Foodie Travels: One Day In Barcelona

Tapas

Probably the best tapas I’ve ever had

I happened to have only one full day in Barcelona when visiting Spain this time. Since I had been here before and already crossed all the touristy attractions of my list, I decided to devote the day to exploring flavours of this vibrant city.

Usually I start my day with coffee, but this time it didn’t happen for two reasons. Firstly, the coffee shop I visit every time when in Barcelona  – Cafés El Magnífico  – appeared to be closed on Sunday. Secondly, due to having a day off after the whole week of event packed schedule I woke up way past my usual coffee time and just in time for lunch, so that’s how my Barcelona food walk started.

Lunch

Following the recommendations of my knowledgeable host Vincent I headed straight for tapas to this old and charming establishment El Xampanyet, only a stone’s throw away from Barri Gòtic (Gothic quarter) where I was staying. I got there during the rush hour: it was crammed with people and even though I managed to squeeze inside, it took me good half an hours wait until I landed a spot at the bar. Most people were ordering their signature drink – xampanyet, so I did the same, starting my day with a nice elegant glass of sparkling. It was nice and light, much sweeter than traditional Spanish cava and it went down with food perfectly well. And the food, holy heavens! If there is tapas paradise, this must be it.

El Xampanyet

The bar is the best place to keep and eye on what is on offer

I was lucky enough to snatch a couple of freshly made tapas from the bar before they all were gone and then I had to settle for preserved goodies: one of their specialties – Cantabrian anchovies, crisp tomato bread (pan con tomato), bell peppers stuffed with goat cheese, olives and the like. They have a nice selection of nibblies and I am quite glad I didn’t get a chance to stand at the end of the bar, where all of those are displayed, otherwise I wouldn’t had stopped ordering.

A charismatic old waiter kept on refilling my glass and even though he didn’t speak much English, we managed to communicate using sign language and had a few laughs together with my neighbours at the bar, who were very kind offering me some cheese from the platter they ordered. I took my time lingering at the bar and when I eventually left the mad rush hour was over, but people still kept on coming in.

El Xampanyet interior

Traditional Spanish interior and buzzing atmosphere

El Xampanyet, Carrer de Montcada, 22, El Born, Barcelona

Come here for: tapas, xampanyet, atmosphere.

Afternoon coffee and cake

After way too many tapas, I decided to walk it off by wandering towards less crowded L’Eixample, enjoying the sunshine and an amazing architecture of the buildings. The next destination marked on my map was café We Pudding, famous for its’ Alice In Wonderland type of interior and home style carrot cake.

We Pudding

Alice in Wonderland interior at We Pudding

The other cakes, quishes and tarts looked pretty good too, but I didn’t let myself getting distracted. The slice of carrot cake I received was enormous, it would definitely be enough to share and even though I am not a huge fan of carrot cakes, this one was truly good: nice and moist, loaded with walnuts and with a generous amount of cream cheese between the layers.

Carrot cake

Home style carrot cake

I took my time indulging myself with coffee and cake and watching kids playing at the huge table downstairs. There were all sorts of toys and objects on the table to keep them busy and it was pretty amusing to see two little girls inventing their own chess game rules: comparing black and white figures and determining whose figure was the winner. At first I thought that the height of the figure was the deciding factor, but it didn’t take long to realise that the older girl was the one to decide and most of the decisions ended up in her favour.

We Pudding, Pau Claris, 90, Eixample Dret, Barcelona

Come here for: carrot cake.

After a decent hour of chill I continued my walk along the area with an aim to check out Bar El Velódromo, primarily for its’ interior.  As I stepped in, the atmosphere instantly reminded me of those classic cafés in Vienna with many small tables, big chandeliers and ambient atmosphere. They say there used to be some exciting literary and political gatherings in the thirties here and even though the cafe undergone some refurbishment, it still retained the atmosphere.

El Velodromo

Atmospheric place for an afternoon coffee

 

I picked a table at the edge of the mezzanine which was perfect spot for observing people chilling and chatting away, oldies playing domino or young couples kissing. The place seemed even bigger when looking around from the top and I just couldn’t wish for a better place for yet another afternoon coffee.

Bar El Velódromo, Carrer de Muntaner, 213, Eixample Esquerre, Barcelona

Come here for: atmosphere, drink, snack.

Dinner

I had a couple of recommended spots for dinner, but suddenly I stumbled upon Cera 23 when browsing one of the location based discovery apps, so I thought I’d check it out. Their signature drink – Blakcberry Mojito – was one of the deciding factors and it seemed like quite a few other people I saw at the bar came there for the exact same reason. The cocktail looked really pretty and even though I couldn’t taste much mint which is an essential ingredient of a Mojito, it was refreshing and not too sweet.

Blackberry Mojito

Blackberry Mojito

It didn’t take long to realise that you have to make a reservation if you want to get a table for dinner here. While sitting at the bar and sipping my drink I was watching people coming in and being politely turned away by the staff due to the restaurant being fully booked. The waiter promised me to come up with a table if I don’t mind a long wait. And I didn’t. The more challenging it is to get something for me, the more determined I become to make it happen. Two hours of waiting and two cocktails and I finally got seated. Kudos to my waiter, who took my order before the other people were leaving, so my dinner was served in a matter of minutes.

When the dish called Volcano Of Black Rice With Seafood And Saffron Sauce was delivered to my table, my eyes widened from what I saw on my plate: I expected the rice to be pitch-black due to squid ink used for cooking, but there were some parchment-thin flakes on the top of the “volcano”, moving like live creatures. I found out these were dried, fermented and smoked tuna flakes. The heat waves released from the rice made the flakes move and created this impressive effect.

Rice with squid ink

Rice with squid ink

Red wine recommendation was an absolutely perfect match to go with the meal: very light and not too dominating, which was exactly what I wanted.

By the time I was halfway through my dinner, the waiter finished his shift. He walked to every single table he had attended and said his goodbyes wishing the customers a nice evening.

Complimentary glass of house cream liqueur served at the end of the dinner added a very nice finishing touch to the dining experience. Overall, it was one of the places I can put on my favourite list for Barcelona.

Cera 23, Carrer de la Cera, 23, El Raval, Barcelona

Come here for: Blackberry Mojito, Spanish food with a creative touch. Make a reservation in advance.

Late night drinks

After having this amazing dinner it was time to make my way back towards the Gothic quarter. The night before when I arrived I saw a couple of quirky looking bars in a narrow street just around the corner from the place where I was staying. I popped into one of them intrigued by the name Sub Rosa, which means “in secret”. The name totally lived up to my expectations: it was a small, dim lit, hide-away type of bar.

Sub Rosa bar

The name Sub Rosa suggests some secret things happening here

There was all night long happy hour for girls on Sunday, which made things even better. They had quite a few creative cocktails on their menu, such as chilly or wasabi Mojito (not that I’d be getting one any time soon after having this dynamite strength Wasabi Martini in one of Vienna bars a few months ago) and a couple of interesting Martinis with cucumber-strawberry or strawberry-balsamic. My choice was their signature cocktail Sub Rosa made of rum, Malibu, strawberries and banana, blended and floated over melon liquor. It was a bit on the sweet side, but I didn’t mind it as a substitute for a dessert after dinner.

Sub Rosa, Carrer Rauric, 21, Barri Gòtic, Barcelona

Come here for: cocktails.

 

This itinerary would make a full day trip in a leisure pace. If you happen to decide to follow my foodie trail in Barcelona, bare in mind that there is a bit of walking involved. I call myself an urban hiker and I can walk miles, especially when I travel. Of course you can catch public transport (such as underground), but where’s the fun in that? So here I did some calculations on the distances and rough time required to walk between the places mentioned.

El Xampanyet to We Pudding: 20min (1.3km)

We Pudding to Bar El Velódromo: 30min (2.1km)

Bar El Velódromo to Cera 23: 30min (2.5km)

Cera 23 to Sub Rosa: 14min (1km)

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