Local charm and seriously good
Price approx. €15-€20 (incl. drinks)
Nearest metro: Barceloneta
La Cova Fumada
Carrer del Baluart, 56
0034 932 21 40 61
Go for: The grilled squid | fried artichokes | the famous ‘Bomba’ | a big rustic jug of Sangria
Good for: Dining with the locals | atmospheric lunches | seafood or aioli lovers
Need to know: Day | No reservations | Closed Sundays & evenings
Oh Cathy! he wails.
Oh Heathcliff! I smile.
Oh Cathy, it's been too long mi amor!
Too long Heathcliff, too long!
And so is how begins every visit to La Cova Fumada.
Sadly, not because the owner and I are having a passionate love affair, but because most Spaniards are incapable of pronouncing ‘Katie’ properly.
It prompted much Emily Bronte hilarity on my first visit here and never fails to amuse us both each time I return, meaning that here, I will forever be Cathy.
My would-be lover is any visitor’s first impression of La Cova Fumada; a wiry, charismatic fellow strolling in and out of the restaurant and every so often taking down names from the queue outside.
There’s no signage, so if you come outside the very intermittent opening hours, all you’ll find is a mysterious brown door (a situation that both intrigued and irritated me on many unsuccessful attempts to eat here).
Inside, you’ll find a tiny, airless room that still manages to be utterly charming.
Guffawing locals jostle around the bar with their beers, while tourists are tucked in at marble topped tables.
Team Barca memorabilia hangs over the cramped, open kitchen while a prehistoric blackboard shouts out the only menu in chalky scrawled Catalan.
I’m here with a couple of visiting girlfriends, and despite arriving early at 1pm, the place is heaving.
I take the lead and order my favourites – cod in tomato sauce, fried artichokes, grilled calamari and of course, the famous ‘La Bomba.’
La Cova Fumada is said to have invented this back in the 1950s – a potato bomb of brilliance, a bit like a luxury croquette topped with a fat dollop of aioli – which has now become one of Spain’s most classic tapas.
Our jug of Sangria is hardly started before everything promptly arrives, a fabulous array of unfussy plates, everything smothered in garlic oil and parsley. The seafood is some of the freshest I’ve tasted and the artichokes leave your fingers all nice and greasy.
The final bill is always a number plucked out of the air at the end, no menu, no notepad, nada.
The combination of my sangria-jacket, lack of Catalan and what seems like incredible value for money, has meant that I’ve never questioned it.
Heathcliff ushers us out, Granny grins goodbye from the kitchen and that’s it.
Simple as you like.
Just make sure you give your garlic breath a few hours to die down.