One of the hippest Barcelona neighbourhoods of the moment, Sant Antoni is best known as the city’s brunch central thanks to its cozy café and trendy vermouth bars. But this is also a neighbourhood with many traditional restaurants and tapas bars which have served locals for generations. Whether old or new, traditional or contemporary, here are the best spots in Sant Antoni for paella.
Tickets is quite simply one of the most coveted restaurants in Barcelona. Run by Albert Adrià, brother of world-famous Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, the restaurant is a modern Spanish restaurant with a quirky theatre theme and is notoriously difficult to book. Those who do manage to pass its doors – watch out for unconfirmed tables being given away at 4pm – will get the chance to try some of the most creative Spanish cuisine out there. The dishes are both firmly anchored in Catalan and Spanish tradition but defy all expectations in terms of presentation, texture and flavour.
Just a stone’s throw from the Plaça d’Espanya and its water fountain monument, L’Amfora is a mid-range Catalan restaurant with a modern nautical themed dining room designed to reflect the house speciality: its seafood. Having given itself the nickname Casa de la Paella, it’s safe to say that L’Amfora takes great pride in its traditional seafood paella which comes well garnished with mussels, clams, shrimps, crayfish and other seafood. Time your dinner right and you could even catch the rather spectacular Magic Fountain show outside the MNAC museum opposite Plaça d’Espanya.
Black Angus beef rib and Perigueux sauce Courtesy of Sucursal Aceitera
A relatively new addition to Sant Antoni’s hip Parlament Street, the Sucursal Aceitera is a stylish bistro serving traditional Spanish and Catalan cuisine updated for a new generation of dinner. The dining area is both intimate and stylish, boasting marble top tables and low-hanging lights which complement the natural light pouring in through the large bay windows – which open up in the summer for an alfresco feeling. Sticking to tradition, Thursdays are the days for paella in the Sucursal Aceitera and the type of paella changes weekly based on the seasons but invariably comes beautifully presented and rich in subtle flavours.
Don’t try looking for a website, L’Antic Magatzem doesn’t even bother with one and yet this hasn’t stopped locals finding their way to the door for decades. This is a traditional restaurant serving humble, home-cooked Catalan fare without any concern for the way young chefs like to do things these days. What really draws locals in is the menú del día which at just €10,90 with a generous half bottle of wine per person is good value. The arroz or ‘rice’ is slightly wetter and richer than the finger-thin paella from Valencia but is full of flavour and loaded with tasty morsels of rabbit, chicken and meat.
A friendly, family-run business, El Racó de l’Agüir serves home-cooked Catalan and Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood from the nearby coast. Quality, local produce seems to be the key to the restaurant’s success and it was recently featured in Catalonia’s La Vanguardia newspaper as one of the best places in Barcelona for paella. Full of flavour and perfectly cooked – thin and crispy around the edges – the paella is a great rendition of this classic Spanish dish, made with care and the best produce.
Restaurants located in hotels are not generally as common or as popular in Barcelona as they are in other big cities and yet the Restaurante Market in the eponymous Market Hotel is an exception. So named because of its prime location just meters from the Sant Antoni food market, the restaurant is modern, bright and the right balance between stylish and casual with its wooden floorboards and white tablecloths. The menu features classic Spanish and Catalan dishes, including a choice of rice dishes which mostly come for two and include a mixed paella (meat and fish) as well as a Valencian paella with rabbit and chicken.
This casual Catalan restaurant is something of a neighbourhood classic, serving affordable local fare and a good value lunchtime menu during the week since 1984. The menu at Els Ocellets features traditional dishes such as hearty meat stews, vegetable soups and salt cod fritters. There are two rice dishes to choose from, one a classic seafood paella, the other a ‘black rice’ paella made with artichokes and squid cooked in their own ink and giving the dish its distinctive colour.