With one notable exception, Team Mago’s Barcelona contingent is composed of early risers who also retire early, at least by Mediterranean standards. Thus we rarely eat at Barcelona restaurants in the evening, contenting ourselves with a meal at the Love Shack du jour (see Making the Most of the Markets forthcoming this fall) or hitting several tapas bars in front of the nocturnal Catalan wave front that begins to build between 8 and 9PM. Based on multiple advice vectors, however, we felt we owed our readership a review of Bodega Sepulveda, a traditional restaurant in the Dreta de l’Eixample district. Fulvia and Diodorus Siculus insisted on 8PM reservations, but when we showed up with Fulvia’s inveterate punctuality the restaurant was locked up tighter than a drum.
Telephone: +34 933 23 59 44
Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 1PM to 4:30PM and 8PM to 1AM, Saturdays 8PM to 1AM, closed Sundays
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 4
We beat a hasty retreat to a nearby bar (forget swinging a dead cat, just think supine feline in Barcelona and you are at an establishment that serves food and alcohol) where we consoled ourselves with several rounds of canas and pinxos. Returning to Bodega Sepulveda at 8:30PM we found the establishment, open, bereft of clientele, and the staff just finishing their evening meal. Upon entering, Diodorus Siculus felt duty bound to inform the hostess that we had made 8PM reservations. Rather than causing any embarrassment, this pathetic admission of non-locality served to break the ice with the entire staff, who laughed openly and made a great show of leading us to a randomly selected “specific” table in the culinary echo chamber.
Mago tip: Make dinner reservations no earlier than 9:30 PM in Barcelona on week nights and a half hour later for weekends. Unless a) you like eating in a deserted restaurant (or joining in the staff meal, something I have always wanted to do but have yet to figure out how) or b) plan on dining at one of the many tourist traps in the Barri Gotic, in which case you need to immediately abandon this website (as well as all hope of a good meal).
The space is cozy and narrow with dark paneled wooden walls and exposed beams in a burnt sienna plastered ceiling. Tables are placed close together and fitted out with soft yellow table cloths and napkins. There are downstairs and upstairs rooms, the latter evidently the preferred haunt of locals, who begin arriving around 10PM and keep coming past mid-night. A very nice feature of the restaurant’s topography is that it mitigates the noise level even when the place is full.
The extensive menu is categorized by ingredients rather than sequence with the exception of tapas, thus salads, eggs, fish, meat, assortments, toasts, sausages, and cheese. We settled on a selection of tapas, followed by two fish offerings and two meat offerings. Pebrots de padrón were the first to reach our table (like most good Catalan restaurants, food came when it was ready rather than idling in heat light purgatory). These small fried green peppers with flaked sea salt were a very good example of this ubiquitous tapa dish: bitter, grassy, salty with a touch of char.
The next deployment was cuttlefish croquets–black flavor cylinders with a micron-thick crust surrounding unctuous inky squidiness. The flavor derived mainly from the ink, but the ground up cuttlefish imparted a subtle textural differentiation from a regular potato croquette. The cephalopod taters were accompanied by croquetes de ceps, which were similarly shaped but endowed with a crust twice as thick that gave way to a very creamy center redolent of woodsy porcinitude. The two treatments contrasted splendidly, ably demonstrating the Catalan mastery of this culinary sub-discipline.
Being murphy mavens, Team Mago also ordered patates Sepúlveda. The house tubers were parboiled and then run under a salamander topped with cheese, anchovies, and herbs. What’s not to like about oily, salty, umami goodness?
The latter dish was ordered at the insistence of Lucullus who has vowed to construct a temple to Addephagia in Northwest Montana should the Sicilian goddess of gluttony bless him with calamaretti at least once a week while he sojourns in the Mediterranean. So far she has not disappointed. This evening the xiperones were served with small white beans cooked with slivers of mild garlic and then drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and emerald-green olive oil. The exquisitely fresh half-pinky sized squidlets were perfectly cooked; delivering a tender, but not mushy, texture and a subtle marine flavor. The mussels were also expertly executed, fresh, and juicy. Their sauce made excellent soppage for the pa ab tomaquet, which was good but not great, consisting of split circular loaves cut into half moons.
The meat offerings were a tour de force of old-school Catalan cuisine. First came meatballs with ceps. The chef wandered by as Team Mago was experiencing multiple simultaneous foodgasms and declared the dish a five star treatment, which it most certainly was. Laden with large thick slices of fresh porcini from the nearby Pyrenees, the sauce was pure Bacchus 30 weight–viscous and silky with an intense mushroom flavor, made with stock, cognac, dense olive oil, and large parsley stems. The meatballs, made from 100% veal with minimal binding, were sweet and permeated with cep flavor.
Lucullus was prepared to declare the meatballs best in show until the “paradise tripe,” as the waitress termed it, showed up. Long considered the true test of a kitchen tripe, unlike most organ meat is low in saturated fat, contains useful levels of vitamin C, is highly nutritious, and reportedly acts like offal viagra, increasing one’s libido fourfold. But the major reason that Lucullus orders tripe when dining out with Team Mago (or just about anyone else) is that he usually gets to eat all of it himself. Bodega Sepulveda ‘s version of reticulum heaven was a tripe stew made with Jamon Iberico bone stock, smoky paprika, bay leaves, and chunks of calf’s head. The tripe was meltingly tender and the rest of ingredients were quite delicious, although this came at the cost of significantly jacking up its overall cholesterol level. Lucullus opined that it could have used a bit more heat as he hoovered the plate. In keeping with a TMI ban designed to differentiate the MagoGuide from the MagoScrolls, this review will refrain from any reportage concerning the efficacy of tripe’s priapic properties, which may have manifested themselves later in the evening.
Dessert took the form of Gelat de fromatge Idiazabar, essentially pecorino romano ice cream: salty, sweet, sheepy cheesy, with a creamy mouth feel. Diodorus Siculus was appalled. “Cheese ice cream is a provocation!!” he declared, and then launched into a rant in idiomatic Sicilian that was apparently a disquisition against “Molecular fucking stupid things!!” Lucullus and Fulvia both thought that it was wonderful, innovative, and could have been further improved with a drizzle of artisanal balsamic vinegar. Diodorus Siculus declared us culinary provocateurs in league with Ferran Adria and all his evil ilk.
We drank the house red, a 2006 Rioja from Vina Alberdi, Crianza. It began with a nose of damp earth and mushrooms. The mid-palate of leather and game developed some dark plum and blackberry fruit as the wine breathed, ending on a long, satisfactory finish. It paired perfectly with with the food.
Mago tip: Don’t take the dollar option on credit cards. This year’s credit card scam involves being offered to settle the bill in either Euros or dollars. If you read the fine print on the tiny piece of paper you sign, however, you will discover that the conversion rate should you choose to settle in dollars is far less favorable than the rate you will get from your bank/card originator if you settle in Euros. Go figure.
This Barceloneta hangout serves some of the best patatas bravas in the city.Bar Joan
Great little value-for-money restaurant in Santa Caterina market.Bar Tomás de Sarrià
Considered the best bravas in this spiral arm of the galaxy, they are the unprotected sex version of this preparation. The spuds are fried to a greasy splendor and then topped with an aioli boasting an off-the-scale ratio of garlic-to-oil.Bodega Sepulveda
A solid Barcelona restaurant where the meat offerings are a tour de force of old-school Catalan cuisine. Don't plan to eat dinner there before 10PM, though, or you'll be eating alone.Cal Pep
Cal Pep is one of our favorite all time restaurants in the world. Can Majó
This is a great little funky restaurant with fried goodness.Can Maño
It's a restaurant that we enjoyed.Can Sole
We love this place for sentimental reasons. The food is just OK and kind of expensive.Casa Delfin
MagoGuide’s take on Cervecería Catalana is that despite the familial connection, you should go to nearby Ciudad Condal if you are interested in food. If you are more interested in beer, then Cervecería Catalana is the place to go.
Telephone: +34 932 16 03 68
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday 8AM-1:30AM, Saturday and Sunday 9AM to 1:30PM
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 3
Ciudad Condal is good VFM given its location on La Ramblas di Catalunya. There is no extra charge for eating outside, which is very pleasant on a nice day. The wine pours are generous and significantly cheaper than a lot of nearby establishments (ditto beer), and tapas prices seemed in line with most other traditional places in far less frequented parts of the city.
Telephone: +34 933 18 19 97
Hours of operation: Monday to Sunday from 8AM -1:30AM
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 4
This is a real deal VFM establishment, but you have got to earn it.
Telephone: +34 932 21 40 61
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 4
This is a great bar that we have enjoyed going to time and again.Escribà Xiringuito
Yet another of one of our all time favorite restaurants in the world.Homo Sibaris
La Bodegueta del Poble Sec
We love the Poble Sec district and we love this restaurant.La Medusa 73
We enjoyed our meat meal here.Lolita Taperia
The celebrity chef hybrid Lolita Taperia is one of MagoGuide’s favorite tapas bars in Barcelona. Get seats at the outside bar area for a great view of the kitchen. The line cook when we were there was intense and very good.Mercat Princesa
This upbeat take on a food court is great for a group that has diverse tastes. The food is good and the atmosphere fun.Mosquito
Mosquito is the place in Barcelona to gundge a few pot stickers and pound some decent brewkis.
Telephone: +34 932 68 75 69
Hours of operation: Opens at 1PM everyday but Sunday when it opens at 7:30PM, closes at 12:30AM Monday-Wednesday and Sunday, 1AM on Thursday and 2:30AM on Friday and Saturday
Get more info....
Rostra rating: 3
Just OK pizza for a good price.Patxoca
Giovanni took us here for an evening of fun and good food.Rekons
Rekons is an Argentinian empanada emporium in the Eixample serving up delicious meat and vegetarian versions. A most pleasant afternoon is to stroll over, gather up your piping hot empanada of choice, then sit outside and enjoy the street theater.Roman Via Sepulcral and Plaça Vila de Madrid
The Roman Via Sepulcral and the Plaça Vila de Madrid are interesting spots to stop, enjoy the archeological find of an ancient Roman city, and have a refreshment.Santa Marta Bar
This is one of our favorite bars on the beach.Segons Mercat
Good tapas in Barceloneta and not very crowded when the others are.Taberna Blai Tonight
This is a great little tapas bar specializing in at least 20 varieties of pintxos, each costing only 1 Euro.Tapas 24
Tapas 24 ain’t cheap, but it is a very reasonable way to sample Adellan’s creative take on small bites.Vacatada
Vacatada is basically an Argentinian steak house transported from the pampas to Catalonia. Be prepared to eat meat.Vaso de Oro
Once you're seated and start to order, great tapas comes your way. There is also several types of excellent beers to choose from.