One of the most multicultural neighbourhoods in Barcelona, El Raval is as well-known for its curry houses as for its old-school bodegas. There are newer venues offering stylish contemporary cuisine, alongside traditional restaurants whose homemade cooking has been delighting locals for decades. Here are some of the best Catalan restaurants, new and old, to try in El Raval.
Restaurante Can Lluis
Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
A family run business now into its third generation, Can Lluis has been serving locals since 1929. Throughout the years its seen the city change around it, but the restaurant itself has managed to preserve its original atmosphere. The food offerings are straightforward Catalan and Spanish fare without any pomp or pretence: roast meats, grilled fish, stews and traditional desserts, such as recuit de drap, a type of strained fresh cheese served with jam. Another thing which hasn’t changed much here are the prices, which have remained accessible to locals.
Undoubtedly one of El Raval’s nicest restaurants, Bar Cañete is a wonderful blend of the old and the new. The dining room sparkles with brass fixtures and mirrored walls reflecting the chefs hard at work in the open-kitchen. On the menu – which boldly informs you to ‘f**k your diet’ – you’ll find all the Catalan classics and some French influence too. The slow-cooked oxtail with mash is a guaranteed pleaser and the jamón croquetas shouldn’t be over-looked. Wine buffs will appreciate the rather select offering of mostly Spanish wines, which includes some outstanding Ribera del Duero and Priorat bottles.
A family-run business that has been in the same hands for over 50 years, Ca l’Isidre is one of El Raval’s most well-known restaurants. Some of the dishes have remained unchanged since the 1970s – why would you change a classic? However the chef hasn’t hesitated to keep up with the times and you’ll find the odd fusion influence in some of the dishes (tastefully done) such as a lobster ravioli with ginger and lime. The lunchtime menu at €38.50 is the most economical way of getting a taste of this local institution.
Run by Catalan chef Carles Abellan, Suculent is a modern Catalan brasserie offering innovative dishes rooted in local culinary tradition. The rather gourmet dishes are elegantly presented and the whole experience is both fun and satiating. There’s even a menu where vegetables take centre stage, sometimes accompanied by a meat jus or shaving of ham or available as vegetarian dishes. And if you’re not in the mood to choose, let the chef do the hard work for you and opt for one of the two tasting menus instead.
Casa Leopoldo was one of Barcelona’s most historic restaurants until the financial crisis led to it briefly closing its doors in 2015. However this Raval institution was saved by local chefs Oscar Manresa and Romain Fornell who reopened it in 2017 with the ambition of restoring all its former glory. The kitchen serves traditional Catalan dishes such as meatballs with cuttlefish, chickpea stews and the local style of paella. The dining room has preserved its traditional walls but has a much fresher, modern feel to it now. Locals are already eager to return.
Another classic El Raval institution, Ca l’Estevet was something of a favourite haunt for the local bohemian crowd in the 1940s and the walls are lined with pictures of some of its more notable patrons. The kitchen has remained true to its origins and offers traditional Catalan fare such as stewed monkfish, botifara sausage and beans or homemade canelones (the local variant of stuffed cannelloni).
Despite its somewhat exotic sounding name, Restaurant L’Havana is a proudly Catalan restaurant offering classic local dishes. The dining room in the back is rather formal with its white linens and high-back chairs but there’s a more casual dining area in the front. The food is traditional, home-made fare served the good old-fashioned way without flowers or frills but made with pride. Watch out for the seasonal dishes such as calçots (a type of spring onion) or broad beans cooked with baby squid, these are often the tastiest.