Located in the foothills of the Montjuïc hill, on the other side of the Avenida Parallel, Poble Sec has for most of its history been a working-class neighbourhood. However, the arrival in recent years of a number of outstanding restaurants, as well as of millennials looking to evade the high prices of the city centre, have firmly established it as up and coming. It’s also home to some of the best places for paella in Barcelona, with options for every budget.
Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, $$$
Elche is not only one of the best places to eat paella in Poble Sec, but is widely considered to be one of the best arrocerías (rice restaurants) in Barcelona. The restaurant was opened by Andrés Iborra and Carmen Vicente in 1959 and named after their home town near Alicante. They brought with them their knowledge of traditional Valencian paellas, and soon got a reputation for being one of the best paella restaurants in town. Today, they continue to live up to expectations in their restaurant, which has since been given a sophisticated dining room.
Not located within Poble Sec as such, but rather perched of the cliff face of Montjuïc, overlooking the sea, Restaurant Martínez is a trendy eatery with a large outdoor terrace open all year round. A buzzing place where the staff look as smart as the diners, Martínez has a wide selection of fish and seafood on offer, as well as a wide range of rice dishes, including paella, arroz caldoso (stewed rice) and rice cooked in squid ink. When booking, request a table with a view and you won’t be disappointed.
This popular Poble Sec restaurant has developed a reputation for outstanding seafood, which has locals queuing at lunchtimes for one of its few tables. In addition to the seafood, which regularly includes clams, sea urchins and goose barnacles, the kitchen prepares a spectacular stewed lobster rice dish that you’ll need to order the day before. Montalbán is a traditional restaurant offering humble home cooking made from quality produce.
This Spanish tapas restaurant, located not far from the Fira de Barcelona and the Plaça d’Espanya, stands out for its quirky cartoon theme, which lends it a certain playfulness and informality. While the menu is predominantly made up of a number of different tapas dishes, both traditional and more creative, there are some items on the menu that break with the small-dish brief, and the paella is one of them. The vegetable and seafood paella at Casa de Tapas Cañota comes ready to eat – the seafood is off the shell – making it easier to tuck straight in.
Escairon is a humble home cooking restaurant specialising in Galician cuisine, including a wide range of both meat and fish dishes. Dishes are straightforward but satisfactory, and their simplicity is reflected in the prices of both the à la carte and menu dishes. Thursday lunchtimes are a good day to visit Escairon for the paella, which is often offered as a surf and turf paella with both meat and seafood.
Lobster at the Rías de Galicia | Courtesy of Rías de Galicia
Considered one of the best seafood restaurants in Barcelona, Rías de Galicia is a family-run business whose owners are partners of famous catalan chef Albert Adrià (brother of Ferran Adrià of elBulli). This fine-dining establishment offers a wide selection of the finest fish and seafood from the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Unsurprisingly, their rice dishes are full of flavour, made with a fragrant fish stock and choice morsels of fish and seafood.
This Spanish restaurant is popular for working lunches and business meetings during the week, thanks to its set €35 menu. Starters come as a selection of hot and cold dishes to share, while the second course is chosen from a list of over 15 different dishes, including a seafood paella. Alternatively, the à la carte menu has a choice of a seafood paella or a black rice (cooked with squid ink), which are made for a minimum of two diners.