Coastal Barcelona is a city where fish is hardly in short supply—so it’s no surprise that there are dozens of restaurants here specializing in seafood preparations. Many of the most traditional Catalan recipes embraced by these restaurants feature main ingredients that come directly from the sea.
While every seafood restaurant here has its own stylebook, the best tend to be the ones capable of carrying the old traditions forward. Though cooking fish perfectly can sometimes be tricky, Barcelona chefs are masters of employing the age-old tools of their trade—the oven, the pan and the skillet—to create their dishes. They also use the freshest and best local ingredients, including the essential olive oil (no doubt the key ingredient in Catalan seafood cookery). Monkfish, prawns, sea bass, hake, and especially cod are the kings of the table in Barcelona, but you can find at least 30 types of fish and seafood that are commonly prepared here.
This is simply the best restaurant in Barcelona when it comes to fish. The place itself is stunning, especially in spring when you can sip a great glass of wine on its lovely terrace surrounded by trees. Atmosphere aside, the sea bass here—baked to perfection along with potatoes, tomatoes and onion—is one of the best things you’re ever going to find in Barcelona, and for a fair price.
El Suquet de l’Almirall
This traditional fish restaurant is just a ten-minute walk from the city center. There is no "taint" of modernity here, just classic, old-school dishes—mainly baked, grilled or fried—made with fresh ingredients and paired with a very good wine list. You should always ask about the catch of the day, but I recommend ordering the grilled sole with a Penedes wine, a perfectly simple and delicious combination.
La Mar Salada
For a quiet, elegant meal, this restaurant offers an unbeatable combination: a perfect location in the old Barcelona port, perfect service, and splendid seafood. Try the almejas a la marinera (an entrée of clams served in a fantastic tomato, onion and garlic sauce) followed by one of the special rice dishes (my favorite is the black rice with artichokes, but all of them are top-notch).
The perfect place to take an evening meal after strolling around El Born—Barcelona's “hipster” neighborhood, with the city’s most modern shopping and dining options—is this restaurant. The dishes here include clams in a white-wine sauce, prawns served either grilled or with garlic, and what is probably the city’s most amazing lubina a la sal: sea bass served on a bed of salt.
Xiringuito de l'Escribà
This beachside restaurant is the place to go to for paella in Barcelona in the warm weather months. Because it is so well known for its rice dishes, it can be very difficult to get a table there in spring and summer, so book a table in advance. Ask for the seafood paella and order some anchovies as a starter.