By far the most famous of Barcelona’s fresh food markets, the Boqueria is a veritable foodie’s paradise despite having suffered from its own popularity in recent years. Get there early to avoid the crowds and get your pick of the best produce, everything from fresh seafood to typical spices and of course all the cured meats you can imagine. Alternatively, sign up for a guided tour of the market with a local chef followed by a cooking class to teach you how to prepare traditional Spanish recipes. If you’re not in the mood to cook then take a seat at one of the market restaurants instead – the Quim de la Boqueria is particularly appreciated.
If the summer time spells days spent lounging on the beach in Barcelona, the winter has its own treats for those who like to eat. In season from about December to April, calçots are a type of Spring onion for which the Catalans go crazy when they get the chance. Cooked over a fire until the outside skin is blackened, the calçots are then dipped in a nutty red pepper dip known as romesco before being dangled straight into your mouth. While it’s traditional to head to the countryside for a calçotada – a whole meal dedicated to this special vegetable – popular calçotadas are frequently organised on public squares across the city throughout the season so keep your eyes peeled and prepare to get your hands dirty.
Voted number one restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine a record-breaking five times, elBullí was a three-Michelin-star restaurant located on the Costa Brava and headed by world-famous Catalan chef Ferran Adrià alongside his younger brother Albert. While elBullí has been closed since 2011, Albert Adrià has opened a number of restaurants in the city which carry on in the vein of his brother’s vision and have become known as elBarri Adrià – the Adrià Neighbourhood. The jewel in the gastronomic crown is, of course, Tickets, an avant-garde tapas restaurant and the most sought-after table in Barcelona.
Perhaps one of the most popular tapas in Barcelona, the humble patatas bravas consists in wedges of fried potato traditionally topped with both alioli – the Catalan condiment of choice – and a spicy tomato sauce which gives the dish its name: only the ‘brave’ could take the heat. There’s a popular rumour in Barcelona that the Bar Tomás in the up-market neighbourhood of Sarrià serves the best patatas bravas in the city. Rather than accepting this as gospel, take this as a challenge to put the Bar Tomás to the test. Start with a serving of their own before setting out on your own personal quest to find the best – the Platilleria in Poble Sec and La Monroe in el Raval are definitely in the race.
Located on the bustling Calle Parlament in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, Sirvent is one of the most well-regarded spots in Barcelona for horchata, ice-cream and the Spanish nougat known as turrón. Made from a small tuber known as tiger nut or chufa in Spanish, horchata is a sweetish drink with a milk-like appearance and rich, velvety texture. Come the hot summer months locals can be found sipping on horchata throughout the day as a refreshing and nutritious snack. Be sure to take a ticket from the dispenser by the front door otherwise you might be waiting for your turn quite a while.
In recent years, the fortified wine known as vermouth or vermut in Catalan has enjoyed a veritable revival here in Barcelona. Generally dark, spicy and slightly sweet, vermouth is prepared to secret recipes by each bodega and it’s rare you’ll find two that quite taste the same. While a vermouth is a refreshing aperitif any time of day or night, it’s on Sundays that the drink is most appreciated by locals, who gather at their favourite spots for a casual gathering known as a vermuteo. Here vermouth is accompanied by a range of snacks and small dishes to hare, most common of which are tinned seafood, olives and thick potato crisps. The Calle Parlament in Sant Antoni is famous for its vermuteo culture while in neighbourhoods such as Sants or Les Corts you’ll find a more traditional atmosphere.