Can Culleretes: A Glimpse inside Barcelona's Oldest Restaurant

Can Culleretes
Can Culleretes | © Can Culleretes
Tara Jessop

While the restaurant scene in Barcelona today is buzzing with fresh new projects and up-and-coming Michelin-starred chefs, only one of the city’s restaurants can lay claim to being Barcelona’s oldest. Serving clients since 1786, Can Culleretes remains a family-run business serving traditional Catalan cuisine.

1. Can Culleretes

Restaurant, Spanish

Tucked away on a narrow side street running parallel to Barcelona’s La Rambla, Can Culleretes has been around since well before the tree-lined boulevard rose to fame. In fact, it’s been around for longer than any other restaurant in Barcelona and lays claim to being the oldest serving restaurant in the Catalan capital. Since 1786, locals have been able to push open the doors of the large two-floored building on Carrer Quintana and be served simple, home-cooked Catalan fare, and that’s still what draws them here today.

Detail of a table

What strikes you immediately as you step inside Can Culleretes is a sense that if the walls could speak, they’d have a lot to say. You can’t help but stare at the wooden beams propping up the ceiling and wonder how many others before you have stared at them too. The dining rooms – all six of them – seem to have escaped the concept of time and could easily look today just the same as they did 100 years ago.

The walls are lined with photos of famous patrons

The name Can Culleretes – literally ‘House of Spoons’ in Catalan – is something of a mystery, although one popular story goes that the head waiter, upon seeing the bucket of clean spoons empty, would shout to the staff in the cleaning area ‘Noies, culleres‘ or ‘Girls, spoons!’ Eventually this became something of a good-humoured joke and people started talking of going to the House of Spoons.

One of the six dining rooms

Over the years, Can Culleretes has been frequented by politicians, artists, singers, poets, journalists, sports personalities and all other kind of local characters. Many of them have been immortalised on the walls of Can Culleretes, which are decorated with black and white photos scribbled over with a few warm words, and for regulars these feel like familiar faces. Then there are the anonymous portraits of wealthy Catalans at the turn of the 20th century, at the height of the Catalan modernist era that gave the city – and the restaurant – much of its aesthetic appeal.

Seafood a la brasa

These days, the restaurant does as well off the tourist trade as it does with locals, owing to its prime location just metres away from La Rambla. Yet the restaurant, owned by the same family since 1958, has remained true to its origins and continues to serve traditional Catalan food following recipes which have been handed down over generations. The menu features dishes such as stuffed canelons (Catalan stuffed pasta), escudella (a typical meat and vegetable soup) and hearty stews made with wild boar or goose. These dishes, just like the restaurant itself, have passed the test of time to go down in local history.

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