164 Avinguda Parallel
Tel: 34 93 292 4254
A snackería from the Adrià brothers Ferran and Albert, 41° has been drawing a crowd of curious locals and eager tourists to the unfashionable neighborhood of Poble Sec since it opened in early 2011. First and foremost, it's a cocktail bar, featuring a sophisticated velvety interior, diamante-encrusted wall art, and jazzy background music. The cocktails are creative enough (non-oxidized water makes the ice last longer, and the humble sangria is presented in a martini glass) but it is the bar "snacks" that highlight the Adriàs' signature wackiness (and account for the venue's appearance here rather than in Concierge.com's nightlife section). Try the black currant and yogurt profiteroles, spherified olives, and seaweed and quinoa crisps, and you'll never consider nuts worthy cocktail nibbles again. Next door, the more colorful and casual Tickets Bar—also from the Adriàs—serves both traditional and creative tapas. Reservations essential.—Suzanne Wales
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 6 pm to 2 am (last food service, 11 pm).
ABaC Restaurant & Hotel
1 Avenida Tibidabo
Tel: 34 93 319 6600
Michelin-starred chef Jordi Cruz is one of the talented young guns of new Catalan cuisine. His latest restaurant, on the threshold of the Tibidabo neighborhood, is set in an elegant turn-of-the-century mansion that also houses the city's first gastro-hotel. The restaurant, a hushed and expensive affair, is located in a modernist, natural wood–clad annex in a garden where guests can partake of Cruz's singular cuisine: Options may include pigeon stuffed with foie gras and porcini mushrooms, milk-fed lamb infused with vanilla, and eel with Iberian ham ravioli. It's also possible to observe Cruz at work by entering his gleaming, steel state-of-the-art kitchen via a special walkway that connects the kitchen to the hotel's ground floor (be warned, waiters use this ramp, too).—Suzanne Wales
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 4 pm and 8:30 to 11 pm.
7–9 Alcalde José de la Bandera
Tel: 34 954 540 000
Don't be fooled by Abantal's location in an anonymous small street near the city center, or its low-key, neutral interior. This contemporary Andalusian restaurant is one of only two Michelin-starred options in Seville (you'll find the other at EME Catedral hotel). The tasting menu offers either seven or nine good-size courses, with or without wines (including sherry, cava, and dessert wine). Dishes include unusual regional ingredients such as sweet chivo lechal malagueño (milk-fed kid from Málaga) and tender liebre (hare), as well as the popular tartar de atún (tuna tartare), plus a new twist on famous Andalusian dishes such as salmorejo, a thick, smooth chilled soup that here is made with tangy beets rather than the typical tomatoes. Regional wines feature prominently on the list: There are semisweet whites and reds from Seville province, plus a pinot noir from the award-winning winemaker Los Aguilares in Ronda.—Fiona Flores Watson
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 2 to 4:30 pm and 9 to 11:30 pm.
31 de Agosto
Tel: 34 650 13 53 73
San Sebastián's old town is best known for its pintxo bars (the Basque version of tapas), and with at least one on every block, competition is stiff. For the last few years, the bar drawing the most praise is A Fuego Negro (Black Fire), which serves up a selection of classic pintxos with a twist that goes hand in hand with the part bar, part art exhibit interior. Expect un-pintxo flavors such as mole, liquorice, mint, or ras al-hanout. The most popular dish is the Kobe beef burger served on a ketchup-infused bun with a side of banana chips. For dessert, choose the spilled marijuana planter where the plant itself is actually a green sugar cookie and the incredibly realistic spilled dirt and roots are made of chocolate.—Guy Fiorita
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 12:30 to 4 pm and 8 to 11 pm.
29 Calle Lehendakari Leizaola
Tel: 34 94 428 0039
Chef José Miguel Olazabalaga serves up some truly inventive creations in this angular, glossy wooden box of a dining room. Foie gras is wrapped in a thin skin of smoked bread, served with a gelée of salted cherries and arugula mayonnaise; grilled squid are drizzled in pumpkin and almond cream; and Iberian pork comes with black rice and a sunflower-seed turrón (like nougat). If you haven't the time or inclination to try the full seven- or nine-course tasting menus, you can simply order à la carte.
Open Mondays through Saturdays.
76 Alameda de Hércules
Tel: 34 954 900 591
With a quiet, shady patio full of climbing plants, just off the bohemian Alameda avenue, Al Aljibe is one of the prettiest and best-located tapas spots in Seville. The Colombian chef combines Asian, Spanish, and South American elements in his small plates. Offerings include mussels with spicy sauce, cucumber, and mint; and pork with white corn pancakes and coriander Huancaína (Peruvian cheese sauce). The first floor has a cozy dining room where you can order full meals (try the suckling pig with tropical fruit), but it's the second-floor terrace that is hard to beat, with views over the Alameda and beds of aromatic herbs to scent your evening meal (avoid lunch times in the searingly hot summer). Service isn't always sharp, so just sit back, watch the local eccentrics passing, and soak it up.—Fiona Flores Watson
Open daily 1:30 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight.
35 Calle Sorní
Tel: 34 96 395 1005
One of the only notable paella restaurants in the city center, Albacar turns out delicious Valencian staples like arrroz a banda (seafood with rice and potatoes) in an elegantly modern dining room. Chef Tito Albacar adds a dash of creativity to traditional dishes; a "poor" dish like pig's trotters and ears with black pudding, for example, is elevated by the addition of a truffle vinaigrette.
Closed Sundays. No dinner on Mondays.
22 Barrio Elexalde
Tel: 34 94 456 0050
Entering this converted Basque farmhouse, set next to a 13th-century church in the small town of Galdakao—about a 15-minute drive from Bilbao—feels like stepping into a storybook. After being seated in the dining room with its beamed ceiling and embroidered table linens (or, weather permitting, the porch with its view of the mountains), you'll be greeted by a waitress in a traditional bonnet and apron. Chef Isidro Arribas's six- and ten-course tasting menus give you a chance to try a variety of traditional dishes, like marinated bonito served with garlic oil and tomato bread crumbs, or a fragrant, smoky, roasted choricero pepper that comes with a fresh anchovy. You can also order à la carte.
Mon.—Thurs. lunch only. Fri. and Sat. lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.
36 Calle Ferraz
Tel: 34 91 547 4046
A first glance inside César Rodríguez's sparsely decorated space of only 16 seats hints little at the fact that he is one of Madrid's culinary heartthrobs. Rodríguez has created what feels like a small neighborhood restaurant (his wife, Cristina de Pedro, runs the house with effortless grace), but in contrast to the minimalist interior, the kitchen tends toward more sensory stimulation rather than less, preparing culinary creations that are artfully plated. Tender, expertly grilled sardines are stuffed with crumbs of pan tomaca, ham, and aromatic herbs, while cataplana de secreto de cerdo ibérico y berberechos, an ode to a classic Portuguese country dish, replaces humble cubes of pork with the choicest cut of Spain's choicest pig and substitutes delicate Spanish cockles for clams.
Museo de Bellas Artes
Plaza del Museo
Tel: 34 94 442 4657
The name means "above the trees" in Basque, and this glass-walled restaurant atop Bilbao's Fine Arts Museum really does feel like a sort of gustatory tree house. Chef Aitor Basabe's dishes are refined but still accessible: Pressed Ibérico pork loin comes in a rich, dark garlic sauce, while his seared bluefin tuna is topped with macadamia shavings and "faux wasabi," made with a purée of spicy guindilla peppers and fresh shelled peas. The inventive desserts include balsamic-vinegar ice cream (much more delicious than it sounds), and the first-rate wine list has an impressive selection of port.
Closed Mondays. No dinner on Sundays.
32 Calle Augusto Figueroa
Tel: 34 91 522 0440
This cozy restaurant serving evolved tapas (expect lots of fish and game dishes) has walls the color of egg yolk covered with eclectic framed prints and matching eggy tablecloths. Chef Iñaki Gamba changes the lineup according to the season, the market, his mood…and yours. The website (in Spanish only) has a form on which you can list your likes and dislikes in detail so Gamba can design your ideal menu ahead of any planned celebration (www.restaurantearce.com).
273 Avenida Alcalde José Elosegui
Tel: 34 943 278 465
For foodies, a visit to this Michelin-starred cathedral of haute cuisine is a necessary pilgrimage. Juan Mari Arzak (who runs the kitchen with his daughter Elena, a celebrated chef in her own right) is known as the father of Spain's modern gastronomy movement. Since the late 1970s, Arzak has served as a mentor to younger chefs while continuing to expand the nueva cocina (nouvelle cuisine) he helped define. His poached egg with truffle oil, crisp bread crumbs, and a mash of txistorra (local sausage seasoned with paprika and garlic) is a winning blend of strong flavors. Seafood dishes made with tender baby squid or perfectly moist marinated bonito are sublime. Your meal here will be expensive—and worth every euro.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
43 Portuetxe Kalea
Tel: 34 943 215 018
For a classic but casual Basque meal, head to this 400-year-old farmhouse in the university district of Ibaeta. The historic structure, surrounded on all sides by high-rise buildings, is a charmingly stubborn testament to another era. Inside, it's all white walls, wood beams, and long tables, and the menu reads like a culinary history of the region: Gernika and piquillo peppers, grilled hake, bacalao omelet, lettuce hearts with anchovies, and baby squid with caramelized onions. Order an assortment of things to share, including the wonderful chuleta, a massive hunk of tender, grilled ox meat, and you'll be thankful that the place has survived the vagaries of time.
4 Travesía de San Mateo
Tel: 34 91 310 0965
You'll think you're in the wrong place for a few minutes after you ring the unmarked doorbell of a deserted antique store—until a stylish server emerges from somewhere, opens the door, and ushers you into a romantic urban netherworld. There, you'll dine amid pan-Oriental antiques strewn around the basement of a Brooklyn-esque warehouse. The only menu is a set meal priced under $100, but it would be a bargain for twice that: As many as 20 of young chef Jaime Renedo's small courses await, and they are exercises for the intellect just as they are for the palate. A dark olive biscuit sandwiching Parmesan foam masquerades as an Oreo cookie. A postmodern Rice Krispies treat is prepared with saffron, like a retro-pop paella. Ever had a foie gras Cuba Libre? Renedo's aspic jelly atop a smooth terrine is made with rum and Coca-Cola. Asiana stands head and shoulders above the many inept Adrià wannabes. For a more economical taste of Asiana, try Next Door, which is, you guessed it, right next door. The same innovative cooking is served, but in a more casual atmosphere.—Updated by Guy Fiorita
Open daily 10:30 am to 2 pm and 5 to 8:30 pm.
Tel: 34 94 455 8866
Since it opened in August 2005, Azurmendi has been one of the region's major hotspots—and the buzz is warranted. Set in a low-slung, warehouse-like building ten minutes' drive from Bilbao, the austere-looking restaurant is the atelier of 29-year-old chef Eneko Atxa. He likes to pair unexpected flavors, and is especially inventive with concentrated stocks and broths. The results, like his scallop à la plancha —topped with flying-fish roe and bathed in squid stock—are delicious. Not everything on the menu is trendy; some dishes, like his "textures of chocolate" dessert (a trio of chocolate ice cream, cake, and mousse), are pure and simple decadence. Be sure to order the excellent white txakoli wine (pronounced cha-coe-lee) from Azurmendi's own in-house winery; this crisp, dry, mildly sparkling wine, made from the area's hondarrabi zuri grapes, pairs perfectly with fish.
Mon.—Thurs. lunch only; Fri. and Sat. lunch and dinner. Closed Sundays.
1 Plaza San Lorenzo
Tel: 34 954 906 475
Az-Zait's decor is a strange mélange of baroque and classical, with gold chairs and murals of Roman gods, but that doesn't reflect the contemporary cuisine or the informative, friendly service. Four- or eight-course tasting menus include pan-fried scallops with a tasty, wispy fennel foam. Don't miss out on the superb homemade bread (five types, including amazing tomato and basil). An extensive wine list, almost exclusively Spanish and reasonably priced, features some fine Ribera del Duero reds from the famed ten-year-old Vega Sicilia to the humbler but serviceable Emilio Moro.
Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 4 pm and 8 pm to midnight, September through July.
7 Calle Moreto
Paseo del Prado
Tel: 34 91 420 0177
For a while, this pricey, prestigious restaurant seemed lost, as people lamented the departure of noted chef Andrés Madrigal (now at Alboroque in the Atocha district). But then along came César Martín in April 2006, who renewed Balzac's mission with verve. As ever, to dine here you'll have to have a certain tolerance for pomposities like extra silverware, unnecessary decanting, and service that sacrifices attentiveness for formality, but on the plate, you'll find this 30-something chef working wonders, as in a meltingly tender breast and leg of pigeon lying on a sticky bed of stewed fruit compote. There are some missteps, like Martín's nouvelle version of the classic ajo blanco (a northern soup made from garlic and whitened with crushed almonds). Here, marinated rape (hake) is added, which has too much acidity and is the wrong texture for the dish. But desserts like poached pear in port wine sauce shine on. In the balance, this is once again one of the city's most reliable tables.
26 Calle Navas
Tel: 34 958 227 070
This city center bar is famous for its superb tapas, which are slapped onto a zinc counter along with your glass of Manzanilla or foaming Alhambra beer (the tasty local brew). Seafood is a specialty, perfectly fried in a light batter. And try the featherlight eggplant slices.
Closed Sunday and Monday.
Plaza de las Pasiegas
Tel: 34 958 535 766
This designer tapas bar on the little square beside the main door of the cathedral is a good place for a beer or glass of wine and a tapa or two at midday. If the look is Barcelona (metal floor, purple chairs), the kitchen tends toward Bilbao. Pinchos such as avocado, apple, and langoustine tartlets or prawn-and-bacon brochettes are creative and delicious.
9 Carrer Comercial
Tel: 34 93 268 1728
Run by a family of fishmongers and tucked away behind the Mercat del Born (an old market currently being converted into a cultural center), Big Fish has quickly become the brightest of Barcelona's large school of fish restaurants. The eye-popping decor by local interiorista hotshot Lázaro Rosa-Violán has honky-tonk airs and New Orleans raw bar inspiration, with aged leather sofas, old ship lanterns, flea market tables, and a shell chandelier cascading from the ceiling. Many diners come for the sushi alone, which is prepared from an open bar. But the menu (about 20 dishes and a few daily specials) presents a number of time-tested seafood dishes, from ceviche to tuna tartare and the sort of grilled whole fish the Mediterranean is famous for. If evening sittings are booked, reserve a table for lunch (where the menu del día is great value) or try the smaller sister Big Fish situated uptown in Sant Gervasi (30 Carrer Amigó, 34-93-218-3000).—Suzanne Wales
Open daily 1:30 to 3:45 pm and 8:30 to 11:45 pm.
69 Calle José Benlliure
Tel: 34 96 367 2314
In the shabby-chic former fisherman's district of El Cabañal—ripe for a makeover given its proximity to the new Port America's Cup marina—this neighborhood bar with its bottles-and-barrels decor has been selling champañet (mistelle brandy mixed with soda water) and cask-poured wine since 1836. Today, it's the most authentic tapas bar in town, and always crowded (especially between 8 and 11:30 p.m.). Some of the offerings include tangy Santoña anchovies, cod croquettes with pine nuts, and michirones (spicy fava beans).Wine is taken seriously: There's a top-notch by-the-glass selection, and regular themed tastings are organized (participants are even asked not to wear perfume or aftershave).
No dinner on Sundays.
13 Calle Almireceros
Tel: 34 958 223 222
The classic choice around the Plaza Nueva. An ancient tavern serving good tapas including cheese and Trevélez hams from the Alpujarras mountains. As in all decent Granada bars, a free small bite is offered with your drink.
17 Calle Méndez Núñez
Tel: 34 96 330 1775
One of Valencia's most creative restaurants is hidden behind a discreet door in a down-at-the-heels neighborhood south of Avenida del Puerto. The decor, which incorporates scorched, sawn-off tree trunks and walls embedded with jagged glass, isn't exactly restful, but it's an appropriate metaphor for chef Raúl Aleixandre's audacious cuisine. Aleixandre uses Valencian flavors and ingredients in daring ways: A single raw oyster is paired with iced apple and lime foam; a fillet of ventresca (tuna belly) is caramelized and served in an eggplant sauce. But diners who want traditional paellas can also get their fix here. The black-clad waitstaff can be a little stiff and awkward; they're at their best, paradoxically, when the place is full.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
8 Plaça de les Olles
Tel: 34 93 310 7961
There's probably no better way to see how impassioned the Catalans have become about eating than to queue for a seat at the pink granite counter at chef Pep Manubens's catch-of-the-day tapas seafooder (the communal groove of the counter is more fun than the quieter dining room). Originally nothing more than a Frankfurt (the local word for sausage stall) on the corner of a quiet square near Santa Maria del Mar, Cal Pep has evolved into a fascinating restaurant. But don't come expecting refinement—this place is relaxed, as in paper place mats and culinary commotion in the open kitchen behind the bar. Depending on the season and markets, you'll feast on clams with parsley, pinkie-sized fried sardines, squid with onion and tomato, potently flavored crimson shrimp from Palamós, baby octopus, or deep-fried Andalusian-style (breaded and fried) cuttlefish. Service is unfailingly good-natured despite the crowds of foodies, locals, and tourists.
9 Calle Santa Escolastica
Tel: 34 958 227 010
A pleasant hangout in the Realejo area, popular with local thirtysomethings. The specialty is montaditostoast with every imaginable topping, from artichoke and melted Manchego cheese to tuna with roasted piquillo peppers.
23 Carrer de l'Almirall Aixada
Tel: 34 93 221 54 55
When asked where to get good paella in Barcelona, many locals answer simply: Valencia. But this Barceloneta beachfront classic with a nautical-inspired interior and picket-fenced terrace is the exceptionpaellas here come with proper socorrat (caramelized bottom crust). There are also boat-fresh fish and seafood dishes such as whole sea bream baked in a crust of salt; tender, purple-rimmed clams, and sweet, grilled navajas (razor clams). And it's one of the few places where more unusual local delicacies such as delicate espardenyes (sea cucumbers) and pink-tinged percebes (goose barnacles) can be sampled.
Closed for dinner Sundays and Mondays.
48 Carrer de Casp
Tel: 34 93 412 4012
When the world thinks of Barcelona, it sees Gaudí, the talented, spectacularly eccentric native-son architect who worked here during the 19th century. Most of his buildings are show-off—incredible exteriors and conventional interiors—but the Gaudí-designed building in the Eixample that houses Casa Calvet is the exception to the rule: There's stunning cabinetry and stained glass. Chef Miguel Alija's modern Mediterranean menu changes regularly, but you might find foie gras accompanied with Modena balsamic jelly, a medley of squid, prawns, and artichokes in squid in sauce and a Muscat-spiked lamb. Finish up with the superb mango tartin with Szechuan pepper ice cream. If you aren't familiar with the Catalan wines offered, ask—the waiters are charmers, and most speak English. Jackets aren't required, but the vibe is still pretty buttoned-up.
4 Calle Embarcadero
Tel: 34 96 183 0254
The fishing village of El Saler, seven miles south of the city center, is known among Valencianos for its traditional paella restaurants. The best of these is Casa Carmina, a favorite of local writers like Ferrán Torrent. The decor is nothing special, but the rice, baby eels, anchovies, and cod croquettes prepared by Mari Carmen and Mari José Batlle can't be beat. This is also one of the few places that serve one of the oldest and most authentic paella dishes: arroz con judías y nabos, a soupy concoction of rice, beans, and turnips that is a great winter warmer.
Lunch only. Closed Mondays.
81 Camino Del Monte
Tel: 34 958 223 094
This down-home, family-run eating house is in the heart of Sacromonte, an eccentric neighborhood where much of the population (mostly gypsies) lives in caves, putting on overpriced flamenco shows for tourists. The Juanillo rises above all that in a one-room dining space with a few tables, terra-cotta plates, and great views from its open-air porch. The foodSpanish ratatouille called pisto, baby lamb chopsis plain, authentic, hearty, and good value. The owners are given to breaking out the guitars and engaging in some impromptu flamencoand if you are interested in one of those gypsy shows, they can arrange it. (Leave most of your money back at the hotel, though; these shows are designed to fleece you.) Book ahead.
Closed Sunday evening and Monday.
35 Cava Baja
Tel: 34 91 365 8217
When you want to eat nothing that's been deconstructed or otherwise engineered, when you yearn for honest Castilian food in a simple setting, there's nowhere better than Lucio Blásquez's restaurant near Plaza Mayor. On two floors, with jamones dangling from beams, brick and white walls, and terra-cotta tiles, Casa Lucio has a homey goodness that routinely attracts the famous—actors, writers, Laura Bush—as well as regulars and tourists. Here's where to try the Madrid special, el cocido (various components—chickpea, cabbage, chorizo, black pudding, maybe chicken or beef—in a broth), or any number of traditional dishes: suckling pig, hake in green sauce, judías con perdiz (green beans with partridge), oxtail, tripe, all fresh from the kitchen's coal ovens. It's very satisfying and not very pricey.
34 Paseo de la Florida
Tel: 34 915 477 918
Set just below the Parque del Oeste near the Príncipe Pío train station, Casa Mingo is the one place every madrileño takes out-of-town guests to. Originally a 19th-century cider factory, today Mingo still produces all of the cider served in the ground-floor restaurant. The interiors are kept simple, with bare wood tables, a rough stone floor, and dark wood panels and huge cider barrels covering the walls. The basic menu includes a limited list of tapas (the best is the spicy chorizo cooked in cider), but most people come here for the roast chicken, a simple green salad, and a lot of very fresh cider. Since this place is always packed and doesn't take reservations, we suggest you arrive early—around 8:15 pm should do it. In the summer months, there's a lovely, and therefore highly coveted, outdoor terrace. Before or after the meal, stop in next door at the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida. Inside, you'll find Franscisco de Goya frescoes as well as the painter's tomb.—Guy Fiorita
Tel: 34 915 432 821
In Madrid, tortilla is served in almost every bar—and almost every bar claims that theirs is the best in the city. At Casa Paco, the tortilla is indeed in the running for first prize, and here there are more varieties of the classic dish than anywhere else, with options on display under a glass case that runs the length of the bar. Pull up a stool and order a pincho (small piece) of anything from the original (potato and onion) to Roquefort and salmon, foie gras, or our favorite, the sirloin and caramelized onion version. This family-owned operation has been serving about 80 tortillas a day since the early 1950s, and the third generation is now waiting tables. Apart from the bar, there's a cramped little dining room that fills daily with local workers who come for the budget three-course menu. For an authentic look at Madrid, far from the tourist scene, you can do no better.—Guy Fiorita
Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 am to midnight.
1 Calle Mateos Gago
Tel: 34 954 228 250
There's some stiff competition among Seville's tapas bars, and Cerveceria Giralda is one of the best. Take a pavement table, order a glass of sherry and a tapa (we recommend skate with seafood sauce, and pork sirloin in whisky), and watch the Giralda take on an orange glow as the sun dips. This is a great spot to witness the parade of people on a tapas-bar crawl along Mateas Gago. If there are no tables outside, the interioran old Arab bathhouse with a vaulted stone ceilingis almost as atmospheric.
Open daily from 9 am to midnight.
24 Carrer del Comerç
Tel: 34 93 319 2102
Chef Carles Abellan's pedigree (nine years of training under Ferran Adrià) shows up in his witty food, most of it served in tapas-sized portions as part of the ten-course tasting menu. His restaurant has a moody industrial chic that echoes the hip attitude of the El Born district—steel girders expose the ribs of the building, wines are stocked on open gunmetal shelves, and stone-gray runners are the austere ornamentation on ebony-stained tables. This somber backdrop is actually perfect for the antic liveliness of the dishes, such as rice crisps with tart olive foam; macadamia nuts glazed in real gold dust; pudding-soft tuna tartare with salmon roe; black rice slashed with green parsley aïoli; and curry-scented banana soup. And Abellan's "Kinder Egg" (an eggshell filled with truffles, potatoes, and a three-minute egg) is now nearly as famous as his mentor's trademark foams. Don't show up with your heart set on any of these dishes, however, since the menu changes constantly. TapaÇ24 is Abellan's more traditional tapas joint farther uptown (269 Carre de la Diputació 269; 34-93-488-0799).
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
20 Passatge Marimon
Tel: 34 93 200 75 32
The blank canvas of Coure's surroundings cedes center stage to chef Albert Ventura's exceptionally good—and unexpectedly seductive—combinations at this overlit restaurant just off the Avenida Diagonal in the Eixample. He slices slow-cooked, meltingly tender pig trotters wafer thin, adds fresh oysters, and brings them together in a musky cèpe vinaigrette that accentuates both the richness of the trotter and the ozone qualities of the oysters. For dessert, ice-cream cannelloni is redolent of Caribbean cocktails, perfumed by an infusion of pineapple and eucalyptus oil. The initial buzz of Coure's mid-2005 opening has quieted, but the all-ages see-and-be-seen crowd still find young chef Ventura to be full of promise.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 9:30 to 11:30 pm.
7 Calle Villalar
Tel: 34 91 576 7397
Darío Barrio is another school-of-Adrià alum, and that's what the Madrileños are hungry for, if the instant success of this place after its 2004 opening is anything to go by. Here, though beets may turn up in dessert and chocolate in a braise, Barrio's experimentation is grounded in reality. Oxtail with chocolate and wine, and his version of huevos estrellados, truffled eggs with potato foam, are two of his better-known dishes. The room is comely, but not so flashy that it competes with the platesa staircase lit from within leads down to a whitewashed brick basement. Always full, despite fiendish prices.
41 Calle San Fernando
Tel: 34 954 227 211
With its splendiferous dining room set inside the conservatory of a restored mansion beside the Jardines de Murillo, Egaña Oriza is a long-standing destination restaurant.The cooking is an upscale fusion of Basque and Andalusian, and the restaurant is known for its sourcing of excellent raw materials (much of the game was shot or trapped within Andalusia). Dishes might include ceviche of monkfish and grouper with clams and virgin olive oil, and partridge salad with sherry vinegar and spider crab in the San Sebastián style. Three different eating spots—opened in October 2010—have broadened Egaña Oriza's appeal. All serve the same menu: Terraza Oriza has outside tables and is more expensive than the others because of its larger portions and view to Carmen's tobacco factory (now occupied by the University of Seville); Bar España is a traditional tiled tapas bar with a light and elegant vibe; and Pequeña Oriza is the most casual, with its simple dining room and unadorned wooden tables.—Updated by Fiona Flores Watson
Open Mondays through Saturdays.
Mercado Colón, 19 Jorge Juan
Tel: 34 96 353 0900
Built in 1916, the Mercado de Colón is an iconic Modernist market hall in cast iron and red brick; in 2003, it was transformed into a Covent Garden–like plaza by London-based architects BorgosDance. The makeover sacrificed some of the market's salt-of-the-earth credentials, but this top-floor restaurant is still an atmospheric place for lunch or dinner. Chef Enrique Barella's cuisine is contemporary but based on traditional Valencian recipes and ingredients, and immaculately presented. Go for lunch (try the sticky rice with seafood), when sunlight streams through the tall windows.
Palma de Mallorca , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 262 738
Located in the beachy suburb of Ciudad Jardí, El Bungalow is where the island's top chefs head for seafood dishes and sumptuous paellas when their own work is done. Little more than a basic fisherman's cottage on the beach, with two fairly ordinary terraces smartened up by fluttering cotton canopies (be sure to specify the one with the sea view when booking), its lack of pretense is a big part of the draw. Show up early to secure a coveted terrace spot with the Mediterranean waves lapping just inches from your toes, and linger over tantalizing dishes of purple-lipped clams steamed in white wine and garlic; heaps of mussels; and buttery, perfectly cooked squid. Booking essential.
6 Postigo de San Martín
Tel: 34 91 522 0895
When a delicate fillet of sole ennobled by an aristocratic reduction of fish stock and cava is priced at such an inexplicably low level, you might come to suspect that the restaurant is a front for some illicit seafood-trafficking operation. Happily, the business is their business; yours is choosing from among the array of fresh shellfish that sits over ice in a gleaming glass case. Whether you select navajas (razor clams), berberechos (cockles), or a rather intimidating buey de mar (ox crab), you're best off leaving the good-naturedly brusque staff to decide how each is best prepared. The kitchen also dabbles in elaborate marine preparations like smoked tuna belly stuffed with seaweed and sea urchin. In a rich riff on a Spanish classic, piquillo peppers are stuffed with whipped bacalao (codfish) and drowned in a creamy, well-developed shrimp sauce—yet another gift to the city.
8 Calle de Atarazana
Tel: 34 958 286 925
For an unencumbered view of the Alhambra, nab a seat on the large, sunny terrace of this restaurant, just below the Mirador de San Nicolás. In inclement weather and on winter evenings, head inside and downstairs, where the dining room has huge windows on the same stunning outlook. Inevitably, given the location, prices are on the steep side, but the dishes are imaginative and portions generous. The bread selection alone is a plus point; choose from olive, sunflower, garlic, and onion. Try the salad of arugula, pear, endive, blue cheese, and walnuts, and the tasty aromatic couscous topped with lamb or juicy zucchini, pumpkin, and almonds. Vanguard desserts include quince soup, and chocolate and basil coulant. On the downside, the service can be a little frosty, but that knockout view makes up for it.
Open daily 1 to 3:30 and 8 to 11:30 pm.
304 Carrer Mallorca
Tel: 34 93 458 0855
Embat, a pioneer of Barcelona's bistromanía trend, is proof that it's still possible to dine well in Barcelona for under €30 (around $40). Located in central Barcelona just off Avinguda Diagonal, Embat has faded, toast-colored wall tiles and a zinc bar that hark back to an old-school eatery; the clientele, at least at midday, is largely made up of older locals with time to lunch properly. The small menu (about five choices each for starters and entrées) changes weekly, depending on what's in the markets, but we especially like the creamy lasagna made with black sausage and goat cheese, local white beans with cabbage and partridge, or the entrecôte on a layer of mustard sauce and lletons (sweetbreads). At €12, the steak is the most expensive dish on the menu, and although prices rise slightly for dinner, Embat is as easy on the wallet as it is on the stomach. Reservations advised for lunch and dinner.
Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1 to 3:30 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 1 to 3:30 and 9 to 11 pm, and Saturdays 2 to 3:30 pm and 9 to 11 pm.
29 Ses Escoles
Fornells , Menorca
Tel: 34 971 376 442
Arguably one of Menorca's most famous restaurants, this neat town house is one block removed from the shoreline and a world away from the touristy eateries that line it. While it's unlikely to win any prizes for interior design and lacks the postcard-perfect bay views of its competition, the lovingly tended lobster tanks at the rear of the restaurant and its own fishing fleet mean that the specialty here is of an excellent standard. Caldereta de langosta, a fragrant stew of fresh Balearic lobster cooked down with rice and tomatoes and enriched with saffron, is the regional dish, and this is the place to come on the island to try it.
Closed Wednesdays and November to mid-March.
9 Plaça Santa Catalina
Palma de Mallorca , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 719 609
Affixed to the museum of modern art next door, the restaurant reflects the mood in food. As one of the pioneers of "New Mallorcan" cuisine, chef Joan Torrens has spent the last decade experimenting, honing and harmonizing his skills and breathing new life into the culinary legacy left by his family. While he remains true to local produce, his interpretations of classical Mallorcan cookery are apparent in dishes such as anchovy "cake" dressed with oranges and cava vinaigrette; sticky rice with rabbit, mushrooms, and snails; and gooey apple cake with Sichuan pepper ice cream.
Closed Sundays and the last two weeks of August and January.
Hotel NH Paseo del Prado
4 Plaza Canovas del Castillo
Tel: 34 913 302 400
Carles Abellan did it first, then Alberto Adrià (Ferran's brother). Now, it's Paco Roncero's turn. Like those other stars of Spain's molecular gastronomy stratosphere, the high-tech chef of Madrid's Terraza del Casino has opened a down-home tapas bar. Located in a cozy room whose barrel-shaped ceiling is lined, delightfully, with those elaborate combs that Spanish women use to prop up their mantillas, Estado Puro translates as "pure state," which gives you an idea of what Roncero is up to—as long as you believe that the pure state of, say, salt cod is to be rolled into chestnut-sized balls and deep-fried to a parsley-flecked crisp. It's true that most of the tapas are little more than well-chosen produce, lightly adorned: steamed cockles dressed with gellified lemon; a lovely take on patatas bravas in which tiny new potatoes have their tops hollowed out to make room for a dab of hot sauce. Not everything succeeds. A simple porcini carpaccio was bland, and its pine nut vinaigrette too sweet. Tigres—a classic dish that blends mussels with béchamel, packs the mixture back in the shells and tops the whole thing with breadcrumbs—was, in this incarnation, a deep-fried ball of vileness. But the best tapa of all? The mini-hamburguesa served with grainy mustard and caramelized onions—hardly what I'd call pure but delicious nonetheless.—Lisa Abend, first published on Gourmet.com
1 Plaza San Juan
Tel: 34 94 658 3042
A bit off the beaten path but well worth the trip, Etxebarri is set in a small town about 30 miles east of Bilbao. Every dish you'll eat here will include something grilled or smoked—and that's a good thing, since chef Victor Arguinzoniz makes his own charcoal from local vine shoots, oak, and apple wood. He also uses the best raw ingredients, and the confluence of fresh and smoky flavors works beautifully. Grilled tender baby octopus is served with fresh shelled peas and asparagus; barbecued egg yolk comes with green peppers and zizas (a local variety of mushroom); and even Arguinzoniz's ice cream is made with smoked milk. Reservations are a good idea on weekends.
Closed Mondays. No dinner on Sundays.
557 Avinguda Diagonal
Tel: 34 93 444 1139
Always have a bite of buttered bread before you eat a raw oyster, says Luís De Buen; that way you'll never get an upset stomach. And in place of sauce mignonette or lemon, try dusting your oysters with finely ground black pepper. De Buen knows oysters: He's the scion of the family that owns one of Barcelona's most respected fish and shellfish wholesalers, and is himself the proprietor of a casual, lively little oyster bar and seafood restaurant. Straddling a broad aisle in the city's massive L'Illa Diagonal shopping complex, Fishhh! (the spelling is meant to suggest speed) sells some of the finest oysters in Barcelona—about a dozen kinds, from Spain, France, and even Ireland—and offers a great afternoon snack: two perfect ones with a glass of Cava for about $8.50. But the menu goes far beyond that, with such treats as mussels and fries with mayonnaise foam; tiny cubes of raw tuna "Sicilian-style" with lemon, olive oil, and herbs; simply grilled fish (sole, sea bream, or whatever else is freshest); grilled butterflied sardines with thyme, garlic, and tomato; and a house invention called carbonara del mar: oversized penne-like pasta tossed with bits of seared tuna and lots of cheese and pepper. —Colman Andrews, first published on Gourmet.com
200 Carrer de Còrsega
Tel: 34 93 453 2020
The local trend for star chefs to dabble in a secondary, more accessible bistro is now in full swing. Fonda Gaig is the nerdy little brother of Gaig, Carles Gaig's Michelin-accoladed restaurant. His fonda (inn) is neither overtly cheap nor cheerful; its russet-red leather and blond wood decor is smart yet understated, and the walls could do with a touch of adornment. Yet the defenders of the premolecular old school have embraced Gaig's resurrection of traditional Catalan cooking and the strain of meat-heavy, simply prepared meals that their mothers used to make. Signature dishes include macaroni with chorizo, cream, and Parmesan cheese; baby octopus with artichokes; and cabbage and potato frittata served with a slice of pancetta. The ambience is booted and suited, with widely spaced tables accommodating expense-account execs, formal family gatherings, politicos, and intrepid food tourists.—Suzanne Wales
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 8:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 1:30 to 3:30 pm.
214 Carrer d'Aragó
Tel: 34 93 429 1017
Carles Gaig moved his restaurant in 2004 from an old farmhouse in Horta to this slick, black dining room in the Eixample. Although design junkies are drooling, Gaig is still all about ingredients, whether you're talking a pricey bottle of Vega Sicilia or the perfect baby squid. Dinner here kicks off with the deconstruction of a classic Catalan aperitif: a tongue-tingling granité of vermut (artisanal vermouth). A series of tasting menu courses follow: a single, plump mussel infused with peppercorn and juniper served on the shell; purple chunks of pressed octopus paired with a potato mille-feuille; pan-fried turbot with pork belly. Gaig's execution is faultless, and while perhaps he is not as innovative as some of his younger contemporaries, this is what eating in Barcelona is all about: connecting with the land and sea through wild turbot, tender beef, or even just Maresme peas. A more homespun version of Gaig's cuisine can be experienced at the Fonda Gaig, where the focus is on evergreen Catalan classics such as cap i pota (head and leg of pork), and meatballs cooked with sepia (200 Carrer Còrsega, Tel. 93 453 2020).
Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 to 3 pm and 9 to 11 pm, Sundays 9 to 11 pm.
212 Parque Tecnológico
Tel: 34 94 431 7025
The culinary headquarters of native chef Aitor Elizegi, Gaminiz is set in an improbably pretty industrial park 20 minutes' drive outside Bilbao. Here, Elizegi fuses flavors and textures with thoroughly satisfying results. Fresh anchovies, topped with coarse-ground salt and served with celery gazpacho and green apple "tartare," are a perfect balance of salty, sour, and sweet. The marmita de txipirón, strands of baby squid cut to resemble fettuccine and served with a savory Parmesan broth, is a playful take on a classic Basque ingredient. Pork fans shouldn't miss the papada, a cube of salted jowl served with artichoke carpaccio and a tangy lime meringue foam. If you can't get out of the city, try visiting Elizegi's sister restaurant, Baita Gaminiz (meaning "also Gaminiz" in the Basque language), located in the center of Bilbao (20 Alameda de Mazarredo; 34-94-424-2267; closed Sundays, no dinner Mondays).
Mon.—Wed. lunch only.
2 Calle Estafeta
Plaza Nueva Moraleja, Alcobendas
Tel: 34 91 625 0072
Maybe you didn't think you'd be eating in Asian restaurants of any kind on this trip, let alone a Japanese-Chinese-Peruvian restaurant—fusion yet! But you'll be glad you followed the chic hordes to this (it's fair to say) unique place. The restaurant is no relation to the London hot spot of the same name, though the owners know its owner, Alan Yau, and named this as a kind of insider tribute. The space ingeniously envelops each table in its own elegant Zen mini-environment, preparing you to tackle the unfamiliar menu—not that this is too onerous a task. In the kitchen, a Peruvian, a Japanese, and a Chinese chef work side by side, making sense of this wild idea with such dishes as grouper ceviche with fried yuca, crunchy duck pouch, or beef with oyster sauce and wok-fried vegetables. The distance from ceviche to sushi to dim sum isn't so vast, after all.
9 Pasatge Marimon
Tel: 34 93 241 3233
An outsider on the city's circuit of avant-garde eateries, Hisop received its first Michelin star in 2011, putting it in the same rank as top dining destinations Comerç 24 and Gaig. The good news is, it's decidedly lower-key, and same-day bookings can be made (even for the lunch menu, which is much better value, too). Hisop is small (only 12 tables), with white walls, minimalist table settings, and a service area tucked behind a modular claret-colored wall. The black-uniformed, all-female waitstaff is personable and relaxed, and the short menu easy to navigate. Chef Oriol Ivern creates new Catalan cuisine with notable flair, with dishes such as grilled cod on parsnip and vanilla mash, and foie with "After Eight" sauce (as in chocolate and mint). Coffee is served with a handful of chocolate-coated black olives—surprisingly addictive.—Suzanne Wales
Open Mondays through Fridays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 9 to 11 pm, Saturdays 9 to 11 pm.
6 Plaza de Santa Catalina
Tel: 34 96 391 2379
Want to blend in with the locals? Then you'd better develop a taste for horchata, a sweet, milky, nonalcoholic drink, served cold, that is made from chufas, or tiger nuts (unlike the Mexican beverage of the same name, which is rice-based). Most bars will serve you a glass, but to really do the drink justice you should sample it in a horchatería—a café entirely dedicated to the horchata cult. In Valencia's historic center, the Horchatería Santa Catalina is the best; as a ceramic inscription outside the shop declares, it's been going for dos siglos (two centuries). More colorful majolica tiles adorn the elegant main dining room, where perfectly coiffed matrons sit chatting while they dip long donuts called (we're not kidding) fartons into their horchata.
24 Avenida de los Chopos
Tel: 34 94 491 2031
A bastion of highbrow, old-school gentility, Jolastoky occupies an elegant villa 15 minutes' drive from Bilbao. The surrounding community of Neguri is home to some of the region's wealthiest citizens (you'll see some grand houses on your way to the restaurant), and Jolastoky's several dining rooms are properly formal, with heavy swagged drapes, tufted chairs, and starched linens. Chef Sabin Arana Olaizola's family has run the restaurant since 1921, so they've had lots of time to perfect the menu of seasonal Basque classics, like chorizo with pochas (a tender local bean variety), stewed pigeon in wine sauce, and several excellent game meats in fall.
Closed Mondays. Lunch only, Sundays and Tuesdays.
2 Presidente Carmona Avenue
Tel: 34 91 417 6415
This nouvelle Japanese restaurant in a residential neighborhood has made chef Ricardo Sanz into one of Madrid's newest culinary darlings. Kabuki's interior is understated, with all the bustle of a Tokyo sushi bar, while outdoor tables exude effortless class, like a sidewalk version of a Great Gatsby lawn party. Both spaces are lorded over by a suave waitstaff that's intimately familiar with Sanz's tricked-out Ibero-sashimi. Lemonfish might meet with papa arrugá (Canarian potato) and mojo verde, or urta (a rockfish from the Cõdiz bay) with adobo. In the showstopping usuzukuri trufa, a minuscule scoop of black-truffle pâté brings each ethereal pat of pez mantequilla (butterfish) back into the earth's orbit. Although Sanz can sometimes get too truffle-happy, he wisely lets toro sashimi go solo, letting the fish shine with pale, oily simplicity. Few tourists show up at Kabuki, and the casually glam regulars would probably be happy to keep it that way—reservations are hard enough to book as it is, even on weeknights. But you're well-advised to crash this party.
Port Des Torrent
Cala de Bou , Ibiza
Tel: 34 971 80 57 40
The softer side of clubbing, this is a beachside trance venue, which means it's a cross between a souk in Marrakech, a bedouin tent, a beach in Goa, and a cafin the Haightwith a chill-out soundtrack. The ruins of a stone windmill serve as the bar and centerpiece, while all around, hippie transactions take place in the informal marketplace, impromptu art gets made, and Southeast Asianinfluenced food is served in an array of set menus: langoustine tempura, hummus, grilled tuna with Thai vegetables, chicken satay. You'll feel better if young and underdressed.
Closed October through May.
31 Jesús del Gran Poder
Tel: 34 955 116 748
This tiny bar is always packed with a loyal crowd of locals and anyone else who can squeeze in. The husband-and-wife team of Sevillano Juan Gómez Ortega and Californian Jeanine Merrill change the tapas menu weekly; a daily fish special comes paired with a glass of wine. The fish and seafood are outstanding and imaginative, mixing robust flavors (tuna, smoked mozzarella, and caper salad). Unusually for Seville restaurants, La Azotea serves an excellent selection of wines by the glass, mostly Spanish with a few Californian offerings. Reservations are not accepted, so if you're not there at opening time to bag a table, you'll have to put your name on the list (it's a fast turnover, and worth the wait). The same couple owns a deli/wine shop across the street (it holds regular tastings of wine paired with excellent local cheeses) as well as a second, slightly larger bar that's more centrally located at 12 Calle Conde de Barajas.—Fiona Flores Watson
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight, September through July; Sundays 1:30 to 4:30 pm, September through June.
3 Calle Botería
Palma , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 714 863
Set on a busy yet charming square across from the 15th-century Lonja building—now used for temporary exhibitions—La Boveda serves the best tapas in town. The decor is that of the quintessential Spanish bodega: old tile floors and lots of heavy wooden tables and chairs crammed a little too close together. This place is always packed with locals and visitors, so aim to be here before 9:30 pm if you want a table—otherwise, be prepared to elbow your way to the bar and eat there. Our favorite dishes include the scrambled eggs with prawns, fried calamari, and croquettes de jamón. La Boveda's more formal sister restaurant, La Taberna de la Boveda, is just around the corner. It doesn't have the same jumping vibe, but it does have a lovely outdoor terrace.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight.
3 Calle Pere Sala
Ibiza Town , Ibiza
Tel: 34 971 301 202
This enchanting walled garden shaded by purple bougainvillea, ivy, and palm trees on the edge of the D'Alt Vila in Ibiza Town is a classic—though it's better not to veer into the more ambitious-sounding dishes on the menu. But for a steak perfectly grilled over hot coals—robust and deeply flavoured, with a properly charred crust and a pink, juicy middle—nowhere beats it. It's also worth saving room for homemade desserts by the boss man's 84-year-old grandmother.Tara Stevens
10 Calle de Recoletos
Tel: 34 911 400 696
After spending years together working for the late chef Santi Santamaría, the maître d', sommelier, and chef at Santceloni struck out on their own with the idea of opening a less expensive, more casual venue that would serve as a spot for anything from a quick drink or light snack to a full-blown meal. Set midway between Plaza Colón and Plaza de Cibeles on Calle Recoletos, La Cesta is a blend of modern and traditional design, with huge luminous panels covering one wall and original wood-framed windows along the other. The menu features a series of raciones (small dishes), with choices such as oxtail ravioli and creamy rice with red shrimp, pumpkin, and carrots. You'll probably need to order three of these to make a meal, and with the tortilla priced at $16, some are also a little overpriced. But La Cesta makes up for this in the quality of its ingredients, the interesting mix of flavors, and the relaxed, cool vibe of the dining room. For a bit of culinary drama, there's a high table with stools in back overlooking the kitchen.—Guy Fiorita
Open Mondays through Thursdays 1 to 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight, Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm to 12:30 am.
68 El Paseo Neptuno
Tel: 34 96 371 0366
In his bullfighting memoir, The Dangerous Summer, regular client Ernest Hemingway wrote that "Dinner at Pepica's was wonderful"—and the recommendation is still valid today. The family that runs this huge paella restaurant on Arenas Beach, next door to the Port America's Cup marina, is now into its third generation; since 1898, it's been feeding local and international celebrities, from toreros and artists to film stars and European royalty. The seafood paella might be pricey (dishes made with fresh lobster often are), but you'd be hard put to find a more assured version of Valencia's trademark dish. In summer, ask for a table on the beach terrace.
No dinner on Sundays.
Passeig Joan Carles I, S/N
Ibiza Town , Ibiza
Tel: 34 971 311 810
The quayside restaurant in Ibiza Town's swanky new marina is bustling even out of season, thanks to top-notch French cooking and superb fish and seafood. The scrubbed wood deck, hedged in by herbaceous borders and potted olive trees, is peopled by yachties, club owners, and glamour-pusses in wide-brimmed straw hats. The set lunch is great value, with mains such as skate in a butter and caper sauce, or slow-cooked lamb.Tara Stevens
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 1 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight, September through July; Tuesdays through Sundays 8:30 pm to midnight, August.
70 Paseo Neptuno
Tel: 34 96 371 2076
Many locals swear that La Rosa's rice dishes are even better than those of its neighbor, the more famous La Pepica. They're certainly cheaper, and the restaurant's long dining room and beachfront summer patio aren't swarming with tourists. Instead, Valenciano families come for unusual paella variations like arroz meloso con ortigas de mar—a creamy paella made with an underwater plant known as sea nettle—and plates of fideos negros, inky black spaghetti served with squid. Service is fast and professional (a bit of a rarity in this slow-paced neighborhood), and the wine list is surprisingly extensive.
118 Calle Guillem de Castro
Tel: 34 96 374 6665
Part of the IVAM contemporary art museum (though with its own separate entrance), this avant-garde eatery has an appropriately arty, minimalist style: stark white walls, cherrywood floors, dark brown boxy chairs. The menu here appeals to fans of Catalan superchef Ferran Adrià, the guru of molecular cuisine. Like Adrià, Sucursal chef Enrique Medina is keen on foams, and likes to serve dishes deconstructed into separate bowls and glasses. But though the combinations are audacious—for example, oysters wrapped in truffle gelatin, served with celery purée, fried artichokes, and arugula—they are also delicious. There are 28 different mineral waters on offer, and the wine list is immense. In November 2006, the restaurant opened an offshoot, Vertical, on the top floor of the new Aqua shopping mall (19 Calle Luis García Berlanga; 34-96-330-3800).
Closed Sundays. No lunch on Saturdays.
9 Carrer dels Agullers
Tel: 34 93 310 19 56
The family-run La Teca has been a beloved specialist food shop in the El Born neighborhood since 1932. A total overhaul in 2005 transformed it into a more modern affair for food-lovers, complete with four tables. From there you can order anything in the shop for a 20-percent service surcharge. Choose from exquisite cheeses from Spain, France, and Italy; succulent sausages and hams; olives of every size and description; and a host of other gastro delights that line the shelves. The family also runs the Vila Viniteca wine shop next door, so the wine list is extensive, if expensive. It's possible to bring your own bottle, and for $8.15 they will serve it in petal-thin Riedel glasses. Come for a light lunch or predinner snack.
Closes at 8:30 p.m. and on Sundays.
2 Calle Bárbara de Braganza
Tel: 913 199 457
A gastropub from one of Madrid's top chefs and its most famous barman would seem like a good idea—or at least that's what chef Sergi Arola and Diego Cabrera thought when they opened Le Cabrera in early 2010. One year down the road, egos clashed and the two parted company. Arola is no longer involved, but his menu remains, as does the general concept and popularity of La Cabrera. Set in Barrio Justicia in what is fast becoming the hippest neighborhood in Madrid, this modernist local haunt is decorated with a strange mix of cocktail paraphernalia, goat skulls (cabra means goat), plaid sofas, and an illuminated onyx bar. The food, served upstairs, includes a selection of reimagined tapas and international standards such as clam chowder, Caesar salad, and fresh pasta with calamari. Downstairs is the cocktail lounge, where waiters dressed in blazers and straw hats by trendy Spanish clothier El Ganso lend the place an old Havana vibe. Try one of Cabrera's fruit-driven cocktails, such as Greck Citrics (vodka, lemon juice, pineapple juice, cucumber, and spearmint).—Guy Fiorita
Open Mondays through Fridays 4 pm to 2 am, Saturdays 4 pm to 2:30 am.
4 Calle Loidi
Tel: 34 943 366 471
A sweeping, glass-walled space with views over rolling green hills, this restaurant near San Sebastián—named after its three-star Michelin chef—embraces elaborate nueva cocina. The appetizer and entrée descriptions on the menu are several sentences long (and marked with the year that Berasategui debuted them), yet the dishes themselves are subtle and nuanced. One of his newer creations, a 2006 dish of oysters with watercress chlorophyll, arugula, and green apple, dressed in a lemongrass and fennel cream, is a pleasing blend of herbal and mineral notes, with a fresh saline kick. Berasategui's signature mille-feuille of smoked eel, foie gras, and spring onions dates to 1995; it may sound like an odd combination, but there's a reason why it's still on the menu after all these years.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Lunch only, Sundays. Closed mid-December to mid-January.
2 Calle Pianista García Carrillo
Tel: 34 958 228 290
This is the first and best of the carmen restaurants that are now so much in vogue (carmen is the grandest type of Albaicín house). Tables are set out on various terraces, and food hovers between traditional Granadino cooking and the pre-Christian culinary heritage. Feast on cardoons with an almond sauce, baby broad beans with ham, a fantastic local sheep cheese flavored with rosemary, and jamón de Trevélez (cured ham). Wash it all down with organic wine from the restaurant's own vineyards. On Tuesdays at 11 p.m., the place transforms into a flamenco hall.
Closed Sunday evening.
10 Passeig de la Concepción
Tel: 34 93 487 9656
Before the family-run Tragaluz Group forged its mini empire of trendsetting restaurants, local literati and the design set hung out at its first opening, Mordisco, a late-night eatery where the Hotel Omm (the group's only foray into hotels to date) now stands. Now Mordisco is back, in a new location in the Eixample, and its old legion of fans is coming in droves. It's not just the nostalgia factor: Mordisco serves tasty little Catalan morsels made for sharing, such as succulent Montserrat tomatoes topped with tuna belly shavings, steak tartare, crispy deep-fried artichokes, or tostadas laden with local charcuterie. All this is served up in a two-story setting that incorporates a bright deli section for takeaway; a glass-enclosed, Scandinavian-style dining room with smatterings of art by the likes of Javier Mariscal (also a client); and a cozy upstairs lounge area for coffee and cocktails. (And should that not be enough, there is even a small women's evening-wear boutique.)—Suzanne Wales
Open daily 12:30 pm to midnight.
20 Aldura Aldea
Tel: 34 943 522 455
If you're just looking to sate your hunger, steer clear of this restaurant just outside San Sebastián. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz's place, set in a rustic yet modern caserío (country cottage), is better suited to those seeking gustatory revelation. Aduriz's dishes combine flavors and textures in unexpected, always delicious ways: Flourless gnocchi are made with kudzu starch and Idiazábal cheese and served with an Ibérico ham broth; lamb shoulder, cooked at a low temperature for 30 hours, is paired with root vegetables and glazed with a slightly bitter honey. Desserts like violet ice cream with chocolate shavings and almonds are similarly wonderful. You can order à la carte, but it's a much better idea to indulge in the heavenly tasting menu (eight to 12 courses).
Closed Mondays. No dinner Sundays; no lunch Tuesdays.
Carretera Sant Joan, Km 9.5
Sant Joan , Ibiza
Tel: 34 971 807 308
Owned by hip husband-and-wife team John Broekman and Leah Tilbury (formerly of Las Banderas in Formentera), this old coaching inn is an unexpected delight tucked away in the middle of the island. A scruffy parking lot just off the C-733 road is the unassuming location for this magical hideaway serving great food. Outside, a terrace twinkles with fairy lights; inside, there's a labyrinth of dining rooms lit by candles and chandeliers. The menu showcases retro dinner-party classics like steak tartare as well as pan-Asian offerings like calamari in chile, papaya, and lemon. Curiously, what draws celebs like Bryan Ferry and Kate Moss is Friday fish and chips and Sunday roasts.Tara Stevens
Open Tuesdays through Sundays 8 pm to midnight (bar closes 3 am), mid-May through July; daily 8 pm to midnight (bar closes 3 am), August; 8 pm to 1 am (bar closes 3 am), September and October; Thursdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 4 pm and 8 pm to midnight, Sundays 1:30 to 4 pm, November through May.
171 Carrer de Muntaner
Tel: 34 93 430 9027
This upscale tapas barphonetically the name becomes "pa' comer algo," loosely translated as "to grab a bite"serves up hearty dishes such as lentil stew with chorizo, pot roast with mushrooms, and fried artichoke slivers. The decor is chic, with slate-gray walls and leather bar stools, and the obligatory small chalkboard announcing the daily specials. The atmosphere is as laid-back as a neighborhood watering hole, with bantering waiters and friendly regulars. Come early (one-ish for lunch, eight-ish for dinner) to avoid a wait in line.
3 Camí de la Coixa
San Luis , Menorca
Tel: 34 610 319 279
Few places offer a more charming, convivial way to spend an evening than with the Pan y Vino's hosts, Terry and Jill Cox. Back in London, he was a session musician, she ran nightclubs; and their island restaurant is one of those rare places where customers arrive as strangers and leave as friends. Tucked down an impossibly narrow, stone-walled lane about 20 minutes from Maó, the rustic dining room has a secret-garden feel. Jill's eclectic and accomplished home cooking spans the continents, and dinner tends to be whatever she feels like cooking that day. Dishes range from Pacific-style ceviche to local goat cheese with gooseberry sauce to Asian street food. Terry takes charge front of house, doling out welcome glasses of cava to a jolly crowd of loyal regulars and in-the-know newcomers. Past clients include Elton John and his mother, among other illustrious rock 'n' rollers.
Closed Thursdays and Fridays and from October through May.
67 Calle Claudio Coello
Tel: 34 917 818 262
Ramón Freixa does not know the meaning of "less is more." It's said that the chef of Barcelona's one-star Racó d'en Freixa searched for years for a new place to fully express his vision, and now that he's found it—in Madrid of all places—the emphasis is definitely on the fully. From the decor (postmodern Baroque—not, unfortunately, an oxymoron) to the tableware (black water goblets! gold chargers!) to the mignardises served before dessert, everything at Ramón Freixa Madrid is over the top. That can be a bad thing, as in the case of a rather heaping plate of "snacks"—a spoonful of spherified foie gras, a strangely matzoh-like cornet piped with chorizo cream, a lozenge of gelified cola—which are united only by their common diminuitiveness. But it can also be very, very good. Why have a boring old salad if you can match each raw vegetable with its dried-and-fried twin? Why content yourself with a rich, herby stew of sautéed wild mushrooms when you can top it with sweet rounds of octopus? And crisp rabbit ribs? And tiny pancetta meatballs? Three cooking styles for the lobster, ten textures for the tomatoes, six kinds of chocolate with your coffee who said the age of excess is over?—Jack Turner, first published on Gourmet.com
Tel: 34 943 642 789
Just up the coast from culinary hot spot San Sebastián, the seaside town of Hondarribia has its own star attractions. Leading the charge is Restaurante Alameda, run by the Txapartegi brothers, Mikel (front of house), Kepa (pastry chef), and Gorka, who was recently named chef of the year by the Basque Academy of Gastronomy. Gorka's modern Basque dishes include squid served with spring onion compote, and smoked sardine fillets with sweet pepper salad and olive vinaigrette. Alameda is housed in what was once a simple tavern opened by the boys' grandmother in 1942. Today the space has been completely restored, with hardwood floors, cream paneled walls, and heavy wood-beamed ceilings. On one wall, floor-to-ceiling windows open onto a garden with views to the sea. In summer months, call ahead to book a table on the highly sought-after terrace.—Guy Fiorita
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1 to 3 pm, 6:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 1 to 3:30 pm.
17 Calle Cuchilleros
Tel: 34 91 366 4217
Botin dates back to 1725, and little appears to have changed since it opened, including some of the waiters. The dining rooms, on the second and third floors of a building near Plaza Mayor, are a study in old Madrid, with dark woodbeamed ceilings, black-and-white checkerboard tile floors, and lots of bullfighter pictures on the walls. It's not just 18th-century charm that keeps this place popular with Madrileños; Botin also serves some of the finest suckling pig and roast lamb (cooked in an ancient wood-burning oven) in the city. Be warned: This is a meat eater's paradise, and you'll be greeted at the door by shelves of piglets in clay dishes awaiting their fate in the oven.
Open Mondays through Sundays 1:30 pm to midnight.
Playa d'es Codolar
Carretera Ses Salines , Ibiza
Tel: 34 971 324 082
The drive over the salt pans to Cap Falcó can give you the uneasy feeling that you're lost. Stick with it: This is one extraordinary little restaurant, perched on what seems like the end of the world, with distant views over the Es Vedrà rock. This is the place to come for fresh fish and seafood straight off the boat. The daybeds of bleached driftwood and a pebble beach backed by desolate pine trees make it seem wild and isolated, save for the gentle beat of chill-out tunes. Sunsets here are magical.Tara Stevens
Open daily noon to 11 pm, end of March through end of October (possibly until December, depending on weather); 2 pm to 3 am May through September (depending on weather, so always call ahead).
2 Avenida Abandoibarra
Tel: 34 94 423 9333
The food at the Guggenheim's restaurant rivals the art on its gallery walls. Josean Martínez Alija, who took over the kitchen in 2000 at the ripe old age of 22, has created a menu here that's ethereal, aromatic, and playful. His gelatin-rich kokotxas (hake cheeks), served with lemongrass-potato confit, are dressed with an otherworldly-looking pale-blue sauce flavored with shiso and lemon balm. Even humble ingredients get the royal treatment—like organic chicken cooked sous vide and infused with smoke, rosemary, and lime. Put yourself in this brilliant chef's hands: Order the six- or seven-course tasting menu and prepare to be dazzled.
Closed Mondays. Lunch only, Sundays and Tuesdays.
Playa Illetas , Formentera
Tel: 34 630 930 913
A mirage of clattering forks, clinking glasses of tinto, white plastic chairs, and multilingual chattering appears under the palm trees and sunshades directly on the sands of one of the most popular beaches on the island. For 36 years, the same couple has run Restaurante Juan y Andrea, the same people have come back, and the word has spread (quietly). The food is simple, local, and great: paella, grilled shellfish, the freshest of fish. It's a rite of summer that even the visiting celebs and millionaires observe. If you lack your own boat, hop on the Ibiza ferry.
Closed October through April.
Casino de Madrid
Tel: 34 91 532 1275
The Casino's head chef Paco Roncero trained under Ferran Adrià, who continues to play a role as a consultant. Roncero's tasting menu begins with a mojito frozen tableside using liquid nitrogen. The science continues through the tasting menu, which changes each week. "Snacks" are eight bite-size morsels, ranging from a miniature tube of toothpaste with olive-oil butter to a liquid croquette. "Tapiplatos" feature nine dishes that could include Milk Skin Cannelloni followed by the more traditional flavors of veal cheek with vegetables. Dessert could include a crunchy sweet-and-sour Lemon and Eucalyptus Igloo, while "morphings" are funky petits fours such as pistachios and artisanal chocolates. In summer months, request a table on the outdoor terrace, which has unbeatable views of the city, and remember that a suit and tie are required.
Open Mondays through Fridays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 9 to 11 pm, Saturdays 9 to 11 pm.
12 Calle Oficios
Tel: 34 958 221 223
Near the cathedral, the Sevilla was founded in 1930 and became a favorite haunt of native poet Federico García Lorca and his artistic friends. Nearly 80 years on, its dining room remains essentially unchanged. The menu is classically Granadinotry the habitas con jamón (baby broad beans with ham), the regional dish par excellence.
Closed Sunday evening.
18 Calle Conde Altea
Tel: 34 96 333 5353
Chef Bernd Knöller may be German, but his understanding of local traditions (he's lived in Spain for more than 15 years) has made Riff one of the city's most popular Mediterranean restaurants. The airy, light-filled dining room, decorated with plants, gauzy screens, and art installations, is usually filled with foodies. Knöller's seasonal menus display a real sense of theater; in April 2007, he debuted an eight-course "Black Is Beautiful" tasting menu at €69 ($94), with a monochromatic lineup of dishes like skate in red wine and lamb ribs roasted in black sesame seeds. Going à la carte will set you back a bit less; at lunch, there's a great-value three-course business menu for €25, which can be combined with recommended wines by the glass for another €10.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
34 Carrer del Roser
Tel: 34 93 324 9046
This Poble Sec tapas bar has been around for four generations, but a recent facelift exchanged the cold, clinical tiles and fluorescent lighting for a softly-lit space with red brick walls, steel staircases, and a marble bar, and the local crowd for adventurous, in-the-know epicures. It's all part of the polishing up of Poble Sec, these days more Meatpacking District than beaten-down barrio. Likewise, while the Cantabrian classics such as l'escala anchovies and croquettes have stayed, 21st-century tapas are the focus. Rosal 34's signature dish, patatas bravas, is served in creamy layers of potato and garlic mousse, with a shot of chili oil in the bottom of a martini glass. Navajas (razor clams) are grilled to sticky sweetness and buoyed with vanilla-infused oil and chunks of candied lemon; the piece de resistance is an artichoke heart filled with a baked quail egg and topped with a spoonful of silky, Pyrenean caviar.
Closed Sundays for dinner.
1 Paseo de los Tristes Padre Manjón
Tel: 34 958 226 882
Situated next to the river, this lively restaurant is where the young and trendy get their sustenance, drawn in by the simple, modern interior and abstract art. The creative Argentinean chef favors unusual meat combos—lamb in cumin sugar with chocolate sauce, pork with vanilla purée, lamb with golden syrup—which may not be to your taste if you don't have a sweet tooth. More traditional dishes are also given a twist; we like the almond soup with paprika crunch, and remojon (cod and orange salad) with a mustard and curry vinaigrette. From the wine list, try a bottle of the Barranco Oscuro, a good dry white from the nearby Alpujarras. And ask for a window seat for a view of the Alhambra, which towers above the hill opposite the restaurant. In fine weather, the shady riverside terrace is also a delightful spot.
Open Sundays through Thursdays 1 to 11 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 1 pm to midnight.
Carretera de la Sierra
Cenés de la Vega
Cenes de la Vega
Tel: 34 958 486 134
This roadside restaurant in the village of Cenés de la Vega is well worth the two-mile drive out of town for some of the best regional cuisine anywhere near Granada. Grilled meats, fish cooked in rock salt, and seasonal game (including ostrich, partridge, and wild boar) are just some of the specialties that might appear on the ever-changing menu.
Near San Antonio , Ibiza
Tel: 34 971 340 057
The setting of this restaurant in the country outside San Antonio is a never-consecrated 16th-century church—a marvelously atmospheric, candlelit barn of a space with roughly hewn stone walls, arches, and mile-high vaulted ceilings. Outside, there's a fairy-lit terrace for aperitifs and digestifs. Food is unpretentious Ibicenco, with lots of fresh fish and grilled meats.
Closed January to March.
Tel: 34 902 520 522
Even proud Catalonia isn't immune to the gastronomic pull of the Basque country. Barcelona now has several outposts of Sagardi, a rustic-modern restaurant modeled after a traditional Basque cider hall. The tortillas de bacalao (cod omelets) and baby squid in ink sauce are served in the same family style you'd find in the hinterlands of San Sebastián, and diners pour themselves unlimited alcoholic cider from the gargantuan kupelas (casks) that line the walls. (The tart, Champagne-like fizz packs a punch, so pace yourself.) Truth be told, Sagardi's emphasis on the ingredients' provenance and presentation, not to mention its trendy El Born location, makes it more of a haute gastropub than an authentic sagardotegia. But the hordes crowding its adjoining pintxos (tapas) bar and spilling out onto the street don't seem to mind.
Open daily 1 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight.
2 Avinguda Meridiana
Tel: 34 93 309 7078
Chef Paco Guzman has made a name for himself as the merry prankster of "new wave tapas" at Santa Maria. Santa, his second restaurant, aims to put less stress on your credit card. The blond wood tables, retro wire chairs, and funky oversize lampshades have been supplied by designer Alfons Tost (who also decked out Monvínic); the music is loud and funky, and the waiters charmingly flirtatious. Santa's menu is just as much fun, with bistro-inspired main courses such baby cochinillo (suckling pig) with leeks and sage and rice cooked with lobster and artichokes. Half portions are available, should you wish to share, but where the menu really shines is with Guzman's hallmark tapas. Order the five-dish sortido for a true taste of his creativity, such as a salad of hummus, celery, and wild mushrooms with a peanut butter sauce, or a small steak tartare with mustard ice cream. The €20 Sunday night–only fixed menu is a good bet in this quiet, more residential part of town, when many other restaurants are closed.
Open daily from 1:30 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight.
12 Passatge de Lluís Pellicer
Tel: 34 93 321 0189
Winningly low-key in the manner of many of Barcelona's best new-wave restaurants, this friendly place in the Eixample is nevertheless one of the most ferociously fashionable venues in town for foodies and style mavens. Thanks to the warm service that Anna Doñate oversees, a good time is had by all in this simple, white-walled dining room with kitchen views. Chef Xavier Franco takes a similarly hardworking and generous approach to his cooking. The menu changes seasonally, but always consists of eight starters, ten main courses (five fish and five seafood), and six desserts. A few dishes have become classics, including panceta crujiente con calamares y alcachofas (crispy ham with squid and artichokes), and magnificent cochinillo confitado (slow-roasted suckling pig with velvety meat capped by a brittle crust of its own skin). Beautifully balanced desserts and an excellent wine list all combine to make this one of Barcelona's contemporary classics.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
37 Carrer de l'Argenteria
Tel: 34 93 310 5094
Ramón Parellada is a veteran restaurateur with his fingers in a number of the city's culinary pies. Part owner of La Vinya del Senyor, he has a share in the Banys Orientals too, but his baby is the Senyor Parellada, an emblematic Catalan bistro that was the onetime darling of Barcelona foodies (long before food became fashionable). Those looking to the old-school for inspiration need look no further than this bustling, chatter- and antiques-filled dining room in El Born, for this is the home of excellent bacalao a la llauna (salt cod cooked over a tin and seasoned with garlic and pimentón); and epic milk-fed lamb with 12 heads of garlic. Knowing his clientele (businessmen and local food lovers) as he does, Parellada can propose homey, earthy dishes like pig's trotters with turnips and know that he'll find takers. A rejigging of the menu reflects the modern preference for sampling lots of small dishes instead of doing a rote meal of courses.
31 Calle Zurbano
Sergi Arola Gastro's minimalist dining room has just six tables and offers only three fixed-price dinner menus (ranging from $150 to $230), plus a more affordable lunch menu. Sergi Arola (an alumnus of the kitchens of Ferran Adrià and Pierre Gagnaire) is a proponent of traditional Catalonian and Mediterranean cuisine. Nothing is superfluous, flavors are authentic, and the raw material is seasonal and nearly always locally sourced. Dishes include starters such as Jerusalem artichoke with truffled poultry and mascarpone, mains such as red mullet with sautéed beans and peas with black pudding and a veil of Iberian ham, and desserts that include an airy, light passion-fruit soufflé with mint ice cream. An economical taste of Arola's cuisine can be had at the cocktail bar downstairs, which serves a selection of tapas, including his famed take on patatas bravas.—Guy Fiorita
Open Mondays through Fridays 2 to 3:30 pm and 9 to 11:30 pm, Saturdays 9 to 11:30 pm.
29 B° Martindeji
Tel: 34 943 555 851
Sidrerías, or cider houses, are traditionally only open between mid-January and the end of April, when the cider is ready for sale. Our favorite—and one of the Basque Country's oldest—is Zelaia, just inland from San Sebastián, in the town of Hernani. The simple interior has cider barrels out back and a dining room with rows of wood tables, but don't be fooled by the humble surroundings: The cider, food, and atmosphere are unbeatable. As in all traditional sidrerías, Zelaia serves a set four-course meal that includes a cod omelet followed by fried cod with green peppers, grilled steak, and to finish, a plate of Idiazabal cheese with walnuts and quince jelly. The whole thing, of course, is washed down with lots of cider.—Guy Fiorita
Open daily January 21 to April 30, 8 pm to 12 am.
20 Calle Zaragoza
Tel: 34 954 502 721
The stomping ground of politicos and visiting diplomats, Alabardero is one of Seville's most upscale restaurants, furnished with European antiques and oil paintings. Other branches in Madrid and Washington, D.C., have helped to establish the reputation of this one (the outposts were founded by priest Fray Luis de Lezama as a training ground for young unemployed people). Alabardero serves classic Spanish food, such as Cordoban soup with quail eggs and Jabugo ham, and sirloin of beef with red wine and truffle sauce. If you overdo it at dinner, there's also a small, seven-room hotel on the upper floors of this 19th-century town house.
53 Carrer de Tapioles
Tel: 34 93 329 2238
Forget three-star restaurants and city-center hot spots. The newest, coolest way to dine in Barcelona is to uncover some hole-in-the-wall hidden beneath a car park; or better still, ingratiate yourself into a private dining club. Tapioles 53 is a "food space" in Poble Sec where diners must be members (a privilege that comes at the not-so-lofty expense of calling ahead, eating there, and signing your name to a register.) It's housed in a converted umbrella-making factory, but its ancient table and open kitchen make it feel like a private home. Chef Sarah Stothart's father—a well-known Australian painter—did the abstract oils of the Penedès wine region and of Australia that hang on the walls. Born in Australia and brought up in Greece, Spain, France, and Italy, Stothart's far-flung repertoire has been influenced by dishes she learned at her mother's knee and from eating her way around the world. The menu changes weekly, but look for her mother's juniper, veal, and pork terrine; rosewater-infused cardamom rice pudding; fresh goat cheese-with-spinach gnocchi and sage butter; and Thai beef salads.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 9 pm to midnight.
164 Avinguda Parallel
El Bulli may be closing, but Ferran and Albert Adrià already have another project in Barcelona. Tickets, named for its theater district location, is an homage to tapas, with six dining areas, including a futuristic bar serving avant-garde bites and a space the brothers call the "madhouse" or the "Marx Brothers' cabin," reserved for regulars and "rogues" (a.k.a. friends of the owners) who the chefs predict will act as a peanut gallery of sorts. Albert's brainchild is the amusement park-like dessert fairyland, La Dolca, with cotton candy machines, ice-cream carts, and display windows full of decadent sweets (entrées, $3-$16).
Must eat: Rabbit ribs with allioli.
Chef Albert Adrià's favorite new restaurant: José Andrès's China Poblano, Las Vegas
59 Carrer de Girona
Tel: 34 93 488 1148
In a city where customer comfort often seems like an afterthought, the stellar service at this joint venture, opened in 2005 by young chef Santi Colominas and exemplary maître d' Sandra Baliarda, stands out. The striking interior is the work of local hotshot designer Jordi Torres, who combined industrial materials with a mural of a tree to create a sort of yin and yang of strength and gentleness. There's a modernista tile on each tablehomage to the ornament and whimsy of the 19th-century design movement. But Colominas's seasonal menus are an exercise in restraint and balance: crisp sepiones (baby cuttlefish) in a rich sofrito of cherries and sticky cuttlefish ink; creamy duck liver paired with delicately roasted wild-garlic stems. The wine list is small, carefully considered, and well-priced, but the fact that all of the fashion-forward gourmands who fill the place smoke is a downer.
213 Carrer Muntaner
Tel: 34 93 430 6022
Art Deco is thin on the ground in Barcelona, which makes this wonderful café all the more special. The original Velodrómo was the preferred hangout of the city's glitterati from 1933 until its abrupt closure in 2000, when the founding owner's son retired. Chef Carles Abellán of Comerç 24 fame has reopened it but (thankfully) has done little to the decor. The pistachio green walls, leather banquettes, molded ceiling, and carved friezes recall a time when intellectuals gathered to drink strong coffee and discuss the latest literary happenings. Abellán has extended the menu to include all sorts of tapas geared for a weekend of partying (fresh oysters, little plates of olives and conserved fish), hearty hangover breakfasts (butifarra sausage with white beans, or tripe with chickpeas and chorizo), and bistro dishes of grilled fish and steak. At lunchtime, you'll find office workers from the Eixample, while late nights cater to a noisy club crowd tucking into sustaining plates of patatas bravas.—Suzanne Wales
Open daily 6 am to 3 am.
4 Plaza Arriquibar
Tel: 34 944 133 636
First opened as a wine warehouse in 1909, the Alhóndiga, with its modernist facade and revamped interiors by Philippe Starck, is one of the city's most famous landmarks. In addition to a cultural center, exhibition halls, theaters, workshops, and a museum store, there are also three restaurants. The main culinary event, however, is Yandiola, on the second floor. The dining room has slate floors, exposed pipes running along the ceiling, and exposed-brick walls. Lime-green upholstered chairs at each table lend a modern look and a comfy touch. Yandiola's team, headed by Martín Berasategi alums Ricardo Perez and Borja Etxebarria, serve contemporary Basque dishes using locally sourced ingredients. The seven-course tasting menu leans heavily toward seafood and includes dishes such as sukiyaki grilled baby octopus with red onion jus, and squid served with smoked-cheese black rice. In the summer months, ask for your after-dinner coffee or drink on the rooftop terrace to enjoy Bilbao from above.—Guy Fiorita
Open daily from 1 to 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm to close.
22 Calle Albareda
Tel: 34 954 229 992
This bustling bar is frequented by a chic designer crowd, fresh from shopping at Loewe and Carolina Herrera just around the corner. Its long, narrow interior has tables with low round stools. Reliably excellent fancy tapas include a burger of super-tender Kobe beef, tuna tataki, and a delectable, creamy mussel cappuccino featuring fishy consommé topped with a layer of coconut foam. Service is smooth and professional, and the decor understated and contemporary. The perfect refueling stop before you head off for more shopping or some late-night Sevillano entertainment.—Fiona Flores Watson
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1 to 6 pm and 9 to 11:30 pm, Sundays 1 to 6 pm.