If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Barcelona leaves a strong taste in the mouth, both literally and figuratively. Home to Gaudi’s still-unfinished La Sagrada Família and located along Spain‘s Costa Brava, Barcelona is a city cranked up to 11. That includes the foods and flavors you can experience here, the most popular of which are tapas and sangria. It’s no surprise that this popular European destination is one that Tony’s fans are curious about: can you follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Barcelona?
Anthony Bourdain visited Barcelona several times: off-screen in 2002*, filming a documentary in 2006, and twice while filming No Reservations (Season 4/2008, “Spain,” and Season 7/2011, “El Bulli”). I think that – in some ways – after El Bulli closed in 2011, Bourdain just wasn’t as interested in visiting anymore and never planned a return trip on future shows. (*He specifically mentions this several times which is why I bring it up.)
To be honest, though, writing this recap just bummed me out – I feel his pain: all of the best places that Anthony Bourdain visited in Barcelona have closed in the decade-plus since his last visit… including the inimitable El Bulli (in Roses, Spain) that served as the inspiration for all of his trips to the region. That said, I’ve done my best to provide you with guidance on where he ate (when these places were open), and a few suggestions that will still allow you to sample Barcelona in the spirit of Bourdain.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Barcelona?
I found Decoding Ferran Adrià for free online here; the Spain episode is available on Hulu; and the El Bulli episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.
One of the first places that Tony visits in Barcelona is actually not during any of his four TV shows. Many people are surprised to learn – by watching other episodes about Barcelona – that Bourdain filmed a different project here. The hour-long special, called Decoding Ferran Adrià, was produced by the Food Network and released in 2006; this was before he filmed any episodes (or parts of episodes) in Barcelona.
As this particular project was focused on understanding the origins of renowned chef Ferran Adrià, Tony’s visit to the now-closed jamón shop Jamonisimo was all about understanding how a simple, pivotal ingredient – like Iberico de Bellota, the ham of the black-footed acorn-fed pig in Belotta, Spain – can be deconstructed to understand its power.
Tony’s next visit to Barcelona is seen on-screen during the episode titled “Spain” in Season 4 of No Reservations. He makes only a short visit to Barna while showing off the rest of Spain and other incredible chefs and restaurants.
During this time, he stops by the “El Bulli test kitchen,” which I think was called the ElBullitaller at the time (source). While there, he enjoys more of the brothers Adrià’s molecular gastronomy, including a 30- second sponge cake, a black truffle replica with black truffle ice cream with black sesame sponge cake, and a strawberry replica from strawberry sorbet and strawberry jelly.
Now as far as I can tell, ElBullitaller closed in 2011 when El Bulli closed; today there’s a project called ElBullilab which is seeking to create an encyclopedia of gastronomy… but doesn’t have a kitchen or serve food to the public.
If you’re looking for a place to eat like Bourdain in Barcelona, Tickets was it, until the restaurant closed in mid-2021, citing the pandemic and city restrictions. Boo! As you’ll see though, there are a few places near Barcelona which are still open.
In any case, let’s cover the incredible, imaginative tapas Tony tried during his visit (the Season 7 episode of No Reservations, with Chef José Andrés). Courses included sangria-infused watermelon & cumin, spherified olive, tomato tartar with watermelon and quail egg (which both Bourdain and Andrés really enjoy despite not being meat!), a Cañarejal sheeps milk torte with wild mushroom cream and morel, and mango gelato in mango cone for dessert.
Honestly, with both El Bulli and Tickets now closed, the gastronomy scene in Catalonia is seriously less interesting!
Bonus: Bar Cordoba (L’Hospitalet de Llobregat)
Now, if you want to go at least somewhere that Bourdain ate in Barcelona, there are still options – but they’re not technically in Barcelona. L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, where the Adriàs are from, is a municipality directly southwest of Barcelona – you’d be mistaken for thinking it’s all part of Barcelona by looking at a map, but locals will definitely correct you.
In any case, the tapas restaurants Tony visited in this city have fared better than those in Barcelona, and you can still enjoy small plates at Bar Cordoba during your visit. Be sure to ask if they have fried morrow (pig snout) and flamenquínes (fresh loin breaded with cheese and fried), which is what Tony tried.
Bonus: Al Andalus (L’Hospitalet de Llobregat)
The other tapas bar in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat – Al Andalus, like the Spanish region Andalusia – is also still open, so be sure to hit them both up when you’re tracing the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Barcelona. There, he and José Andrés enjoy simple but delicious tapas of jamón and manchego.
Barcelona Food Tours to Try
Since some – okay, all – of the restaurants visited by Anthony Bourdain in Barcelona are now closed (boooooo!), you might want to opt for a food tour instead. This is a great way to sample the city, and these ones I’ve hand-picked are in the spirit of Tony’s intention to seek out the unusual, unique, and interesting flavors of the city.
Have any questions about visiting the same places as Anthony Bourdain in Barcelona? Let me know in the comments!