If there’s one place every traveler should eat in Barcelona, it’s the impossibly chic El Nacional, a food court like no other.
BARCELONA – There’s no shortage whatsoever of good — no, extraordinary — food in Barcelona. You don’t have to try hard to eat well here. But when faced with an all-too-fleeting 36 hours in the city of Gaudi, there is something to be said for a place that begs a repeat visit on a limited timeline. Which is why I found myself at El Nacional not once, but twice (okay, okay, it might’ve been three times).
Located in the heart of Eixample, a neighborhood defined by Catalan modernism, and tucked just far enough away from the bustling but ritzy Passeig de Gràcia, El Nacional is modern food court that will redefine what you think of food courts. The impossibly chic space houses four restaurant concepts — La Braseria (dry-aged, wood-fired meats), La Llotja (supremely fresh fish and shellfish), La Taperia (all of the tapas), and La Paradeta (any-time-of-day perfect bites) — and four individually specialized bars.
Oh, and did I mention every square inch of the the place is impeccably designed? Inspired by the San Miguel market in Madrid (and within walking distance of the legendary La Boqueria), interior designer Lázaro Rosa Violán transformed an old garage into a design maven’s paradise, with 8,500 square feet of soaring high ceilings, steel casement windows, modern fixtures, and enough natural light and tilework to convince one to overshare on Instagram.
On my first visit, I cozied up to the oyster bar at La Llotja, where I indulged in a few ice, ice, ice-cold and brilliantly briny Galician oysters. To sip while I slurped, I had a crisp and juicy glass of Spanish rosé cava.
For my next course, I slinked towards the wine and cured meats bar, where I nibbled on paper-thin and glistening slices of Ibérico ham and a sharp, hard Basque cheese alongside fragrant pan con tomate. Putting it all over the top was an (almost irritatingly) balanced Aperol spritz.
And so, to no one’s surprise, I returned after dinner that night, for a good old-fashioned do-over. Now, it’s your turn. Do me a favor: Don’t snooze (like I did) on the namesake “El Nacional” at the cocktail bar, which is made with white Yzaguirre vermouth, cinnamon, sugar, lime, and mint. And order one of everything else.