A classic, timeless favourite, Ponsa has been serving home cooking since 1940. Nacho Salanova, the chef, still uses the original wood stove, one of the few remaining in Barcelona. (If you arrive late you might be squeezed in nearby.)
Following a fast disappearing tradition, Ponsa offers certain dishes on certain days:
stew on Mondays, a warming escudella on winter Tuesdays, paella on Thursdays…
You’ll also find the entire range of classic Catalan staples on the menu, fricandó braised steak with wild mushrooms, squid in batter, pigs trotters, kidneys, canalons, white beans and sausage, steak, fresh fish, crema catalana, curds and pastries.
It’s not at all unusual to see the heart-warming sight of three generations sitting down to Sunday lunch together, sharing food lovingly cooked in the traditional way.
As an additional bonus, Ponsa has kept its original decoration: simple, elegant and
Dolors presides over the dining room with a fine and friendly style.
Don’t miss it.
Enric Granados 89, 08008 Barcelona
+ 34 93 453 10 37
Google map: bit.ly/kY54fD
This shop is worth the visit simply for the sight of so much elegant furniture and the aroma of the polish. The owners search out old pieces of art deco furniture all over Europe and lovingly hand-restore them in their own workshop. The sensuous contours, luxurious fabrics and gentle patina of the fine furniture make the showrooms
a wonderful place to visit. Film directors think so too, and the owners work closely with several of them, including Pedro Almodovar. Should you be tempted to buy, Fins de Siecles will be happy to ship your furniture anywhere in the world.
El Filete Ruso’s mission is to return quality and dignity to the much-maligned hamburger.
The veal used is produced bio-dynamically, that is slowly and naturally in the rich, green pastures of L’Espunyola in the Pyrenees foothills. The animals are fed organically and given none of the hormone and antibiotic treatments common in industrial stock raising. The chicken is also free-range and fed naturally. Both are bought direct from the suppliers.
El Filete Ruso also tries to ensure all food and other supplies have the minimum carbon footprint by sourcing as much as they can from as near as possible.
There are thirteen kinds of hamburger: the more common variations of veal and bacon, cheese and so on, and some very unusual ones such as veal, wild mushrooms, wild asparagus and brie, or the vegetarian white beans, rice, mushrooms, tomato and lettuce. There is a wide selection of garnishes including caramelised onion or tomato, onion rings, roast potatoes with allioli.
Owners Alex and Claudio will be happy to suggest interesting combinations.
The low wooden tables are pleasantly comfortable, but most people prefer to eat
outside, if they can. Heaters will keep you warm if it’s unseasonably chilly. Well worth a visit.
Casa Julia is highly recommendable and just the kind of place the visitor would overlook. Small and discreet in appearance, Casa Julia is one of Barcelona’s hidden treasures.
For an authentic rice dish, Casa Julia is difficult to beat. Co-owner Luis is from the Alicante region of Spain and has brought with him the skill and flair for cooking the region’s dry rice dishes. Forget the heavy yellow-dyed stodge dumped on your plate like ready-mix; at Casa Julia the rice is cooked to perfection, each grain separate and with a crisp bottom layer known as socarrat. Luis offers several kinds of rice dishes
always, he insists, using the very best ingredients in just the right proportions and
cooked for just the right length of time. Saffron threads and nyora (chorizo) peppers provide flavour and colour to the meat and fish rice dishes. Specialities are arroz a banda, which is simply rice cooked in a very thick fish broth, arroz negro cooked with squid ink, arròs senyoret served with peeled shellfish, bacalao, cod and vegetable rice and two or three variations of meat and vegetable rice dishes. Plenty to keep you going…
Casa Julia’s other co-owner is Julia herself, from Extremadura. This region is famous for its potages and meats and Julia provides excellent examples: chickpeas with mussels, lentils with baby octopi, beans and chorizo and, in winter, escudella. Meats include roast kid, sirloin and steaks.
So, there’s something for everyone, even a small terrace out on the quiet street where smokers can dine in peace.
Its a great Japanese restaurant close to the Santa Katarina food market. They have a child space called Kodomoo (child in Japanese) which offers babysitting after 1pm on Saturdays while the parents are eating. I found it unique and a great way to have a quiet lunch with our friends - meanwhile my son was playing and having a great time instead of suffering in a babychair by the table.
This is a web where you can rent apartments in Barcelona. They have baby chairs and baby beds and above all a microwawe so its easy to heat up milk/food at night. As a family my new experience travelling with a small child has been difficult. It's hard to find a place to stay with baby facilities and ideas for where to go. Also I found a great Japanese restaurant who provides babysitting while you're eating! Barcelona is getting baby friendly!
This is a new shopping centre that was once the main bull ring. Designed by Richard Rodgers, it has a roof terrace where you can walk in a full circle, and experience a 360 degree view of the entire city. The views are literally SPECTACULAR. You can then pop inside for a cool beer and a snack.
Gran Vía Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385
08015 Barcelona, Spain
Google map : bit.ly/mCi8lo
A lot of people prefer Sucoa to the nearby, well known and consequently more popular – alright then, overcrowded – Cerveseria Catalana. Me too. I think Sucoa is a much more pleasant and relaxing option and the food is just as good, if not better. Sucoa is on the corner of Enric Granados and Valencia.
Tapas tend to be quite simple, cheeses, cured Iberian meats and ham and high quality tinned stuffs (tuna, sardines, shellfish).
And of course top ranking croquetas with extraordinarily crisp coatings surrounding smooth, flavourful yet subtle fillings.
The cod variety is a smooth mousse of cod and creamy béchamel – a delight. The Gruyere and Parmesan cheese ones defy description.
Delicious with a glass of Barcelona’s traditional beer, Moritz, and especially Epidor, the dark double-malt ale also made with water brought from Montseny mountain.
The restaurant is rightly popular and serves fine food; the lamb is highly recommendable and so is the fresh seafood. There’s a good selection of mid-priced range wines. Service is friendly and efficient.
Enric Granados, 24, 08007, Barcelona
Tel: + 34 93 451 38 44
Google map: bit.ly/lJ1YFP
Now, Casa Jaime is not the sort of place visitors normally go: it’s a workingman’s bar and lunch restaurant serving simple fare. However, Jaime, the owner, is from Soria and among the tapas you can try are his Iberian cured sausages and – my special recommendation – his homemade croquetas. Now a good croqueta is never born; it’s always made from scraps of meat and vegetables from other dishes, notably stews. At Casa Jaime, the croquetas are made from the meat and veg left over from the thick chicken and meat stew known in Catalonia as escudella.
Massive and misshapen, these authentic croquetas bear little resemblance to those industrial cylinders facetiously served as the real thing in unsavoury bars devoted to tricks on travellers.
Jaime’s octogenarian mom spends a couple of hours separating and shredding the ingredients, mixing them with a thick béchamel and coating them in crumbs.
Anyone wishing to experience the genuine traditional croqueta should drop in, order a couple and wash them down with a bottle of Moritz, Barcelona’s original beer.
Moritz appeared in 1856, disappeared in the late nineteen seventies and has now made a triumphant reappearance. Its distinctive yellow and blue label, fine graphic design and superb marketing knock the hell out of Estrella Damm’s pretentious efforts to be trendy. The beer’s great, too; Moritz brings spring water from the Montseny massif and uses only the finest hop flowers in its fermentation. The beer tastes fresh, clean and delicate.
Enric Granados 107, 08008 Barcelona
+34 93 218 10 55
Google map: bit.ly/jKeLAA
At the Avant, Silvia García Presas designs fine clothes for women. All items are unique, extremely feminine and modern, and they pay no dues to tendencies or passing fashions. All the pieces are classical in their simplicity and beautiful cut.
Silvia uses only natural silks, cottons and wools and she individually chooses each piece’s colour.
The Avant is now opening Primitiu, a space at the back of the shop selling handmade ethnic handcrafts.
Silvia, who spent two years at the Royal College of Art, was finalist in the prestigious Mango Fashion Awards, 2009.
This gallery has some very interesting work at reasonable prices. In fact, there’s almost always something I fancy in there. A lot of the work has Barcelona as a theme, so, if you’re looking for a piece of artwork to take home as a reminder of your trip, this is a good place to stop in. Pieces by Joan Farré show the city in a different light, in a way reminiscent of the old hand-tinted photos you used to see years ago but at the same time, absolutely modern. The Gallery also has old prints, books and a great collection of small pieces on Barcelona scenes, ideal for a gift or as a token of your trip.
Start the day with freshly baked pastries at Cup and Cake located in the leafy pedestrian stretch of Enric Granados between Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Paris.
As the name suggests, several varieties of cupcakes figure largely on the menu, alongside traditionally popular breakfast favourites such as toast, ham and other freshly made sandwiches.
All products are freshly handmade using the finest natural ingredients and there’s a strict no additives policy.
Coffee is 100% organic and the baristas are all qualified by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, guaranteeing you a first class café con leche.
Cup and Cake has no terrace but there are cushions on a bench just by the window where you can enjoy your coffee and the bright Barcelona mornings.
Inside, the décor is a quaint mixture of odds and ends with a welcoming, informal feel.
Cup and Cake is open for breakfast and tea but closes at lunchtime.
The location is absolutely perfect, just next to the Cathedral on the very central Plaza de la Virgen. Lots of quiet little streets and great restaurants in the vicinity, it is the ever charming Barrio del Carmen district.
The central B&B only has two or three guest rooms, which means the proprietors take an hour or so to point out their favorite sights and restaurants on a map.
Breakfast in this wonderfully restored Victorian townhouse is very, very rich and the variety is breathtaking.
Small touches that make a stay perfect: a bottle of champagne popped when entering the door, a selection of teas for the guests' convenience at all times, two large lounge rooms for guests, and beautiful art and antiques throughout the entire house. It is just lovely.
After spending two weeks in arty, alternative Gràcia it’s now my favourite Barcelona barrio. Predominantly a working class area, its residents are largely university students, artists, musicians, and designers, which explains the abundance of art galleries, boutiques, ateliers, and music stores that line the narrow lanes. It’s a living breathing neighbourhood with plenty to do if you like eating, drinking, shopping, and hanging out in cafés, bars, and sunny squares. It’s a good fifteen-minute walk to Plaça de Catalunya, although you can catch the underground train and it’s faster, but this means you’ll rarely see a tourist in Gràcia, which is what I like most about it. It’s not far from posh L’Eixample, where there are chic shops and some of Barcelona’s best restaurants, and it’s close to Park Güell, which is a short hike (or bus ride) up the hill.
Google map: bit.ly/jjAPGY
The long, skinny street of Calle Verdi in Gràcia is dotted with cheap eateries and interesting bars. The restaurants are mainly Arabic (Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese) although there’s also a smattering of Japanese and the odd other ethnic eatery, from Mexican to Chinese. There are a handful of squares and each one seems to be lined with small bars that hum with the chatter of friends late at night. Locals head here around 9pm to eat although the bars don’t start happening until after midnight.
Calle Verdi, Gràcia
Google map: bit.ly/lTCrbU
Barcelona is a terrific city for shopping, but I find the elegant old exteriors of the stores with their marble façades with gold lettering easily as interesting as what’s inside. You’ll find the highest concentration of historic shopfronts in the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter) and El Born, with a smattering in Eixample and Gràcia. My favourites are the pastry shop La Colmena, dating to 1928; the nougat shop La Campana, which opened in 1890; the pastry and chocolate shop Pastisseria Escriba, renovated in 1902; the knife store Ganiveteria Roca, dating to 1911; the hat store Sombrereria Obach, which opened in 1924; and the candle shop Subira Cereria, founded in 1761. And of course they all have beautiful things inside to look at too.
Wander around the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter), El Born, Eixample and Gràcia.
Most guidebooks will tell you to avoid certain parts of Barcelona during afternoon siesta when everything is closed, but for me this is the best time to wander around the neighbourhoods of Ribera-El Born, Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter), Raval, and Gràcia, when the shops and bars are closed and their shutters have been pulled down, because many are decorated with striking street art. While some view street art as graffiti, it’s actually not at all in this case – the owners of the stores actually commission Barcelona’s street artists to paint their shutters and garage doors. If you like what you see, head to the Montana Gallery and shop to learn more about the scene.
The creative Catalan cuisine that you find in Barcelona makes the city one of the world’s best dining destinations. Not only is the food inventive, it’s also terrific value for the fine quality. You just don’t find food this innovative and affordable in New York, Paris or London. The most experimental and most affordable food can be found in the tiny ‘bistronomic’ restaurants where you can get superb tasting menus that you’ll want to savour. The most representative of this genre and my favourite is Cinc Sentits by talented chef Jordi Artal; his sommelier and maître d' sister Amelia is also a star. The dishes and menu change constantly so I can't recommend specific dishes, but if you’re only going to have one meal in Barcelona, have it here.
It’s hard to believe that the tranquil ancient palm groves of Elche lie less than an hour’s drive from the beach bars and neon signs of Benidorm. The whole of Elche is chockablock with charming huertas that brim with citrus fruits and fig trees, but the real showstopper is the city’s magnificent palm plantation, the Palmeral of Elche. There is some evidence that Elche’s date palms were first planted by the Carthaginians in the 5th century B.C. The groves were expanded centuries later by the Moors, who also added an ingenious system of irrigation canals. The Palmeral contains upwards of 11,000 trees, including rare palm and cactus species from all over the world. The small size and lack of variety (it’s really all about the palms) may disappoint some herbophiles who prefer more varied and sprawling gardens. But think of it like a very well curated museum: each tree is well chosen and perfectly placed. A visit to the Palmeral wouldn’t be complete without a proper gawp at the 100 year-old, seven-stemmed colossus, the Imperial Palm.
Castro is a smallish jewel of a resort to the west of Bilbao and a welcome respite from the cultural overload of the Guggenheim. Comprising of a cheery port and two beaches (one manmade), it's a popular destination in summer and offers the perfect Cantabrian holiday experience. Just back from the front are a couple of pedestrianised streets are cluttered with stone pinxto bars specialising in everything from fried mushrooms to wonderfully plump sardines.
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