As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Catalonia, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of places to eat, from the coast to the mountains of the Pyrenees.
Catalonia's varied landscape is reflected in a host of delicious specialities. The coastline yields spectacular seafood – savour oysters and mussels around the Ebro Delta, paellas and zarzuelas (fish stews) along the coast. Mountain pastures lend delicate flavours to cheeses from cow, sheep and goat milk, and the range of pork products is staggering, from Iberico dried hams to sausages in all shapes, sizes and hues – for carnivores, tucking into a succulent butifarra is a must.
Then there are the regional and seasonal specialities: white asparagus, Pyrenean river fish, wild mushrooms, Ebro Delta rice and the Lleida favourite cargols (snails) with rich allioli. Even the simple tomato here has a flavour unimaginable anywhere else, delicious rubbed on toast in the ubiquitous pa amb tomàquet. Catalonia's wine regions include no fewer than 12 designations of origin – don’t miss fresh-flavoured sparkling cavas, grenache and carignan wines, many of them organic and all delicious.
Restaurant Green Spot, Barcelona
A beautiful restaurant in Port Vell (near the harbour and beaches), which caters for both veggies and non-veggies, serving salads (such as kale and quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes, hazelnuts and white miso vinaigrette), soups, pizza and pasta, and a range of international food, including Thai and Mexican. encompaniadelobos.com
Restaurant Cal Carter, Paisatges Barcelona
For over half a century the Perich family has been perfecting their take on mountain cuisine. Not surprisingly, they’ve got rather good at it – and their sparky brand of traditional gastronomy, prepared in the inspiring surroundings of the gorgeous medieval village of Mura in the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt and Obac, has garnered a loyal following. calcarter.net
Restaurant l'Hostalet, Costa Brava
The dormant volcanoes of the Garrotxa region don’t just define the dramatic landscapes here – they’re also responsible for the fertile soils that contribute to the traditional cuisine. restaurantlhostalet.com
Restaurant El Fai, Lleida Pyrenees
A family-owned restaurant in Taüll in the Lleida Pyrenees, in the heart of the Boí Valley known for World Heritage Romanesque churches (the restaurant itself is opposite the Romanesque church of San Clemente de Tahull), and close to the entrance to the Aigüestortes and Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, the only National Park in Catalonia. restaurantelfai.com
Restaurant Er Occitan, Val d’Aran
High in the Pyrenees, the Val d’Aran is a unique enclave with its own language (Aranese, related to the Occitan dialects spoken in south-west France), customs and culinary traditions. At this fine-dining restaurant, head chef Marcos Pedarròs Delaurens plays with those traditions, and the ideals of the slow food movement, to create inventive haute cuisine of an exceptional quality. eroccitan.com
Restaurant Casa Xalets, Lleida Pyrenees
The amuse-bouche at this family-run restaurant in the heart of the historic village of Àger is the view: the wall of east-facing windows frames dramatic vistas of the sheer flanks of Montsec mountain – perfect for watching the sunset alpenglow paint the rock walls orange and pink. restaurantcasaxalets.com
Restaurant La Huerta, Lands of Lleida
Don’t be fooled by the rather unpromising exterior. Inside, at the epicentre of this friendly restaurant, in the open kitchen dominated by its huge brick oven, chef Gerard Balasch works magic with top local ingredients, largely focusing his efforts on the grill. lahuerta-restaurant.com
For information on characterful accommodation, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Catalonia