A guest post by Alan Ritchie and Daniel Kidd
There are hundreds, if not thousands of choices of where to eat in Barcelona and sit down for lunch. Where to start?
Some days you may be forced to pack away a bocata in 5 mins and get straight back to work. Or, on occasion, you may have a menú del día and instead get caught up in the distractions of sobremesa; essentially lots of post-lunch talking and the odd digestivo. You invariably end up leaving the place at 5.30pm dazed and feeling like you’ve just walked out of the cinema after a midday double bill.
You can probably guess which way we at Entra En El Menu like our lunches to turn out…
Here we’ve put together a quick snapshot of where to eat in Barcelona for three different budgets. It is by no means an exhaustive list; you can spend a lot more and you can feed yourself for less too, but these should act as a benchmark.
Think Darwin’s Origin of the Species. No, not all the stuff about love and beauty: survival of the fittest. Or, in this case, survival of the best menus…and extinction for the rip-off-merchants who take your hard-earned cash in return for food of the lowest common denominator.
If you have a favourite recommendation for where to eat in Barcelona, please let us know about it!
- bocata – baguette-type sandwich, the staple lunch time bite for many an Iberian
- degustació – a menu where you get to try all the options
- digestivo – alcoholic spirit drunk after a meal to ‘aid the digestion’
- sobremesa – period of time after eating spent talking and drinking wine, coffee, digestivos etc.
- pasta a la putanesca – anchovy and tomato dish traditionally made by ladies of the night in Naples
- churrasco – (usually) grilled beef
- madrileña – a girl from Madrid
- marisco – shellfish
- entra en el menu- literally; enter the menu/on the menu
Alan Ritchie 2013 ©
The ‘short arms deep pockets’ option (€6.60) – Tucco’s
‘Tucco’s’ aka Tucco Real Food, Barri Gòtic , Carrer de Codols, 27
Fans of Breaking Bad could be forgiven for thinking this place sounds like the lair of a homicidal meth-guzzling maniac; they’d be wrong. It’s a pizza, pasta and empanada type joint. I mean place…
I struggle to think of many menus that beat this place on price. It’s got a pretty central location under the belt too. There are various ways you can approach lunch here (check the board for options) but the way we went for it was the ‘drink+bread+pasta and sauce of your choice+dessert’ combo for €6.60. Now you really can’t say fairer than that.
Washed down with cervesitas, between us we sampled; ravioli al pesto, spaghetti a la carbonara and pasta a la putanesca. Pasta is made fresh on the premises and was satisfyingly al dente for this Anglo inexpert so I certainly enjoyed mine, as did the ‘whore’s pasta’ eating gent to my right. However, our eternally-hard-to-please buddy across the table wasn’t so keen on his carbonara. Remember though, this is the same guy who when invited to a recent dinner at mine pointedly asked me to put less chilli in the dish and afterwards proceeded to complain that there wasn’t enough chilli in it… and that was a free meal! Go figure…
The way it works here at Tucco’s is to order your food at the counter when you come in, grab your drinks and a numbered wooden spoon and then seat yourself wherever you like/can . On the wall by your table you’ll see the outline of a spoon and a hook. Can you see where this is going? They’ll bring your main dishes to the table and you take the spoon back up to the start again when you’re ready to trade it in for your dessert.
A sweet tooth I do not have, so forgive me if I don’t wax lyrical about the desserts but they had a pretty decent selection of home-made options and if memory serves you can swap dessert for coffee.
Alan Ritchie 2013 ©
The ’we set the bar’ option (€10) – Miriot
Miriot, Gràcia, Francisco Giner, 54
Miriot was one of the first menus we had the fortune to discover in Barcelona and perhaps unfairly raised our standards; turning us into high-maintenance diners with exacting standards!
The Brazilian staff here are great and always do their best to make you welcome and feed you well. To kick off, Miriot offer a degustació which sounds bad to English ears; relax, it’s about as far from disgusting as you can get; it means a sort of tasting menu where they bring you each 3 individual mini-starters, served with bread and wine (or soft drink). Careful. Beers are extra. The starters vary every day but my favourite of all time is probably the richly enigmatic Armenian soup, whose ingredients I have not yet been able to guess. (I don’t care if you can find the answer on your smartphone, spoilsport.)
There are invariably six or seven options for mains, including; fish, beef, pork, duck, lamb and vegetarian options. Bear in mind that the later you arrive the more likely it is that your first choice might be gone. Personal favourites include their meat dishes; 24-hour-marinated steaks, churrasco, and roast lamb; fusion dishes such as chicken curry and beef stroganoff, and literally too many others to mention.
The desserts here are simple but the perfect final accompaniment. Perhaps a slice of rich chocolate cake, a fruit shake with fresh mint, or orange slices with honey and salt, which was a novel discovery for me.
As long as Miriot keep this up I will not even look at another menu… well, I might in the interests of research… but my heart will always be here!
Alan Ritchie 2013©
The ‘I want to treat myself a bit’ option (€18 + wine) – La Conca
La Conca, Eixample, Lepant, 297
It is rare that one feels underdressed in Barcelona, but stepping into La Conca on a sunny Friday afternoon in t-shirt and jeans, your diner could not help but feel conspicuous. Perhaps due to being sent up to an empty second floor area, away from the Catalans lunching in their business suits downstairs. We nevertheless found ourselves in a charming loft-type space, overlooking the ground floor, and surrounded by oak wine barrels. An ultimately appropriate place to celebrate a 33rd birthday.
The focus here is very much on classic dishes done well. We enjoyed rossejat de fideos i calamars, (a Valencian seafood speciality with alioli often served on Fridays) a dish that, while deceptively simple to prepare, can sometimes be marred by overcooked fideos or disappointing volumes of marisco. This, however, suffered from neither malady. Our companion had the timbal d’escalivada amb formatge fos de cabra (oven-roasted pepper and aubergine with goat cheese), which benefited from just the right amount of smokiness, and some deliciously creamy cheese.
Our mains of osso bucco (literally ‘bone with a hole’ but, more helpfully, referring to a cut of veal shank with rice, in a wine-based sauce) and orada a l’espatlla a la donostiarra (gilt-head bream in the San Sebastian style with potatoes) were exquisitely prepared. The richness of the fatty meat, with the aforementioned bone standing sentry-like alongside a mound of white rice, felt like a fittingly decadent way to bring in one’s 34th year in such surroundings. The orada, by contrast, was a delicate affair, much to the satisfaction of our madrileña companion, who, despite having lived in the city for over a year, seems content to shy away from the heartier fare on offer here.
Desserts of crema catalana (again, a familiar dish done expertly), gelat de maduixes (strawberry ice-cream, with a zing that could only mean it was homemade) and torrija amb gelat de vainilla (French toast with vanilla ice cream) were all superbly composed.
When you pay extra for lunch, with cheap options so plentiful, you expect a level of quality to justify the outlay; such standards are achieved here. I may wear a shirt next time, just so that I increase my chances of sampling the ground floor. I will, however, wear it with a pair of shorts. This is Barcelona after all.
Daniel Kidd 2013 ©
Thanks to Alan and Daniel for their great suggestions for where to eat in Barcelona! I can’t wait to visit these new places to get a tasty meal.