Gats

It’s tempting to believe that any establishment in an area frequented by tourists is, by definition, a tourist joint. Happily some restaurants disprove that theory – restaurants such as Gats.

Just metres away from the horrible tourist sangria and paella joints on Las Ramblas, Gats may as well be in a different country. That’s not to say tourists don’t go there (it is Barcelona, after all), but it appeals to locals as well. 

And why not? The food, service, and ambience are all decent.

The menu includes a range of the expected tapas dishes, such as croquettas, Padrón peppers, and patatas bravas. It also extends to ceviches, some imaginative salads, rice dishes and mains.

When I last visited it was a wintry night that called for some warming comfort food, and the ‘mountain paella’ – with mushrooms, Catalan sausage and asparagus – answered the call. It’s a nicely rich rice dish (served in a hot iron pan), though I feel I remember having it before with rabbit or chicken pieces. I may be wrong about that, but they’d be a nice addition.

And because I spend altogether too much time in tapas bars, green vegetables, in the form of a green bean salad with smoked sardine and horseradish was a real winner. The little chunks of smokey, salty sardine are nicely balanced by the horseradish bite.

There may not be many surprises on the menu at Gats, but everything I’ve eaten here lives up to its promise, and hardly breaks the bank. It’s definitely on my return list.

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Fismuler

Short version:

Fismuler is a very competent modern Spanish restaurant with a high degree of creativity in the kitchen. That means some dishes absolutely hit their mark, while others may disappoint.

The hits, in my opinion, far outweigh the misses. Fismuler is not just one of my favorite El Born restaurants, but one of Barcelona’s best. Definitely worth a visit.

Long version:

Being located in a newly-built three-star hotel in El Born hardly inspires confidence, but Fismuler delivers far beyond expectations.

Firstly, the space is much better than you expect, and unusual in that it isn’t limited by being in an old building.

There’s a wall of glass with a bench along the front, which I’d say was the pick if it weren’t for the fairly uninspiring square in front. Likewise the street side terrace. Inside, benches line the walls and restaurant tables fill the space to the rear where there’s more natural light. And there are low and high shared tables closer to the entrance. 

I quite like the high tables.

Unusually, the reception and drinks service area is an island bench in the middle of the room, adding to the casual feel.

The menu – in the Spanish style – doesn’t inform much, beyond the ingredients in each dish.

On my first visit, I chose a tomato salad, Iberic pork cheek brioche with truffle, and chick peas with veal and lobster from the starters list. Along with an individual serve of chocolate and hazelnut cake, that was entirely enough food for two diners.

It’s what is on the plate that counts

I expected the tomatoes to be something special, and wasn’t disappointed. A large plate of different varieties of tomato, a little sauce with oil (couldn’t identify the flavor) and some chervil. For those of us used to standard mass-produced tomato cultivars – bred for colour and transportability, rather than flavor – a dish like this is a revelation. Quite a lot for two people though.

Next up was the pork cheek brioche, and it was the highlight for us. There’s a comfort-food element here – this dish can be eaten like a sandwich – but the flavours and textures are sublime.

And finally for our savoury dishes came the chick peas. This one was a bit more challenging – the three prawn-sized lobster tails were served raw, and the veal appeared to be gelatinous fat, forming a sticky, fatty sauce on the peas. To be fair, the freshness of the lobster tail cuts through the fat, though there weren’t enough of them for the amount of chick peas. Overall, a bit one-dimensional compared to the other dishes.

Spying on our neighbours, there were plenty more options on the menu that we’d try (and we have done so), but also plenty that we wouldn’t order as well. 

I’m coming back

So the question is, is it worth it? Happily, I reckon it is. If it were a stuffy, formal restaurant I’d be less enthused. But for the prices, I’m pretty happy. (Our ‘starters’ which were all much bigger than we expected were all in the €15-20 range). To have one that was a miss, even if it was a near miss, wasn’t a bad outcome. And the four different wines we tried by the glass at €3-4 were all exceptional. 

The point is that little on the menu is standard, so you’re going to find yourself outside your comfort zone. Sometimes that will work for you, sometimes not.

Me? I like living a little dangerously.

I was back again within the month for the paper-thin veal scaloppine with egg and mushrooms (which, to be honest, was another one that fell a bit flat), a superb ‘mellow rice of cockles, Chinese chard’ and a lovely semi-cured sea bream. 

Carrer del Rec Comtal, 17

Tel: 93 514 00 50

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El Dinamic de Bcn

Hugely popular with a young crowd, El Dinamic can be a tricky place to find a table. The space barely hides its workshop origins, and the wait staff can be tricky to flag down, though when they do get around to it there are some nice tapas bites to be had here and a selection of local craft beers.

Open: Wed & Thurs 5:00pm – midnight; Fri 5:00pm – 1:00am; Sat 1:00pm – 1:00am; Sun 1:00pm – midnight

Passatge de Pere Calders, 4

Web (Catalan only)