Are you craving some of the best pulpo in Barcelona? Enjoy a piece of Galicia in El Born!
Look no further than this neighborhood gem for incredible seafood dishes and of course, octopus!
When I first moved to Barcelona, I was overwhelmed at all of the incredible places to eat & drink! I was like a kid in a candy store every day—spoiled for choice with so many options of where to try out.
It truly is one of those unique cities where you can find top quality food on every single street! Whether you’re in the mood for Catalan inspired dishes, tapas, Japanese or even some Thai style street food—this place has it all. From small little-hidden cafes to grand picturesque Michelin style fine dining, each day is filled with tasty new finds just a stone throw away.
But sometimes, just sometimes, if you are truly lucky you will find somewhere that is exceptional. Somewhere that you know you will come back to time and time again that draws you in and manages to find a special place within you. That place for me is now and has always been since the first time I visited, Bar Celta Pulperia on Carrer de la Princesa. As you know—I love a ‘Great Food Tale’. I love a restaurant or bar with a real history, a story, a reason as to why it is there and how it became all that it is. I have to say I had no idea of the colourful history that Bar Celta had until I began to write this article. Now, I think I fell in love with the place even more.
It all began back in 1970 when a Galician husband and wife arrived in Barcelona with the dream of bringing with them the best of their Galician gastronomic traditions. Apparently, in that same year, The Celta CF football team had risen to the first division and so Bar Celta was christened with the name that the happy couple thought would now bring them luck. And well, they were right.
They were an honest hardworking family, who was loved in the community. Passionate about their roots and their Galician identity and this is what won over the hearts and stomachs of their loyal local customers. In 2012 they then opened another Bar, just at the bottom of my street. Nowadays, you find the second and third generation of the very same family, with the same love and dedication for what they do keeping alive what their parents and grandparents started almost 50 years ago.
I’ll be honest from the outside, it looks very normal. Not anything to shout about, in fact, you could be forgiven for walking straight past it and not giving it a second thought. Except that would be a terrible mistake when you find out just what an awesome hidden gem it really is. I think for me, it was the lights that deterred me the first time I encountered the place. I had only lived in Barcelona a short time and had moved into a cosy little apartment in El Born – which needless to say is my favourite Barrio (area or neighbourhood in Spanish) and I walked past once or twice, almost stopping to grab some of my favourite pulpo but deciding against.
It was very bright and I just wasn’t sure it was my kind of place. It was, however, full of locals – which I always say is a great sign. Not a day passed by that it wasn’t crammed full of people – all laughing and smiling each and every time I walked by. A friend who had travelled a lot to Barca recommended it one day and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t tried it. So I agreed that it would definitely have to go on my list of places for that week.
Best decision ever!
From that very first visit – I was hooked. It is rare you find somewhere that not only serves some of the most incredible seafood around but also has, without doubt, some of THE best staff serving it to you. You can feel their passion for what they do. From the second that you enter you will feel like you have known them forever. I cannot tell you how many nights I have spent laughing, drinking wine and eating pulpo here. I would guess that I have burnt almost as many calories laughing here as I have eaten. It’s that kind of a place. It’s unpretentious real food, freshly made and served with a smile – each and every time.
All of the staff have been here or in their other restaurant in the heart of the historical Barrio Gotico for years. You can tell they are like one big family, even the ones who may not be directly related – they may as well be. Laughing and joking singing and serving – it’s a joy to watch. And the best part about them is it is all natural and genuine. They are not trying to get customers in – trust me they don’t need to. There is a constant stream of customers every single day from 9.00 to 00.00. Slammed from morning to night. And they deserve it! Each and every morning I walk past on my way to the office to a big smile or wave from whoever is working that day. That is something hard to find in such a busy city.
But of course, what is good staff, however, if they don’t serve you great food. Don’t worry they do! They say they have the best pulpo around and dear God they are not lying. They take pride in their pulpo and it shows – their chefs prepare the dish in the traditional way using raw materials chosen specifically by them.
Pulpo a la Gallega or Pulpo A Feira is the name you will see on most menus in case you aren’t familiar. It is a Galician-style octopus which is first boiled in copper cauldrons, trimmed and placed on top of sliced boiled or roasted potatoes with their skins (cachelos) sprinkled with coarse salt and paprika (known in Galicia as pimento Picante) and drizzled with olive oil. It is, of course, also served piping hot (with a glass of chilled wine may I add) It’s heaven on a wooden plate, trust me!
Of course, Bar Celta has so many other things to offer – all as tasty as the next! They have a huge selection of colourful delights lining every inch of their countertops from patatas bravas, (fried potatoes) pimientos del padron,(mini green peppers) chipirones, (baby fried squid) calamares a la romana, (roman style squid) ensaladilla rusa, (Russian salad) empanada, (stuffed pastry) mejillones, (mussels) langoustines, (Large prawns) chocos, (cuttlefish) almejas a la marinera, (clams) champiñones, (mushrooms), croquetas, bombas… Believe me, I could go on and on. It is all as delicious as the next! And at the end of the counter almost always lies possibly the most impressive Spanish omelette you will ever lay your eyes on. It tastes as good as it looks believe me.
Have I confused you with all the incredible offerings? Fear no more… to get a taste of the best on offer, grab a friend and head on down, take a seat at the bar and order these few to get you started – if you reckon you could fit a few more in then ask the guys behind the counter for a recommendation, trust me you’re in good hands.
- Pulpo (Large portion – you won’t regret it)
- Pan amb tomaquet (Typical Catalan bread served toasted and smothered with tomato, salt & olive oil – it’s delicious here)
- Chiperones (Because they are amazing full stop)
- Chorizo (You’re in Spain come on!)
- Tortilla de patata (Because it looks amazing and tastes even better)
- Pimientos del Padron (You gotta get some vegetables in every meal)
- But wait – I almost forgot. Drinks! Of course, there’s a full bar, so you’re spoiled for choice. Spirits, draught & bottled beers. However, for me, there are two stars of the show here.
- The Sangria! It is exceptionally good. And what a perfect accompaniment to your pulpo.
- And of course, my favourite – The wines served in a cunca, which is a Galician traditional small bowl or dish. Ask one of the staff to show you the right way to hold it. It’s a lot of fun and something very different and unique that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Barcelona. SO make sure you give it a try.
I remember the first few visits here I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to drink out of a bowl – I felt so ridiculous. The staff would always laugh at me and refuse to give me an actual glass. Of course, being Irish I drank it whichever way necessary. It became a running joke so with myself and all of the guys so now every time I visit I get a glass and a little bowl and truth be told it has grown on me. I almost always use the ‘cunca’ now.
When I first moved to Barcelona, like anytime you move somewhere new, I would often get waves of homesickness. Whenever I did, I would always grab my laptop and head down to this place. And no matter what mood I arrived in, I always left smiling, happy and full. It has grown to be somewhere I hold very close to my heart and every time friends or family visit I always send them to check it out. Even my daughter, at 7 years of age adores this place and made friends with all of the staff after an hour! And without fail every time she visits, when we are walking home (every evening) we have to drop in for a quick snack before bed. (Her mother’s daughter clearly!)
So if you want to feel like a real local in Barcelona and experience one of El Born’s real hidden gems than be sure you visit this place on your travels. It truly is somewhere that you will no doubt create memories while visiting that will last with you long after your trip is over.
Love & Gambas,