The Best Vegetarian And Plant-Based Food In Barcelona
When you think of Spanish cuisine, chances are that most of the dishes involve animal products. Known worldwide for their love of ham, fish and cheese, the Spanish didn’t seem particularly welcome to meat-free consumers. For years, vegans had to rely on plates of Padrón peppers, grilled vegetables and patatas bravas (hold the mayo!) to get by in Spain — but things are changing. Like most cosmopolitan cities around the world, Barcelona is experiencing the same transitions, and here the plant-based movement is not only growing but exploding.
As the latest restaurant from eco-group Tribu Woki, Hëtta – Swedish for “heat” – is indisputably one of the coolest new restaurants in Barcelona. The concept is unique: Hëtta uses only local, seasonal products, and there are only nine main ingredients at one time. The ever-changing menu is based on an X&Y axis system and features around 30 different dishes, all cooked with different techniques and at different temperatures. At the bottom of the menu the dishes are raw, and as you move up they evolve to smoked and marinated, rising to steamed, then fried and finally baked. Hëtta isn’t a vegan restaurant but it offers fully-plant based dishes, and you’re advised to share five to six plates between two people.
Tomato, eggplant and lettuce were the featured veggie ingredients during my visit, so I enjoyed dishes like arugula and herb hummus with spirulina-sprinkled endives, a zingy salad of marinated tomato with five-herb puree and seasonal flowers, and steamed eggplant served with adobo sauce, sultanas and sunflower seeds. A standout was the pan-fried cos lettuce with raw almond emulsion and BBQ sauce, which was the perfect blend of flavors – fresh and crispy, creamy and tangy. Best of all, however, was the tomato baked with limestone (for six hours!), served with basil and fried onion. After being cooked for so long the tomato was sweet, succulent, and – dare I say it – meaty.
EIXAMPELING BRUNCH CAFE & BAR
The West’s brunch obsession never really took off in Spain, but things might be about to change. Since its opening in March, Eixampeling Brunch Café & Bar has been a victim of its own popularity: every weekend the lines of hungry customers outside get longer and longer, and owners Nico and Dean found themselves rushing to expand much sooner than they’d anticipated. That people are happy to wait outside for an hour in the Barcelona sun for a table is testament to just how good the food is at Eixampeling. The menu is varied, and though it’s focused around more ‘classic’ brunch fare (e.g. eggs) there are plenty of veggie and vegan options to keep you happy. The obligatory avocado on toast is easily veganized by removing the feta cheese, and topped with red onion, tomatoes and rocket, it’s the perfect way to start your day.
If you don’t fancy a breakfast-style dish you can choose from one of the two delicious veggie burgers: there’s the Vegilante , a spinach burger with guacamole, tomato, red onion and crispy salad leaves, and the Too Mushroom , a portobello mushroom burger that’s topped with caramelized onion (vegetarians can add halloumi). The salads are also divine, particularly the roasted pumpkin salad with hummus, mixed leaves and sunflower seeds. The dishes are so beautifully presented it’s almost a shame to tuck in… but once you’ve had a mouthful there’ll be no stopping. The cold Andalusian Gazpacho is another great vegan choice, and in the cake counter at the front of the cafe there’s usually a selection of indulgent plant-based cakes to finish off with.
FLAX & KALE
Teresa Carles is known throughout Spain as a veggie restaurant pioneer, and her latest Barcelona restaurant has set the bar even higher. Flax & Kale isn’t actually a vegetarian restaurant, it’s ‘flexitarian’: while 80% of the menu is vegetarian or vegan, the remaining 20% contains some form of oily fish, be it cod, salmon or anchovies. There are three Flax & Kale restaurants in Barcelona, although the newest (and, I think, the best) is Flax & Kale Passage, which offers gluten-free vegan pizzas, healthy Asian fusion cuisine and even boasts its very own Kombucha Lab.