What’s not to like about Barcelona? No gaire, if you are a committed foodist and flanneur. In transit on my way to and from Priorat (see here and here), I managed to squeeze in just enough waking hours to wander around the central part of the city and visit three very different, but wonderful bars of Barcelona: one for lunch, one for an afternoon drink, and one for dinner. All three are really restaurants, and I’ve linked to them for menu and price information.
I spotted La Bodegueta on my way to have a look at Gaudi’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família, still famously under construction, and made a note to come back if I had a little time to spare in the afternoon. I did, and I enjoyed a very pleasant glass of Estrella Damm on draft as I watched a mix of tourists and local professionals have a late lunch. La Bodegueta fulfills my fantasy idea of a Spanish bar, with tapas and Sherry casks with wooden taps perched above the bar, where I sat on a stool. It’s something of a cavern, as one steps down into its wood paneled rooms from the street. Or there’s the terraça in the middle of the street, as is common to the city’s grand avenues. The food I mostly saw coming out of the kitchen, as opposed to the tapas like cod fritters and jamon taken from the display at the bar, was strait forward fare like grilled chicken with fried potatoes. I’d keep La Bodegueta as an afternoon snack spot; a place to restore oneself after a few hours wandering around the Eixample.
Monvinic, which is just off the Rambla de Catlunya, was where delegates first gathered for a lunch and tasting at this year’s Espai Priorat. This made a lot of sense, since owner Sergi Ferrer-Salat is also a partner in the top-rated Priorat winery Ferrer-Bobet* (where I was to see beautifully gnarly 100 year old Carignan – a.k.a. Cariñena, a.k.a. Samsó – vines the next day). More than just a wine bar and elegant restaurant, Monvinic is a sort of oenophilic cultural centre, with a reference library and schedule of speakers and lectures for serious students of wine. It’s sleek and modern, with a lovely back sculpture garden for a patio. The wine list is enormous and, of course, digitized on tablets. Seven sommeliers work the floor to find the perfect bottle or glass. The food is sophisticated, Catalonian and seasonally driven. I would choose Monvinic for fancy lunch after a morning of site seeing.
It was Anne Cannan from Clos Figueras who recommended Bar Cañete when I asked her for a fun place to have dinner on my last night in Barcelona. And fun it is. I dined alone, so was pleased to see the long noisy bar that takes up most of its long narrow storefront on a quiet street off Las Ramblas, close to the Opera. Next door is a more sedate restaurant, but the bar is clearly where the action is, at least by my tastes. At the bar, and in a few booths and one table at the back, a well to do crowd of locals and tourists, dressed in expensive casual clothes, enjoyed modern takes on Spanish tapas classics. I sat in front of the seafood display, where a bowl of clams rhythmically spat up onto its glass cover. On my right two elegant Barcelonian ladies picked at small plates and sipped small glasses of beer, while on my right a pair of English couples kept trading their dishes and seemed to be doing a good job at trying Bar Cañete’s extensive, mostly Spanish wine list. I had the best croquettes, filled with ham, I have come across, mackerel, scallops and steak tartar washed down with wines from Penedés. Then, because it was so much fun to sit at the bar and people watch, I lingered over two glasses of Sherry, convinced I had reached the absolute peak of civilized enjoyment.
*There is currently some of the 2006 Ferrer-Bobet, a Grenache-Carignan blend, in the LCBO. Click here to see which stores have it on their shelves.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley