Wandering the streets of Barcelona to choose a good place to eat can be a bit of a mission. Actually, it can be a bit of a nightmare. That’s the scourge of brilliant cities everywhere: lots of very average restaurants, trying to get lots of money from the one-time custom of lots of tourists… with the really good places becoming like proverbial needles in a haystack of mediocre (and sometimes truly awful) food.
They are out there, the good restaurants. But the thing is, life’s short – and city breaks in Barcelona are sadly a lot shorter, and you really don’t have time to waste looking for needles in a haystack.
You definitely don’t have time – or money – to waste on subpar food. So allow me to sort out at least one evening of eating and drinking for you while you’re there. Here’s how to eat incredible food in Barcelona in three easy-to-follow steps:
Carrer de Blai is a pedestrianised street in the newly trendy (maybe even a little bit hipster) Poble Sec neighbourhood. I stumbled upon this place by total accident while aimlessly wandering the city with friends, looking to refuel before we made our way out to Sonar by Night. It ended up being one of the highlights of my trip to Barcelona. The whole street is filled with awesome little places to eat proper Spanish food. There are tables out on the street, and old couples holding hands while they stroll around, and people eating, drinking and having a lovely time from one end to the other
It’s just the sort of place where you want to spend time. Especially when you know that you can get pintxos for a euro each, and tapas for half the price you’d pay in more tourist-heavy parts of town. There are so many little places to choose from that the only sensible option is to absolutely pig out and eat in as many of them as possible. Start at the Parallel Avenue end of the street and work your way up – and don’t miss these places as you make your way to the other end.
This is a good one to go to at the beginning of your pintxos pilgrimage. It’s tiny and you might find it difficult to get a seat, so it’s perfect for when you’re still full of energy and not rendered useless due to overeating and/or too much sangria and cava and beer.
Blai Tonight has nailed pintxos. Their combinations are tasty, imaginative and very pretty, and you can choose from about thirty different kinds. Big juicy prawns, tiny fried quails eggs, thick slices of soft cheese, spicy sausages, and lots of really great aioli sauce are all regular features, and the pintxos are only a euro each.
Try to control yourself though – you have four more stops to make before this food crawl is finished! Have a few pintxos and a drink then walk out, turn right and take your first left. About thirty seconds walk down the street you’re on, you’ll find your next port of call…
This is another stand-up joint, and it’s one of Barcelona’s more famous tapas bars so expect a crowd. When you get here, you’ll understand why it’s a good thing you didn’t fill up in the first place. The guys at Quimet & Quimet make some glorious tapas – this is a place for proper foodies.
Their croquetas are some of the best you’ll eat in Barcelona (possibly anywhere), the shrimp with caviar and red pepper is sublime, and the Iberico pork cheek is enough to make you pack up everything you own, move to Barcelona, sell all the stuff you own, and spend everything you make on more pork cheek.
The selection of wine is superb, and they know their way around a squid too. It’s just superb. But this is a crawl, so save some room for the next spot. Drag yourself away from these ridiculously good morsels, then head back up the road you onto Carrer de Blai, and the very first place you see on the left is your next stop.
If you’re lucky you’ll get a spot at one of the tables outside on the street. If not, there are seats inside. If they’re all taken, well, you’re still on your feet. But who cares, you’re having a great time, you should be fairly tanked up with wine/beer/cava/sangria/all of the above, and you’re eating all kinds of excellent food.
A seat is just a bonus. More great pintxos for €1 here, as well as really lovely staff and a buzzy, party atmosphere. They do lovely piementos de padron at Tasqueta de Blai, and their baby octopus is perfectly cooked – crisp, light batter on the outside but perfectly tender octopus within.
The cava is cheap, the jugs of Sangria are on offer, and the food is great. It’s worth coming back here during the day (it’s open longer hours than some other places on the street) just to sit outside and slowly eat and drink yourself silly while you watch the world go by.
One more savoury stop to make is at the lovely Blai 9. You might be feeling a little full by now, and you may have a fizzy brain from the cava. Well, pull yourself together because you don’t want to miss the pintxos at Blai 9.
They don’t put their pintxos on bread here, but instead they get a little creative (and very aesthetic), serving their stuff on mini crepes or fill quesadillas, wraps and pittas, blinis and all kinds of other lovely carb-vessels. Everything looks incredible, but the best thing is, it tastes just as good as it looks, and as you hope it will.
The pintxos on the white plates are €1, those on black plates are €1.50. The mini hamburgers and chorizo blinis are gorgeous little meaty morsels, and try the black rice and squid wrap – it’s really tasty and topped with a fat prawn. The mojitos are excellent here too. Have a few of those.
I’m assuming you are a normal human and therefore have a separate dessert stomach that never fills, no matter how much savoury stuff you’ve just eaten.
So for your final stop on pintxos promenade, head further towards the end of the street in the direction you’ve been going all along, and on the lefthand side you’ll see a very unassuming looking little place called La Churre.
Go in, order some churros con chocolat, and top off all the delicious stuff you’ve already eaten with some thick, bittersweet molten chocolate. The churros here are great – soft and sweet in the middle and perfectly crispy outside, absolutely fit for purpose (to carry as much chocolate from cup-to-mouth as possible).
It’s the perfect way to end a perfect pintxos pilgrimage in Poble Sec.
- Dee Murray