I Know A Little Place in… Barcelona.
Poble Sec is the type of neighborhood which the guidebooks describe as ‘up and coming’. Previously beset by a somewhat poor reputation for crime and general deprivation the area has begun to attract young professionals and bohemian types and is now in that golden phase between gentrification and discovery by the forces of mass tourism that have swept much of the rest of the city. It is also home to one of the best tapas crawls in the city.
For the uninitiated tapas are small dishes such as portions of anchovies, chicken strips or tomato bread. Diners generally eat in groups and order around three tapas each which are placed in the centre of the table and shared between everyone present.
In the centre of Barcelona, especially near the Sagrada Familia or along Las Ramblas, three tapas and a drink can set you back as much as 20 euros in return for which you will receive disinterested service, mediocre food and be left wondering what all the fuss was about.
Go to Poble Sec on a Thursday night however and you’ll wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t eat like this. For 2 euros you will receive the tapa or pintxo (essentially a tapa with a cocktail stick shoved into it) of your choice along with a glass of wine or beer. The action begins at 7pm (unusually early for Spaniards) and continues until the bars close in the early hours of the morning (this can be as late as two or three).
When you first arrive at the bar the choice can be somewhat overwhelming so here are some recommendations on what to try.
Croquetas de Pollo (chicken croquettes). These are possibly my favourite dish anywhere in the world. Not unlike a chicken nugget but with added butter, eggs and olive oil these are probably a heart attack on a plate. They are also however extremely light and exceptionally moreish.
Jamón Serrano (dry cured ham). Not as famous as its Italian cousin Parma ham but just as (if not more) tasty this ham comes thinly sliced and is often eaten with tomato breads or breads dipped in oil.
Anchoas (anchovies). Those who have only ever eaten anchovies out of a tin are in for a serious treat here. Spanish anchovies are preserved in olive oil and are wonderfully moist compared to the fish that goes on pizza everywhere else in the world. Braver seafood eaters out there may also want to try Pulpo (octopus!)
The atmosphere in most of the bars is electric thanks to the young crowd the offer attracts. Do be sure to speak at least some Spanish or the owners may try to pull a fast one and not make the offer available to you. Anyone worried about this may want to consider printing a copy of the poster to take with them.
And after you’ve experienced the wonder that is Spanish cuisine why not try cooking it for yourself? By renting an apartment from Oh-Barcelona you’ll have access to your own kitchen where you’ll be able to prepare some of the wonderful food on offer in Barcelona’s shops and markets. Who knows? Maybe the trip will leave you inspired to open your own tapas bar when you return home!