Inspired by a couple of opera colleagues who are in Barcelona right now, I thought I'd add a little review of what is easily my favorite restaurant in or near Barcelona--indeed the only one I tried that I would take any trouble to return to--La Llar de L'all i Oli in Badalona.
In its way, this place is a monument to good ingredients. The cooking is simple and, from what little I know about Catalan cooking, utterly traditional. The obvious care that goes into the preparation results in food that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Standard on every table are a slice or two of toasted bread, some ripe tomatoes (probably from a nearby--or on site--garden) and a cruet of olive oil to make one of the most inspired snacks on earth, pa amb tomàquet. This is accompanied by a little pot of all i oli (garlic mayonnaise, made with garlic and olive oil ONLY--palpably homemade, as is everything here, and stupendous... it is so light it's almost fluffy, if you can imagine that). I began my first meal with a sopa caselona, which turned out to be a rich chicken broth with fideus (noodles). I don't know how they did it, but it was the most delicious soup of that sort I think I've ever had. This was followed by a paletilla de Huesca, which was a whole leg of baby lamb that had been coated with chopped fresh herbs and finely diced vegetables and baked in the oven. It's difficult not to keep harping on the high quality and freshness of the ingredients--the accompanying potatoes HAD to be from someone's garden there... simply done, and unbelievably delicious. I couldn't resist trying crema catalana in such a place and it was, predictably, the best I have ever tried.
I went back the very next night and had another equally wonderful meal, this time beginning with a simple grilled chorizo, but naturally of the highest quality, accompanied by more of those marvelous potatoes. Somehow, this truly transcended the sum of its parts, don't ask me how. This was followed by galtes a la brasa, or grilled pork cheeks. The only adjective for this is "wonderful"...I'm at a loss to describe them--they just need to be experienced. The house wine is, fortunately, just fine (and often the only sensible option for the perpetually solo diner like myself).
Badalona is an easy 15-minute train ride (on the number 1 RENFE cercanía line) from the center of Barcelona. As you exit the front of the Badalona train station, turn left and go 4 or 5 blocks until you reach carrer Conquesta, and turn right. The restaurant is about 3 blocks up, on the left. Closed Sunday nights and Mondays, it's a good idea to call ahead and reserve, especially on the weekends: 93 383 53 07.
(Ed. Oct. 2013: The only reason I even knew about this restaurant at all was because of Jim Leff, from the old Chowhound days. Apparently, this very blog post inspired him to revisit La Llar de L'all i Oli last month specifically to try the galtes a la brasa. There is a nice picture of them included in his post about it, and some pics of pa amb tomàquet and the signature pot of all i oli in an earlier photo essay of his. I love the "coming full circle" aspect of this.)
La Llar de L'all i Oli
c/Conquesta, 87 - Badalona 08912
(+34) 93 383 53 07