Pick the menú del día and lunch in Barcelona will become a tasty adventure in the best of Catalan cooking in the city’s most interesting quarters – and a more affordable experience too
La Polpa, Eixample
A wander up Passeig de Gràcia is pretty much a must-do, whether you’re gawping at Gaudí buildings or heading for the shops. But the Eixample is proper moneyed Barcelona. The shops, the people, and the restaurants are expensive. That’s why La Polpa, a couple of blocks off the Passeig, is such a find. It’s got linen napkins, smartly dressed staff and a patina of posh, but the menú is still only €10.30. That really is astonishingly good value for this part of town. The food is modern and expertly turned out. A standout was an exceptionally tasty loin of tuna in teriyaki sauce. Even the house wine, a muscat, was a cut above the usual menú offerings.
• €10.30 for the menú. Carrer d’Enric Granados 69, +34 933 238 308, grupandilana.com. Open daily 1pm-3.45pm and 8.30pm-11.30pm
Teresa Carles, Raval
Walk north from l’Hospital and Raval gets more salubrious and positively trendy. There will probably be plenty of time here to watch the world go by because this vegetarian restaurant is very popular and at the busiest times diners have to wait for a table. The staff are rushed off their feet but still stay friendly and the decor – bare brick walls and tartan upholstery – doesn’t try too hard. For €13 you get to choose from a starter of soup or salad, mains (divided into cereals, rice, vegetable or pasta) and a fruit salad to finish. Drinks, bread and fancier deserts are extra. It’s all wholesome stuff but far from worthy.
• Carrer de Jovellanos 2, +34 933 171 829, teresacarles.com. Open daily 9am-11.30pm
Ah, pizza, the go-to food for all weary tourists. But Barcelona (and Pisa, Rome, Naples and more) has committed its fair share of crimes against this simple dish. That probably explains why NAP (the owners are from Naples) is such a success: it takes pizza back to its delicious basics. The list of pizzas is refreshingly short, just a dozen; €7.50 gets you bruschetta to start, a margherita and a soft drink. Fancier pizzas are a few euros more. Tiramisu, panna cotta and cheesecake add another €3 or so. No piped music and fishing nets here, just a simple, clean design. There is also a new, very popular branch in Barceloneta, near the beach.
• Pizzas from €4.90. Avinguda Francesc Cambó 30, +34 686 192 690, Facebook page. Open daily 1.30pm-4.30pm and 8pm-midnight. Carrer de Baluard, 69, Barceloneta, +34 930 073 639. Open Mon-Fri 1pm-4.30pm and 7.30pm-11.30pm, Sat 1pm-midnight, Sun 1pm-11pm
El Clandestino, Sarrià
Sarrià is another village subsumed by the city, but it pretends that never happened. Little old ladies wander around with little dogs in their handbags and people greet each other on the street. It’s one of the city’s most desirable districts and there are lots of great, but expensive, places to eat. I wanted to recommend Vivanda on Carrer Major de Sarrià but it doesn’t have a menú to make it affordable, and Tram-Tram, also on Carrer Major de Sarrià, has just put its menú up to €28. Never mind, El Clandestino in the heart of the barrio is very good and very sensibly priced. Unusually, there are half a dozen choices for each course. Nothing too fancy, but very well done – I’ll be trying to cook their beans with clams at home. Butt cheek of cow was delicious – and sounds better in Spanish. And if you’re still hungry and ready to get back to tapas, Barcelona’s best patatas bravas are served just round the corner at Bar Tomás (Carrer Major de Sarrià, 49).
• €11.80 for the menú. Carrer de Jaume Piquet 1, +34 932 041 036, elclandestinorestaurant.es. Open daily 1pm-4pm and 9pm-11pm, closed Monday and Sunday evenings
In the heart of the Raval neighborhood, this restaurant of the group En Compañía de Lobos has it all and is a place. Whether it is for a romantic dinner or if you want to have a good time with friends. It has a pleasant terrace that overlooks the lively Xuclà pedestrian street (two steps from Las Ramblas, MACBA or La Boquería Market), a friendly and close team as few we have known and an interior with large windows perfect for those who enjoy eating surrounded by an industrial style with a vintage, cozy and beautiful touch (one of these places that will be a death on our Instagram account). As for the menu, it allows you to have tapas or eat a dish that pleases you, with a ravalesque style.
Because here the culinary accent is placed on multiculularity, which permeates the old town of Barcelona. It is a fun and casual mix of the best Mediterranean, South American and Asian specialties, taking full advantage of the ingredients, techniques or recipes of one country or another, to enjoy a meal high in colors, flavors and surprises. We thus find the tapas of a lifetime but in its most modern, most elaborate and refined version: fried potatoes, eggs on the plate with creamy potatoes and chistorra, sirloin cucumber with manchego, bonito tataki with ponzu and sweet tomato, toast of smoked sardine with truffle honey (which has won the award for the best tapa of the IV Tapas Route and Vermouth prepared Cinzano de la Rambla just a few weeks ago), the spicy charcoal clams with tomato and basil, the prawns a the plate with fleur de sel and chili or the exquisite fried artichokes with salt, among other options.
There are also salads (we especially liked the healthiest of all, the kale and quinoa with tomatillo vinaigrette; and the very successful mixture of raf tomatoes with Mahón cheese and artichoke). Among the dishes stand out the curry of vegetables and shrimp and delicious rice and fideuàs (both sea and mountain, and vegetables) with charcoal, for example.
One last – and very important – advice. It is essential to start, follow and finish the agape with a cocktail because, with or without alcohol, the Gats are spectacular. Be it the daiquiri, the mojito or any creation on the menu. The cherry on top is that they have this exotic aesthetic that from the very heart of Barcelona reminds us that life is cool and that there is less left for vacations.
Open Monday to Sunday from 12 noon to midnight