The Barcelona Bars and Restaurants From Hell Guide
Foreigners and tourists looking for “real, authentic Barcelona” will inevitably get an unpleasant surprise when they visit a bar or a restaurant in Barcelona.This is because the typical bar and restaurant in Barcelona is based on the principle that clients should be treated badly, rudely, and, for good measure, be cheated on when the bill is handed over. Why this is, nobody knows. In most places in this world, it is a widely accepted idea that one should treat one´s clients well, if you want them to come back. In Barcelona, bars and restaurants apparently do not want their clients to come back.
Even more surprisingly is, that their rude behaviour is not only directed to tourists and foreigners (although it is definitely worse), but also to locals, people from Barcelona itself. This treatment varies from sour faced waiters incapable of responding in a civilised manner, letting clients wait for an unspecified time, using unwashed cups and plates, cheating on the bill, having outrageous prices, and in general showing a lot of energy, enterprise and creativity to make you feel like a particular disgusting type of insect.
Whether one would like to experience this nastiness to the fullest, or, on the contrary, whether one would like to avoid it, in both cases a list of places where I experienced this ill-mannered, ill-bred, uncivil behaviour might come in handy.
So, without further ado, here it is: a list of bars and restaurants that treat their clients as something one finds under one´s shoe after an excursion through an understaffed dog kennel. Don´t forget to tip!
- El Portalón
Banys Nous, 20
One of the best places to enjoy the authentic experience of ball-scratching waiters, plate-throwing waiters, waiters that make up challenging checks and waiters that listen to your orders the way Dzengiz Khan would have listened to a plead for mercy.
The food is rather good, I´ll admit, but the service is one of the most sour, less civilised and disrespectful I have ever seen in my life. I have been here various times, and especially when I was here with visitors from outside Spain, the waiters were so embarrassingly rude that in a way one would almost feel sorry for the spectacle they made of themselves.
- La Granja
When: Monday, 7 December 2009
One of the places where they insist on responding in Catalan when someone orders in Spanish. Just to show how independent and modern they are, I suppose. It´s one of the most delightful puzzles of living in bilingual Barcelona to figure out how that line of reasoning exactly works.
- La Cafetera
Plaça Virreina 2 Barcelona, 08012
When: Monday, December 7th 2009
Four persons (one of which a 3-year-old child), we were lucky enough to wait for half an hour, in plain sight, for a chance to order a drink. The waiter passed by about six or seven times, first to take some astray from one of the other tables, second to bring an empty ashtray back, third to ask a couple what they thought of the weather, fourth to ask another customer whether he could spare a cigarette (he could) and so on. He wouldn´t even look at us, let alone tell us that he would be with us in a second (he probably didn´t like to lie).
We decided to go to the bar next door (La Virreina). Within seconds of having moved there, the waiter of La Carretera moved out again and made a great show of his bewilderment and sorrow when he saw we had moved. I would advice you not to wait to long with visiting this place, since anytime soon this man might leave his job and start a no-doubt highly succesful acting career.
- La Virreina
Plaça Virreina 1 Barcelona, 08012
When: Monday, December 7th 2009
The waitress – who unfortunately didn´t wear a name tag so I cannot honour her here more explicitly – had an expression on her face so sour that it immediately brought back to my mind the performance of Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”. Maybe she is family.
Where: Capellans, 9 Barcelona
Distrito: Ciutat Vella
When: Monday, December 7th 2009 (yes, we had a nice day)
A “cool” place full of the cool, the hip, and the indie. We waited for half an hour before a surly girl of the rasta-punky-Goa variety took our orders: one coke, two cappuccino and an orange juice.
After another half an hour, the waitress came back to apologize for “having forgotten all about you”. At that time, apart from us there were only five more persons in the entire bar. A few minutes later she came back with a coke, two coffees with milk and orange juice. We did not protest about the fact that was not what we had ordered, nor about the dirty cups.
After all of our experiences of that day, the fact that she had apologized was so much of a miracle that it would have been insane to ask for more.
- Bar Breixan
Calle Provença 439 Barcelona
Neighborhood: Sagrada Familia
When: Sunday, February 7th, 2010
It´s close to the Sagrada Familia, so, obviously they treat you as a tourist. Very badly. You have to wait a long time before you order. They treat you without any form of common decency. And the bill is double the price.
- Caprabo (supermarket)
Santa Cantarina Market
Neighborhood: Ciutat Vella (Santa Catarina)
Though technically not a restaurant nor a bar, it deserves a place on this list anyway. Trying to buy something here, despite all the efforts of the security man to not let you in, will give you the opportunity to deal with cashier girls who cannot count till 10 and treat you as if you do not exist.
- Fishop pescatería
Passeig de Gracia 53
We ordered a “Dorado” fish, from the oven on a plate of potatoes. We got a roasted “Dorado” fish with a slice of lemon on top. The waiter kept on trying to make us order the most expensive plates. And, to top it all off, the bill was 40 euros too expensive.
- Cantina Machito
One bottle of “coronita” (mexican beer) of 33 cl, costs 4 euros inside which is ridiculously expensive. Outside, on the small terrace out in the street, an additional 40 cents is added. One coronita: 4,40 euros. The extra 40 cents is probably because it takes them about 20 minutes longer to bring the beer to the terrace.
- Café Bar La Principal
Muntaner / Plaça de Goya 5 / Sepúlveda 186
Neighbourhood: Ciutat Vella (near Raval)
When: Saturday evening, November 13, 2010
It is located on the corner of Calle Muntaner and Calle Sepulveda, facing a square that is called “Plaça de Goya”. It is right next to “Snackbar Goya”. On the picture one can see the outside façade and the terrace. We had been here before, and at that time had ordered a “cheese plate”. However, today, we could not find it on the menu. So we asked the waiter about it.
– “Of course, we have a cheese plate,” he said gruffly. “It says so on the menu”. How did we dare even ask such a question?
– “No, it doesn´t,” we said.
– “Yes, it does,” he said, took the card right out of my girlfriend´s hands and looked at both sides impatiently. Clearly, it wasn´t on the menu. He threw the card back on the table and said: “I don´t have time now. I am sure it is on the menu because I saw it there yesterday”.
We ordered our drinks and the cheese plate anyway and after he went away, I wondered why some people prefer to look ridiculous rather than admitting they had been wrong about something. We got our drinks and then we waited for the cheese plate to arrive.
Time passed by.
By chance, we heard the waiter say to some people next to us, that if they wanted to order food, they should expect a delay of about 30 minutes. My girlfriend stopped him and said that she couldn´t help overhearing that and since we were planning to go to the cinema, she would like to know whether it would take a lot more time.
– “You should have said so earlier,” the waiter said, “You can not tell me now you are in a hurry, now it´s too late.”
– “No, no, I´m sorry,” my girlfriend said, apologizing without reason, “It is just, I heard what you just said and I would just like to know whether our order will take long as well.”
– “And I am telling you. You can´t tell me this now. If you are in a hurry, tell me so when you order. But there is no point telling me now, after you have already ordered. What do you want me to do? If you are in a hurry, you should not have ordered anything. It´s not my fault. Anyway, I will ask the cook.” The last part he added in the same gruff voice but with an additional condescending tone as if he just did us a great favour.
And I just had it. People who know me will confirm that the following is not typical behaviour for me. I am the sort of guy who normally nods and smiles politely when someone stands on my toe. I silently accept if people go before their turn in the supermarket line. I don´t protest when people push me away to get a seat in the metro. In these situations, I tell myself that I am a perfect English gentleman, stiff upper lip and all that. But, apart from being Dutch and without a drop of aristocratic blood, in all honesty I think that I am more of a timid socially clumsy guy who lacks a certain assertiveness in these sort of situations.
Not now, however. I had had a long day. People had pushed me aside in the metro again. People had stepped in my way on the streets, the sidewalks, in the shops. Enough is enough. I stood up and said that it was enough. I did not yell, but my voice was clear and assured enough to make him stop in his tracks.
– “That´s it!”, I said. “Forget about it. We pay for the drinks and we go. I don´t accept your tone of voice. We are clients, and you should treat us with respect.”
– “What did I do? What did I say? Please, can you explain to me what I have done wrong?” He spoke aggressively, without a hint of apology.
– “It´s too late to explain. I don´t like your attitude and we had enough. We go.” I dropped 5 euros on the table and we went away.
Later, I wondered whether 5 euros was too much for just a coke and a beer, and, also, I probably should have asked for his name and the “book of complaints”, but anyway, for a moment, it felt good to have stood up against this.
- El Hornero
When: Saturday morning, July 2, 2011
Saturday morning. We had ran out of coffee at home. I don´t drink coffee, except for when I am working, but my girlfriend does. We went out to do grocery shopping, but before that, my girlfriend “first needed a coffee”. (You know what coffee drinkers are like).
At “El Hornero”, a small neighbourhood bar, there is a small terrace, about 5 or 6 tables and some chairs around them, right on the pavement. Only two other tables were occupied. We sat down at a free table and a waiter came up and asked what we wanted. “A cortado“, said my girlfriend. (A cortado is a small cup of strong coffee with a bit of milk). Then it was my turn. But I just had breakfast, so I didn´t want anything.
“That cannot be: sitting here, enjoying the view, without ordering anything”, the man told me, in such a grumpy way that I thought he was joking. Because of his beard, I could not actually see whether he was smiling or not. So I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. My girlfriend hurried to explain that we lived in the neighbourhood and came here more often.
When we left and paid, a few minutes later, most tables were still free. The barman actually apologized (which is a miracle) saying that he didn´t know we were of the same neighbourhood and he thought we were tourists. (I have lived for 10 years in Barcelona but I still look as Dutch as cheese and milk.)
Apparantly, for tourists this sort of treatment is okay.
- Restaurante Bilbao
When: January, 2014
Expensive, little food and not very friendly. We ordered for starters, a tapa of mushrooms fried in eggs, but they gave us mushrooms without the eggs and only after we commented on this, they explained “they were out of eggs”. They should have told us that before, obviously.
Of our main courses, the rape (type of white fish) was little and cold and the plate of calamares (for 15 euros) consisted of 5 (really, just 5) calamares and nothing else.
For some reason, the waiters really didn’t like us, because we were the only table that didn’t get a chupito with their coffee.