What’s not to love about Barcelona? The art, architecture and night-life of the Catalan capital are all fabulous. But, other than the sublime football they play at the Camp Nou stadium, my favourite thing about the city is the food. And there’s no better place to sample it than at one of the open-air lunch counters in the central market, the Mercat de la Boqueria on La Rambla.
The market stalls are a treat in themselves with their lavish displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, charcuterie (including whole legs of jamon and pungent chorizos), and piles of coloured sweets. But it’s even more fun to eat the very freshest tapas, cooked in front of your eyes, while sitting on a stool at one of the packed market bars or restaurants.
The Pinotxo Bar near the front entrance has a celebrated showman of an owner and always draws the tourists. But if you press on through to the back you’ll come to the Bar Central La Boqueria, which is equally popular with discriminating locals. Once you’ve grabbed a stool – and if you arrive much after midday you’ll have to wait your turn – you need to keep catching the cook’s eye; when the moment comes to order, there is no room for hesitation.
The chipirones (squid), the boquerones (grilled anchovies with olive oil and lemon juice), the botifarra (sausage, often served with beans) and the bacalao (salted cod fritters), all served with garlic mayonnaise, taste so good that, if you are like me, you will immediately want to order another portion. Wash it all down with cold beers or a bottle of Cava or one of the local Penedès white wines.
Dishes typically cost €2-€10 each.