If you’re headed to Barcelona, you might want to give my Barcelona tapas guide a quick read. It documents my recent eating extravaganza around Barcelona…

Barcelona Tapas Guide

Patatas bravas, pimientos de padrón, croquetas, jamón… the tasty tapas staples roll right off the tongue. A trip to Spain guarantees one thing: tapas. My plan in Barcelona was a simple one – to try as much tapas as possible…

Usually I’m quite the planner – meticulously researching all the different kinds of food I want to try, along with the best places to try them. However, on this occasion, I’d been super busy with work before the trip, and didn’t have the time or inclination to undertake my usual levels of pre-trip due diligence. It was rather refreshing not having a list of ‘must eats’ to work through. Instead, any time my Dad and I were hungry, we simply wandered around until we found something that took our fancy. If you are curious to find out how we got on or want some tapas recommendations for Barcelona, then carry on reading my Barcelona tapas Guide… 

~ What is tapas? ~

In case you’re one of the three people in existence thinking to themselves “tapas? What’s that?”, let me give you the lo-down. I like to think of tapas as the grown up cousin of pic n mix. Go to any Spanish bar or restaurant, order a variety of the small dishes on offer and enjoy, preferably with company. In Spanish, tapas refers to the lid of a wine glass. This is fitting, given that the tiny dishes are best accompanied by an alcoholic beverage, or two. 

~ Day One: Sensi ~

It was early evening as we arrived in Barcelona. During the taxi journey from El Prat airport, the sun hung low, bathing the city in a glorious golden glow. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we headed out into the labyrinth that is Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. With it being Saturday night, locals and visitors packed out every bar and restaurant. Guided by our stomachs, we searched for food. Among the many passage ways, we stumbled upon Sensi. At that point of the night, there were no tables free, but a few diners perched at the bar were settling the bill. We ordered a couple of cervezas and waited. 

I liked Sensi from the get-go. A non-stop hum of excited chatter enveloped the restaurant. It was a small, cosy space – narrow, with a bar running down the lefthand side and a handful of tables at the back. Our bar-side location offered glimpses into the tiny kitchen. Within, two chefs were preparing the multitude of tapas dishes as orders arrived. They moved around the small space with the grace of two world class ballet dancers; in perfect sync with one another.

Once we had perused the menu, we set about the important business of ordering. First came the Iberic shaved ham, padron peppers, patatas bravas and sautéed mussels served in a spicy broth. A second round of ordering added Normandy style casserole (potatoes, bacon, caramelised onion, fresh cream and grilled camembert), baby chorizo served in chilindron sauce and anise, and another helping of padron peppers. The wonderful flavours made my tongue dance. This was all washed down with a few more refreshing glasses of beer.

Tapas Highlight:

After insisting that we order two bowls, I realised that my Dad had a penchant for padron peppers. Whereas, for me, it was the first time I’d had the pleasure of tasting them and, wow, sign me up. Quite how I’d managed to let 33 years slip by without tasting the humble padron pepper, I have no idea. Henceforth we declared that padron peppers would become a constant presence during our tapas stops.
If you’re now craving padron peppers, they are rather straightforward to cook. After heating up a frying pan or skillet, throw in the small, mild peppers and then blister them over a high heat. To finish, add a generous sprinkling of the best salt available. The result is a crunchy, salty, extremely more-ish snack. 

~ Day Two: Bodega La Puntual ~

Evening number two found us once again walking the passageways of the Gothic Quarter on the look out for food. I’d heard Tapeo was highly regarded, but there was no space and I wasn’t in the mood for waiting. My stomach demanded a payload of tapas, pronto. Opposite was the Bodega La Puntual, and we gladly headed inside. The immediate entrance is small, with a smattering of barrels masquerading as tables. We headed through to the larger courtyard area in the back, complete with real tables, with a far greater capacity for tapas dishes than those barrels in the front. 

We began as all tapas should – with a couple of cold beers. The initial round of tapas consisted of croquettes, padron peppers and patatas bravas. We continued with a bottle of Spanish red before ordering a couple more plates. First up were a pair of Chinese inspired pork buns, a Spanish take on the bao if you will. These were followed by a plate of succulent chicken with a sweet-chili dressing.

Tapas Highlight:

The bottle of Spanish red was particularly good, but this is a food post and one dish stood out above all others. Patatas bravas are the quintessential tapas dish – every restaurant and bar that offers tapas will have its own take. It’s a very simple dish – small cubes of potato, fried and topped with a spicy sauce. These particular patatas bravas arrived exactly how I like them – with an initial crispiness as I sunk my teeth in. A generous helping of garlic aioli and spicy tomato sauce offered just the right level of kick. Perfection! 

~ Day Three: Portic Boqueria ~

During the early afternoon we found ourselves at La Boqueria Market, a classic tourist spot in Barcelona, and one that I would recommend visiting for breakfast, before the crowds descend.
 
In any event, I’d treated myself to some jamon as we walked amongst the stalls with their abundance of produce – fish, meats, vegetables, fruits, spices. Not quite content, we spied a free table at Portic Boqueria, one of the small restaurants which surround the market. I know what you are thinking, and yes, you’d be right – it was more expensive given its proximity to the popular market. But it was hot and I was hungry and the thought of navigating the hustle and bustle of Las Ramblas on a nearly empty stomach was not a happy one. I’d have been content with some padron peppers and patatas bravas, but my Dad went overboard and also ordered the selection of battered delicacies. The peppers and patatas were bang on, but the delicacies didn’t quite live up to there name – unfortunately, there was more batter and less delicacy (the morsels of squid, fish and prawns were tiny).  
Barcelona Tapas Guide - Portic lunch

Tapas Highlight:

There can only be one: padron peppers for the win. If I learned one thing I’ve taken away from this trip, it’s that I’m a big fan of these little guys. 

~ Day Three: Taller de Tapas ~

Our final stop for tapas was once again in the Gothic Quarter. We headed out with no particular destination in mind. Dad wanted a beer (standard), so we dropped into Taller de Tapas for a quick drink. We positioned ourselves at the bar and, after realising that we didn’t fancy anymore walking, we moved to a table. I took on the responsibility for ordering and, if I may say so myself, did a pretty stellar job. We enjoyed a delightful sample of tapas.

Barcelona Tapas Guide - Octopus

I decided to mix things up a bit and ditch our usual staples – sacrilege I know! Round one saw ham croquettes, grilled octopus with olive mash and a plate of crispy aubergine drizzled in a generous glug of honey and lime. Round two featured a Spanish take on ham and chips (fried egg, chips  and Astoria chorizo), chickpeas (sautéed with garlic and spinach) and lemon & chili chicken wings. As usual, a number of cold beers accompanied the meal. I finished up with a bowl of ice cream – vanilla and caramel flavoured, with macadamia nuts. Scrumptious. 

Barcelona Tapas Guide - ice cream

Tapas Highlight:

I mean everything was good and it was quite hard to pick a favourite in this instance. However, I would opt for the chickpeas – the garlic flavourings were bang on. They aren’t something that I would typically order when out for tapas and I was very impressed, to the extent that I’ve cooked them myself back home. 

~ Overall tapas highlight ~

As I’m finishing up my Barcelona tapas guide, I find myself asking one question – which was my favourite? 

Now, whilst I would be happy to recommend any of the above restaurants, there can only be one winner. Overall, Sensi delivered on every level. The tapas dishes were wonderful and tasty, the beers cool and refreshing. But what I liked the most, was the vibe – the constant excited humdrum of chatter. Nothing beats a good conversation over food.

What are your favourite tapas dishes and tapas spots in Barcelona? 

By CHRIS BURCHILL

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