Barcelona’s basic sit-down brunch is called esmorzar de forquilla, or ‘fork breakfast’ (because you can’t eat food this filling with your fingers), and is a hearty affair designed to satisfy farmers and factory workers before their shifts. Now, Catalans are turning away from avocado toast and back to their breakfast roots, and you can join them.
Start the day the Catalan way, with a rich stew of sausages and beans, baked cod or even pig’s trotters. Flat white with that? No, gràcies. The esmorzar de forquilla is a proper meal with a cheeky glass of wine and an espresso. Best to have this after your morning run, not before.
Two old-school eateries have survived in the now-trendy Sant Antoni, in the Eixample district: Can Vilaró, opposite the market, and La Bodega d’en Rafel. The former is a third-generation spot well known for its morning offal specialities: battered lamb brains and pig’s trotters with wild mushrooms are always on. The latter, just around the corner, serves a quintessential fork-breakfast dish, bacallà a la llauna: fried cod with paprika, garlic and parsley.
Market-hopping rewards seekers of the best esmorzars de forquilla. Within walking distance of Barcelona Cathedral is Santa Caterina market, famous for its roof painted in the bright colours of local fruit and veg. Inside is one of the best-loved brunch spots in the city, Bar Joan. Office workers and market staff queue for the meaty morning dish capipota, a traditional stew of beef and chickpeas.
Further north, in the village-like Gràcia neighbourhood, is La Pubilla, one of the first restaurants to give the old-style Catalan breakfast a modern twist. Owner Alexis Peñalver was the chef in several Michelin-starred restaurants and is now doing a fine job of making offal appeal to urbanites. An example: pig snout and trotter terrine with buttery white beans and onion confit.
Flying back home before noon? Stop off in Zona Franca, part of the Sants-Montjuïc district, halfway between the airport and the city. In this grittier part of Barcelona, just behind star attraction Montjuïc hill, is one of the city’s most renowned family-run restaurants, Granja Elena, run by the Sierra siblings. Borja, the chef, cooks fried eggs with sobrassada (paprika cured-pork sausage) and honey. His sister Patricia, the sommelier, will pour you a tasty glass of wine. In Barcelona, once again, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.