When one finds oneself alone in Barcelona, what does one do for fun? Why one eats tapas of course! I spent two days in Barcelona, at either end of a work week, doing little else but nibbling my way around the city on a self-guided tapas tour. Fancy reliving it with me now? Of course you do. Ole!
Quimet i Quimet
I don’t believe in leaving the best until last — I didn’t when I was in Barcelona, so I won’t here either. Quimet i Quimet is a marvellous, quaint little tapas bar in the quiet Poble Sec area of Barcelona. You’ll be able to spot it because of the people spilling out into the street with beers in their hands. Don’t be put off by the diminutive size of this joint, just squeeze your way in and stand at the bar.
Order yourself the Quimet i Quimet Belgian beer and watch what people around you are munching on to help you decide what you want from the vast menu. Once you’ve spotted something you like the look of, the stern ladies behind the bar (tapas is serious business in Barcelona) will whip it up for you then and there. Eat, repeat.
I can’t speak highly enough of the montaditos — slices of bread topped with droolworthy combinations of meat and fish. My favourites were as follows (don’t ask me to choose between them): salmon with yoghurt, all drizzled in truffled honey; chewy cured beef with olive tapenade and caramelised tomatoes; soft, salty cod, also with the tapenade and tomatoes.
Can I go back now? I want to go back.
As a solo traveller with no Spanish language skills to my name, I could not have been taken better care of at Elisabets. They didn’t have English menus, but the waiter helped me through the ordering process from start to finish (mainly he stopped me from overordering though, which I really nearly did in a big way).
The promise of cheap beer and patatas rabiatas (fried potatoes topped with Bolognese sauce) was what first brought me to Elisabets, but it was the choricitos that really stole the show. The succulent red sausage slivers arrived basking in rich, sweet, meaty juices that made them tenderly fall to pieces between my teeth.
Of all the places to pull up a stool in le Mercat de la Boqueria, El Quim is the one you’ll have to queue the longest for. Keep an eye out for people who might be about to leave and take your place behind them, ready to pounce the moment they dismount.
After a significant but worthwhile wait, I enjoyed an amazing bowl of mussels and scooped up the creamy white wine sauce with curly crusts of baguette. What really blew me away though was the Spanish omelette — a huge hunk of eggy mess packed with potato and shallots. It even had cabbage in, and I usually hate cabbage. I’ll never make frittata again – why would I? My frittata isn’t a patch on this.
Need something sweet to take the edge off? Head to Pinotxo right, which is stationed right near the main entrance of the market and serves chucos — delicious, sugar-encrusted pastries, filled with custardy vanilla cream.
I have a confession about this place – I regret so much not spending more time here. I had to hot-foot it to the Sagrada Familia as I had a timed ticket, but I headed off feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to try some of the other delicacies my fellow diners were tucking into, particularly the cockles.
Go, eat more than I did, then report back and let me know exactly how good it is! If the rest of the cooking is as good as the chucho I had, you’re in for a treat.
You’d think I’d be all tapas-ed out by this point, but by riffing on traditional dishes, Tapac 24 isn’t like any other tapas you’ll have had in Barcelona, or anywhere else for that matter. You can spot the trickle-down Ferran Adria effect here. Tapas 24 is an offshoot of Commerc 24, which in turn is headed up by ex-El Bulli chef Carles Abellan.
I started with the Bikini sandwich. The white bread was lightly toasted and cut into crustless triangles like your ma would’ve made ‘em. Inside was a layer of cured ham, topped with a layer of melty cheese, topped with flecks of black truffle. It wasn’t big, but it sure was clever, packed with flavour and exactly the amount of grease you need to make a successful cheese toastie – glorified or not.
Alongside it I devoured the best croquette (also with jamon) I had the whole time I was in Barcelona. And I ate a lot of croquettes in Barcelona. I also tried the steak tartare, which was by the far the most delicately flavoured steak tartare I’ve ever had. I couldn’t tell exactly what they’d dressed it with, but it was special. If rare meat is your thing (like it is mine), you will love this.
Not quite indulgent enough for you? Well I lied about saving the best until last. This is the McFois burger and I do declare it a triumph. It is about the richest, most extravagant meat creation I have ever had anywhere. ANYWHERE.
I only got through a handful of tapas bars on my list during my time in Barcelona, which means there’s only one thing for it – I guess I’ll just have to go back at some point and work through the rest. Do you know of any I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments.