Address: Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003
Hours: Mon-Wed 9am - 3:15pm
Thurs - Fri 9am - 3:15pm, 6pm - 8:10pm
I spend most of my free time in the beachfront neighbourhood of Barceloneta. There’s just so much to see that you can literally spend the whole day strolling around, soaking up the sights and sounds of lucky locals and visitors living the good life. Golden rays of sunshine bounce off the mega yachts that bob up and down in the harbour and glamorous crowds of bon vivants stretch out on exclusive restaurant terraces overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. But if you weave your way between the swaying palm trees and body-bronzing beachgoers and explore the salty old backstreets, you’ll find my favourite part of Barceloneta, its historic heart and soul.
In my opinion Barceloneta is one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the city. Just a short stroll away from the sea, it is the old fishermen’s quarter of Barcelona and is famous for being the very best place to eat fish tapas and seafood. The bars tend to be small and rustic, with each offering their own little speciality tapas dish. They’re simple little places, but I love that they never seem to change or try to keep up with the latest trends.
Tapas originally were slices of cheese and other foods used to cover a drink in order to keep flies and mosquitos away.
Ask anyone in the local area for a recommendation and you’re almost always going to be pointed in the direction of La Cova Fumada. One of my absolute favourite tapas restaurants in Barceloneta, this charmingly rustic space is always crowded with locals and is run by the same family that’s always run it. It’s not much to look at and apart from a couple of FCB Barcelona posters blue tacked to the wall there is no decor as such. In fact, the first time I went, having been recommended by a foodie friend, I thought I’d written down the address wrong. “How could this be one of the best places to eat in Barcelona?” I thought. But after devouring my lunch I soon understood what it was all about.
Grandma commands the kitchen, as she has done for over 50 years, and her three grandsons patrol the bar and serve tables. There is no menu — actually there’s not even a sign outside — but your waiter will let you know what they have on offer depending on whatever comes in freshest in the morning. Trust me, if they make a recommendation, just say, “Si!” even if you’re not entirely sure what they said. I promise, it’s going to be good.
Dishes may include delights such as freshly grilled calamari (squid) served simply with a drizzle of lemon juice, olive oil and some chopped parsley, or meaty artichoke hearts and thick-slices of toasted bread slathered in a thick layer of homemade garlic alioli. This is the classic and honest Spanish cooking that I first fell in love with when I arrived in Spain, where quality ingredients do all the talking.
But whatever you do, make sure you order “las bombas”. Unquestionably the stars of the show, these tennis ball-sized potato croquettes are served with alioli and a spicy (spicy by Spain’s standards at least) salsa and have an incredibly interesting backstory. Back in the days of the Spanish Civil War the neighbourhood of Barceloneta was a battle zone. Anarchists formed a militia to fight against General Franco’s Nationalist army and used makeshift weapons to destabilise them. The most effective weapons, it turned out, were the little hand-grenades they threw, or “bombas” as they called them.
The “bombas” quickly became a sort of unofficial symbol of the anarchists’ success and one creative chef invented the tapas dish to resemble them — the croquette is the body of the bomb, the alioli represents the string fuse and the spicy red salsa embodies their explosive quality.
And the best thing of all? Legend has it that these spicy little beauties were invented right here at La Cova Fumada, deep in the very heart of Barcelona’s old fishermen’s quarter. A delicious bite of history in every delicious mouthful.