This tapas bar manages to be placed right in the middle of one of the most touristy spots in Barcelona – the Barceloneta, but is not in any way touristy.
Sure, the odd tourist might stray in from time to time, and the menus are translated into English, but this slightly greasy-looking bar has a distinctly Spanish flair, and definitely caters predominantly for the local crowd.
You can see it in the black-and-white floor tiles, and the tapas on display under the counter. You can see it in the waiter’s expressions and in the Catalan flag hung on the wall. And –most of all- you can see it in the food.
Jai Ca sells tapas de toda la vida. You won’t find any fancy Ferran-Adrià style presentation or creative methods here, just good honest tapas, and a particular flair (as the location next to the beach might point to) for seafood. We ordered buñuelos de bacalao (fried cod balls), four tigres (battered mussels, filled with béchamel), patatas bravas and two beers and it cost us exactly €10 each, which isn’t bad for such a frequently transited area. Each of the dishes we ordered was surprisingly good – steaming hot, nourishing and tasty. At a later date, we also tried and we recommend the chocos (fried cuttlefish), the chicken with sesame sauce and the croquettes.
Jai Ca has been open since 1955, and it feels as though it probably hasn’t changed much since then, despite the major development of the Barceloneta, which was one of the areas that most opened up with the arrival of the Olympic Games and low-cost airlines. It seems to make no particular effort to be fashionable or modern, which is probably a good thing, as if it did it would lose all its appeal.
Jai Ca is not a trend, or a concept, or a theme like other restaurants and bars we’ve been to. It just is, and whatever happens, probably always will be.
Expect the bar to be quite full, especially if you arrive in peak times – it’s quite a small place and in a busy area – with a couple of locals and the occasional tourist who’s got lost on their way to the beach and happily stumbled upon it.
The downfall of this bar is that service is slow and (depending on your waiter, some of them are very nice) potentially unfriendly. A tapas bar with an air of the past about it is completely charming, but in this at least we felt Jai-Ca could be a bit more progressive.
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