This March my husband and I traveled to Barcelona and Majorca with Raphael, then 3 ½ months old. Due to Raphael, we stuck for the most part to recommendations on Chowhound and in guidebooks. For those traveling with infants, we took him to every restaurant listed below, excepting the one night our hotel arranged a babysitter. Reactions ranged from positive to indifferent, but I never felt uncomfortable nursing him or that we had brought him with us. (Phone numbers listed only for restaurants for which reservations are necessary).
In the Boqueria Market: Bar Quim. Fresh off the plane, my husband had a wonderful plate of dozens of tiny fried baby inkfish covered with poached eggs (xanquete). Our introduction to the wonders of deep frying in Spain. I had garlicky grilled sardines. It was a little difficult to manage with a baby, because you have to sit on barstools. The Boqueria is all its reputed to be: a spectacular food market right off the Rambla.
In back of the Boqueria, we ate at La Garduna. The Time Out guide recommends it, noting that it uses produce fresh from the market. It was the only bad meal we had in Spain. My grilled anchovies were like cardboard, roasted hake with whipped garlic was drowning in oil, my husbands white asparagus salad either came from a can or was cooked to taste as if it did. He chose a house specialty, filets of veal, which was terribly bland and unadorned with any vegetables, just a couple of pieces of sautéed meat. Indifferent service, too.
In/near the Barri Gotic: Cal Pep. Placa des Olles 8. The raves on Chowhound are all valid! This was my favorite meal on the trip. Once we started ordering, we couldnt stop. We sat at the counter, pointing at ingredients we could see in the coolers or at dishes ordered by our neighbors. We began with garlic-rubbed toast (pa amb oli) with tomatoes, had deep fried baby inkfish, this time with fried egg; deep fried squid; roasted clams with garlic; small, whole deep fried peppers; deep fried baby artichokes and sausage cooked with beans. I know Ive left out several dishes. . . . The fried items were cooked perfectly. We thought we couldnt eat any more, but the owner treated us to deserts, small cups of creme catalan and lemon cream. We tried to go back a second time, but the line was too long and, sadly, Raphael wasnt up to the wait.
Agut dAvignon. C/Gignas 16. 93 315 17 09. We started with a shared toast with smoked eel. I had the fish soup, which was an oversalted, mediocre bouillabaise. My husband faired better with escalivada, a mixture of roasted vegetables. Both entrees were excellent. I had the hake roasted in its own juices and my husband had a mixed seafood grill. Service was off, but I think it was just our waitress: she corked our wine and didnt offer to replace it, brought the table next to us the wrong food, and dropped the plates as she was bringing them to a third table!
Xocoa. C/Petritxol. For breakfast or a snack, wonderful hot chocolate with whipped cream (known as a Suisa) and pastries with chocolate. There is a very good chocolate shop next door.
Raval: For our big night out, we went to Ca LIsidre. C/les Flors. 93 441 11 39. An elegant restaurant somewhat at odds with the seedy neighborhood in which it is located. The waiter brought out toasts with sardine and eggplant while we reviewed the menus. I began with a salad of baby eels. The eels are tiny; about 1 to 1 ½ inches long and as thick as a piece of twine. The light vinagrette complemented their delicate flavor. My husband began with a lasagna with cuttlefish and parmesan cheese. For a main course, I had baby octopus roasted in garlic and olive oil. They were perfectly cooked (as well as extremely cute), but at 48 Euros and no veg, overpriced. My husband had the roasted baby goat shoulder, the house speciality. It was luscious. We asked for a recommendation for a good Catalan wine other than Priorat, which wed already had a couple of times. The waiter selected a Masia Can Serra, Gneis 1998 (appellation Emporda--Costa Brava), which worked with my octopus and Dans meat. It was excellent and not particularly expensive. For dessert, I had selections from the cheese tray. All of the cheeses were French; when we asked why, the owner, who was making his rounds, told us that he doesnt think Spanish cheese is good enough. Dan had a chocolate fondant torte. Yes, molten chocolate cake has invaded Spain. With coffee, the waiter brought out a plate of bunuelos, small fritters filled with crema catalan. Best souvenir from a restaurant: inside the bathrooms, Ca LIsidre toothbrushes!
We had lunch at Els Ocellets, Ronda Sant Pau 55. The restaurant is nondescript, but the food is homey. I had cod stewed with beans. My husband ordered fideus, pasta cooked in fish broth with seafood. We loved this dish, which turned out to be different each time we had it.
Elisabets: c/Elisabets. Tiny restauraunt with inexpensive, fixed price lunch menu. The sausage with beans is the best choice.
Poble Sec: We had lunch at La Tomaquera, C/Margarit 58. This place is the Shopsins of Barcelona, with an idiosyncratic owner who refuses to install a phone, posts silly signs around the restaurant, and has a cook staff of daredevils who grill, sauté and deep fry in an open kitchen while the wait staff attends to the rowdy clientele. Copying all of our neighbors, who seemed to be loving them, I ordered snails with blood sausage (botifarra). It must be an acquired taste: I thought the sauce made the sausage soggy, and the sausages flavor overwhelmed the snails. We also had the grilled baby artichokes. They took far to long and were burnt. My husband ordered the mixed grill, which was enough for two. This was quite good, especially the chicken.
Eixample: We had lunch at Tragaluz, Passatge de la Concepcio 5. 93 487 01 96 Where the chic meet and eat. Design is taken a little too seriously in this restaurant, but after a few days of deep fried food, we needed something lighter. I had a salad of tuna with roasted red peppers; my husband had artichoke pasta with mushrooms.