Carrer Parlament, 54 (Metro: Sant Antoni); Website
A lot of designer gastrobars are popping up around town, but none like Agust, which serves up small, creative dishes with a French-Catalan backbone and a modern, inventive twist. Owners Hicham and Jean Christophe bring their luxury vision to life in this elegantly informal space on Carrer Parlament, Sant Antoni’s bastion of hip. The local, seasonal menu melds traditional dishes with international influences. It’s the playful dishes like avocado “cannelloni” stuffed with prawns, sunflowers seeds & saffron vinaigrette, or the criollo of scallops with yellow chili pepper, passion fruit, and sweet potato that set Agust apart. But sometimes simplest is best, as is the case with their wagyu beef. It is exceptional. They like to hype their very good “El Cactus” dessert, an artful creation of sorbet, lemon mousse, and chocolate & sesame crumble, but I swooned over the yuzu. Better yet, order both.
Carrer de Bonavista, 8 (Gràcia, Metro: Diagonal), Website
Bar But was on my list for far too long. I was originally intrigued by its cozy space and solidly Catalan menu (despite the Asian influences) and further impressed by the crowds it draws. Finally on a chilly day, I made it in for their menú del día, three lovely courses that showcase their Catalan roots. I started off with a warm beetroot soup topped with crisp fried onions, and followed it up with dorada (gilthead bream), perfectly cooked and served over sliced potatoes, slightly caramelized onions and thyme. For dessert, I chose the whipped yogurt mousse which sat on a thin layer of strawberry jam. It was ultimate comfort food, perfect for the type of day I was having (a stop-off between physio and chiropractor). Although market-fresh Mediterranean food is their game, asian influences assert themselves too in dishes like tuna tartare, tatakis, and the ever-trendy ‘buns’ (baos), a two-faced approach that’s a rare success. And in case you were wondering, Bar But is a play on the Catalan word barbut for bearded, a hipster flag planted firmly in bohemia.
Carrer de Girona, 8 (Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Tram: Sant Feliu), Website
Canplana is set out in the suburban neighborhood of Sant Feliu, which might seem like a long way to trek for lunch. While the location is certainly not a hot tourism destination, it does offer some great local finds. Canplana is one of them. A patisserie, bakery, wine tasting space, and restaurant wrapped into one, there seems to be little that this small gem doesn’t offer. Their 3-course menú del día is a reasonable 12 euros and comes with a good selection of plates (all daily specials), including their handmade artesanal desserts. Dishes like mozzarella and fig salad, creamy pumpkin soup, and mushroom and bacon quiche highlight seasonal ingredients, while their second courses are solidly meat-centric, usually with at least one fish dish thrown in. Half menus are available, as are good local wines.
Carrer Esparteria, 7 (Born; Metro: Jaume I), Website
This authentic little place in the Born is often packed with tourists, but what isn’t in this busy hood? It’s still easy to love because it’s been around for years and continues to serve up great Catalan tapas, alongside an excellent (mostly) Catalan wine list. They have a lot of cured meats and a wide range of cheeses (which they also sell at their deli counter), as well as a complete menu of local dishes from the typical patatas bravas, escalivada (cold roasted vegetable salad), and Russian salad, alongside toasts piled high with toppings like roasted eggplant (known as tostadas and torradas), shrimp and mushrooms ‘al ajillo’, carpaccio, patés and foies, and more. There’s a second restaurant in the Gotic, but it doesn’t have quite the same cozy atmosphere as their Born version.