Barcelona is a unique European city. Its location on the east coast of Spain means that you can be wandering winding cobblestone streets lined with shops and restaurants one moment and standing on the beach with your feet in the sand ten minutes later. This proximity to the sea also gives Barcelona restaurants and markets access to the plethora of fruits of the Mediterranean.
Seafood looms large on almost every menu in the city, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a place that doesn’t do it justice. But there are some that just do it better. From old standards to creative modern treatments, the restaurants and dishes listed in this article will give you a sampling of the best that Barcelona has to offer. Use this by-no-means-definitive guide to take yourself on a culinary tour and snack your way through them all in true Spanish fashion. You’ll be glad that you did.
The tender cuttlefish at Bormuth is served piping hot, crispy fried, and perfectly salted. Give it a squeeze of lemon and then slather a long meaty slice in the freshly made aioli. The garlicky goodness pairs perfectly with the sweet squid.
The large prawns known as Gambas are a Mediterranean specialty. At Vasa de Oro they treat them right. The prawns are poached in olive oil and garlic until they are creamy and melt in your mouth. Be sure to have some bread handy to sop up the incredible sauce.
These fried, mild white anchovies are found across the city and the region. But few do them as well as Tapas 24. Headed up by local celebrity chef Carles Abellin, Tapas 24 does a lot of traditional tapas perfectly. But the crispy fried, butterflied boquerones are a shining star on the menu. If you haven’t had them before you’ll need to try them to live like a true Barcelander; and what better place to start? Tapas 24 executes them so well that you’ll want nothing more than the simple grated lemon zest on top to complement them.
There’s a whole seafood market worth of loveliness at La Paradeta, so certainly don’t let this tuna be your only choice, but it isn’t to be missed. When ordering, you’ll be asked how big of a steak you’d like. The fresh fish is then whisked back to the kitchen to be grilled to juicy perfection. When you pick up the finished product at the window, be sure to say yes to the pungent, herbal salsa verde that is liberally dressed on the fish. Your mouth will be left singing.
Without a doubt, one of the most creative treatments of seafood is the Fried Squid Sandwich known as El Famos Entrepa Del Casa Nova. Don’t let the hip vibe of this little place in El Born fool you. It’s serious about food. Reminiscent of a New England Clam Roll, this beautiful specimen features crispy fried rings of squid stuffed into a soft, split-top Vienna roll. It’s topped with a house ‘secret sauce’, which seems to be a spicy aioli.
Octopus features heavily on menus across this gorgeous city, which makes sense since the Mediterranean is teeming with them. You’ll find it served up in all manner of preparations. The simplest and perhaps most traditional is grilled and then sliced into bite-size servings, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and salt. As long as you’re visiting La Paradeta for the tuna, you might as well order a gorgeous plate of one of the most time-honored and truly local dishes. La Paradeta has some of the freshest seafood in town. With every olive-scented, salty bite you pop in your mouth, you’ll taste the sea itself.
Salt Cod has been a revered staple of the Barcelander diet almost since its founding. And one of the best ways it’s put to use is in these little bombs of deliciousness. No one should make a trip to the city without having them at least once, if not everyday. Most Tapas restaurants feature them on their menu. The main reason for suggesting Orio as a must-try is that the gooey, flash fried (but never greasy) fritter rests on a bed of creamy, honey aioli. The sweetness of the aioli is the perfect foil for the salty, crunchiness of the fritter on top. Unlike at other restaurants, these are brought around by servers as you nibble little open faced sandwiches called Montaditos and are served singularly. If the tray is full, no one would blame you’ll not be judged for snagging more than one.
Tens is a relative newcomer to the Barcelona restaurant scene. Its Chef Jordi Cruz has become somewhat of a local sensation, making a name for himself at a young age. The menu at tens features several stellar seafood dishes, including a beautiful tuna tartar. But a unique standout is the crunchy dish of Dogfish Fingers. Don’t be fool by the name; these aren’t the fish sticks from your childhood. The succulent fish is encrusted in bread crumbs and flashed fried, then served with a generous helping of foamed adobe mayo. The modern take on tartar sauce is an airy, slightly spicy cloud of pure nirvana that pairs flawlessly with the sweet fish.
What could be better than sitting a few yards from the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean and eating a dish that employs an array of its best produce? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Grab a table near the edge of the outdoor dining room if you can, so you’ll be able to contemplate the beach while you indulge in bites of the delicious saffron rice spiked with chunks of delightful fish and shellfish. Washing it down with a crisp Spanish Rosé is almost a must.