Like London, New York, and Paris, Barcelona is rightly renowned for its food culture, though visitors could be forgiven if they struggled to get their heads around the sheer mass of eateries in the city.
The tapas bars in particular risk looking a bit identikit after while, and it’s absolutely worth doing some research if you’re planning a visit – Time Out’s Barcelona city guide is particularly exhaustive. One superb place I found to start on a recent trip to the enchanting Catalan city was the Born district, which locals uniformly recomendended as the best jumping off point.
There, maze-like streets were dotted with more than their fair share of bars and restaurants, the best of which was without question Casa Delfin (Passeig del Born, 36). Injecting a touch of class into staple dishes, their marinated anchovies were the standout dish of the entire trip for me, while a fresh tomato salad came liberally flecked with Ortiz tuna. Another standout dish was the Iberico ham, which was melt-in-the-mouth soft and boasted perfect saline pungency to offset its subtle sweetness. Rounding out the deal is a superb outdoor terrace for the warmer weather which, realistically, rarely seem to cease in Spain.
Just over the road, La Taverna del Born (Passeig del Born, 27) is another good bet, offering commendable takes on tapas classics like gambas al ajillo, Padrón peppers, ham and cheese croquetas (though none that I tried in Spain can touch Brindisa’s version), patatas bravas and a personal favourite, bacalao, which arrives at La Taverna drizzled with a punchy, tapenade-style sauce. They also do a pretty mean gilda, a bar snack or pinto that combines a pickled chilli with an olive and an anchovy – Londoners, they do a similarly splendid version at the inimitable Morito in Exmouth Market. If your night rambles on a bit and you’re in need of late night sustenance there’s a few late-opening places on the way to the stunning Plaça Reial, the best of which is the rapidly expanding falafel chain, Maoz (Carrer de Ferran, 13) which never fails to do the trick.
Speaking of rambling, if you do happen to find yourself around La Rambla and – let’s be honest – most tourists will, you needn’t despair. The Woki Organic Market (C/ Carders, 6) is a kind of Catalan Whole Foods, combining a bespoke supermarket with an open kitchen. The dining experiencing is, fortunately, far superior to the US-based supermarket giant, whose food courts and over-stocked salad bars make me despair. Woki doesn’t get many marks for culinary authenticity, with its expansive menu running the gauntlet from tapas to noodles and burgers. With minimalist, jumble sale decor, it’s a deliberately on-trend type of place, but my colleague and I were reasonably impressed having opted to go the patty route.
It’s unlikely to be a “Top Five…” Barcelona burger – the meat was a fair bit under seasoned, there was too much lettuce, and the decision to cut a hole in the middle of the top bun to show off the egg was foolhardy – but they got the cook time spot on and that’s always half the battle for me. As accompaniments, the patatas bravas were far superior to the traditional French fries, which were vastly undercooked – I’m told this is something of a habit in Spain – and a side salad was competent if far from revolutionary.
Given its prime location in tourist trap central, Woki could get away with absolute murder, but overall it was an enjoyable experience. It’s also worth noting that there’s a sizeable selection of vegan options, and locals seemed especially enthused about the attractive bakery section of the supermarket, as well stocking up on their soy milk, quinoa, and various other über-healthy bits. Woki probably won’t take over the world à la Whole Foods, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be a more than deserving rival.