The sport of brunching may have taken a bit to catch on in Barcelona – in large part because Spaniards often eat much later in the day – but now there is a trove of restaurants in the city specialising in the mid-morning meal. Here are the best.
Breakfast in Spain is hardly an over-the-top affair. In the mornings, Spaniards can be spotted with a simple café con leche and croissant in hand, leaving space for lunch, which is often the biggest meal of the day. But thanks to Barcelona’s global influences, brunch has made its way into the city’s dining culture, shifting the morning meal from something small to a feast. Here, breakfast and brunch are served up in a host of cuisines, from American, Mediterranean, Israeli and Latin American to Spanish and Catalan, allowing diners to nosh on everything from spicy shakshuka to stacks of pancakes and tortilla de patatas.
Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Tea , $$$
Courtesy of La Esquina
Housed near the Plaça de Catalunya, La Esquina dishes up a mix of American and Spanish fare – think ribbons of jamón ibérico, crispy croquetas, baked eggs swirled with chorizo and tomatoes, and a fried chicken sandwich flush with coleslaw and pickled chillies. The kitchen focuses on using only the best ingredients, smoking its salmon in-house and serving coffee from the best roasting places in the city. Freshly squeezed juices and cocktails, such as strawberry mojitos and bloody marys, are delivered to tables constantly. Finish the meal off with something sweet, like an apple and blackberry crumble teeming with vanilla custard.
Three friends transformed what was once a humble bar into Norte – a restaurant specialising in Basque and Galician food. For brunch, you’ll find scrambled eggs flanked by slices of bread smashed with tomatoes, flaky pastries and coffee, and triangle sandwiches, bursting with melted cheese and ham. One of the most popular dishes among regulars includes batons of toast, paired with butter and house-made jam.
Opened by two Australians in Sant Antoni in 2010, Federal Café is a relaxed, quiet place. On hot days in Barcelona, the café flings open its many windows, beckoning passers-by in for a simple cup of coffee or pancakes sprinkled with bananas and chopped walnuts. The interior houses two levels, complete with a long, communal table on the first floor and a cosy garden terrace on the second.
Snag a seat at L’Artesana, and you’ll be rewarded with front-row views of the open kitchen, where you can watch chefs swiping crusty bread with beef tartare or stewed vegetables. For brunch, L’Artesana dishes up Catalan classics: tripe folded with rounds of chorizo and eggs benedict with crispy shards of bacon. When it’s warm outside, the crowds spill out of the small restaurant and onto the outdoor patio and sip glasses of draught beer.
Situated next to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), this adjoining café has the same clean and modern aesthetic as the museum, with many curves in its design that mimic the exterior of the building. The restaurant’s dishes are as simple and modern as its look, and the chefs even stylise some of their plates, such as the tiramisu that comes whipped in a round glass bowl. Serving organic eggs and using recyclable place mats, MACBA Cafè Chichalimoná has a refreshing morning feel to it and will give you a sunny start to your day whether you sit outside or next to the large windows.
Breakfast is served every day at Blanc, home to warm crêpes filled with jam; iberian waffles flush with pork, cheese and peppers; and omelettes studded with Spanish potatoes. But on Sundays, the restaurant transforms into a haven for brunch – complete with steep pours of cava – thanks to Catalan chef Carme Ruscalleda. Expect Catalan specialities like cannelloni and rice tossed with hunks of lobster.
One thing is always certain at Picnic: it’s busy. Regulars fill up the tables, of course, along with a trove of chic tourists who just happen to peek in by chance. The menu offers a mix of American and Chilean dishes – pancakes covered in strawberries and crème fraiche, fried green tomatoes slathered in corn salsa, and pulled pork chilaquiles layered with poached eggs and guacamole. The menu may change with the season, but the cocktails are always the same and inexpensive and include pink lemonade swirled with vodka and €4 (£3.60) mimosas and bellinis.
Restaurant, Bar, Spanish, European, Mediterranean, $$$
Marmalade is the second restaurant to open from the team behind Milk, the first restaurant in Barcelona to serve brunch. This space is much larger – split into four rooms – but serves the same kind of food: pea pancakes crowned with asparagus and poached eggs, house-made crumpets topped with paper-thin slices of ham and a fried duck egg, and pancakes folded with berries, vanilla custard and coffee crumble. The menu is rounded out by tea, coffee, juice and a slew of smoothies, prepped with thick Greek yoghurt and fruit.
Perhaps one of the best things about The Greenhouse is its chic setting in the Hotel Pulitzer, with a white interior, a copious amount of natural light reflecting off mirrors and green plants hanging all over. Combined with mismatched wooden tables, the effect is like a trendy home you wish you lived in. Starting at 1pm, this spot serves light and refreshing food that will make you feel energised for the rest of the day. Try the broccoli hummus with ginger or rabbit with pâté, as well as a freshly pressed juice containing a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Unsurprisingly, The Juice House specialises in fresh cold-pressed juices and smoothies packed with vitamins, antioxidants and other essential nutrients. This self-described clean-eating restaurant, with its array of gluten-free, vegan, raw, dairy-free and sugar-free options, prides itself on its healthy selection of dishes that are prepared using seasonal, local produce as well as superfoods. Expect things like eggplant toast layered with goat’s cheese and honey, salted green pancakes with oatmeal and spinach, and a vegetarian burger moulded with mushrooms, lentils and chia.
Restaurant, French, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Street Food, Fast Food, $$$
Inside this narrow bar-restaurant, where the crowds are invariably overflowing, try La Pepita’s signature dish, a type of sandwich jammed with a variety of fillings like pepita pork, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes, and salmon. Slink past the long bar to one of the tables where you’ll be rewarded with a host of tapas: deep-fried coins of squid, strips of cured salmon, and burrata and buttery slices of prosciutto draped on Catalan bread smothered in tomatoes.
Brunch and Cake is a venue entirely dedicated to the sport of brunching. Here, it’s all about the classics, revisited with a modern riff. Think slabs of banana bread swiped with puffs of cream, scrambled eggs whisked with smoked turkey and feta, and a savoury waffle laced with caramelised onions, cheddar and bacon. The place features a host of couches and low coffee tables for the quick diners, along with a smattering of regular tables for those who choose to lounge longer. Although there are several locations now, there’s invariably a wait.
This lovely café-restaurant is close to the Sagrada Família and features big leather armchairs, vintage coffee tables, refurbished wood tables and sweeping flower arrangements. The house-made cakes and pastries are generally the more popular items here, along with more filling dishes like pancakes, a full English breakfast and burgers.
Enkel is an all-day restaurant fusing Latin American and Mediterranean fare. You might find shakshuka ready to be mopped up with chunks of sourdough bread or griddled arepas stuffed with shredded beef and melted cheese. Plus, there’s an entire section dedicated to healthy food, such as açai bowls and porridge ladled with caramelised apples. Leisurely sip mugs of coffee and tea, or opt for freshly blitzed juices and craft beer.
It’s all about the all-day brunch at Can Dendê, a Brazilian-helmed restaurant in El Poblenou. Tuck into miniature stacks of pancakes hidden by blueberry compote and bananas, eggs benedict squeezed with strips of smoked salmon and omelettes paired with crusty bread. Cocktails and drinks can be served by the pitcher, prepped for steep pours, all while American and Latin tunes blast from the speakers.
Everything on the menu at Ugot Bruncherie is tinged with a bit of Israeli flair. Eggplants are burned on an open fire and finished off with dollops of crème fraiche and tahini. Shakshuka comes in four varieties – including those with goat’s cheese and roasted eggplant or spinach and chorizo – and house-made brioche is soaked in cream, grilled and poured over with seasonal, house-made confiture. The menu is rounded out with eggs benedict done seven ways, along with various cakes and sweets.
Street Tacos looks like a small tin shack on the inside, with some wooden tables outside overlooking the ocean. Unimposing and beachy, this shop tucked into the brick corner of a building on the edge of Barceloneta Beach offers the perfect midday snack for a day in the sun. The tacos al pastor and veggie chilli tacos, both topped with a rich cream sauce, are two popular choices. Use your hands here (don’t expect utensils), and try not to spill too much.
Owners Rebecca and Paul left San Francisco, California, for Barcelona in 2005, setting up Milk as one of the first destinations for brunch in the city. The expansive brunch menu spans three pages, replete with American hangover staples like pancakes, burgers, bagels, eggs in every style, smoothies and cocktails. Brunch is served until 4.30pm – perfect for all the late sleepers – and dishes feature locally sourced ingredients.