I've lurked here and gotten some good advice -- and figure I therefore owe a trip report. We are just finishing up six nights in Barcelona -- 'we' being myself, my husband, my mother-in-law, and two kids, ages 13 and 10. The older is reasonably adventurous and open-minded about food, and the younger is as picky as they come (but loves a good steak).
I won't report on every single breakfast/lunch/dinner, but here are the highlights:
(1) Llamber (www.lamber.com)
Walking distance from our apartment in el Born, and a great choice for all of us. The picky child was able to get a steak (served over faux coals made of yucca) and he declared it sensational.
The rest of us especially enjoyed the eggplant with honey and lemon; the potatoes with cabal and chestnut puree, the puree giving the strong cheese a wonderful sweetness; the croquetas (which my daughter accurately described as being like chicken pot pie in croquette form); we had a pork or lamb that was served with spice bread and a hint of coffee flavoring. The only disappointment was the grilled tuna; the fish wasn't quite up to being served rare, and the apple/onion compote was a touch bland. The service was friendly; the price was quite reasonable for the quality. An excellent experience overall; I'd describe it as a creative, thoughtful take on traditional tapas.
(2) Lluerna (www.lluernarestaurant.com
)I think this may go down as the best quality/price ratio meal I have ever had, pretty much anywhere. Lluerna got a michelin star recently, and it's located in Santa Coloma, which took us about 20 minutes to get to by subway. From the subway stop Santa Coloma, the restaurant is about a 3-5 minute walk. It was great to get away from the the touristy parts of town, and it was a terrific meal.
The three adults had the degustacion -- which was 31 Euros for four courses plus two desserts plus several amuse-bouches. Yes, you read that right, 31 Euros. I'd describe the food as fairly 'humble' ingredients gorgeously prepared. Not a light meal, but delicious, creative, and beautifully presented. The first amuse was a clever 'solid' mojito, made of a cube of frozen green melon with mint, a touch of alcohol, and I don't know what. Other highlights included a scrumptious zuchinni soup, confit of cod with an eggplant/black olive puree; a squid & meatball concoction that was memorable and excellent, and I'm only describing about half of what we ate.
The kids both had steak; my daughter got it as the chef intended for it to be prepared, while my son had his unsauced and without accompaniments. (My daughter also tried bites of, and largely liked, most of what we were served as well.) I appreciated that they were unphased by my son's desire for his steak to be served 'naked,' so to speak -- and they were kind enough to offer him plain cocoa gelato when it was clear that the various menu desserts were all too elaborate and multi-ingredient for him.
It was a memorable evening, and a wonderful way to take my older kid to a michelin one-star restaurant without breaking the bank and in a place that was willing to accommodate my son as well. I'd heartily recommend it.
(3) Dos Palillos
This has been much described by others, so I'll keep it brief. My husband and I went for dinner just the two of us. We had a great time, and some of the food was fabulous, but I found it a little up and down. We had a roll wrapped in rice paper and herbs with chicken skin that was sublime. The chicken sashimi felt somewhat adventurous to try and was surprisingly good. The mini hamburger with cucumber on a doughy pillowy bun was phenomenal. We had two kinds of dumplings, and both were good, but I didn't find that they sang. The rock-garden like seafood dish was gorgeous to look at, but I found it more compelling conceptually than I did delicious. Overall, I enjoyed the meal a lot, but I wasn't bowled over. It may be partly about expectations -- the first two meals were more unknown and happy surprises; for Dos Palillos, my expectations were higher, and I'd say they were met but not surpassed. We were on the early seating, and there was nary a Spaniard in sight (we had a couple on one side of us from New Zealand and Sweden and now based in Mallorca, and on the other side were a Norwegian couple -- so at least it wasn't all Americans.)
(4) Vilavinateca on carrer agullers in el born was a fabulous source for cheese, meats, and wine. We ate several meals at home in our apartment largely sourced from there (plus some stuff from the Santa Caterina market).
(5)We had gelato every day. Occasionally, twice. The two best gelaterias we experienced were: Delacrem in Eixample and Gocce di Latte (with two locations caddycorner from each other by the plaza del Palau in el born.
(6) We had a great time on a food tour run by Aborigens. I will do a separate posting on that when I have the chance, but the short version is that Cesc was both knowledgeable and extremely genial, and we all truly enjoyed it. He was also very generous and spot-on with suggestions of all kinds of food options around the city (Lluerna was his suggestion, or I never would have ended up there, and so was Viniteca). If you want to spend a morning or evening with people passionate about both Catalunya and about food, I'd definitely recommend -- though it is a bit on the pricey side!
(7) we had surprisingly good flatbread pizza at a tiny storefront on Passeig del Born. It was a couple doors down from a place called Pizza de Born. Thin crust, nice toppings, lots of olive oil in the crisp crust. Made the picky young one very happy.
(8) We had a somewhat disappointing lunch at Tapas 24, which two friends had recommended to me. Not terrible, but certainly not memorable. Service was surly though got a little friendlier when I started speaking Spanish. The bikini sandwich was tasty enough but lukewarm; the mcfoie burger was the only real highlight, and portions were small.
(9) Excellent croissants from Hoffman, on a tiny street off the Passeig del Born. Everything was good, but the mascarpone and raspberry were probably the highlights.
I think that about covers it. We are going to have churros and chocolate tomorrow morning before we leave. We enjoyed the city thoroughly, and we felt like we accommodated our grown-up palates and the kids' tastes pretty comfortably.