Frank Camorra: My top Barcelona eateries

Jul 18, 2011


Barcelona for many is the gateway to Spain. For me it is my birthplace. Although I was raised in the south of Spain and grew up in Australia, I am drawn back to this amazing city year after year. Every time, I head to my favourite haunts and explore new places beyond the tourist traps. Barcelona is ever-changing, somehow expressing its historical food roots yet remaining the powerhouse of modern global cuisine.

La Cova Fumada
56 Baluard.
+34 93 221 4061.
The home of the classic Barcelona tapas, la bomba, is really hard to find. Look for the brown door in the Barceloneta market square. Order a beer or vermouth and a plate of bombas or check out the chalkboard menu – written in a mlange of Spanish and Catalan. It’s really busy, the barman shouting orders to the kitchen, the chef writing them in pencil on the marble bench. Cash only.

Quimet & Quimet
25 Poeta Cabanyes.
+34 93 442 3142.
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One of the greatest tapas bars in the world. There are plates packed high with foie gras, terrines, chestnuts, tiny mushrooms, cecina, plus a great range of Spanish cheeses. Choose your bottle of wine and for just an extra 2 ($2.70) you can drink it at one of the small high tables with a choice of whatever you want from the selection at the bar. No cooking is done here. Everything is brought in and owner Quim serves it to you on a plate.

Granja Elena
228 Passeig de la Zona Franca, Montjuc.
+34 93 332 0241.
An affordable cab ride from town, but way off the tourist route, the only clue that this is a great place are the framed articles from Spanish newspapers. Michelin-quality cooking, but with large portions, great prices and no pretentions. There is suckling pig, its entire back leg boned, skin crisp, the meat aromatic, moist and tender, for 24 ($33).

Passads del Pep
2 Pl del Palau.
+34 93 310 1021.
Look under the No.2 above a doorway in an elegant plaza apartment for a dark corridor, which leads deep into the building to a door with dappled glass glowing with warm light. There is no menu. You sit down. A bottle of cava is poured and great Catalan seafood and roasts are delivered until you say stop.

Suquet de l'Almirall
65 Passeig Joan de Borb.
+34 93 221 6233.
A real gem among a row of tourist traps on the road by the waterfront. Chef Quim Marqus is respected for the way he prepares traditional fishermen’s dishes from seafood he buys at the fish market just 100m away. The locals eat inside to avoid the blistering sun. Quim knows them by name and lifts traditional Barcelona maritime cooking to a fine-dining experience without the high prices usually associated with seafood – the suquet, the traditional Barcelonan seafood dish, is very affordable at 20 ($27).

Dos Cielos
Hotel ME, 272-286 Pere IV.
+34 93 367 2070.
On the 24th floor of a glass-and-steel hotel tower in the “ready-for-renaissance” part of Poblenou is a temple to the Torres brothers, who have worked for some of the best chefs in Europe. They understand the canon of French cuisine and the foundations of Catalan cooking, bringing the two together in this impossibly clean stainless-steel kitchen and improbably white dining room. The technique is brilliant, the produce’s provenance commendable. On arrival, enter through the kitchen to meet the chef. Menu includes octopus and seaweed salad, kid goat, suckling pig and oysters with calf’s feet.

1 Avinguda del Tibidabo.
+34 93 319 6601.
Surrounded by fences and security devices it feels like ASIO HQ as renovated on a home makeover show. But inside is a tasteful oasis. The high-backed leather-upholstered chairs feel wonderful to touch, as does the linen. ABaC uses Versace crockery and Spiegelau stemware. The rich dishes are intense, simple and beautiful, such as foie gras with variations on corn and liquorice – sensational – or the surprise of a new dish. It’s a big, long meal, but the service is impeccable. Founding chef Xavier Pellicer has moved on, but at the time of review, ABaC was still one of the best high-end dining experiences in town.

12 Passatge Llus Pellicer.
+34 93 321 0189.
In one of the few laneways in the great blocks of Eixample is this modern restaurant frequented by wealthy locals feeding on exquisite bistronomic food based on old-fashioned Catalonian staples. The meal may start with a handful of marcona almonds roasted with eggwhite, salt and cinnamon served with a jube of tomato, garlic and thyme rolled in sugar. Then a plate of cim i tomba, three pieces of lipsmackingly gelatinous ray with a few potatoes sitting in a suquet, a delicate seafood sauce.

230 Provena.
+34 93 451 6193.
Gresca is small, just 10 tables in a long, thin, minimalist white room – typical of the “bistronomic” style of restaurant, the term for great food using cheaper ingredients served in a very modest dining room. This is the exception to the rule, with costly produce such as foie gras, pigeon and john dory making appearances. In fact, the foie gras is a wonderful chilled dish served in a delicate escabeche. The signature dish is an egg souffl, a savoury meringue around a soft yolk on creamy potato. Sublime.

Els Casals
+34 93 825 1200.
They don’t give the address to Els Casals, just directions. It’s a centuries-old stone farmhouse in the Bergued region in the foothills of the Pyrnes, about an hour north of Barcelona by car. It is beautiful country, narrow winding roads cutting across little streams and through stunted pine and oak forests. But come for dinner and stay the night in the hotel in another old farmhouse on the 300ha Rovira family property. They have been living here for 700 years. Most of the food (pork, beef, chicken) is grown on the farm by the oldest brother, Jordi; his younger brother, Oriol, cooking Michelin-star food.

MoVida's Guide To Barcelona by Frank Camorra & Richard Cornish (Macmillan, $33)

Source Qantas The Australian Way August 2011
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