It has been an endless summer in Barcelona. The temperatures are historically high and use of public air-conditioning historically low due to government-imposed energy saving measures. We are learning to live with what looks like a constant heat wave, where the best hours of the day start at night. The city is now recovering its social and cultural activity after the holidays and the urban and green spaces, with its open-air terraces and inner patios, are still the authentic heart of the city where to meet up with friends and indulge yourself with a delicious bite and a cold glass of wine.
Feel the sunset breeze, save electricity, support the neighborhood businesses, and enjoy the final days of summer in the best way possible: in Barcelona’s version of the great outdoors.
El Fort Pienc
With a shaded terrace on a pleasant pedestrian street in the Arc de Triomf area, right in front of the Barcelona Nord bus station, Contracorrent Bar is one of the most interesting new restaurants to open during the last couple of years. Its owners, Catalan sommelier Anna Pla and her partner, Sicilian chef Nicola Drago, took advantage of lowered rent prices due to the pandemic to start their first shared project: a natural wine bar and restaurant centered around creative Mediterranean recipes and local products, which even includes organic vegetables from their own garden in El Carmel. Nicola cooks and Anna takes care of the wine cellar and the customers, explaining in detail every dish she brings to the tables. From mussels with ginger and tapioca, tacos with nasturtium leaf, organic aged beef, the catch of the day from the Barcelona fish market to tuna ventresca, their menu is based on interesting small plates and tapas as well as several seasonal options that you can share and pair with their selection of local natural wines.“We are focused on people from the neighborhood,” says Nicola, “With fair, affordable prices, and a relaxed and fun atmosphere where they can drink first-rate natural wine and eat great food.”
The tables in the charming white-walled inner patio of Fonda Pepa, decorated with plants and a pinch of southern Spanish ambiance, are often the first to be reserved. Another child of the pandemic, Fonda Pepa’s menu is rooted in Catalan-European traditions, with Mexican culinary touches that give personality and add enjoyment to their dishes. The restaurant’s owning partners, Catalan Pedro Baño and Mexican Paco Benítez (Pe-Pa) have created a feast of intense flavors and sophisticated dishes that jump from fine French technics to the use of a modern Josper charcoal grill, which illuminates the dishes with the primitive flavor of fire and smoke. As Pedro says, “We cook what we like to eat and what we know how to cook.” Their flagship dish is the rich cap i pota (cow’s head and leg) with octopus, served in a gelatinous terrine with splashes of aioli. The latter is made of roasted garlic, very aromatic saffron and piparras (a Basque spicy green chili). A bouillabaisse is then poured over the cap i pota, right at the table. The patatas bravas also make an impression with a hint of chipotle in the sauce. Other notable essentials include the ham and roast beef croquetas, cod bunyols (fritters), a rice dish à la presse with prawns, crispy cochinillo, as well as a number of seasonal specials from local mushrooms to seafood, all somehow enhanced while enjoying them on the patio.
Taverna La Parra
When you arrive at Taverna La Parra, a charming old inn in the Sants neighborhood turned into one of the area’s most iconic restaurants, the first decision to make is not what to eat but where to sit: the beautiful inner dining room with air-conditioning and rustic decor, or the outdoor patio situated on a quiet pedestrian street, covered by the parra vines that give the restaurant its name. A patio that in the past century used to welcome travelers who arrived to Barcelona city by train or dusty horse-drawn carriage.
The cuisine of this rustic tavern is a kingdom of two crowns, the stove ruled by Catalan chef José Martínez and the wood-fired barbecue controlled by Argentinean chef Darío. The products are mostly local, the recipes mostly Catalan and the tavern personality definitely connected with the neighborhood: “We try to work mostly with the Hostafrancs market [the closest municipal market] – they are our main providers,” José explains. Organic chicken, local mushrooms, grilled Catalan beef, figs, duck, rabbit, homemade liquors…La Parra is all about old-school, rustic Catalan flavor. Friendly service directed by Xavi, who manages the dining room, completes the welcoming, neighborhood vibe.
The terrace at La Esquinica, which translates as “the little corner,” has nothing little about it. With around 16 tables on Passeig Fabra i Puig and despite the wide and atmospheric indoor dining room with an open kitchen, the street is the main and most popular space at La Esquinica when the weather is kind – which happens often enough in Barcelona.
This very popular establishment opened in 1972 on a small street corner, and moved to its current, more spacious location in 1997. La Esquinica combines local Catalan personality with flavors of Aragón (the region west of Catalonia) in a unique mix reflected in both the decor and food. Owner José María Utrillas’s menu combines seasonal specialties with an offer of around 30 different tapas to enjoy with beer or wine. You’ll find all the classics like patatas bravas and croquetas, plus a variety of Mediterranean shellfish and seafood, from squid and octopus to tallerinas and chirlas (clams). Another must-try are the Aragón cured meats like longaniza and blood sausage – La Esquinica is a veritable world of tapas to enjoy, all while people-watching from the bustling neighborhood terrace.
Sarriá – Sant Gervasi (Collserola Natural Park)
Barcelona is more than the just the city itself – it also encompasses the surrounding rural area and the greater part of Collserola Natural Park. In these outskirts we find Masía Can Calopa, an old farmhouse that is home to the only wine production within the city. The space was originally a project of the Barcelona City Council until, in 2010, it became the second home of L’OLivera Cooperative, one of Catalonia’s most important agricultural and social initiatives.
Started in 1974 by a priest named Josep Maria Segura, the former winery’s mission is now to build a home and workplace for people with special needs, allowing them to develop a healing community through working the land (along with grapes, L’Olivera also grows olives). The project – which can house 16 residents and offer work to about 20 people – has resulted in the successful production of 11 still wines and two sparkling wines, and a variety of extra virgin olive oils, all being made using organic methods.
In Barcelona, the joint Can Calopa–L’Olivera project is home to seven residents who also work in the vineyards, groves and fields around the farmhouse. In addition to the production of five different wines from traditional and recovered grapes varieties such as pansa blanca and xarel·lo, they make their own olive oil from Arbequina olives and cultivate other vegetables in their garden.
To try all the products, you can visit their shop in the farmhouse or stay awhile – Can Calopa’s magnificent terrace overlooks the vineyards and the valley, right in the middle of the natural park. Here you can taste the best wine produced right in Barcelona, alongside tapas like ham and cured sausages, olives, conservas and pickles, artisan cheese boards and hummus.
You can reach the farmhouse by car or taxi, but the meal is the perfect reward after an invigorating walk in the woods of 1.5 – 2 hours from the Les Planes FCG train station. Salut!