As in many other rural parts of Europe, the Catalonian countryside is dotted with large, old farmhouses, legacies of feudalism that have since been converted into hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants. The origins of these masías, as they’re known in Catalan, go back to the 11th century, but it was not until the end of feudalism in the 16th century that the former serfs turned masías into their own self-run farm holdings and homes. The buildings that survive today may be of a more recent vintage, built perhaps a century ago, sometimes older. Masías were usually named after the family who owned them; “Can Josep,” for example, means “house of Josep.”
The masía-restaurant is usually a rustic, down-to-earth eatery where local families and groups of friends gather together, especially during the weekends, to enjoy traditional and seasonal Catalan food at very affordable prices. (A few, however, currently hold Michelin stars: Bo.TiC, Fonda Xesc and Mas de Torrent in the Girona region and Els Casals and Can Jubany in the Barcelona region.) Foods they might tuck into include mongetes amb botifarra (beans and pork sausages), escalivada (grilled vegetables), canelons (cannelloni), bacallà a la llauna (fried and baked cod), cargols (cooked snails), escudella (stew), embotits i pa amb tomàquet (tomato spread on bread served with cured meats), carn a la brasa amb allioli (barbecued meats with garlic mayonnaise) or calçots (grilled green onions).
While masías were generally built far from towns and villages, there are a few that have been converted into restaurants in Barcelona. Can Travi Nou is an 18th-century masía with a spectacular flower-covered façade as well as a charming outdoor dining area where the fare is classic Catalan with a twist – such as sautéed lobster with chickpeas. The service is very attentive and the ambiance cozy. Can Cortada, an impressive building of Roman and medieval origins surrounded by peaceful gardens, serves fine Mediterranean cuisine and top-quality meats at higher prices. The restaurant is divided into different spacious lounges and private dining rooms, perfect for large groups. The Soler Ribatallada family, which has been into the hospitality business for decades, owns both restaurants. (They also have two more restaurants in other emblematic spots of the city: El Pintor, in the Gothic quarter, and Xalet de Montjuïc, in Montjuïc’s gardens.) Can Travi Nou and Can Cortada are both in the Horta neighborhood (walking distance from Mundet metro) and are the ideal way to get the rural masía experience without having to leave the city.