2 gems each in Barcelona and Lisbon

While building the site over the summer, I’ve gone on a few holidays for some much needed sun and fun. I quite like city breaks and eating out in restaurants but depending on the city, it can be quite hard to find somewhere decent to eat, namely ‘cos a) all the places near the tourist traps are poor quality and over-priced, b) ‘local’ places can seem intimidating if you’re not up-to-speed on the local language and c) the sheer size of a city like Barcelona makes it harder to find the true gems. So, here’s a few tips I’ve come across while in Barcelona and Lisbon, derived from recommendations from locals as well as friends.


Can Cullertes

First up for dinner is Can Cullertes, which is said to be the oldest restaurant in Catalonia and the second oldest in Spain, having been founded all the way back in 1786! It was recommended by a local friend-of-a-friend, which is always a good sign. Despite my claim ‘a)’ above, it’s bang in the centre of the touristy area, just off Las Ramblas in El Barri Gotic. However, don’t let that fool you as it was packed to the rafters with locals and booking is recommended. They do speak English and we were served by the matriarch of the establishment, a no-messing type woman, who looked after us very well.

The menus they have are a bit strange, slightly different than your standard a la carte. They’re aimed at sharing and are split into 4 different menus, so you choose which one you’re having and there’s then a further choice within each. Each menu consists of at least a choice of starter and a main, while some also include dessert and an aperitif. For starters we ended up just sharing everything, ranging from the standard tapas fare of codfish croquettes and Iberian ham to fresh grilled shrimp and pork & bean stew. All the mains were of decent size and my portion of ‘grilled fish and seafood plate’ kept me busy for ages! On top of this, they had one of my favourite wines on the menu, Vina Tondonia… an added bonus!

Restaurante Litoral

The second place I’m recommending in Barcelona is Restaurante Litoral in Barcelonetta, right at the bottom of the ciutadela, on the waterfront. We came across this place randomly and again this would be quite a touristy area. The restaurant did remind me of countless places I ate in Mallorca as a child, but that’s not exactly a bad thing, as I usually ate well! The service is pretty slow and not exactly friendly at times (as you’ll see in the TripAdvisor reviews), but the outdoor atmosphere, food and lack of better alternatives nearby make it all worthwhile!

We went there for lunch so didn’t opt for starters but ordered the paella between 4 of us. We were warned it would take 20 minutes, which was fine by us as we were in no hurry and were happy to chill outside in the warm air, under the shade of one of their massive outdoor umbrellas. It actually ended up taking more like 45 minutes, but again, we were in no rush and the wait just proves it was freshly cooked. It also didn’t feel like they were making us wait so we’d drink more, which I can find quite annoying when that happens. When the paella finally did arrive, it came in a huge metallic bowl placed in the middle of the table and there was more than enough to feed the four of us. It consisted of well seasoned rice, huge, juicy prawns, chicken, some vegetables and various other random pieces of fish that I had no idea of! You could really taste that it had been cooked for a while and alot of effort was put into seasoning the dish.


Stasha Restaurant

This tip for dinner came from a friend of mine who had been to Lisbon a few weeks before me and said she wouldn’t forgive me if I at least didn’t try to go to Stasha at some point. I’m glad I didn’t let her down. The restaurant is in the fun Chiade/Barrio Alto region, where all the busy bars are at night, and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. We turned up without a reservation at 8pm, thinking we were early, but it was already filling up and had reservations for the rest of the evening, so booking ahead is advised. That said, once we started chatting to the waitress, I think she could tell we really wanted to go there as when we went back in 30 minutes (to check if there had been a cancellation), there was a table ready and waiting for us. Again, I have to say, all the staff in this place were pretty amazing.

For starters I had stuffed mussels, which were bigger than any other mussels I’ve ever had; 6 were plenty as a starter, covered in garlic and egg & breadcrumbs, delicious. For main I had the St. Peter’s fish; I had never heard of it before but my friend recommended it, so I said I’d give it a go. Again, I’m glad I did as it was so tasty. It came out it as a tower of fish, boiled potatoes and broccoli, no need for sauce or anything else, very simple and very well cooked. I was pretty full by the end, but not as full as my friend who had the steak covered in foie gras! He loved it but I had a bite and it was about enough for me, very heavy. The cheesecake we shared for dessert was heavenly with a lovely fruit coulis and they even managed to make me an off-piste (i.e. off-menu) Irish Coffee, which was as good as any I’ve had in Dublin.

Bon Jardim

Finally, for lunch this time, we have Bon Jardim, which we found via the Lisbon page on Wikitravel. This place is also the Chiade part of town, quite near all the touristy spots too, but on a side alley, so is relatively quiet. We got there at about 2pm on a Saturday, and while it was busy and full of locals (we were the only tourists I could see) and their families, we easily got a table upstairs and a very friendly and amenable waiter.

The menu is decent but we were there for one thing and one thing only: the roast chicken on the spit. There was plenty of other stuff on it, which I’m sure is all fine too, but to be honest, I didn’t pay much attention. The chicken came out on a big silver platter, 2 pieces per person: a leg and breast on the bone. The meat was seasoned and cooked to perfection, not too juicy not too dry. Portugal is famous for their peri peri chicken and Bon Jardim’s sauce certainly lived up to expectations: a very fiery oil you rub on the chicken just before you’re about to eat it. By the end we were full but not overly so – exactly what you want before jumping on the crazy no. 28 tram!

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