Photo by Tara Stevens
Sally Davies has been the editor of the Time Out Guide to Barcelona for nearly 10 years. During that time she’s eaten in more restaurants in Barcelona than anyone I know, myself included. We got together to talk shop at the iconic Fonda España restaurant at the newly revamped Hotel España.
What do you think of the restaurant scene in Barcelona at the moment?
The good and the bad of the Barcelona restaurant scene is that it doesn’t change wildly. Good in that there are still plenty of family-run, traditional Catalan places de toda la vida; bad in that there is a certain resistance to new flavours and ingredients, so it’s hard for a really authentic Thai, say, to survive.
Generally, though, I’m a bit wary of trend-spotting in restaurants. I think we journos are under pressure to do it and you end up with made-up concepts like the recent raft of articles about ‘bistronomics’, used to describe restaurants like Hisop, Gresca or Embat, none of which is either a bistro or particularly economical. The term simply describes entry-level Michelin places. Now a proper bistro, that would be good. Cassoulet. Onion soup. Bouillabaisse. I’d be there every day. Wouldn’t have to be French, could be Catalan—in fact a Catalan bistro might have food a lot like this place.
What did you think of Fonda España?
Rich, filling, Catalan comfort food in a pretty and historic dining room—not much to argue with there. I think they’re doing themselves a disservice touting the whole ‘Martín Berasategui at the helm’ thing, though, because anyone who’s eaten at his mothership and is hoping for a low-cost version of that triple-starred magic is going to be disappointed—this is a completely different kind of food. Honest, traditional, handed-down-recipe food. Loved the lamb and fried mongetes, and the mackerel with trinxat hit the spot on this chilly day.
Other places to recommend?
The longer I’m in this business the harder I am to impress with fancy food—if I’m not working, it’s all about atmosphere. Twenty minutes from the centre and you can be sitting in the sunshine with Barcelona at your feet while scarfing calçots and drinking flagons of house red at Can Martí (www.canmarti.info). That’s hard to beat.
Hotel España, Carrer Sant Pau 9-11, El Raval. Tel. 93 550 0000. Open daily, 1 to 4pm and 8 to 11pm. Lunch menú: €25 for three courses, including wine and water.