more informative. If want more informal "seafood tapas and forego the main course", have you considered one of the paradeta places? The one I like is, of course in the Born, at C/ Comercial, 7.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        Thanks so much to both of you! I have been reading many of the posts by both of you so thank you, too, for those.

        Aleta: Thanks also for your help on the other site! The new Adria brothers place is Tickets; it opens March 1 and I was able to book online, so will report back.

        I had originally thought that a week was a good amount of time but now I am frustrated by the places I will have to leave out!

        I did notice the prices at Taverna del Clinic, but wonder if there is the possibility of tapas at the bar there, or is the menu on the website the only option?

        I am SO pleased to read Parigi's comments on Cal Pep. I wonder what time I would have to arrive in order to get two seats in the first round--for dinner? for lunch? It has been so many years but I still remember those tiny clams and the butifarra with a reduction vinegar..

        I will certainly put El Quim on the list.

        What about Quimet/Quimet?

          1. re: Parigi

            Many thanks! I am the type who will be on line at 7pm, or even before!

            I am really excited about this trip!

            Also: Does anyone know if this is the tapas and sit-down menu at Taverna del Clinic? Or is there a blackboard, or other menu for sitting at the bar? Or, perhaps half-raciones are available from this menu?


            1. re: erica

              Salut Parigi!

              And thanks, Erica, for the link to Tickets. I had asked months ago on the other site for an update but no one would admit to being an Inopia fan, except me. I look forward to reading your report about the calcotada and your experience at Tickets.

              La Taverna del Clinic is very different from the other restaurants serving tapas. Theirs are really raciones, ie medium portions, and the ingredients are often more expensive (the sashimi-grade tuna, foie gras, morels, gambas etc). If the set-up hasn't changed at La Taverna del Clinic, there are 2-3 small tables on the sidewalk and the rest of the customers dine inside. There's a long bar with stools on one side of the room and square tables on the other. If you are getting snacks at the bar, I'm sure you can order as much as you want, or as little. The young couple seated at the next table certainly wasn't going whole-hog like us! If you avoid the specials (like the scorpionfish or the gambas), you should have less trouble keeping costs down. I don't know if you can order half portions. The portions are not that big to start with.

              The menu seems to have expanded from last year or perhaps they are including seasonal specialities online. I don't think there's a separate blackboard.

              Quimet i Quimet is fun and delicious, if you have the time. My son really liked it so we went twice in a week. Unfortunately, there's not much to do over there. It's okay if you are going to Montjuic or staying near Placa Espanya. If you are in El Born, it's a bit of a trip.

              P.S. Just looked at your link to Tickets. So it's a skip away from the old Inopia location near Avinguda Para.Lel! And it opens daily, except Monday! So if the food is good, there will be a new place to eat on Sunday nights!
              That means you could technically go to Quimet i Quimet AND Tickets on the same evening! If your tummy could stand it, that is... :-P

              1. re: Aleta

                Oh, Aleta, I am getting so excited!

                If it were up to me, I would center the entire visit around eating. We rented an apartment near Placa Catalunya and while I considered one in Born, I think we made the best choice, as almost all the places we mention here are NOT in the old city. The apartment has a full kitchen but I don't see how I will have any time for cooking!

                Quimet i Quimet is a puzzle, as I just cannot fathom how those cold tapas from conservas can rise to such heights. So I will have to find the time to get over there..

                I will be sure to report back on all of these experiences....please keep the ideas coming!

                My friend has a particular interest in chocolate, so we will have to make the trek to Oriel Balaguer, and to Enric Rovera....I will happily assist with her "research!"

                1. re: erica

                  Hello Erica,
                  I agree with you, 1 week is actually not such a long time! I went tut o Barcelona in mid-October for 6 days and as I have been there several times, my main focus was the food, but my friend was there for the first time, so we did a lot of sightseeing as well.
                  We rented an apartment in El Borne, right next to La Santa Maria del Mar, I love the neighborhood, but it's true, we had to take taxis or the metro many times to get to our chosen restaurants...
                  I've been meaning to post reviews and photos of our "food adventures", but never seem to find the time - hope I'll get to it soon!
                  We tried a lot of different places (still not enough in my opinion!) such as La Boqueria (El Kiosko), Paco Meralgo, Hisop, Alkima and Cinc Sentits, but I have to say I did fall in love with Quimet i Quimet.
                  We combined it with a trip to Montjuic, had lunch there and then went up to see the Fundacio Miro amongst other things, in my opinion a good day.
                  You can have lunch there, then go up to Montjuic, visit different spots and come back down with the cable car to Barceloneta.
                  As we had tickets to see Barca play at Camp Nou that night, we stuffed ourselves at Quimet - and what a treat it was! It's a lively, packed place, equally visited by tourists and locals. The employees are fast, efficient and funny, you get to chat with other people and the food is excellent!
                  I loved their montaditos, especially the one with smoked salmon, cream cheese and honey and the one with goat's cheese, their seafood combinado, the Foie Gras,...well, everything. I wish I could have gone back again, but it's definitely one of my first stops next time....By the way, I have been only to El Kiosko and Bar Central in La Boqueria, but realy liked El Kiosko last time.
                  Hope you'll have a great time!!!

                  1. re: Luna2308

                    Luna, thank you! I will eagerly await your report! And will do my best to convince my friend to ease up on the sightseeing and concentrate on the food stops!

                    1. re: Luna2308

                      "As we had tickets to see Barca play at Camp Nou that night, we stuffed ourselves at Quimet"

                      Sounds like the perfect night !

                      1. re: Parigi

                        It was the perfect day and night and on top if it Barca won against Valencia 2:1!

        1. For La Boqueria, don't forget Pinotxo! Let them choose for you. If you're lucky, you may even sit beside Ferran Adria as he often has breakfast there!

          3 Replies
          1. re: adelly

            Now that I have spent dozens of hours poring over reports and reviews of dining in Barcelona, this is what I have formulated for our 7 dinners; at lunch, we will plan several visits to La Boqueria, to Quimet/Quimet, and other places that I could not fit into the evening meals. Please feel free to suggest dishes, or add any recommendations, for the restaurants I list here:

            Sun: PacoMeralgo (booked)
            Mon: Cal Pep..plan to get there by 7pm
            Tues: Hisop (booked)
            Wed: Tickets (booked; try Quimet/Quimet before dinner??)
            Thursday: Lolita (??) or La Parra (traditional Catalan; see thread on where to eat calcots, below)
            Friday: Cinq Sentits (booked)
            Saturday: Quimet/Quimet lunch (??). Dinner ???

            BTW: We will be staying in a rental near Placa Catalunya on Ronda Universitat.

            1. re: erica

              On Saturdays Quimet & Quimet only opens for lunch 12h to 16h.


              EDIT: I think I read that wrong. I thought you were considering Q&Q for dinner. Looks like your Saturday dinner is still open.

              1. re: erica

                Restaurant Gelonch for Saturday dinner, perhaps? A friend raved about his dinner a few months ago.