Thursday, April 17, 2008

Script of "Tapear at Barcelona"

Barcelona has become one of the major cities in Europe. It breathes modernity as much as good taste. It’s also one of the fortunate European cities that is very easy and cheap to fly too. But, by the time you want to experience the Catalan tastes, the best places to go for winning and dinning, it’s just not as easy. The streets are packed with bars and restaurants, most of them very inviting at a glance. If you want to experience the traditional art of tapear, where do you go? How do you decide which are the places to avoid and which are the ones to go to?

Tapas means literally a cover. It´s small portions of food, usually served as an appetiser with a drink. It’s name comes from a few centuries ago when King Carlos III was concerned that his army was getting drunk in taverns, on empty stomach. He then decreed that all drinks would be sold with a slice of bread which would be putted on top of the glass, added with a slice of cold meet, cheese or chorizo. Today, the tapas bars and restaurants serve small portions of exquisite delicacies, and one can stay a whole evening jumping from one bar to another. It’s a national custom.

That’s why I decided to make an article about the best Tapas restaurants and bars around Barcelona. Today one can decide between traditional houses where one sits side by side with someone he doesn’t know, where the chatting is loud and where eventualy ends up meeting a lot of people, or one can go for the upper quality, where the food is made by some of the best chefs and where one eats in tranquillity and luxury.

After a first search on the subject I came across some known names, all from Barcelona – Ferrán Adriá (owner of El Bulli and considered one of the best chefs in the world), Carlos Abellán (worked with Ferrán Adriá for 16 years), Sergi Arola (owner of Madrid’s La Broche and desciple of Ferrán Adriá) and Paco Gusmán (not as known but at the age of 21 was already first chef in a 2 stars Michelin restaurant).
I made my own list of tapas restaurants and bars, which included some of the fancy restaurants and some of the most traditional ones. I ended up with a selection of 10 houses, plus another 2 or 3 that I should mention for specific details.

My selection:
- Arola – Sergi Arola’s deluxe tapas restaurant;
- Bar Mut – an antique bar with a very modern feel, plenty of good taste and explendid modern tapas;
- Cal Pep – one of the best known tapas restaurants in town;
- Commerç24 – Carles Abellán deluxe tapas house;
- Inopia – own by Albert Adriá (Ferrán’s brother), recreates the old feeling of a tapas house, in a modern way;
- Pinotxo – a Barcelona’s institution, in the Mercado de la Boqueria, a market where one can find chefs shopping early in the morning;
- Quimet&Quimet – one of the top choices of all the chefs, this tapas bar does some of the best tapas with deluxe canned products;
- Santa Maria – owned by Paco Gusmán, it’s a relaxed place with gourmet tapas;
- Tapas24 – also own by Carles Abellán, it’s a traditional tapas bar with a modern touch and guaranty of quality;
- Vaso de Oro – another barcelona’s institution, in barceloneta

I also recommend the followings:
- Bar Tomás – known for having the best Patatas Bravas (potato chips) in Barcelona;
- Organic – for having vegetarian tapas;
- Gouthier – for being the best place for oysters and Champaign in Barcelona (and perhaps all over Spain)

To this list, I still added a few shops where one can buy some of the best delicacies in town:
- Vila Viniteca - One of the biggest wine shops in the country that has a small gourmet shop;
- La Botifarra del Born – where one can buy the best chorizos and butifarras;
- Can Rabell – from 1929 selling some of the highest quality products – food and beverages;

I asked some of the best chefs I met, that were born and raised in Barcelona, their top choices for tapas:

Ferrán Adriá (7):
El Vaso de Oro
Santa Maria

Carles Abellán (7):
La Cova Fumada
Cal Pep
El Vaso de Oro

Paco Gusmán (6):
Cal Pep
El Vaso de Oro

Who is?
Ferrán Adriá - He is the famed head chef of El Bulli restaurant in Roses, on the Costa Brava, Cataluña. Today he is considered one of the best chefs in the world and tops the European Restaurant Ranking. Although he does not have a Tapas restaurant, he was born in Barcelona and lives there half of the year when developing his seasonal gourmet recipies in his workshop, El Taller;

Carles Abellán - He studied at El Bulli with Ferrán Adriá, here he acquired extensive professional experience. Ferrán Adriá soon entrusted him with the management of Talaia Restaurant, which he brough to be an unquestionable reference point in Barcelona. Later he started the Hacienda Benazuza in Seville and in 2001 he finaly started his own projects, first Cemmerç24 and then Tapaç24. Born and raised at Barcelona, he has given his imaginative, distinctive interpretation to all the longtime favorite dishes of Catalonia, with his avant-garde and minimalist design.

Paco Gusmán - At the age of 23 Paco was already the chef of a one Michelin star restaurant, after spending one year in Japan. Raised in Barcelona, he is the owner of Santa Maria tapas restaurant. . He has also worked and lived in France, India, Pakistan, Iran and Morocco.

Celebrity chef Paco Guzman trained under the legendary Ferran Adria at El Bulli (the holy grail of contemporary Catalan foodie fusion) and is similarly intent on bashing down the frontiers of food.

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