Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And unfortunately the most elusive one as well. For perpetually late risers-and-shiners like yours truly who would rather sleep the extra five minutes than fry an egg, there is never enough time to indulge in this ‘important’ affair. The solution? BRUNCH! The existence of this part breakfast-part lunch concept is a direct stamp of approval condoning staying up late and waking up even later. Who doesn’t love a good lie-in rolling on bed aimlessly checking their insta and facebook feed savouring the promise of a productive day waiting to be ‘slayed’? And then tucking into a massive meal offering the goodness of breakfast with the elaboration of lunch?
Brunch is IN in 2016. A #flatlay #eggsbenedict or #avotoast is considered as Instagram-worthy as the Buckingham Palace. London is at the forefront of all things brunch – nothing cuts through the woozy after effects of a late nighter better than a classic English fry-up. If you are health savvy, or vegan, or not even a brunch person, don’t worry! You will manage to find a spot in the city that can satisfy the most hard-to-please diet.
When the husband and I took off to Barcelona for our second anniversary getaway, hot on our heels for paella and tapas, we were adamant to adhere to Catalan and Spanish cuisine. Ex-Londoners and savvy foodies, we were sure we had ‘been there, done that’ when it came to the novelty of brunching. Beans and pancakes were understandably non-existent in our bucket list.
Transitioning into kinder weather (-3° to 15°) in just under 1.5 hours felt like an escape into paradise. Coats were instantly off our bodies, palm trees in the background rushing in to engulf us in a balmy Mediterranean hug. We were devouring croquettes and xuxos in no time. Barcelona was love at first sight. And bite.
The Catalan capital is a feast for the senses. Those lucky enough to make it here fall in love irrevocably. What does Barcelona NOT have? Beautiful beach, Mediterranean weather, Gaudi’s architecture, Messi’s football, Roman history and, most importantly for me, food that sings to your soul. Barcelona is irrefutably one of the most happening cities in Europe, steeped in history and culture, inspired from the mountains and the sea.
Barcelona needs to be seen to be felt. No matter how many blogs you read or stories you hear, you will need to buckle up for the ultimate experience. This city will leave you excited and breathless, spoilt for choice, sore footed and overindulged. It is, therefore, no surprise really, that I had a hard time deciding how best to tell the story of our Barcelona journey. It all comes back in a whirlwind haze. I swear I can almost taste it! So I get down to the obvious chapter – FOOD!
I realize that I HAVE to gush about our unforeseen brunch indulgences. I quickly form a mental list. I am immediately hit by a guilty jolt as the second realisation hits home: two out of three of these places are not Catalan or even Spanish! And perhaps understandably so. Brunching is not as integrated into the local culture in Barcelona as in London. It is a rapidly growing concept, however, with more and more restaurants joining the bandwagon to celebrate this cosy midday feast. The gastronomic experience might not reflect the true essence of Catalan cuisine but when a city can deliver non local tastes with effortless flair, you know its just as worthy an experience to appreciate the true mettle of its culinary landscape.
So, without further ado, I hereby present my list of brunch places in Barcelona that are NOT to be missed. All three are conveniently located near some of the most popular tourist attractions. Think American and English staples with a Spanish twist. Your stomach shall be eternally grateful for the obscenely tasty food!
NUMBER 1: El Quim at La Boqueria Mercat
WHY? One simply cannot miss the vibrant sea of life flowing through Spanish food ‘mercats’. La Boqueria Mercat in Barcelona is conveniently located near La Rambla, a tree-lined shopping area that is the touristiest haunt in all of Barcelona. At any given time of the day, it’s heaving with people and non-stop activity.
A big colourful sign ushers tourists into the food mecca that is La Boqueria. Here you can find every food related item imaginable, particularly seafood and jamón (cured ham), along with market-fresh produce that are turned into flavourful dishes in the city’s top-notch restaurants.
Tucked amongst the hawkers and their local produce, few tapas bars beckon promisingly. El Quim is supposedly the best so that’s where we gravitated towards. It was Friday morning, just before the crowds start thickening, and we found stools pretty quickly.
WHAT? Huevos Con Chipirones. (Baby Squid with fried eggs)
A highly lauded dish, huevos con chipirones exceeded all our expectations. The delicate baby squids tasted like the sea, not in a salty way but in a spectacular, olive oil-squid ink diffused way. It looked like the sea – or rather mighty storms that gather over them – all rich purple and black hues with a hint of yellow yolk peeking out from the tangled mess. I mopped up the red chilli pods left swimming in the oily pool after the egg and squid were long gone. It burnt my tongue but I loved it.
The Spanish omelette also deserves a mention – a perfect brunch dish if you ask me, given how comforting and delicious it tastes. Egg and potato is a match made in heaven, a combo that can NEVER go wrong.
NUMBER 2: Brunch and Cake
WHY? For the most instagrammable brunch on the face of the earth that tastes as good as it looks. And, to top it off, it’s HEALTHY. I can see you scrunching your eyes in suspicion but let me assure you, this is 100% legit. No wonder it is hugely popular with both tourists and locals alike. We visited Brunch and Cake by the sea in Barceloneta barrio (neighbourhood). The setting inside is very minimalist – all white and airy – so if you love the brunch space as much as the pancakes, this is going to make all your cosy feels rise.
Brunch and Cake is the kind of place where you will be eyeing the food of those around you and vice versa. Warning: You might find your food has gone cold as you photograph every living inch out of it. At least you won’t look weird doing so because everyone around you will probably be at it as well.
WHAT: Everything. No, like really. I will leave it to the food photos to do the convincing!
NUMBER 3: Milk Bar and Bistro
WHY? Because brunch does not get tastier than this. Think American staples infused with the flavours of Spain. Again, if you are one for cosy feels, this has a very London pub meets Queen’s living room vibe, all cosy armchairs and luxurious sofas, striking picture frames, antique decor and rich tones. The plating is beautiful, portions generous, service impeccable, music trendy.
Located near the Gothic Quarter, just a 4 minute walk from Jaume metro station, it’s tucked into a side street, almost as though it wasn’t popular. But once you walk inside the café, you will find it packed and buzzing, much like Platform 9 3/4.
Once again, we were lucky to have arrived just as the queues started forming. Most of the armchairs were occupied so we took stools in front of the bar, sneak peeking into the backstage activity. The anticipation that builds as you watch the kitchen staff is well worth the wait – if it does come to that. Our orders turned up pretty quickly!
WHAT: Huevos Rancheros (Spicy Mexican beans topped with eggs, pico de gallo, sour cream, hot sauce and corn tortilla chips). The nuanced flavours of the dish came together in perfect harmony – the balance of guac and spicy beans were agonizingly delicious, the kind you want to keep tasting until the cows come home.
So what are you waiting for? Bucket list Barcelona and make sure you visit at least one, if not ALL THREE of these gems. These restaurants are not just at par with London’s best brunch restaurants, but BETTER. That’s a promise!