I suppose I am trying to find the Frenchie, Septime and Beurre Noisette (Parisian, seasonal, market restaurants) of Barcelona. Michelin has the haute cuisine taken care of, and it’s guaranteed that if you go to a Michelin restaurant you will have a fine dinning experience at cost.
Locals are eager to tell you the best tapas you can find, which abound and unfortunately are generally preceded by long lines if they are good.
That brings me to the diner that wants affordability, quality, and the option to reserve a table. What I have found, is that with a little research, Barcelona delivers as well as Paris. And maybe because I don’t cook in restaurants anymore, I’m not aware of the chefs ego which I find to be a total turnoff!
With so many markets flush with fresh, seasonal produce, how can a chef here go wrong (don’t answer that). These are the three restaurants that I have really enjoyed thus far, and will be in the list of places to return to over and over.
Gresca – This was the birth of the ‘bistronomic‘ movement in 2008 which wanted to bring delicious, creative, technical plates to the public at affordable prices. Don’t let the bare walls and simple tables deceive you, you are in for a culinary treat. The modern Catalan tasting menu is only 38 Euro, and a glass of house wine is like 3. So, you already feel like you’re winning (especially if you’ve lived in Paris). The plates included a few courses I had read about, the jamon covered sardines (delish) and the egg souffle with the yolk inside. I have never seen a dish like that before. It was not only beautiful, creative, and unique, it was soooo good. I think that chef Rafael Peña, uses this technique often with different accompaniments because it is such a winner. He also presented a beautiful crab dish with Russian salad which I loved. But honestly, all of the dishes were amazing. I don’t believe in going into too much detail, I’d rather you enjoy but I’ll show you photos to make your mouth water…
Calle Provenca, 230 – Need to call for reservations, website doesn’t have working links +34 934 51 61 93 – http://www.gresca.net/
Embat – Not far from Gresca in Eixample is this little Catalan charmer, with a more traditional take on local cuisine. The rich sauces and jus are here. We started our tasting menu with a duck cannolini with a creme and truffle sauce, rich and luxurious, and sadly only one…I could have eaten a plate full! Such an exciting way to start a meal. Each dish included a well seasoned and cooked fish or meat with sauce, and ended with a wonderful dessert of orange and spiced cake. I would highly suggest the cheese plate and discover some new local cheeses, we had a nice variety and it was only 4 Euro more. The tasting menu is 34 or 42 Euro. Watch your head on the door on your way out 🙂
Mallorca, 304 – I’d call for reservations although the website has an email +34 934 58 08 55 – http://www.restaurantembat.es/
PLA – Located in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, this restaurant produces some nice, simple, seasonal menus with a focus on fresh ingredients. The ‘trinity’ seemed used as most dishes did not consist of more than three types of ingredients. They also had an abundance of vegetarian selections and decedent desserts (the white chocolate wasabi ice cream with chocolate cake was amazing). We went on a Friday night, and lets just say it was hectic and we were very relieved we reserved a table (which we were advised we had for two hours). Don’t be late, they will find someone else to take your seat! The tasting menu, which is not listed, is available, but only during the week. Great location in Gothic quarter with plenty of bars to get an after dinner drink. Our dinner, with starter, main and dessert, a glass of cava and bottle of red was around 115 Euro for two.
Bellafila, 5 – Reservation required for weekend dinners especially and don’t miss your time! +34 934 12 65 52 – http://www.restaurantpla.cat/