Category Archives: Tapas Bars

Tapas in Barcelona

On my last trip to Barcelona a couple of months ago, My good friend Gabriella who is always in the mood for good food and wine, joined me for a self-guided tapas tour one warm Saturday evening. After we got sidetracked at some fun shops on the Rambla de Catalunya and the Passeig de Gracia, we stopped at Cerveceria Catalana. If you are new to the idea of tapas and don’t mind being with others who are too, this is a great place to start. Its big, there is plenty of seating (not always common in tapas places) and it has great food, menus in English, many traditional options some with a modern flair, and great service! I was skeptical as I knew this place might be touristy but I was pleasantly surprised by the food and won over by the friendly staff.

Ceveceria Catalana

anchovy tapa with peppers

Our next stop was pure fun. I had heard of Tapaç 24 as it is overseen by Chef Carles Abellan from Comerç 24 and I was looking forward to trying some of his inventive cuisine. Sitting on high stools, surrounded by colourful painted walls and fresh vegetables hanging between the bar and the glass through which we could watch the chefs at work, we were not disappointed. Practically everything on the menu is based on traditional Catalan dishes and ingredients, some with inventive twists, and everything made with the best fresh ingredients. We started with the Tapa D’Or – or Golden tapa for 2.50€ which was a plate of quality extra virgin olive oil with tomatoes served with crusty country bread. Next we ordered the restaurants version of Bombes called Bombes de La Barceloneta for 3.50€. Bombes are a type of croquette, always round. Our other tapa was the Tapas 24 version of the Catalan “Coca” which is like a pizza topped with fresh vegetable goodness with some caviar sprinkled on for fun. We of course enjoyed our tapas with some local sparkling cava and vowed to return someday soon!

La Tapa D'Or at Tapas 24

Bombes de la Barceloneta, Tapas ,24

Tapas 24

Soon we were off again. To reach our third destination we took a 10 or 15 minute stroll down to the Born area near the Picasso Museum and stopped in at a packed Basque pintxos bar called Euskal Etxea, or the Basque house. Not just a source of great pintxos the Euskal Etxea is also a sort of Basque cultural center which offers activities and basque language classes. We stood at the bar and as is the custom here, were offered a plate and allowed to take what we wanted from the heaping plates of pintxos and kept our toothpicks in good faith in order to pay at the end. A weeknight might be better to stop here as it gets pretty crowded but no one really seemed to mind, and since this is the norm here in Spain, we were quite happy to enjoy our txacoli and pintxos elbow to elbow with our fellow diners.

The details.
Cerveceria Catalana

C/ Mallorca, 236. Between Rambla de Catalunya and Balmes.

93 216 03 68

Tapaç 24

Carrer Diputacio, 269 (just east of Passeig de Gracia)

Euskal Etxea

C/ Montcada 1-3, Barcelona 08003 (next to the Picasso Museum)



Filed under Pintxos, Places, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars, Uncategorized

Tapas of the Week #17 – Percebes

Menu shot

Last month to celebrate my birthday, and that of a friend, we went to a modest Galician restaurant in our central-eastern neighborhood of Madrid which is locally popular for its low prices and great food. Their cider is brought directly from Galicia in barrels, and the tapas in this basement restaurant are generous, and delicious. However, this was not a day for only tapas, we were going to have a feast.
Among plates of octopus with potatoes, patatas bravas, morcilla with pimientos de padrón, we treated ourselves to what is considered a delicacy in
Spain, Percebes or “Gooseneck Barnacles”

An interesting and strange food, its said that before the 18th C its unlikely people actually ate these crustaceans, considering them as appetizing as rocks, or even imagining them to be small monsters with many, very ugly, feet. Some accounts state that they were thought to be the early form of Barnacle Geese, birds which to the medieval eye seemed to appear out of nowhere. The geese don’t of course, but in an age before mass transport, people had no idea that these birds migrated and therefore hatched their eggs elsewhere.

Percebes in Spain are found along the rugged coasts of Galicia, especially near the dangerous cliffs of the appropriately named “Costa da Morte,” or the Coast of Death. It’s a beautifully striking landscape, with jagged cliffs with the cold Atlantic waters pounding the huge rocks below. This creates the perfect habitat for these barnacles who attach themselves permanently to the rocks beaten by the surf and feed off the plankton and other small crustaceans that the waves bring them. Fisherman risk their lives as they swim to harvest the Percebes, thus explaining the high prices Spaniards will gladly pay to indulge in this delicacy.

Percebes, Goose Barnacles

Percebes are cooked for just a few minutes in salt or sea water. As the Galician saying goes, “auga a ferver, percebes botar” When water boils, take out Percebes. Nothing else is added to the water or the Percebes once they are cooked as to preserve this special, sought after flavor except maybe a bay leaf.

But how do you eat these strange looking critters? The head, well, I think it’s the head, is covered with a strong shell which is easy to twist off from the body, exposing the moist, soft and yet firm meat within the tube of the neck or body. With every bite its like getting a squirt of the delightfully salty sea.

Where to try Percebes? If not in Galicia they can be had in many Galician restaurants around Spain. Madrid, although landlocked, is an excellent spot as well because of the enormous amounts of fresh seafood arriving daily. Try a Galician restaurant such as Maceiras on Calle Huertas, 66.

Or if you want to try my neighborhood place, its called “De’Galicia” and located near Metro Manuel Becerra on Paseo Marqués de Zafra, 8. Tel 91 356 91 69.

For more formal dining, with higher prices try:

El Pescador: High quailty fish and seafood at a Madrid standard.

Combarro – bills itself as Galicia in Madrid.
Que Aproveche!


Filed under Food, Madrid, Restaurants, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars

Tapas in Lugo, Galicia

Concurso de tapas Lugo

Last month I was fortunate to be in Northern Spain for a weekend. We travelled to Lugo, in Galicia, for a wedding which was held in the beautiful Romanesque and Gothic-style cathedral nestled in the center of town inside one of western Europe’s best-preserved, intact Roman city walls. Storybook wedding aside, we also spent quite a bit of time in Lugo’s various tapas bars with thirty or so friends getting reacquainted, catching up on each others lives, and eating tapas. Lucky for us, Lugo was holding a tapas competition with thirty five bars participating. Each bar offered a special tapa for the occasion under one of two categories; traditional or creative. I was able to try three of the contending tapas, along with several others acompanied by excellent Galician wines.

bacallau con pure duas cores

At Taberna Daniel, among a tapas style dinner of octopus, squid and mushrooms we tried the “tapa creativa”- The name in Galician is: “bacallau con pure duas cores“. Served in a glass it was a puree of cod, sweet onion and a garlicky tomato sauce which tasted like salmorejo. It was tasty and interesting, but I think I prefer not to eat my tapas out of a glass with a spoon. I would give it 3 out of 5 stars though.

tortilla á mariñeira

At 101 Vinos, along with a beautifully tart Albariño we were served the “tapa tradicional” of “tortilla á mariñeira” which is a square slice of tortilla española, drenched in a marinera shrimp sauce. Very good. My favourite thing at this bar however were the pimientos de padrón. 4 out of 5 stars.

ameixas ó Antas

My favourite tapa was at Cafeteria Restaurante Antas de Ulla. Their own style of clams “ameixas ó Antas” included six clams for 2€ with a spicy vinaigrette sauce served with toastettes topped with a dried red pepper and gulas (imitation baby eels) and drizzled with olive oil. Our group ordered lots and lots of these. 5 stars!

 I can’t find information yet on the winners but I do know I didn’t participate in the contest the correct way. You are supposed to have the waiter stamp your card proving that you in fact did try their tapa. After you have visited at least twelve bars you can deposit your stamped map in one of the boxes provided at each establishment for a drawing. You could win something too! A case of wine from the local D.O. Ribeira Sacra or a night in a luxury hotel in Lugo.

So next year, mid-September for about two to three weeks there will be another tapas contest in Lugo, I highly recommend checking it out!


Filed under Food, Galicia, Places, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars

Pintxos in Bilbao

Pintxos in Bilbao

A few weeks ago when visiting Bilbao we headed down to the Plaza Nueva, an enclosed plaza with terraces, and lots of tapas bars. Here they are called pinchos, or the preferred basque-ish spelling, pintxos. What a difference from the straightforward tapas found in Madrid’s traditional bars. Pintxos are a work of art. They are not free and you must ask for the one(s) you would like.

Bar Bilbao, Bilbao

Our stop in the Plaza Nueva included Cafe Bar Bilbao, a historic pintxo bar and cafe almost 100 years old, we were a group of about eight people all standing around the bar with our drinks and sometimes ordering a few pintxos. A couple Americans came in (since I am one, for me they are easy to pick out) and somehow were able to get one of the 6 or so tables. It was about 8pm, still two hours short of dinner time but the bar was full of Bilbainos having an aperitif. The two women proceeded to order, first they were served a bottle of wine and I thought to myself, they are obviously tourists, they are not going about this pintxo thing the right way. They should stand at the bar like us, have some pintxos and move on to discover other places. Then their order came, a plate full of the colors of delicious looking pintxos, too much for just a bite, and seemingly too much for two people! It looked like the typical situation when you are in a foreign country and you order something and it ends up to be enough food for double the amount of people you are. But the women seemed happy with their dinner and my Basque friends had by now taken notice of these two and their huge plate and were enviously remarking at how those ladies really had a great idea! Now why didn’t we think of that!?

Pintxos Variados

This was my plate of pintxos. I loved the one at the bottom of the photo. Its mixed fresh cheeses rolled into a ball covered with walnuts and balsamic reduction. The salmon and the fried squid were also wonderful.

Café Bar Bilbao is located at Plaza Nueva 6. (Metro Casco Viejo) in Bilbao


Bar Bilbao on YouTube

An interesting website dedicated to pintxos, the tapas of the Basque Country, is They even have recipies and list some great tapas/pintxo bars in San Sebastian.


Filed under Food, Pintxos, Places, Spain, Tapas, Tapas Bars

Madrid Tapas Bar – Almacen de Vinos



Also called Taberna Gerardo this historical bar in La Latina has huge vats at the back, and the smaller ones (above) which used to hold wine that would be poured into casks and sold to the locals. Thus the name, which translated into English is “storehouse of wines.” Now it serves great tapas and a nice variety of Spanish wines. I made the mistake of going on a Sunday afternoon at 3:30 which is already pretty late and it was packed full when we arrived. Weekday evenings afford better service and a more relaxed setting. For tapas they offer a variety of Tostas, which are toasted bread with toppings, (like Canapes) and also some raciones. (but for those you have to go earlier than 3:30 on Sundays.) I was impressed with the selection of wines, and happy that they had a Txacoli, a young white from the Basque Country. Below you can see a list of some of their white and rosés offered by the glass.



 The only thing is that there is not a good air conditioning system (a fan in the window) and the bottles are all stored upright in the hottest part of the bar, so if you are a purist for those things you can make the trip down here to one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madrid, a neighborhood which hasn’t changed much in the last 70 years, enjoy a wine and some tapas in an authentic atmosphere, and complain about it.



The Almacen de Vinos is on Calle Calatrava, 21 in Madrid. Metro Stop: La Latina.

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Filed under Madrid, Tapas Bars

Tapa of the Week #10 – Your average tapa

After a busy month I’ve finally found some time to write, and to share some recent pictures! A couple weeks ago, remembering to take along my camera, I joined some friends after work at a little hole in the wall bar just off Fuencarral, not far from Gran Via. We hastily ordered pimientos de padron which disappeared before I could remember to take a picture. This is the real challenge of TapasTalk. To actually get pictures before the food is devoured by my friends. Ok, ok, I am guilty too! Along with the first “cañas” that we ordered, we were served this little plate, a salad kind of tapa. Its got some boiled ham chunks, cucumber, onion, tomato, olives, potato and its doused with white wine vinagre and olive oil. To get served this kind of tapa, go to a place which has those refrigerated glass covered cases on the bar full of food of all sorts. It should be a neighborhood type bar, not one of those cool-looking ones in La Latina. No, go to the side streets, or an area that is not touristy, the bar will probably have some gambling and machines, tacky decorations and napkins strewn on the floor. Think of all that as a tourist deterrent and a way for you to experience typical, everyday life in Spain.


At the same bar we ordered Patatas Bravas, (with some extra spicy sauce) mmM!



For anyone wanting to venture in, the bar is on Calle S. Onofre, just between Calle Fuencarral and Valverde near the Gran Via Metro stop in Madrid.

Que aproveche!


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Filed under Food, Madrid, Tapas Bars

Tapa of the Week #9 – Croquetas de Bacalao

Another tapa with cod for this week! Katie over at España Profunda has posted her favorite croquetas in Madrid so to continue the theme, I’m posting mine. Which is better is yet to be tested!

For my favorite croquettes, I go to Casa Labra which is located in the heart of the commercial district in Puerta del Sol. Its a charming little corner of history nestled on a side street in the shadows of the Corte Inglés. One of the historical bars in Madrid, this was the place in 1879 where the Spanish Socialist political party was founded. But if you are like everyone else you are there to have the fantastic “croquetas de bacalao” which are well-known by every Madrileño. At busy times of day, just before lunch and dinner the crowd spills out onto the street. But the lines are fast moving and the staff very attentive and make sure everyone is served quickly.

I was fortunate to remember to snap this picture of the last half of a croqueta before it was too late!

Casa Labra does offer other tapas but most popular are of course the freshly made croquetas and pieces of fried cod. Order them as you enter then after paying for the tapas order your drinks at the bar. The typical drink here is either a caña of beer or vermouth “vermut” which they have on tap. For a non-alcoholic drink order a bottle of Mosto which is white grape juice and is very refreshing for the summer.

Qué aproveche!

Casa Labra is on Calle Tetuan, 12 just next to the Corte Inglés in Puerta del Sol.


Filed under Food, Madrid, Places, Tapas Bars