In a city famed for gastronomy, architecture and interior design, the wealth of stunning restaurants in Barcelona is staggering. Superchef Ferran Adrià spearheaded a global movement with his high-tech ‘New Catalan Cuisine’, and fairly soon designers and architects were called upon to create restaurant interiors (and plates and cutlery) as daring as the 50-course tasting menus devised by this new wave of chefs. And let’s not forget the classics, such as 1990s icon Tragaluz, a stalwart of the city’s design community, or La Dama, which is set in an original Modernista (or Art Nouveau) apartment.
Here are 10 of the best Barcelona restaurants for design lovers.
Lazaró Rosa Violán has designed numerous Barcelona restaurants and hotels, but his signature, more-is-more style reaches its zenith in El Nacional. He converted an old Art Deco garage tucked away down a laneway off Passeig de Gràcia into a spectacular dining destination with five distinct restaurants and four bars, covering tapas, fresh seafood, pasta and cocktails.
Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis, 08007 Barcelona
El Equipo Creativo is a local design studio known instilling imaginative references to location and cuisine in all their restaurant projects. Disfrutar (which means ‘Enjoy’) is headed by three young, award-winning chefs, who create surprising, artfully presented Modern Mediterranean dishes. The boldly coloured tiles of the casual front area pay homage to local Spanish bars and the traditional Mercat del Niñot (situated directly opposite Disfrutar), while the main dining room recalls a Balearic terrace with white ‘garden’ furniture and textured ceramic walls.
Bellavista del Jardin del Norte
Also by El Equipo Creativo, Bellavista del Jardin del Norte is a tapas restaurant that aims to recreate the atmosphere of a Spanish village during a local fiesta. Bursts of hanging flowers at the front entrance set the scene for an imaginative journey that takes patrons through charming, child-like spaces inspired by a bakery, newspaper stand, local bar and main square, complete with a church bell.
Carrer d’Enric Granados, 86, 08008 Barcelona
With several Barcelona restaurants, the Tragaluz Group is synonymous with fine dining in sophisticated spaces. Their eponymous, flagship, split-level restaurant has lost none of its appeal since opening in in 1991, and is still considered one of the best for updated ‘market cuisine’ (local dishes using seasonal produce). Most of the artwork inside is by Mariscal, one of the city’s famous creative talents.
Passatge de la Concepció, 5, 08008 Barcelona
The latest project from the young gastro entrepreneurs behind Bar Muy Buenas, Rilke has revived an off-the-radar Basque restaurant in the posh Eixample district. The Barcelona restaurant is sited inside a romantic first-floor apartment, where diners can experience the haute cuisine of famed chef Rafa Peña, before retiring to the rear terrace-garden for coffee amid potted palms and early 19th-century statuary.
Carrer de Mallorca, 275, 08008 Barcelona
Chef Jordi Vila is considered one of the leading lights of ‘New Catalan Cuisine’ and Alkimia reflects his unorthodox, handcrafted approach with a menu that is largely fish-based. The design practice External Reference and Alkimia’s creative director Chu Ur restored many of the original details of this apartment dating from 1864 (such as the mosaic flooring and decorative ceiling) and created an aquatic scene with art installations, bespoke furniture and surfaces inspired by the textures of sea creatures.
Ronda de Sant Antoni, 41, 08011 Barcelona
Visiting La Dama is like being a member of a very posh private club, or dropping by the home of a rich aunt, who happens to be an excellent cook. An ornate, hand carved staircase leads to an elegant early 19th-century apartment filled with bentwood chairs, plush sofas and a decadent cocktail bar.
Avinguda Diagonal, 423, 08008 Barcelona
So faultless is the vintage décor inside this omelette and hamburger diner that most people think it’s a reproduction. It’s not, but rather a genuine period icon. The model for Twiggy-style murals on the walls was the wife of Leopoldo Pomés, a renowned photographer who created Flash Flash (along with architect Alfonso Milá) in order to bring some ‘international’ sophistication and late-night eats to 1970s Barcelona.
Carrer de la Granada del Penedès, 25, 08006 Barcelona
Jaime Beriestain Café
Interior designer Jaime Beriestain has signed off several hotels in Barcelona. But to see his eclectic style, you only need visit this chic café. Vintage armchairs rendered in jewel-coloured velvets, contemporary artwork, and lots of fresh flowers (there is a divine glass-enclosed floral display at the rear of the dining room) are the designer’s trademarks. After eating, you can shop for these and other lifestyle goodies at Beriestain Concept Store, which is adjacent to the café.
Carrer de Pau Claris, 167, 08037 Barcelona
Superstar chef Albert Adrià’s futuristic restaurant is from RCR, the Pritzker-prize winning Catalan architecture studio known for avant-garde works that fuse with nature. In this case, they have transformed a ground floor of a formulaic apartment block into a high tech underwater cave, with rippling Perspex surfaces, puffs of pliable mesh, transparent furniture that resembles cut blocks of ice and surreal lighting effects.
Carrer de Sepúlveda, 38-40, 08015 Barcelona