Hungry in Barcelona? Eat at El Nacional Barcelona
Have you ever entered a place that you wanted to stay in forever? Or if not forever, maybe just a week straight without sleeping to take all of the surroundings?
If you have never had that feeling, you need to go to El Nacional in Barcelona, Spain. Imagine the perfect mix of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel and Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and you're almost there.
Spread over 8,500 square feet off of one of Barcelona's busiest streets, Passeig de Gràcia, this restaurant is a hidden gem and a must-see, even if it's just to use their bathroom.
Built in 1870 as a textile factory, businessman Lluís Cañadell, interior designer Lázaro Rosa Violán, and 6 million Euros transformed the old factory into a modern beauty that mirrors the architecture and design of Barcelona in 1930's and 1940's while making the statement that there is nothing old-fashioned about El Nacional. It features 4 specialty bars and 4 different restaurants.
Of bars, there's an oyster, cocktail, craft beer, and speciality wine bar. I enjoyed a crisp white wine, oysters, and a tuna tartare at the oyster bar and could not have been more pleased. Here, I would like to note that this place is marvelous, and not crowded (yet). So go now.
Anyone ever feel that paradox that you want your favorite restaurants to succeed, but without the crowd that can come with that success? Here, El Nacional deserves New York Time's Travel and Food section, but please without the elbows reaching over my oyster plate. I digress.
Of restaurants, there is La Braseria featuring specialty meats, La Llotja with fresh seafood, La Taperia serving tapas and rices, and La Paradeta acting as your quick, one-stop shop, like a cafe. But a really, really, beautiful cafe.
I started at La Taperia. Here, you wait for the server, who is walking around with different trays of tapas offering them hot to each table and bar. Pace yourself. Without a strategy, you'll eat too many croquetas and miss out on the delicious platter of jamón iberico. I enjoyed the jamón, squid ink rice, croquetas, and tomatoes with a cold beer.
I skipped out on La Baseria and La Llotja. These places looked like great go-to dinner spots.
Later, a coffee and yogurt for dessert from La Paradeta is the perfect way to end a meal at El Nacional.
But really, you could begin your stay at El Nacional at 12 pm and be there until their 1 am closing time with a happy heart and stomach. The smells of the food stir your appetite for more. The eyes are stimulated from the plants, light, and intricate details on the ceilings, walls, and floor. The music and architecture takes you to the '30's and 40's. The flavor of the fresh oysters transport you to the ocean. The all around feels of this place make it impossible to stop. smiling.
And like I said before, visit El Nacional, even if it's just to use their bathroom.