A recurring nightmare of mine when going out in the central El Born district is ending up in a tourist trap, with terrible service and mediocre food at ridiculous prices. Along with the pickpockets, this is perhaps one of the greatest petty crimes to take place in the centre of Barcelona. As such, it’s always a great surprise when you still find places where (although prices may be a little higher than in the further-out barrios and you still get some tourist traffic) you can still get typical, quality Catalan tapas at an accessible price for all wallets. The Bar del Pla is one of them.
El Bar del Pla (Montcada, 2) is one of those iconic taverns in the centre of El Born that’s been going for years thanks to its formula of quality tapas, good service and reasonable prices. As a local, it’s harder and harder to find places like these where you can go for a bite to eat without prices shooting through the roof just because you’re in a fashionable part of the city. I sincerely hope that El Bar del Pla manages to maintain its local touch for a long time, without giving way to the temptation of easy capitalism like some of its neighbours in the area.
Going for tapas in El Bar del Pla
El Bar del Pla is one of the best places to go for tapas in El Born, very close to the famous Picasso Museum and right in the centre of Barcelona. Inside a rustic, smallish, well-decorated bar, a bohemian aesthetic is showcased in marble bar tops, mosaic floors and period furnishings. This is the setting for Bar del Pla’s range of traditional tapas adapted to contemporary tastes with new ingredients and flavours. There’s also a decent wine selection and some well-pulled beers on offer.
In general, the produce is excellent quality and with a few original touches, although I wouldn’t expect innovative tapas or hugely sophisticated presentation here – you’re more likely to find quality traditional tapas, with a great flavour and no additives.
El Bar del Pla’s patatas bravas
One of the star dishes of this bar are its patatas bravas – without doubt some of the best patatas bravas in El Born and on the list of the best in Barcelona. They’re cut into segment shapes, really taste of potato, are toasted on the outside and soft inside. They come served with a soft all i oli garlic sauce and a sublime homemade sweet tomato sauce with a touch of pepper.
But el Bar del Pla offers much more than patatas bravas. The cod and pepper croquettes, as well as the octopus “bomba” with spicy mayonnaise are also very good. We also tried the scrambled eggs with chorizo, although we found them rather expensive for what they were.
Despite the fact that the majority of dishes on the menu are worth a try, if you have to choose, I’d recommend the Iberian ham croquettes, the veal tartar with foie and the tuna tartar.
To wash it all down, you’ve got the option of ordering wine by the glass, something I recommend because the wine selection isn’t huge and most of the bottles are too expensive for the quality of the drink inside (€17-18/bottle).
Given that this is a place frequented by tourists and people in transit, booking is advised, given that it’s impossible to find a table to have lunch after 2pm or have dinner after 8pm. In fact, a constant trait of El Bar del Pla is that it’s always full of people, sitting at the bar as well as on stools and around tables, and especially round the huge barrels around the door where people go to stand outside and smoke.
The price/quality ratio of the Bar del Pla is very good, given where it’s situated and the fluid traffic of tourists who pass by in front. In general, I’d say that you can eat a decent quantity of tapas with a glass of wine for €20 per head. So it’s a great place to go for a bite to eat and before going for a walk through the charming local neighbourhood, or heading out for a drink in one of the places close to the Rambla del Born.
El Bar del Pla is a good option for an informal meal – whether you’re with friends, family, your other half, work or study mates, it’s a sure bet.
The waiters are open and friendly, although I should point out that we visited on a weekday and not at peak times, which doubtlessly made it easier to find time to chat.
One thing’s for sure: whether you’re a local or a tourist, this is one of the best places you can go for tapas in El Born if you want to avoid falling into the hated “tourist trap”. For me, it was a pleasant surprise and a hidden jewel in the well-trod streets of El Born.
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