I ate supremely well in Barcelona. Before my trip, I'd never been to a Michelin star restaurant. I never thought I was the type of person who could afford such luxury. But then I discovered lunch menus, and a whole new world of culinary bliss was opened to me.
Sure, the concept of lunch isn't new. But at a few of the city's best restaurants, mediodía (midday) tasting menus are €50-100 cheaper than regular tasting menus, and it's much easier to snag a table.
Lunch at the following Michelin starred restaurants cost between €35 and €50 per person. That's not the cheapest meal, but it's on par with what you would pay at most good places in Barcelona. If I splurged on lunch, I would typically balance it out with a cheap dinner from the market: shaved ham or salami, cheese, a baguette and a cup of cherries for less than €5. Spain is great.
Though there are often empty seats available at lunch time, it's always best to make a reservation so the chefs can prepare. Michelin star dining is a whole production. Unfortunately, if you have dietary restrictions or severe food allergies, these restaurants are probably not for you as the menus are specialized and set.
Wednesday-Saturday, 1:30-3:30 pm
This place was so good I actually ate there twice. I recommend sitting at the bar–it's fun to watch the chefs prepare the plates, and it makes the whole thing feel a little less formal. The menu changes every week depending on what's available at the market. So I had two different meals, but they followed the same structure:
Via Laietana, 49 (Hotel Ohla Barcelona) Barcelona 08003
Tuesday-Friday, 1:00-4:00 pm
€38 "Executive Menu"
Unlike most of the other restaurants on this list, Xerta doesn't reveal what's on their "Executive Menu" online. Once you order it, the wait staff recites your options. But this is the structure:
Còrsega 289 (Ohla Eixample Hotel) Barcelona, 08008
Monday-Friday, 1:30-3:30 pm
By far the most expensive meal I had in Barcelona, but also easily the highest quality. There wasn't a single weak course, and it felt like the perfect amount of food. Angle is helmed by famed chef Jordi Cruz, one of the stars of MasterChef Spain. Cruz's other restaurant ABaC has earned three Michelin stars and is way out of my league (no cheap lunch menus there).
One thing I liked about Angle was that the menu spelled out exactly what they were serving. Usually these restaurants bring you a few extra things like the amuses-bouche and petit fours, but Angle put it all on the menu:
Carrer Aragón 214 Barcelona, 08011
Monday-Friday, 1:30-3:45 pm
The daily menu is updated regularly, but it follows this structure:
Carrer de la Granada del Penedès, 14, Barcelona, 08006
Thursday-Saturday, 1:30-3:30 pm
While this place was exceptional, it was also confusing. After you're seated at the sushi bar, a waiter offers you a choice between three different tasting menus: one with eight plates, one with 18 and one with 21. They don't tell you the price of each option and it feels weird to ask. I chose the smallest one, thinking eight plates sounded like a lot, but it wasn't really. This is the only restaurant I left feeling anything less than completely satisfied. It was also one of the most expensive. The food was great, but you get more bang for your buck at the other restaurants listed here. The chef was there changing up the menu on the spot that afternoon, so I assume it's pretty flexible from day to day. My dishes were:
Carrer d'Elisabets, 9, Barcelona, 08001
Monday-Friday, 1:30-3:30 pm
It's hard for me to review Nectari because while I think the food was great (and it's the cheapest meal on the list!) I got crazy nauseated after the starter course and suffered through my main, dessert and the petit fours in an effort to both maintain decorum and get home and go to sleep as quickly as possible. I swear the food was good! My memory of it is just coated in agony.
A glass of cava was an extra €7.50. I declined coffee (which would have been extra) and fled.
Carrer València, 28 Barcelona, 08015
This looks great, right? Nice view, glass of champagne--it would've been a perfect afternoon if I hadn't paid $4 each for these oysters. Sydney's rock and Pacific oysters are smaller than the Gulf oysters I'm used to, but cost more than twice as much at every restaurant near the harbor. Recognizing this injustice, I set off on a search for The Cheapest Oyster in Sydney™. It didn't take long at all because happy hour was right around the corner and, as it turns out, more than a few places offered $1 oyster deals. I went with Riley St. Garage because it was nearby, and it didn't disappoint.
Join them for "Oyster Hour" from 5-6 pm Monday through Saturday, and never pay full price again.