Sant Antoni may be relatively small compared to other Barcelona neighbourhoods, but it packs a lot into its picturesque streets. There’s a tangible buzz on the ever-popular Parlament Street – the alleged birthplace of the city’s brunch scene – and the area has among the city’s hippest cafés. However, there’s a growing dining scene emerging in Sant Antoni, even if there’s still a lot of respect for old-school institutions like the Bar Ramón. And with the arrival of some very impressive cocktail bars in recent years, Sant Antoni has finally got a serious after-hours offering.
Ask any local and they’ll tell you that Sant Antoni is possibly one of the best neighbourhoods in Barcelona to start the day. Credited with being the birthplace of the city’s now-thriving brunch scene, much of the buzz centres on one street, Parlament Street, which is lined with cute cafés and trendy coffee shops. Café Cometa is the coffee house equivalent of a hug and a warm chai latte on a cold day, thanks to its art-covered walls and blissful indie-pop playlists. The coffee is expertly made with beans by local roasters Nomad coffee, while the cakes are all freshly baked by their friends Orion.
Just over the road, Tarannà Café is another popular breakfast spot that benefits from some of the only alfresco seating on Parlament Street to catch some sunshine while you eat. The menu features baked egg dishes, typical bocadillos or sandwiches made with Spanish cured ham or cheese, and generous bowls of yoghurt and muesli. Don’t be afraid to order the Bloody Mary – it will bite, but in the right kind of way.
In recent years a number of trendy bistros have gathered around Parlament Street, a sign of its ever-growing popularity. Just a year old, the Sucursal Aceitera is a stylish all-day bar and restaurant that offers an affordable lunchtime menu throughout the week. Each day brings a different focus to the menu – Thursdays are paella days – but dishes are invariably elegant and satisfying.
In the narrow, lower corner of Sant Antoni – where you’re only a few hundred meters from both Poble Sec and El Raval – the Antic Magatzem has been running a decent lunchtime trade for decades. A family-run business, the restaurant serves a lunchtime menu with three courses and half a bottle of wine for just €10.50 (around US$12). The food, although rather basic, is homemade and offers a taste of authentic Catalan fare.
Striking just the right balance between old and new, Els Sortidors del Parlament is a popular tapas bar with a wide selection of local wines, meats and cheeses all perfect for sharing. A long, high-ceilinged room lined with old wine barrels and original artwork courtesy of the owner, the staff are friendly and the atmosphere is usually buzzing. The modern music and the choice of craft beer bottles let you know you’re somewhere keeping up with the times and the place is as popular with Sant Antoni’s long-standing residents as it is with fresh-faced newcomers.
An afternoon walk through Sant Antoni wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Horchateria Sirvent. This neighbourhood institution specialises in horchata, a creamy, sweet drink made from tiger nut, as well as homemade ice creams and confectionery. Grab a ticket from the machine by the entrance and wait for your turn alongside the locals. In the cooler months, pick up a slab of turrón – the local nougat – to share with friends and family at Christmas.
Eating out in Sant Antoni has never been easier, as recent years have brought a new wave of trendy eateries to town. Agust Gastrobar is a stylish affair with hip decor and a gourmet menu of modern sharing dishes inspired by Spanish and French cuisine. Diners perch at high tables or the counter downstairs, while a small upstairs area offers a more spacious seating area. The menu features a remarkable selection of oysters with creative accompaniments, seafood dishes, as well as house cocktails, although it is a little on the pricey side.
On the other hand, if you want a taste of classic Sant Antoni from before the hipster coffee houses and organic delis, book a table at Bar Ramón. An unpretentious, budget-friendly restaurant that fills out most nights, Bar Ramón is where you’ll find locals chowing down on classic Catalan dishes and seasonal specialities such as grilled calçots (a type of spring onion) or sautéed wild mushrooms.
The arrival of Bitter cocktail bar finally gave Sant Antoni a decent place to enjoy a late-night drink. Open until 3am at weekends, the bar is popular with locals who enjoy the chilled vibe that verges on the festive at weekends when there’s sometimes a DJ playing background music. The bar staff are happy to make all the classics, but the house cocktails are worth trying too.
Another place for a nightcap in Sant Antoni is La Bombilla, a French-owned late-night bar where the atmosphere at weekends is frequently more like that of a house party than a room full of strangers. The impressive selection of spirits on the wall is put to good use in some interesting house cocktails, which the staff are only too happy to advise on. Prepare for a late one.