This blog post is from my old website and was posted in July 2011. It’s just as true as ever.
During the first episode of the television programme Rick Stein’s Spain he says that you need to seek out good Spanish food. This I find rather bizarre as I always feel good Spanish food generally falls on top of me. It chases me though markets, tiny bars, old hold in the wall restaurants, new fancy stark white gastronomic bistrotheque temples of molecular gastronomy or whatever the latest name for restaurants is, and taunts and teases me all day.
However I also had a twitter conversation a couple of months ago with someone who was convinced that food in Barcelona was rubbish and I have heard complaints of the difficulties of finding decent food in Mallorca and other places.
So here are 10 tips on finding food in Catalonia and the rest of Spain:
1. If the place is full of foreigners, don’t.
2. If the menu is first of all in English or German rather than Spanish, Catalan or any other Spanish language, don’t.
3. If the menu has 10 types of paella, with accompanying photos, don’t.
I mean just don’t
4. If you are in Mallorca and they have cream on the menu, run screaming. Likewise NEVER eat on the Ramblas in Barcelona. Don’t eat beef in either of those places. There are no cows on Mallorca to give them any tradition of cooking beef and only a few places with a good supply in Barcelona.
5. In a provincial town with one major tourist attraction, chances are that the restaurants immediately round the corner are designed for bad paellas and even worse sangria. You will never ever see anyone from Figueras in any of the restaurants near the Dali Museum. Walk another 15 mins into town where you find everyone local eating.
6. Do a minimum of research. It’s not hard. The internet is full of food and travel bloggers and there is also a wealth of other travel sites as well as online news sites. Someone somewhere will have written about the town you are visiting and you will be able to get some tips there.
7. Don’t expect best Highland haggis in Somerset. Spain is a very seasonal regional county when it comes to food. Fabada is really only good in Asturias and not at the height of summer, gazpachos are best in Andalucia and not good anywhere in winter. Never eat rice in Galicia (unless someone you trust has raved about a very specific place) or have a paella in Seville.
8. Never ever eat non-Spanish food in Spain. Chinese restauarants have rice ”three delights’ and the strangest bread you will ever see. Indian restaurants make their food with no chilli or spice. Don’t bother.
9. Plan, even just a little. Find out what the specialities are of the places you are visiting – suckling pig in Segovia, Xato in Sitges, red prawns in Alicante. Ordering the right thing in the right season in the appropriate place will make a huge diference to the quality of food.
10. Lastly, if in doubt follow Policemen, old ladies and/or old men to bars and restaurants, look at what they are eating, point and say, ‘lo mismo por favor’ (the same please). Even if you aren’t sure what it is you are having, chances are it will be very good.