country's cuisine in a nutshell?
Spanish cuisine is drawn largely from a strong tradition of fresh, seasonal, healthy produce, put to great effect by relatively poor people. The indigenous Mediterranean staples - tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, wheat, legumes, vegetables and citrus fruits – are complemented by rice, nuts, fruits and spices in the southern and central regions as a result of Moorish occupation in the Middle Ages and by seafood and sea fish in the Atlantic north-west. Cheeses and pork products (hams, fresh and cured sausages) are ubiquitous, but red meat is relatively rare. Roasts and stews are found everywhere and paellas in the coastal south. Tapas – snacks eaten with alcoholic drinks that can be found all across
current food trend?
From here on I'm going to stick specifically to Catalonia rather than Spain as a whole, and mostly to Barcelona as this is what I know best. The main trend right now is away from over-elaborate haute cuisine – both classical French food and the experimental creations of Ferran Adrià and his restaurant El Bulli – and towards what is known as 'ingredient-led' cooking. This is about using simple, top-quality ingredients, with contemporary tools and culinary processes, to create simple but exquisite flavour and texture combinations. We are seeing the emergence of "bistronomic" restaurants – tiny eateries staffed by equally small teams of highly-trained chefs producing excellent New Catalan food at very economic prices. I'd recommend Àtica on Carrer Galileu.
What local food is not to be missed?
Everyone must try the tapas, but you need to be careful because there are some awful places as well as hundreds of good ones. I'd recommend Cervesería Catalana, but beware - you may have to queue or even book in and come back later. But it's worth it.
Which local food might I want to steer clear of no matter how much
There's no particular food you should avoid, although some may be put off by some of the offal-based dishes and the pigs' heads that stare at you from market stalls. What you should avoid is the plethora of tourist traps, especially those along the sea-fronts. Watch out for the places with large picture displays on the pavement illustrating international gourmet dishes such as pizza, omelette, hamburger, schnitzel and toast. And the places that employ staff to drag you in off the street. As always – eat where the locals eat!
What are the food oddities in your country?
The extent to which pasta is consumed in
What to bring
home from my trip?
A cake from Escribà would make a totally unusual gift, but probably wouldn't survive the journey. How about some Texturas from Solé Graells, so you can try your own molecular gastronomy at home? A Lladró porcelain figurine if you're feeling very generous. Failing that, the city is full of small pieces of artwork (from posters to ashtrays to soup bowls) in the style of Gaudí, Miro and other classical Catalan artists.
Which cuisine features most strongly in your city?
Local Catalan first, then Italian (probably as many as all the other non-local cuisines put together), thirdly “other Spanish” (mostly Asturian and Galician seafood), followed by Argentinean (steak houses). You can also find Nepalese, French, Mexican, Indian, Moroccan, Tibetan, Cuban, German, Greek and Iraqi cuisines.
Which are your favourite gourmet addresses?
I'll give you five very different ones: Cinc Sentits for perfection in creative simplicity, Àtica for perfectly-cooked home-style classic Catalan cuisine at affordable prices, Koy Shunka for great Japanese food and a brilliant experience interacting with your chef, Cerveseria Catalana for a taste of classical Catalan tapas at very reasonable prices, Lasarte for pure luxury and top-class fine dining.
What's your city's attitude to food in general?
Catalans have a healthy pragmatic attitude to everything. So although they really appreciate good food and classical culinary traditions, they don't fetishise their food in the way that the French and Italians can do and they're always open to new ideas. That attitude has brought
Which area is best for food – where to browse for restaurants while on
You'd be far better off researching your restaurants in advance. If you really want to find your own hidden gem, get uptown away from the old city into Corts and Gracia and look in small side streets. Unlike in some cities, wandering about is a pretty safe activity at 10pm in most districts of Barcelona.
What's the biggest flop and best avoided?
You might think it was eating on and around the main tourist street, La Ramblas, but actually there are some reasonable restaurants there. Not the best, but not the worst either.
What are the big names in the restaurant scene?
The biggest names are not all in
Catalonia is a land of great food and I could fill the page with a list of the big names in the business.
What are the most reliable restaurant guides for your area?
Try this website for an excellent list of the best and most interesting in town.
What to be aware of when dining out? Firstly, note that Catalans eat very late by
the standards of non-Mediterranean countries. Most restaurants don't start up
the kitchens until 8.30pm and locals typically sit down to eat at 10pm. Also be
aware that most restaurants are closed on Sunday and Monday. There are some
that are open on these days. If in doubt, check out the global food noticeboards such as eGullet and Chowhound, which usually have
open threads with conversations about opening hours. So be aware of potential
transport problems getting home after a meal out, although there are always
plenty of taxis that are good value for money if shared by three or four people.
One thing not to worry about is the cost of wine to accompany your meal.
Whereas you can easily double the price in many countries, a wine pairing in
Addresses of places
Cervesería Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008
Àtica, Carrer de Galileu, 159, 08028 Barcelona
Cinc Sentits, Carrer d'Aribau, 58, 08011
Gresca, Carrer de Provença, 230, 08036
Koy Shunka, Carrer de Copons, 7, 08002
Lasarte, Carrer de Mallorca, 259, 08008
Escribà, Rambla de Catalunya, 63, 08007
Solé Graells, Princep Jordi, 2, 08014
Lladró, Passeig de Gràcia, 101, 08008
El Bulli, Cala Montjoi Ap. 30, Roses, 17480 Girona
El Celler de Can
Can Fabes, Sant Joan, 6, 08470 Sant Celoni
Sant Pau, Calle Nou, 10, 08395 Sant Pol de Mar
This Culinary City Snapshot, including the photography, was kindly provided and published with permission of Trig of Aidan Brooks:Trainee Chef who lives and works in Barcelona.