In Barcelona, you have to know where you are looking to find decent food. But through the swamp of greasy tapas, bland paellas and dreary pinxtos there are some beacons of local culinary enthusiasm where you can eat fantastically well. As you’d expect there are lots of places where style wins over substance, where the food is well presented but you’d doubt its provenance or find it wanting flavour. Some like Disfrutar and Tickets Bar or Moo Restaurant are high-end and come from world conquering stables. But the places I want to eat regularly have a magical combination of great service and authentic cooking.
Opposite her well-known sister Bar Mut, is a new venture from master restauranteur Kim Diaz, called Entrepanes Diaz. His masterstroke here was only to recruit waiters over fifty, so the service is old school and the food is simply very good. A secret I almost don’t want to share is Cafe Academia in El Gotico. The turbot and solomillo are perfect dishes. For more gastronomic pizzazz, try Mano Rota in Poble Sec or the very stylish vegetarian (mostly) Celeri off Diagonal. When you find yourself in Poble Nou, Recasens serves salads, cheeses, embutidos and torrades and in the same barrio you’ll be hard pushed to find better fish anywhere than Els Pescadors. I haven’t explored Gracia as much as I’d like but La Pubilla does a great weekday menu del dia. The most delightful dining room prize goes to the charmingly old school Hotel Espana rather incongruously situated in the dingy Raval. Here Martin Berasategui consistently produces stellar menus playing on Catalan cuisine in a setting that has hardly changed much in a hundred years. The eponymous Sergi de Meia in c/Aribau is from a chef who unashamedly champions the finest local produce and works with his mother to produce dishes that will transport you to the fields and forests of Catalunya. For brunch and a Bloody Mary to kill for you won’t find better than Picnic and a nasty hangover is best averted by a beer and lomo cheese bocadillo at Sanz Bar. A trip to Barcelona in my view is incomplete without a plate of cheese and wine at Formatgeria El Seu on c/Dagueria. The owner is a knowledgeable and friendly Scot who has lived cheese in Barcelona for twenty years. When she says ‘no fotos’ she means ‘no fotos’.