A foodie guide to Barcelona

Barcelona is probably one Europe’s most underrated cities. As the proud capital of Catalunya, Barcelona combines Spain’s cultural depth, Northern Europe’s progressive thinking and a dynamic Mediterranean vibe. A casual stroll through the city’s seemingly endless array of pedestrian zones will confer upon any visitor a simple truth — Barcelona offers visitors a window into what it truly means to love living life.

But in nothing is its zest for life more evident than in its culinary offerings — a city made famous for its molecular gastronomy perhaps, but with so much more to offer. Whether it’s cutting-edge culinary theatre, or honest, simple food, Barca has something for every taste. While you could spend days, if not weeks, eating your way through the city, here is my guide to a astronomical three-day weekend in Barcelona.

DAY 1

Qui m De La B o q u e r i a: Forget any semblance of formal dining etiquette when walking up to El Qui m de la B o q u e r i a ’s storied bar counter. Located right in the heart of Barcelona’s timeless B o q u e r i a market, Qui m ’s bustling 22-year- old restaurant serves up a typical Catalan breakfast, tapas, as well as lunch to hungry shoppers and market vendors alike. While dining, you can spot several celebrity chefs enjoying breakfast, indulging in freshly delivered produce direct from C a t a l u n y a ’s abundant agricultural and farming heartland.

Casa G i s p e r t: This store is indeed an 4 x authentic gem. From the decades-old, in-house wood-fired oven, to the scent of freshly roasted nuts greeting you at the entrance, entering

Casa G i s p e r t is like taking a step back in time to visit your great-aunt’s rustic countryside cottage.

Casa G i s p e r t is not only a store but also a factory, given that all its products are roasted within its walls. You can not only buy raw or freshly roasted nuts but also a wide spectrum of a r t i s a n a l food products. Whether it’s nuts covered in sugar or soaked in honey, dried fruits, oils and vinegars, sundried tomato, jams, herb bundles, nougats, chocolates, teas and coffees, Casa G i s p e r t offers something for even the most demanding of foodies.

Cafes el M a g n l f i c o: Opened by the Sans family in 1919, Cafes El M a g n f f i c o in Argenteria is a treasure trove of single-origin coffees from virtually every corner of the world — Ethiopia, Kenya and Java to Nicaragua, Colombia and India. From its base in the Borne district, El M a g n f f i c o toasts small batches of beans and grinds them to order for maximum freshness. It also stocks a range of espresso pots, cafetieres and coffee filters. Something of an institution in the city, Cards El M a g n f f i c o visits each plantation personally to ensure that all of its coffees are chosen not only for their quality, but also for their fair trade credentials.

P a s s a d i s Del Pep: Tucked away in a ‘nondescript residential building in Play de Palau, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is an unlikely star in Barcelona’s culinary line-up, staying true to its no-menu policy for 30 years. An integral factor in the P a s s a d i s experience is the level of trust a diner must invest in the establishment, for developing an impromptu and personalised menu. A typical meal at P a s s a d i s would include portions of the finest locally sourced shellfish, prepared simply but with a distinct personality, followed by a selection of freshly caught grilled fish, coupled with a succulent chickpea stew with meat and artichokes. You may even be lucky enough to find Catalan e s c a r g o t s simmering right in front of you. In many ways, it is sheer culinary pot luck in terms of what the team at P a s s a d i s deem worthy enough to plate for you.

Bubo: One cannot visit Barcelona without playing’ in the amazing boutique Bubo, located in C a r r e r C a p u t x e s. From truffles with vanilla, curry with white chocolate, macaroons in the shape of hamburgers — Bubo has managed to fuse art with sweets to result in good-to-look-at-and- even-better-to-taste desserts. The selection at Bubo is never repeated and the new creations that are constantly pumped out from their workshop depends both on seasonal availability of locally grown herbs and spices, and what is in demand. The retail shop is next door to its own cafe where you can enjoy a creative light bite — and of course experiment with what you have just purchased! bubo.es

Tickets: This is a tapas restaurant that is C L V i n a league of its own, if only for the simple reason that it is owned by the A d r i i i brothers, of el B u l l i fame. At its helm is the ever so talented Albert Adria, el Bully’s former head pastry chef, as well as part of its core team for over 20 years alongside his brother F e r r a n A d r i s. Making a reservation at this restaurant is not easy — it is typically booked solid for at least three months, but it is absolutely worth the wait. I would recommend the ‘surprise’ menu that will have you on the edge of your seat taking pictures non-stop — think liquid olives which are carefully laid onto a fish-shaped spoon, mini air-bags stuffed with Manchego cheese, liquid ravioli, pastry horns filled with c r e m a C a t a l a n a, and my absolute favorite, cotton candy trees in a pot with chocolate soil.

From the molecular gastronomy, to the almost G a u d i e s q u e presentation, to the custom designed ‘tools’ through which to experience the tapas, Tickets is in many ways the unofficial successor to el Bully’s trail blazing culinary path, tickets bar.

DAY 2

3 Brunch & Cake: As coffee and breakfast L L lovers, the management at Brunch & Cake have just one philosophy — everything is 100 per cent hand-made and local. With a motto like ‘In grandmothers we trust’, this charmingly buzzing breakfast locale offers hearty, healthy comfort food.

SANS and SANS: Located in the spiritual hub that is El Borne’s magnificent Santa Maria del Mar Church, Sans & Sans Fine Tea Merchants offers what is arguably the most diverse selection of loose leaf teas in Spain.

Since its opening, three generations of the Sans family have gained a reputation for being the finest purveyors of tea in all of Barcelona, everything from delicate Japanese S e n c h a and quintessential English Earl Grey, to in-house cocktails of aromatic tea infusions of fruits, herbs and spices. Sans & Sans even offers its own exclusive ranges, including a selection of jasmine blends and its Silver Collection of white teas, all individually chosen from the finest tea gardens across the world. Refresh yourself from a post-brunch slump with some of their fine teas, before stocking up on tea accessories like pots, cups, filters and tea caddies; the knowledgeable staff members are always on hand to advise you on the perfect way to store and prepare your brew of choice V i n i t e c a: Recognised as one of Barcelona’s finest gourmet shops and noted as an unmissable stop in several culinary tourist guides, Vila V i n i t e c a in A g u l l e r s is an absolute must visit. A meticulously curated offering of conserves, oil and freshly rolled pasta are just some of the store’s offerings, aside from handcrafted cheese churned at the hands of Spain’s finest cheese makers, and the most intriguing selection of cold cuts from several distinguished artisanal producers. While you could while hours away in Vila’s aisles, my tip is to assemble a picnic basket and head to Park G u e l l to experience the sun setting over Barcelona!

Picnic at Park Guell: Visiting this park is akin to entering Antonio Gaudi’s creatively complex mind! Gaudi planned and directed the construction of the park from 1900 to 1914, but the project fell through and the park became city property in i923.Though never fully completed, it still remains one of Gaudi’s most colorful and playful works. There are few things that say indulgent summer holiday as much as a lazy picnic in the park, so unpack your treasures from Vila Viniteca on a bench and enjoy the afternoon — it is indeed a simultaneous feast for both your stomach and your eyes.

DAY 3

Hofmann Culinary School: A trip to this culinary school will make any legitimate foodie want to delay their flight back home! Since launching her school in 1982, Michelin star chef May Hofmann’s intention has always been to open culinary doors for all those wanting to learn more about creative cooking and the world of gastronomy. Be it the sight of an exquisite red pepper, or the scintillating scent of butter melting on a pan, the Hofmann school offers an unforgettable sensory experience.

You can sign up for a day course where you enjoy an exquisite Hofmann breakfast to start with, followed by a tour of one of the amazing Barcelona market. You then cook with what you buy having designed your own menu — Hofmann gives you ideas and you decide. Gastronomy Day courses are offered for group bookings, prices start from € 1,200

Kay S h u n k a: Recommended to me by vjjy7chefs Albert and F e r r a n Adria themselves, Kay Shunka serves up a superb menu that brings together the legitimate — and not the California Roll variety — flavours of Japan. A major part of the Kay S h u n k a experience is the Spartan design in which the kitchen is brought to the forefront of the dining experience. There is no music and very little distraction from the culinary stage that enables diners to witness their meal being constructed right before their very eyes, with the focus firmly on the chefs meticulous approach to preparing simple yet exquisite Japanese cuisine — ranging from an extensive array of sushi, s a s h i m i and a variety of carefully sourced grilled meats, to belly tuna tartar, Galician seaweed salads, and twists on the classic sea cucumber. The enchanting H i d e k i M a t s u h i s a patrols all aspects of the restaurant with the passion and excitement of a freshly minted graduate, and in fact, it is his singular passion that has led to Kay S h u n k a becoming a regular destination for those really in the know when it comes to Barcelona’s culinary trail.

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