Eating Barcelona: Cervecería Catalana
Cevecería Catalanya makes for an ideal introduction to eating tapas in Barcelona; the place caters well to tourists and newcomers. It’s popular, but spacious, the staff speaks English, and the menu covers multiple languages. The best part is, the food also happens to be first-rate.
Which explains why the restaurant is generally busy, and might require some patience. Catalanya can cope with a crowd, however; the host, standing just past the bar and behind a podium, will provide an estimated wait time; if it’s long, you can leave the restaurant and have a drink nearby (e.g. Maestró, a brewpub around the corner at Rambla de Catalunya, 79). Be sure to return ten or so minutes early, however, so as not to miss your table.
I highly recommend a seat at the bar, if possible; here you can see and point to plates behind the glass – some of which are not on the menu. (Or, do as I did on my second visit: Take a picture of the food on display at the bar counter and point out what interests you to your server.)
The bar counter.
As for the food, expect top-quality tapas prepared with fresh ingredients. Two examples, plates I loved and recommend:
The shrimp with garlic, olive oil and paprika – a perfect of example of what people mean by “simple” cuisine. In this case, a few high-quality ingredients (thick shrimp, slices of garlic, a few small chili peppers, olive oil and paprika), combined with care. They cook the dish just enough to heat through the shrimp, which end up exceptionally sweet and tender. The chili and the paprika add complex warmth and depth. Phenomenal.
The shrimp. Stunning.
Cantabrian anchovies: These I tried on the recommendation of a good friend. The plate consists of five narrow, light-brown fillets, dressed with olive oil. The plump pieces of anchovy are packed with umami and have an intensely savoury flavour – more akin to cured meat than fish. At about a Euro a piece, they do not come cheaply, but are well worth it. Ambrosial. (The story of the Cantabrian anchovy, and how it was brought back from near-extinction, is an interesting one. More here.)
Do not hesitate: order these.
Other recommendations: mini-hamburger, Russian salad, baby squids “Andaluz style”, sauteed mushrooms with egg yolk, foie gras and steak flauta.
You’ve got plenty of choice; the menu is extensive, but not excessive. Options begin at around €1.50 and rarely exceed €5, with most floating around €3. This lets you spend a little, or a lot, and go for variety. €25-35 per person gets you plenty of food and a few drinks.
Service is attentive and helpful, and the food comes quickly. Some vegetarian options are available (cheese and eggs); vegan options, apart from the tomato bread, are non-existent.