Camping Mar

Diners under umbrellas in the sun at Camping Mar, Barcelona
Al fresco is nice

We’re not really the camping types at LITBarcelona, but we would return to Camping Mar. The draw here is paella by the waterside. (No, it is not a camping ground – apparently the staff frequently turn away disappointed campers!)

I know paella isn’t a traditional Catalan meal, but what tourists demand, tourists get, and there are paellas in Barcelona of significantly variable quality.

What I can say is that the paellas at Camping Mar are at the higher end of that scale. There may be better offerings in town – and certainly cheaper ones – but Camping Mar remains on our list for a number of reasons.

Location is one factor. Set in a lovely open pavilion, with tables under cover or al fresco out the front overlooking a marina, you couldn’t ask for a nicer place to while away a sunny afternoon.

Squid ink cuttlefish paella and a wet crayfish paella. Nice!
Paellas are the main attraction

It is situated on the ‘wrong’ side of the W hotel, by which I mean not the side facing the beach, where another not-dissimilar outlet from the same group called Pez Vela sits. To be honest, we were at Camping Mar because Pez Vela didn’t have space when we tried to book, but it did give us a chance to try something new. And really, walking back to town after lunch was hardly a challenge. 

Service is another factor, with (in my experience) attentive and friendly wait staff on hand to look after you. This is not a place where you’ll sit on an empty glass for too long. Nice job.

The paellas

After a couple of starters we opted for a black rice with cuttlefish and artichoke, and a brothy crayfish rice (€24 and €26 per person, respectively) along with a crisp verdejo. 

Light-filled interior at Camping Mar, Barcelona
The ‘interior’ is quite pleasant too

Both paellas were big on flavour, though the cuttlefish was my preferred option. The chunks of cuttlefish were nice and tender, if a little unevenly mixed through the rice, and the flavour spoke of fresh seafood and a nice briny, umami hit from the squid ink. I’d definitely have it again. The crayfish was rich in the way you’d expect, but didn’t really shine like the cuttlefish.

But ultimately, it’s the sum of its parts that make Camping Mar: It’s a pretty location; the service is attentive; and the food is genuinely good. Enjoying it in good company made it that much nicer. It’s a long way from the cheapest paella experience in Barcelona, but it is one of the nicest.

Tel: +34 934 088 901


Click here for more of the best dining in Barcelona

Or here for Barcelona’s best hotels

Or here for the best things to see and do in Barcelona


Pez Vela

Glorious terrace in the Summer sun at Pez Vela in Barcelona
Lovely terrace overlooking the beach

This review may be coloured by the fact that I just had a 5.5-hour paella lunch with some friends at Pez Vela. So…

It didn’t start brilliantly. We were left standing at the entrance for five full minutes. The wait staff assured us the front-of-house person would look after us soon, but it was busy. On a Monday.

Our last visit was on a cool winter’s day, and there were no outside tables occupied, and it was cosy. The full terrace is big, and the staff do seem to struggle to cope. To be fair, this sort of seasonal staffing must be difficult to manage.

That said, our waiter had a sense of humour. Some unfizzy Aperol spritzs were returned and replaced no-questions-asked. And the vibe of the place was just lovely. I suspect we were lucky to have avoided the weekend, because from my seat I could see the poolside DJ at the W but thankfully could barely hear any muzak. Who the hell needs a poolside DJ? The W gets marked down a notch in my estimation.

The food

The meal consisted of a green salad with white asparagus, fried red prawns (a special), octopus leg, and a paella with squid, prawns and clams. A bottle of albariño made a nice accompaniment.

Fried Mediterranean prawns. Delicious.
The prawns were a special, buy oh, my, they were good

The salad was as expected, the prawns very nicely done and flavourful like only these Mediterranean prawns seem to manage, and the pulpo tender and packed with flavour too. So far so good.

The rice was actually one of the better ones I’ve had in a while – a nice saffron kick to start, and lovely umami seafood flavours. Win.

Paella ta Pez Vela in Barcelona. It may not photograph well, but it's tasty!
Not necessarily photogenic, but tasty

We finished with a more punchy verdello and a nougat ice cream and chocolate cake (described by our waiter friend as “not very exciting”!) and they were just fine. 

A few after-lunch drinks as the sun dipped towards the horizon, along with some people-watching and goal-keeping with the kids playing soccer right in front finished the day perfectly.

I can see why it’s popular, paella by the beachfront in Barcelona doesn’t get much better than this. It’s nice in the wintertime, but that terrace is just spectacular on a lovely sunny early summer’s day.

Tel: +34 932 216 317


Click here for more of the best dining in Barcelona

Or here for Barcelona’s best hotels

Or here for the best things to see and do in Barcelona

Casual/tapas Paella


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.


Click here for more of the best dining in Barcelona

Or here for Barcelona’s best hotels

Or here for the best things to see and do in Barcelona