There are lots of cities with the Mediterranean for a backyard, but for me, none have the crackle or chemistry of Barcelona. Just saying it makes me hungry, and my most recent trip did not disappoint. Maybe it was the bread pudding with pineapple and bacon ice cream at the all-dessert wonderland called Espai Sucre, in the Born district by the harbor. Of course, I was at my happiest raiding the counters of Cacao Sampaka, in the Gothic quarter, for this chocolate shop’s heavenly bergamot-infused milk chocolate bars. (I missed the La Joya bars, made from the rare white Criollo cocoa bean, but that’s one more reason to go back).
Carrying gourmet Catalan chocolate bars around is the best fuel I could think of to get through a Barcelona vacation spent gawking at beautiful Art Nouveau buildings and striking Gaudi architecture. When a bigger appetite kicked in, though, I often found myself in the harborside Barceloneta district, where three great Catalan seafood spots are El Lobito, Jaica and El Suquet de l’Amirall. But Celler de Tapas is right on the Plaza Universidad and on the edge of Eixample, the gay district. But this modern, friendly eatery on your gay travel itinerary for the best patatas bravas — thick-cut French fries with spicy tomato sauce — in town, along with an easy-to-understand of menu of meatier tapas, many involving that succulent Spanish ham.
But speaking of succulence, how could I forget sleek Suculus, a new restaurant right in the heart of the gay district? The color scheme here is emerald green and ice white, and the what the kitchen turns out will seriously turn you on: cod au gratin with tender garlic in a red pepper sauce; gran masala tuna wrapped in Iberian cured ham; duck ham salad with dried fruits and nuts in a reduction of Pedro Ximenez and — my personal favorite — Toblerone Tiramisu. I also like the fact that the kitchen here is open until midnight.
Midnight is a fine time to have a glass of Rioja at the lobby bar of the gay Axel Hotel, the cool “hetero-friendly” hostelry that continues to be a fixture on Barcelona’s bubbling gay nightlife scene. There’s always a party of some kind brewing here.
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