We have what Jeni Barnett would call a “nearasdammit” son who is Catalan (note: I do not say Spanish). This has given us the advantage of having the address of our boy’s (well into his 30s now) favourite tapas bar in Barcelona.
The Cerveceria Catalana is a bit off the beaten track (Carrer Mallorca) but still walkable from Las Ramblas. It looks grand and it is indeed just that. The waiter will escort you through the bar to the back and around a corner to a dark-wood and bottle-lined area that just reeks “class”. I had expected all tapas bars to be a bit rustic, but this is far from that.
It’s one of the most popular tapas bars with the locals, and it seems like a few tourists have found it as well. A bit of advice here….eat early or late to avoid the crush. Whilst the waiting staff do their best it’s obvious that lunchtime demands a few extra hands. I don’t blame waiters for not speaking English, why should they? But you would expect a reasonable fluency in Spanish!
The tapas here are some of the best you will find, with the long list of the usual suspects but also lots of specials of the day. We nibbled on anchovies, deep fried whitebait and a delicious little dish of pig’s feet. We ordered that one because we didn’t know what it was and, ok, I admit it doesn’t sound fantastic but the flavour was aromatic and the texture was silky and succulent. A couple of dishes come to about 10€ per person including a beer, which is reasonable for the quality both of food and authentic atmosphere.
Evening is the traditional tapas time and we tried the contemporary version at Celler de Tapas (Placa Universitat). Now this isn’t a cheap option, but full of innovation and thoughtful combinations. The black interior and white dishes gives this restaurant a Zen feel. Quite agreeable but not the traditional tapas bar. There are interesting savoury tapas with choices such as duck croquettes with plum sauce, and chicken skewers. My dessert (it’s the first time I have had one of those with tapas) was amazing: Three Textures of Chocolate with Oil and Salt. It sounded so awful that I had to try it! It works! The light olive oil was almost creamy under a sponge with melting chocolate, topped with chocolate ice cream and a sprinkle of Malvern salt. The bill for four of us was 88€ with no alcohol.
All tourists will want to spend some time walking along Las Ramblas. Whilst it’s true that the local “colour” is there, you should be warned that it’s not the best place to find good tapas, or indeed good food of any description.
It’s logical that bars and restaurants that don’t need to try hard to find customers will do the minimum to stay full of paying tourists. It’s the same in London, Paris and Rome, a fact of culinary life. You could say that we all, us tourists that is, contribute to the problem by choosing the picturesque little bar, cafe or restaurant with the best view of whatever attraction that particular city has to offer. Well, the view might be nice but we, dear reader, are here for the food!
Just one block from Las Ramblas and you find La Viena Blanca (Carrer Pintor Fortuny) with only a few tables, a high counter and a comforting list of tapas that, after a few days of careful study, we were able to understand. This little bar sticks to the traditional, such as Patatas Bravas (potatoes with a spicy mayonnaise), Bombs of mashed potato filled with minced meat, and chicken croquettes. You will still expect to pay 10€ for a couple of tapas and a small beer, but enjoy it. This is the nearest to good value that you will find this close to Las Ramblas.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018