It’s not difficult to see why Barcelona sits atop the list of Britain’s most loved city breaks. Just a short, affordable flight away, it’s an easy to navigate, easy to communicate with place, awash with culture, charm and good weather. The cuisine, too, is top drawer, but in a city so beloved of tourists, the traps – charging extortionate prices for second rate small plates – tend to outweigh the good stuff. Take a stroll down La Rambla and sadly, you have to dig deep and queue long to find somewhere worthwhile. Well, we’ve done the digging and endured the queueing, to give you this; our 5 IDEAL tapas bars in Barcelona.

TAPAS 24

When a celebrity chef (in this case, Michelin-starred Carlos Abellan) is said to be modernising the classics, with multiple branches worldwide and a place in almost every guidebook, trepidation naturally follows. But to turn your nose up at the idea of the place would be to miss out on some seriously skilful, respectful plates of Catalan culinary heritage. The outpost we adore is in Eixample, a short walk from Gaudi architecture one way and La Rambla the other; that’s your day out sorted then. Go for the calamari and squid ink mayonnaise roll, stay for the daily fish specials – available from 1pm – straight from the market. If you can, go in the evening when there’s more of a buzz about the place. 

Address: Carrer de la Diputació, 269, 08007 Barcelona

Website: www.carlesabellan.com

Tapas 24 | © www.carlesabellan.com

LA COVA FUMADA

There’s no sign here, and the place is small and unassuming from the front, but La Cova Fumada is certainly not hard to find. Enlist your senses; listen out for a noisy din of chatter and cheer, look for happy customers spilling out into the adjacent square and smell the fresh seafood coming off the plancha and you’ll know you’ve found the right place. Owing to its proximity to Barceloneta, fresh fish and shellfish are the main draw here. It’s largely standing room only (unless you get lucky) and plates are simple, but this lets the freshness of the ingredients shine. Reputedly, la Bomba – a Catalan tapa of deep fried mashed potato and meat served with bravas sauce – was invented here, so you’d be crazy not to have at least one. Aside from that, order with the sea as your guide. Lovely stuff.

Address: Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

BAR CANETE

There’s spectacle to be found here, but not at the cost of a damn good meal. Located in the up-and-coming Raval, Bar Canete’s lengthy bar is the perfect place to enjoy a mix of theatre and flavour; from here you can watch the chefs cook and waiters sachay and sing their way through service. Booking is recommended, but walk-ins are generally accomodated in the earlier parts of the evening. Although notionally a fine-dining affair, the classics are reassuringly untampered with. Must-try dishes include salt cod croquettes, amazing aubergine crisps with a sticky balsamic reduction and a loose, luxurious version of paella.

Address: Carrer de la Unió, 17, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

Websitewww.barcanete.com

La Canete | © www.barcanete.com

EL XAMPANYET

If it’s old school, traditional you’re yearning for, El Xampanyet will slake your thirst. Quite literally. This brilliant, always crowded joint is first and foremost a cava bar, but the food is fantastic, too. You can’t book, and you’ll stand, but that shouldn’t put you off one of the best dining experiences in the city. Small single bites on bread or potato (think anchovies in vinegar, chorizo or tinned tuna) lure you in, but soon you’re having such a good time you commit to being fed more heartily; grilled octopus with green sauce or sirloin with padron peppers, for instance. A real gem of a place, as long as you forget normal rules of personal space!

Address: Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

Pimientos de padrón | ©Jessica Spengler/Flickr

QUIMET Y QUIMET

A similar proposition to El Xampanyet, but with its own U.S.P; the ‘conserva’. These are preserved items in jars which line the shelves of the bar alongside a huge collection of wine and spirits, served in canape sized, open faced sandwich style – a ‘montadito’. Come with confidence, as a menu isn’t provided and space is scant, and you won’t regret it.

Address: Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, 08004 Barcelona, Spain