Interiors of TapaC24
TapaÇ24 is a relatively new addition to the Barcelona tapas scene. It opened sometime last year and has been packed for lunch and dinner since. Understandably so since this particular tapas bar is the brainchild of celebrated Catalan chef Carles Abellan. One of Ferran Adria’s disciples, Carles worked in El Bulli before opening his own restaurant comerc 24. Later on, he created this small space and turned it into a bustling tapas bar with a young, hip vibe. The interiors are made to look like a little deli with produce displayed artfully in large vases and chips, canned goods and whole Jamon legs displayed as well.
Once seated at the simple white formica-topped bar, we are immediately given a menu-printed paper bag also serving as a flatware holder – a fun touch. Along with the traditional tapas listed on the menu, there are also daily specials listed on small blackboards scattered all over the bar featuring fresh fish from the Boqueria market. There is also a small display of canned goods that can be oredered as the chef would like to showcase how Spanish preserves are often as good as fresh seafood. All menus are written in Catalan but the waiters were more than happy to explain the dishes either in Spanish or basic English.
From L to R, first row – daily specials, calcots, morcilla; second row – gambas, paperbag menu, boquerones al limon; last row – arroz negro, dark chocolate sorbet with olive oil, walls papered over with street scenes
our first visit, we chose a few tapas – grilled calcots (small leeks available at this time of the year and eaten grilled with romesco sauce), morcilla de Burgos (black sausage from Burgos), gambas al Andaluz (deep-fried shrimps), boquerones al limon (fried lemon-flavoured anchovies) and for our main course, opted for arroz Negro con sepia (black cuttlefish rice). The calcots were soft and smoky from the grill and perfect dipped in the Romesco sauce, the morcilla were crispy nuggets of sausage complemented by sweet caramelized onions and the gambas were crispy and the shrimp was extra sweet. The arroz negro came in a small cast iron pot and was piping hot creamy rice made black by squid ink and topped with soft strips of cuttlefish – delicious! We split one of the four desserts available – three dollops of dark chocolate sorbet with crispy bread, olive oil and salt (you read that right, I did mean olive oil and salt). The sorbet was very good and the salt did complement the chocolate although we felt that there was too much olive oil added which just didn’t go with the chocolate. short espressos finished off our lunch.
From L to R, first row – making pan con tomate, escarola salad, crispy arichoke chips; second row – garlicky spicy patatas bravas, the delicious Bikini sandwich, entrana con chimichurri; last row – milhojas, crema Catalana, waiters busy serving tapas
On our last day in Barcelona, while walking along Las Ramblas and Paseo de Gracia, we decided to go one more time to TapaÇ24 for lunch and this time tried a whole new selection of tapas from the regular menu. We started out with ensalada de escarola con bacalao (chicory with cod), alcachofas (fried artichokes), entraña con chimichurri (skirt steak with chimichurri sauce) and two traditional dishes found all over Spain – patatas bravas con aioli (fried potatoes with garlic mayonnaise) and the tostado de jamon y queso (toasted ham and cheese sandwich) cheekily-named “Bikini” in Barcelona. (I don’t know why Catalans call this sandwich a bikini – maybe because it’s served in triangles?) The escarola was tossed in a light vinaigrette and had chunks of cod and small black olives. The alcachofas were artichoke hearts thinly sliced, tossed in corn flour and deep-fried to a crisp and were delicious. The entraña was seared on the grill then sliced thinly and topped with the oily, red pepper and oregano mix that makes up chimichurri. And what of the traditional tapas? Well, the patatas bravas were so good we were almost tempted to order another plate – homemade french fries with aioli and a spicy sauce squirted over them – perfect comfort food. The Bikini sandwiches were given a twist – four small triangles of white bread toasted and filled with an oozing layer of Mozarella cheese, jamon Jabugo and grated black truffles to make the best sandwich we’ve ever had. For dessert (no, we weren’t full enough yet), I had two little pieces of milhojas (crispy millefeuilles filled with sweet pastry cream) and my husband had the traditional crema Catalana (the Catalan-version of a creme brulee) plus the usual short espressos to finish off our scrumptious lunch.
TapaÇ24 is one of those rare finds that becomes an instant favourite, which is why we ate there twice in the six days we were in Barcelona. It’s also the kind of place that is fun to recommend to friends as they’ll be sure to have a fantastic meal and a good time as well. The bet part is that they are open daily, except Sundays from 8:00 a.m. straight through till midnight so you can drop in for breakfast, a mid-mroning snack, lunch or even a late evening tapeo. If you’re ever in Barcelona, don’t miss it!
Diputacio 269, Barcelona 08007
(near Paseo de Gracia)
Tel: +34 934 880 977
***** Food – excellent tapas, fresh seafood, delicious creative dishes; DON’T miss the BIKINI – think of me when you bite into it.
**** Service – quick, efficient and friendly although when it’s packed some things may take a bit longer than usual.
**** Atmosphere – Elbow-to-elbow seating at the bar and more often than not, there’s a line of people waiting to take over your stool, noisy and bustling but fun nevertheless. Only downside is that smoking is still allowed despite having an open kitchen and being below-ground. I suggest you get there early so you can dine and dash before the puffers arrive.