Barcelona Winter 2023/24 (Trip planning and reporting)

Seems like several of us Francophiles are pretty stoked about straying to Barcelona this winter, and can’t resist dishing on the Paris board. I can only imagine the steam coming out of some people’s ears having to read our Barca comments.

So, Bar Cañete, a wonderful tapas bar. I will spend 4 nights in Barcelona toward the end of the year, and though I am not certain about the first night (will land someplace for tapas, I suspect), I am booked at three restaurants I have never been to, and will report back!

Buen viaje to all!

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If you have an open night, Taberna Noroeste in El Poblet (Galician-Asturias flavors) is excellent. They have a short tasting menu format with no bar/tapas section but the menu (and price point) are not overwhelming.

Taberna Noroeste is closed Tues. and Wed. (two of my four days/nights in Barca). It looks amazing. I am booked into Agreste de Fabio & Roser on Thursday night and Hisop on my last night, Friday (never been to either), and wonder if you recommend switching one of those out? In any case, I added it to my “to try” in Barcelona list. Gracias!

I too have ’ Hisop ’ on my radar. However, the 110 Euro, Night Luxury Menu of ’ Hoffman ’ also looks very attractive and enticing!..Decision!..decision!..decision!
BTW, have you heard of or consider the local favorite ’ Can Valles '…serving traditional Basque/Spanish cuisine. Thinking of squeezing it into our itinerary?!

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Not sure I’d replace either (possibly move one to the Tuesday or Wednesday). Hisop is always good and although I haven’t been to Agreste, I’ve heard good things and the carta looks interesting. Agreste also takes you out of the tourist core which I always recommend for dining (as does Noroeste).

Thanks to all. Not sure I could get off the plane and really enjoy Hisop (on Tuesday). Perhaps if I can nap a bit…I’ll ponder. I’m booked at Besta on Wednesday night, but it is not open on Tuesday night, so could not move that…I could switch it for Noroeste, but I think it gives a good mix for me of places. (Of course I do not know any of them! I think Noroeste may have to wait for a subsequent trip, but I take any advice you have!

Thanks also @THECHARLES. Can Valles not on my radar, but I think one heavy/traditional meal (a la Hisop) will do me well for this short stay. I will definitely take a look on my next trip.

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Not that I want to make @THECHARLES choices more difficult, but I ate at Suculent the other night when I arrived in Barcelona. Fantastic meal. As I had the tasting menu (shorter one) the first time I went there, I picked my meal from the current menu. Will report back and post pictures, but posting current menus here in case people visiting now-ish would like a look:

N.B. The “Suculent menu” had many of the dishes I chose on it (I just could not have eaten such a huge meal my first night), and is a deal. The wonderful maitre d’ at this restaurant helped me put together a delicious meal so that I could try many dishes, portioned for one person. Will post my pictures and opinions later.

Also had a fantastic meal at Besta last night, and will report about that also later. (Took the shorter tasting menu there, plenty for me, and just an incredibly talented chef and creative, tasty meal.)

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So at Suculent I ate a duck croquette (which I had eaten last year and was so good I had to have another) and:
Porcini “royale” with uni (the mushroom flan didn’t taste overly “creamy” just delicious, and with the sea urchin an incredibly delicious, unexpected combination):

Drank a couple of glasses of this white with my meal, another Spanish grape combo I knew nothing about that was terrific:

Scallop in clam sauce (description doesn’t do it justice):

Chicken “comb” (yes, the top part of the chicken’s head!) on crisped chicken skin. I really enjoyed this, but I can see how someone might be squeamish. I would order it again, though!

White butifarra with artichokes. This might have been my favorite bite of the night, though it was hard to decide.

Hare cannelloni with two sauces was also amazing…

I was pretty full, but the maitre d’ tempted me with the one portion of vanilla bean flan with rum chantilly he had left. I am partial to really good flan or crème brûllée, and this was exceptional. I ate every bite!

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I took the “short” tasting menu at Besta as it sounded plenty long to me. The chefs have apparently opened a new “seafood” restaurant Batea, and I would definitely like to try that next time I am in Barcelona, but would also return to Besta as the menu is reimagined every 8 days or so. I love fish and seafood but often find that the menus at fish/seafood focused restaurants in New York where I live can be very boring. (Different if I am eating at a Japanese restaurant, for example, where the accent is also on fish and seafood.) Anyway, Besta was focused on fish/seafood, but as you will see a bit of meat thrown in (though they asked if I had dietary restrictions, and I think a pescatarian would have done just fine there).

A couple of glasses of this excellent white with my meal (garnacha grape, and actually same grape, different vineyard–no pic–for my second glass):

Sweet white shrimp tartar sandwiched between crisped chicken skin (the sauce is some kind of chicken sauce, lost in translation):

Razor clam in some sauce that included anchovy, but again not sure what else. But the dishes in this meal were all excellent and full of flavor combinations that were new to me and just very delicious:

This was crispy kale served with a Hollandaise sauce and salmon roe. It had a little kick to it, too, and I could have eating this all night:

This was raw amberjack with a homemade kimchee. Don’t know what the little round pellets were, but they added both taste and crunch to the dish. One of the most pleasing aspects to this menu were the constant surprises of flavors and textures in the dishes:

This was a pompano ceviche with a dill sauce (again pardon my lame descriptions as I did not see the actual menu, but even if I had, I’m not sure I could have done justice to this meal):

This was red mullet grilled with a blow torch, little bits of crunchy cauliflower, and sorry don’t know what the sauces were, but complimented the fish (not usually my favorite fish, but tasted very good, not so oily/fishy to me, with the cauliflower):

Had a half pour of this red with my last savory dish (again the garnacha grape). Yum!:

Here was oxtail with smoked eel and beets many ways. Deeply delicious:

First dessert was coconut ice cream, crunchy graham crackers, some kind of gelée on top and horseradish! (Waiter tried to describe horseradish to me, but I let him know I was familiar.) Combination actually worked! Very excellent palate cleanser desssert.

And finally, something I really cannot describe, as I didn’t really listen well to the description, though I know it had chocolate and nuts (kind of candied, crunchy)…One of the best desserts I have ever had. Not too sweet, and not too rich, but the flavors were amazing.

To me this restaurant is one of the reasons I love eating in Barcelona so much. It is in a relaxed, inviting space, full of people (I didn’t see other Americans, maybe one couple leaving) having a great time. And the food, not over the top heavy eating, but rather so delicious and thought-provoking. I was eating solo, so just had the opportunity to savor every bite. Recommend this place highly!

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P.S. the Pomano ceviche came with a delicious sesame brittle.

Also, my bill at Besta including the two and a half very generous glasses of wine was 80 euros.

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(I think the tasting menu was 55 euros, but I wouldn’t swear to it!)

Glad you enjoyed it. We have found that the simple dishes like scallop with clam broth are often the best. The beef meatballs and skate wing are excellent as well.

I had the skate wing (one of my favorite fish) last year. It was excellent! Wanted to try different things…The skate at Capet is also very delicious!

I’m sure one can eat badly (even mediocrally) in Barcelona, but this is not my experience. I received a very warm welcome at Agreste de Fabio & Roser last night. Not the easiest place to get to, and I took a taxi (the right thing to do in this case). Worth the little hike to the top of the town.

Fabio’s cooking (flavors of both his native Milan and adopted Barcelona) is fantastic, and his wife Roser so welcoming as she oversees the FOH. Servers (not sure of their names) spoke excellent English, and my main waitress helped me put together a fantastic dinner (since I wanted to try as many dishes as possible, but did not think I could manage a 10 course tasting menu).

This was my meal:
“Paolo Petrilli”s tomato tartar with anchovies, cappers and toasts
Candied artichoke heart, egg yolk, Iberian jowl and tuna tartar
Pumpkin, ciauscolo, sweet and sour mushroms, melted Parmesan cheese, meat stock
Handmade tagliarini, black truffle (half portion)
Iberian pork shoulder Arturo Sánchez milano style, bernaise sauce & spigall cabbage (half portion)
Creamy licorice, mint ice cream & almond crumble

I was most excited about the artichoke tapa (they are in season here, and it is a favorite vegetable of mine), and it was as delicious and unusual as it sounds. But seriously, the whole meal, every bite, was delicious. Maybe the pumpkin most surprisingly so, just a really wonderful combination of tastes.

Will definitely go back, and I highly recommend this spot. (When they found out I was from New York, they wanted to know how I found out about the restaurant. I let them know that a friend from a food blog steered me in their direction. So, thanks to @SteveR!)

Here are my pictures:

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Ninkat I want to thank you for this wonderful report and the photos. That chicken comb certainly looks beautiful! What its the texture like…is it gummy, or how would you describe. On th visuals alone, I’d like to try it someday.

I’ve not been to Barcelona in about 10. years or so and I’ve hesitated about returning because I keep reading about all of the foreigners (like me) pouring into the city to set up house. Did you find that this influx detracted from the atmosphere of a Spanish city? Do foreigners outnumber locals in the restaurants and bars you visited? Just curious…I certainly would like to return someday soon…pair with Girona and Costa Brava, maybe. Thanks again!

Thanks for the kind words @erica1! I am a fan of Barcelona, partly because I don’t really drive, so getting to some of the more out of the way places is a challenge for me. Also, I am a city mouse (born and live in Manhattan), so if it’s too quiet, I get anxious. And I am very accustomed also to a lively mix of people. That all said, I don’t think any of the places I went to did I see other Americans (or even English people). I was seated between two Asian couples at Hisop on my last night (about which I have not yet written), but as far as I could tell, there was a big local crowd there too. How would you define a “Spanish city?” I think Barcelona is very different, for example, from Madrid, and I keep trying with Madrid, but somehow, for me, Barcelona is more of a draw. I love to be able to get up and run by the sea in the morning, and in the more summer/fall days, have a coffee by the beach, and still be in the middle of the city. I don’t know about people “setting up house” in Barcelona, as I am there as a tourist. I know, like a lot of places, they have cracked down on AirBnb, so that is less apparent than it used to be. Girona and Costa Brava are obvious nearby destinations, but I think a car is helpful in both of those places. The train goes to Paris from Barca…just sayin’. :wink:

The chicken comb was a bit gummy, a bit gelatinous, but also a bit fatty, and very tasty. I would definitely order it again (I had never seen it on a menu). It is one of the things that is so appealing about the cooking in Barcelona. The chefs seem to really enjoy trying stuff out, and the flavor combinations are really mostly delicious (okay, occasionally one has to wonder…but even that coconut ice cream with horseradish was somehow very fun in my mouth). I haven’t written about my meal at Hisop yet (too late tonight), but I will…Again, I tried something I had never seen on a menu, and it was pretty wow!

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Adding my two cents:
Chicken comb (to me) has the texture of a firm mushroom (?oyster) - not gelatinous at all.
As for the nature of Barcelona - my main observation is that the tourists seem much younger than they used to be - but, given that I’ve been maybe 15 times in 30 years, that probably says more about me! More planning is needed to see the ‘sights’ - the highlights are now all ticketed by time of entry. No longer can I stroll through Park Guell on a whim, nor can I enter unescorted to the various Gaudi buildings.
But as for ‘ex-pats’ moving in - that happened decades ago (when property was much cheaper). No real difference than New York City (say) - we considered buying a small Apartment in Long Island City for our regular trips there. Now it’s a forest of tall buildings, but NYC is still worth visiting. As is Barcelona: even if it’s now almost impossible to get into Disfrutar - still my favourite restaurant in the world (I’m on the wait list for my planned May visit - and avidly following this thread to discover a replacement ‘gem’).
My ‘simple rule’ is to avoid the places written up in the International (English) press (which will be crammed with English speaking tourists) and rely on more local recommendations (and, aside, kudos to Maribel who has provided multiple suggestions for maybe 20 years now; there is no more reliable source IMO). But also thanks to all the posters.

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I had one final dinner in Barcelona this trip at Hisop, again a first-time visit for me, but won’t be the last. Again, there was a warm welcome for me as a solo diner, and the all female waitstaff (at least the night I was there) could not have been nicer to me. I chose not to go with the tasting menu (even though it looked wonderful) because it didn’t include the dishes I wanted to try most that night. This is a white tablecloth restaurant with nicely spaced tables and attentive but not hovering service. The food was delicious.

Despite ordering off the menu, they served me the first two appetizers from the tasting menu as amuse bouches, and I was really glad to be able to taste these two dishes in particular: chanterelle blini with sea urchin
salsify with blue crab and black pudding.

I had ordered the artichokes with “cafe du Paris” sauce and trout roe as my appetizer (artichokes were in season in Barcelona and I ate them wherever I saw them, all delicious). This version was particularly so to me.

Next I ordered the scorpionfish “a la presse” with potatoes. I had never had this fish before. It’s a mild white fish, and I found the meat most like monkfish (of the fish that I am familiar with). They did indeed put the head and other sundry parts into a “presse” table-side, and added the juices from that to sauce for the fish. (Excellent mashed potatoes underneath).

Finally in the savory department, they made me a half portion of the rabbit with truffle and “pilota” brioche that I was also eager to try. It had some special meatball, as explained to me, traditional for the holiday season, in the middle that was not rabbit, but maybe pork and some other meat. I enjoyed this dish very much also.

For dessert, they served me a refreshing bite from the tasting menu, “kaki” (a.k.a. persimmon) with thyme and pumpkin seeds"

And the dessert I ordered of chocolate, caramel and mole, which totally satisfied my chocolate urge. The waitress who took my dessert order highly recommended the chocolate and pickled porcini mushrooms, but I will have to leave that till next time. Also for next time, there was a very nice looking cheese plate, but it was large and I was too full to do it justice.

Again, an incredible array of eats in Barcelona.

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