On the eastern side of the Rambla you’ll see one of Barcelona’s most photographed buildings, the Casa Bruno Quadros or, to give it its popular name, the House of Umbrellas. The ground floor of the building –now a savings bank– housed until 1980 a shop selling… umbrellas. The building was redesigned and decorated in its present form in 1883, just before the Universal Exhibition, by Josep Vilaseca, the architect who designed the Arc de Triomf at Passeig Sant Joan. Don’t let the spectacular dragon or charming umbrellas make you overlook the fine sgraffito work or the Egyptian inspiration of the upper floors.
La Rambla, 82
Google map: bit.ly/meWJZX
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
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.
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.
One of the few remaining traditional family restaurants where you can see three generations sitting down to Sunday lunch.
Traditional Catalan food, reasonable prices, classic decor.
Expect to pay about 35 per head.
Enric Granados, 89, 08008 Barcelona
+34 93 453 10 37
Google map: bit.ly/cTOErW
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