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After years of living and working throughout the Middle East and the Arab world as an activist and humanitarian with the UN, the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and other NGOs, Kate Burton (a Belgian Brit) set her sights on a quieter life in Barcelona. A year later, in 2012, she and her brother Emlyn opened Ziryab, a tiny bar and restaurant in the heart of the Born serving a fusion of Spanish and Arabic/Middle Eastern cuisine. “After my (humanitarian) mission in Baghdad I was wiped out, and decided that was the moment to leave the sector,” she explained.
Kate’s passion for Arabic culture is greatest when it comes to food, language, poetry and music. “I’ve always loved good, fresh, tasty food and have always had a passion for restaurants,” she said. “I wanted to try making something that brings more flavour to the local tapas you find in Barcelona.”
After three years, the loyal following at the original Ziryab location (Grunyí, 4) had outgrown the miniscule space, prompting Kate and Emlyn to open a second location which serves as their flagship restaurant, on Carrer dels Ases, also in the Born. This loyal following includes many deaf customers—Emlyn is deaf, as are many of the waiting staff—making for an international, inclusive ambience.
The Grunyí location is now exclusively a hookah and cocktail lounge (with a small selection of mezze snacks and dips), where you can smoke shisha from their elaborate water pipes with clean-burning coconut coals, and enjoy some classic cocktails with a twist, like the ‘Zibaretto Sour’—a unique combination of Amaretto sour with homemade Syrian pomegranate syrup.
Star dishes at Ziryab include the bacon-wrapped balsamic ‘Cleopatra’ dates, the Lebanese halloumi cheese sticks with pesto, seven-spice patatas bravas with pita bread (a delicious platter of six different dips—the sweet and spicy muhammara red pepper purée is my favourite), and the sweet and earthy fig, pumpkin and ginger soup. The menu changes every six months or so and has something for everyone, and the lunchtime menú del día is a great deal at €13.90 (three courses, without alcohol).
The wine list at Ziryab is heavily Catalan, though someone looking for something new an explore the flavours of fine wines from both Lebanon and Morocco. They even have a Palestinian craft beer called Taybeh, a rare find in the occupied West Bank.
Ziryab. Carrer dels Ases 16. Tel. 93 268 1774. Opening times: Everyday 12-30pm-4.40pm, 6pm-11.30pm.