I’ve always found it extremely hard to find authentic Spanish cuisine in the UK, and whilst we have a handful of Spanish chains, I’ve always known I’m not getting the real deal. I’ve always been a big lover a of Spanish food when I’ve been able to get my hands on it, but if decent Spanish is hard to come by here, then Catalan cuisine is impossible.
Add to the fact that I’d never really managed to capture the perfect foodie experience in Barcelona on my previous three trips, I knew I’d need an education if I was going to find the good stuff. I did not want to end up in tourist trap tapas hell on my Barcelona city break.
Attracted by the fact I was flying solo and didn’t want to end up eating alone the whole time, I decided to book on to a tour from The Barcelona Taste. I expected the food to be great, because I knew amazing food existed if you knew where to look, but I didn’t expect to fall in love even more with Barcelona, food and this wonderful company in the process.
If you do one thing in Barcelona, make it this.
About The Barcelona Taste
The Barcelona Taste was set up way back in 2010 when at the time only one food tour existed in the city – and just consisted of a trip to the Boqueria Market and a drop off at a restaurant at the end. Jo and Joe thought they could do something a little more authentic, and were passionate about developing a food tour which was just as much about the experience of dining and chatting as it was about really good food and drink.
And its clear that they absolutely know how to do both.
At only six people per tour, The Barcelona Taste is a wonderfully intimate experience which because of the small group feels more like a night out tapas hopping with friends than it does with strangers on a tour. But it’s more than just the set up – Jo, my host for the evening, was warm, funny and passionate about what they were trying to do in Barcelona – eat and drink and chat with people!
The Gotico tour is all inclusive, with three locations, lots of food and lots of drink rolled into the price. I went home completely full, a little bit tipsy and with the biggest grin on my face because I’d felt like I’d had such a superb night out. In the Summer, they also run two other tours alongside their signature gothic quarter tour – in Gracia and Poble Sec. You’d better believe I’m already planning a trip next year to do both!If you're in search of Catalan cuisine in Barcelona, why not try @barcelonataste's food tour?Click To Tweet
In the Born district of Barcelona is the wonderful Tapeo Bar that serves exceptional sweet red vermouth and tapas in a small and cosy environment. You’ll need to get there early to squeeze in, but that is part of the charm. Jo ordered a selection of small plates here, and I sipped on my vermouth over ice like I actually lived here.
We tried a huge array of different dishes (they just kept on coming) that are more Spanish than Catalan in design, including chorizo, padron peppers, aubergine, and an asian-fusion style tuna dish which really hit the spot. I didn’t even know padron peppers could come in both a mild and hot variety and I got stuck in, not sure whether I’d get the hot one!
Jo also ordered the the ox cheek for us, and you should too. I decided that I really loved Ox cheek whilst in Rome, and this Spanish version was succulent and delicious and exactly what was needed to kick start my evening of tapas hopping.
Over plates of amazing food, we chatted just like old friends would despite only being in each others company for around 30 minutes at this point. That is the beauty of both Jo’s hosting skills and of sharing tapas. I love how social small plate dining is, and as I was travelling on my own it really helped me feel part of this intimate group.
We also talked about Spanish and Catalan dining culture, and it was great to get an insight into how the Catalans really approach their meal times.
Luckily, we’d left a little room for more as Jo had another incredible destination for us to visit. Tucked away back in Barrio Gotic is this traditional Catalan restaurant with a gorgeous mezzanine floor, cabinets of vintage glassware and a romantic ambience. In a million years I would have never dared to walk in alone, and it was great to have access to these off the beaten track restaurants under Jo’s guidance.
Belmonte served more typically Catalan food, so it was fantastic to compare the cuisine to our Spanish Tapas at Tapeo. It’s a great place to head if you are looking for something a little more authentic.
I enjoyed a plate of perfect patatas a la salsa de romesco (very Catalan), the best tortilla espanola served Catalan style with onions, beautifully prepared pa amb tomàquet used to make the famous open faced sandwiches with lovingly prepared roasted peppers. We heard all about the different ways people prepare tomato bread, from just rubbing the tomato on to actually having tomato on it, and the order in which the garlic and tomato might be used. It’s a serious business, as is the potatoes with romanescu sauce and I started to realise how seriously the Catalans take their cuisine.
All of this was washed down with some local Catalan red wine, and I have to say I felt very satisfied indeed once we’d left!
As we left for our next destination (reluctantly on my part, I adored it here and could have happily ordered the whole bottle and got on with talking about our favourite travel spots), we chatted about the political situation in Barcelona at the moment (and indeed the rest of the world), and it was great to get a real insight into what was actually happening in Barcelona from someone that lives there.
This is why I love doing tours – the ability to chat with a local and ask questions shouldn’t be underestimated – and obviously they always know where the best food is!
Bodega La Palma
Bodega La Palma has been in existence for 100 years and in the same family for the past 80 of them. It was warm, welcoming and served some incredible cava which I enjoyed alongside plates of dessert. Turns out the Freixenet, the biggest exporter of cava to the UK is just not as great as something a little more small batch. In fact, I’ve never been a fan of cava, but I think what ends up being imported to the UK is not a nice as what they save for the wine bars of Barcelona!
Barcelona is only just getting started on the dessert scene but this is a great place to go for a mix of the inventive and traditional, or if you just want a nice bar. Actually as we walked in I heard a mix of English, Spanish and German language, so it felt like there was a good mix of tourist and local mingling amongst the barrels. I was also living for their marble worktops and tables, like the basic blogger that I am.
We ate three desserts, and because at this stage I was fully into the cava as opposed to taking notes I didn’t write down exactly what we ate. But it was all delicious – something hazlenutty, chocolate and a gorgeous fig topped pastry that I definitely inhaled before taking a picture.
It was a real wrench to leave. After four hours eating and drinking I felt like I’d been in the company of dear friends all evening. And that’s the magic of The Barcelona Taste Tour – not just amazing food but an experience it would be hard to replicate on much bigger, more commercial tourist tours.
The The Barcelona Taste Tour was hands down the best tour I’ve done whilst travelling. It was both fun and educational, and for the amount we ate and drank it offered real value for money. You can book your tour for 99EUR per adult directly, and they accept solo diners which was not the case with other food tours I looked at in Barcelona.
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