Quimet i Quimet
Lined from floor to ceiling with wines and spirits from across the globe, this lively bodega is justly famed for its unique and exquisite montaditos modelled from wicked combinations of salmon with truffled honey, tuna dotted with caviar and balsamic syrup, and plates of pungent cheeses served with transparent fruit jelly, glazed chestnuts and pickles arranged like artworks. And, there’s mojama (salt-cured, air-dried tuna), canned seafood and croquetas. Can’t make up your mind? Ask the maestro behind the bar to assemble you a plate.
La Cova Fumada
This old hole in the wall serves simple dishes bursting with flavour. It’s a small, busy, friendly place – you may have to prop yourselves at the bar before sharing a table with a couple of locals, like dining in a large family kitchen. They’re famed for their bombas (meat-filled mashed-potato balls rolled in breadcrumbs) served with a choice of three sauces, graded by spiciness – salsa del diablo being the hottest.
In the evening this jealously-guarded Catalan classic, its walls bedecked with FC Barcelona basketball shirts and photos, is often packed with loud and cheery gangs of friends meeting for a few bites before hitting the town. During the day it caters to an older clientele and has more the air of a canteen.
Saturday, 4.20pm, the lunchtime rush has died down. Most local customers are taking coffee and licores. “Paella for Pablo,” the call goes out. And, at 4.23pm Pablo has his paella, done the way he wants it – with a whole butifarra (sausage) on the side. This very popular, well-organised, local standby, its pavement tables set to catch the best of the afternoon sunshine, is always busy. For good reason – they serve a reliably good range of tapas including pescadito frito.
Given that it’s such a short stroll from the Sagrada Família church, and the quality of the food, I’m always surprised there aren’t more tourists here. Reasonably priced and with very friendly service, it has a terrace usually filled with families, but there’s plenty of room inside. You’ll find a chilled family atmosphere.
You’ll find dozens of Basque bars across the city. For quality, variety and overall value, this place is probably the best. Generous portions of meats, cheeses, fish, seafood and tapenades piled on to chunks of bread speared with a toothpick – hence the name pintxo, which means spike. Order a drink and grab a plate from the bar.
You may be taken aback when you encounter this tiny local bar. Don’t write it off. Chill, sit at a pavement table and let your tastebuds decide the verdict. There’s a definite, though subtle, edge to the food. Roberto, from La Rioja, and his wife, Ynes, from Peru, serve the best albóndigas (meatballs) I’ve ever tasted, along withpapas arrugadas (smashed potatoes with coriander cream), aubergine mousse dotted with sesame seeds served with cracked toast, empanadas, venison paté, and sheep’s and goat’s cheeses.
El Rincón del Cava
On a tight budget? Be careful. There’s a well-known bar in the Eixample which charges clueless tourists €72 for six prawns. No danger of that here, at the heart of Poble Sec, where most tapas cost less than €3. Start here and take the edge off your appetite before grazing across town. Incredibly, they serve half-priced portions, allowing you to sample before feasting on prawns, calamares, mussels, chorizo, stuffed peppers, cheeses and all the usual suspects, and washing it down with a pint of beer for just €2.50.