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Barcelona in December - Comments on Shortlist

Hi all! We have changed our itinerary so many times but we have now got time off an will be having a "White Christmas" (well a winter one anyway, which is special coming from Australia) as we will be honeymooning in Europe in December. Still dates tbc based on the La Liga fixtures (my soon to be husband is insistent it is a "must" that we see FC Barca play, which I think would be pretty great as well). Anyway, what is definite is that we will have 9 nights in Barcelona in early December (may or may not be there for the public holidays so we will tackle that when it comes around).

We will most definitely be there on 12 December as I have a booking at El Celler de Can Roca which I am most excited about.

This is my shortlist, I assume we won't make it everywhere as we typically only eat two meals out a day and if we have a big lunch won't have dinner (or will have snacks in our apartment). We are expecting to stay in an apartment on Passeig de Gracia opposite Casa Batlló.

Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch/Snacks
Tapas 24 - Nearby and I am hoping to try their Bikini's and McFois burgers, amongst other things
Xurreia dels Bans Nous and La Granja - Churros and hot chocolate
Pinotxo/El Quim - Depending what time of day and how many times we visit La Boqueria!!

Lunch only
Moments at Mandarin Oriental - I have heard the lunch is great value and good for a special meal.

Lunch or Dinners
To (potentially) make reservations
Tickets - Reservation dependent, but I'm sure I will be fine.
Pakta - Would love to read some reviews (I have seen one only!) it sounds great.
Hisop
CInc Sentis
Rias de Galicia

Nearby (won't make resos and will see how we go???)
La Pepita - This is a recent addition as I have heard its a good "neighbourhood" resto but this is coming from tourists so not sure??
Cervecaria Catalana - I have read mixed things, thoughts?

Maybes
Cal Pep - Nothing against it!! But it isn't nearby and we tend to be quite lazy in the evenings so not sure if it is worth the trip??

We are not going to make it through the entire list, take out our day trip to Girona, another day trip, the night we go to the football and we don't have many meal opportunities left!

My must-eats are El Celler (already reserved) and Tickets. We are young (23 and 30) and prefer modern food when it comes to higher end (aka, more expensive) meals. I love tapas and the freedom they give you (you can eat as much or as little as you feel at the time) but we also like a formal sit down meal every now and then (I prefer lunch for these long more formal meals). We are not generally interested in Asian food when on holiday as Australia has a huge Asian influence (Pakta is the exception as this seems quite different to Japanese fusion food in Australia).

Ideally I would like to make a maximum of 3-4 reservations in addition to these two, and keep the other meals free for local dinners or meals wherever we may be (or meals in our apartment).

So, from this list, where would you make reservations? And what would you scratch? Is there any other/better options rather than those local restaurants I have mentioned?

Thanks so much in advance!

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  1. Couple of general comments:
    For modern Catalan cooking, there is no shortage of good places in Barcelona. No need to comment on Tickets. For others, I tend to divide them into two groups; first are the more expensive and more ambitious (not necessary better tasting food but more elaborate decor, better table settings, a little more refined service, more extensive wine list, etc) those would include Moments, Can Gaig, Lassarte, Arola, Moo; I have eaten at Moments, Gaig and Moo, all are excellent; the second group are bit simpler such as Alkimia, Cinc Sentits, Hisop, Gresca, Coure. I don't see much difference between those in term of quality and ambience; for me would just flip a coin. One of my favorite is Sauc because even though the cooking is modern, food has more depth and an earthier aspect that the others often lack.
    As for tapas/pinxtos, there are so many good places serving different types that I wouldn't even try to pick or choose until I get there and depends on my mood and where I want to eat. Just make a list. "Cal Pep - Nothing against it!! But it isn't nearby and we tend to be quite lazy in the evenings so not sure if it is worth the trip??" Cal Pep being far away in El Born? for heaven sakes, you and your partner are 23 and 30 years old. I am 60 and I have no problem walking from the Eixample where your hotel is to El Born for an evening of tapas/pinxtos bar hopping. I am not necessarily advocating Cal Pep which I am not a big fan of. The Eixample has most of the modernista buildings but it is also a large area of non-descript wide streets, long blocks and in the evenings, mostly deserted. It has no neighborhood feel; one will see people strolling on Pg de Gracia and a short stretch of Rambla de Catalunya or to and from their high-end hotels and eating places. Cerveceria Catalana is large bustling barn like place, convenient, open late, everyday of the year and great for people watching; food wise, it is no more than decent but better than most similar places lining the lower Pg de Gracia.
    You are fortunate enough to have 9 days; go down to El Born/Ribera, the lower Barri Gotic , Barceloneta (great on a Sunday afternoon and also at night for a quiet stroll with your honeymooning partner), up to Sarria/St Gervasi, Gracia. Eat at some simple traditional everyday places and I don't mean tapas/pinxtos so that what you are eating at El Celler, Moments, or Cinc Sentits will have some basis of understanding and comparison.

    6 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      And BCN public transpo is GREAT!

      1. re: PBSF

        Thank you, PBSF, for yet another very valuable and informative post!

        1. re: erica

          PBSF, You recommend eating at some simple traditional everyday places to give a foundation for a meal at one of the fine dining restaurants. Any recommendations for simple, traditional restaurants?

        2. re: PBSF

          PBSF- I know it's my that usually finds new places, but I'm only in BCN for three nights this week. Going to Pakta Thurs, Tickets Friday, Moments for lunch Sat., and have booked both Hisop and Llamber for dinner Saturday night. Any thoughts??

          1. re: PBSF

            you are making me want to go back to barcelona again !!

            1. re: PBSF

              I like the way you've divided the list of "modern Catalan" into the 2 groups; the difference may be subtle but it is there. My sense is that the quality is identical in terms of food on the plate; really the first tends to aim for an older, more established clientele while the second is positioned at a younger, hipper crowd, but with both groups equally discriminating.

              As PBSF mentions, too, Cal Pep really is close from the Eixample. If you're used to Australian distances this may be the problem - what might look far on a map actually turns out to be a stone's throw away because of the larger scale of the map. Those streets you see in El Born and the Barri Gotic are *really* close together. If you're *really* lazy you could hop on the Metro Line 4 to Jaume 1, but I hardly think it worth the effort unless the weather is truly abysmal.

              I want to mention one place that absolutely should not be missed while in Barcelona: Cafe de L'Academia. It's not aiming at the same level of culinary ambition as the top places on the list above, but if you want traditional Catalan rendered to ultimate quality it's the place to go. The atmosphere is also enchanting - this must be the most romantic restaurant in Barcelona. C/Lledo 1, dead in the centre. You take the second narrow street leading off on the left from C/Jaume 1 as you come from Pl. Porta de L'Angel. It's completely inconspicuous until you're on top of it: don't be looking for obvious signs or distinctive buildings; the only external clue is the menu posted outside. It's in Catalan but don't worry, they have English and Castilian menus as well. Every time I go to Barcelona I visit; was just there 2 days ago. I had a rigorously authentic arros with prawns and ceps, then a lovely and creative preparation of calamari, done as if it were broad fettucine, with rice as a sort of "sauce", and then a bright and cleverly paired sorbet of lime and ginger. It should be noted also that Cafe de L'Academia is particularly good for desserts (cakes are exceptional and made in-house), a feature not always true of Barcelona where desserts tend to be an afterthought.

              I'll also put in a small plug for Commerc 24 among the modern fine Catalans - I went there indeed expecting some disappointment and in fact was enchanted the entire evening. Got it without a booking, too; they are a good choice if you want a walk-in fine option where you don't have to decide months in advance that you want to go (a state of affairs which, I think, is in the category of the irrational - can anyone really have that level of predictability about their availability or even interest on a particular night that far in the future? What if, for example, you're sick?), it's a great choice. Not far from Cal Pep too so you could make up your mind depending upon your mood at the time.

            2. The best tapas in Barcelona is at Bar Canete.

              1. Be aware that you need to reserve at Tickets 90 days in advance. Here's a tutorial:

                http://mysocalledfoodblog.blogspot.co...

                Congrats on the nuptials, and enjoy the trip!

                6 Replies
                1. re: Lambowner

                  When we were there late last year, I only had to book two months out. Has it changed - again?

                  1. re: c oliver

                    That's probably right then, three months is the last I heard. Best to plan ahead in any event!

                    1. re: Lambowner

                      Definitely! I kinda fell into a res for which I will always be happy about.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        It's definitely 60 days in advance. I'm booking Tickets tonight at midnight when seats are available for September 15th.

                        1. re: katieicebaby

                          Or not... the last time I checked their website I didn't realize the calendar on their "Schedule" page was 2012. They aren't open on Sundays, which is why seats were never released for Sept 15. Ah well.

                  2. re: Lambowner

                    That tutorial is from 2011 and is out-of-date.

                  3. El Celler de Can Roca is amazing. You must have a lunch reservation as you mentioned making a day trip to Girona. If you have time, it is a lovely city to wander. There is a wall going up and around the east side of the city center, and from here you will have great views of the area. The Old Town (just down the hill from the wall) is a great place to explore and get lost. In my opinion, spending time in Girona is a great way to experience some Catalan culture. Enjoy!

                    1. must drop by Tapeo and have a 'Bomba' - the best rendition during our trip .. their other tapas pretty good as well.

                      1. Across the alley from the entrance to the picasso museum is a tiny bar with amazing tapas and the local sparkling hard cider, when we went there were more locals than tourists, very reasonable prices:
                        http://www.worldsbestbars.com/spain/b...

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                          Do you mean El Xampanyet ? The atmosphere is nice, but I never found the tapas there memorable, especially when it is so near the excellent Euskal Etxea.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            If you click the link, you'll see it's El Xampanyet. No, the tapas there are not that memorable, but it's an everyday bar not a fancy destination place, and certainly not somewhere you go for a meal.

                            I love Xampanyet, have gone there numerous times, and have never been disappointed with the food there, their canned seafood is actually pretty good quality, but I go there for the atmosphere as much as the food and drink.

                        2. It was some time ago that we were in BCN. Two spots that we really enjoyed were Quimet y Quimet for tapas, and Robert Gelonche. At the time, about 2 years ago, there was a lot of buzz in the gastrotourist world about both. Not sure if either is still a good destination, but both were wonderful when we went.

                          We did Gelonche the night after Can Roca and the night before Comerc 24. We much preferred it to 24.

                          And I would recommend against Cal Pep. It was over priced, rushed and not very flavourful. We left with the impression that whatever it had once been was swept away a long time ago and it has only survived on guide book recommendations for a long time. El Quim was far better. I Can still taste those salty, fried artichokes. When I think of the Boqueria, that is always my first thought....cava and artichokes. Yummm.