Inside Barcelona’s lesser-known Mercat de Les Corts is a small, unassuming bar offering up the bounty of the Mediterranean.
El Bisaura opens up shop at 6:30 a.m., serving esmorzars de forquilla (hearty Catalan breakfasts like sausage and beans, tripe stew and grilled cuttlefish) to local workers. At lunch, it serves a more refined seafood menu composed of whatever owner Alfonso Puig gets from Peixateria Anna, the fish stand on the other side of the market. The fish and seafood of the day are always seasonal, local and impeccably fresh – which is no surprise, since Puig is also the owner of the fish stand.
Les Corts is a residential and commercial area crossed by Avinguda Diagonal, one of the biggest avenues in the city, and very close to Camp Nou, the hallowed stadium where football powerhouse Barça plays, a university campus and the Pedralbes Royal Palace. Far away from the hectic city center, Les Corts is the kind of neighborhood where retirees walk their dogs and do the shopping with all the time in the world to enjoy the morning sun. They mix with students and workers from the business area around Diagonal who come and go in cars and on bikes and scooters.
The neighborhood’s market is a small one, constructed in 1961 and renovated in 1993, but has a little bit of everything and is easily navigable. For a headier experience, though, stop at El Bisaura, order a wine glass and give free rein to your appetite: here you’ll find some of the best calamares a la romana (Roman-style fried squid) in Barcelona, made with pristinely fresh squid and a touch of Vichy sparkling water in the batter. And that’s just the beginning.
The restaurant was renovated in 2007 when Puig decided to take over an old bar in the corner of the market. Peixateria Anna (which has been in Mercat de Les Corts since day one) was originally his in-laws’, but Puig was no stranger to the food and drink business – his own parents used to have a bar in a Catalan region called El Bisaura (Girona). Puig and his wife, Anna, just put all the pieces together to complete the puzzle.
Originally, Anna was in charge of the kitchen, given her skill in preparing the simple recipes that made this bar famous for its seafood dishes. More than a year ago, the kitchen was put in the able hands of a young professional chef who can cook sea bass, Palamós prawns, bream or lobster perfectly.
The cuisine and recipes continue to be straightforward and simple: just about everything is grilled except the calamares a la romana and a few other dishes, including some traditional stews. The fish come from the Mediterranean and are caught using sustainable methods. While at other places lobsters and crabs are trotted out across the counter, El Bisaura is more low key. Only before lunchtime (around 1 p.m.) do some marine creatures appear behind the glass; most of the seafood is carried straight from the fishmonger to the kitchen in its ice-filled box. From time to time, you can see Puig bring more fresh fish from the other side of the market – no need to keep all the fish waiting under the counter lights, better to keep it fresh and in optimal conditions before it’s prepared and served.
El Bisaura is, as its customers know well, the perfect respite from office buildings and urban traffic. Once there, we recommend resting your feet and ordering a chilled Penedés or Albariño and enjoying a wonderful tapa of fried squid or grilled scorpion fish, some delicate yet highly flavorful escamarlans (langoustines) or some very special Noah’s Ark shellfish.
You can rest assured knowing everything came straight from the source.