El Xampanyet is my favourite bar in Barcelona, Spain. Located at Calle Montcada 22, in the Barrio Gotico it’s worth getting here early just so you can get a seat. We arrived around 8pm, which is obscenely early by Spanish standards, and the place was rather quiet. No more than 15 minutes later there wasn’t an empty seat left in the house and we would have had to prop up the bar and raise our voices quite a bit to be heard. El Xampanyet is a fantastic little cava/tapas venue just down the road from the Picasso Museum and I would recommend it to any visitor to the city. It’s not ‘budget’ but it is one of those places that is cheap enough where the experience you get gives the traveller huge value for money. If there were half a dozen of you sharing a bottle and a platter then you would certainly not begrudge the meagre outlay.
The short but bustling bar has a superb atmosphere with young and old eating and drinking together in a setting fringed with traditional tiled borders and trinkets spread over the walls. The staff are incredibly helpful too. My grasp of the local tongue is virtually non-existent but the waiter cheerfully guided me through my options with sign language, tumbling Catalan and ejaculations of English at appropriate points. ‘Fish!’ he would announce after a torrent of unidentified words, the little cartoon light bulb glowing over his head and scrubbing out the linguistic darkness. That was good enough for Kristina to know not to order that particular dish, fish-hater that she is.
The cava they serve is absolutely amazing, definitely the best I’ve ever tried. Sweet and cold it was the perfect tonic after a day of wandering around the crowded city streets. The tapas are basic but tasty and varied. All the usual suspects are available but the tables around us had a fair number of unguessable dishes that would only require you pointing then out to the waiter to receive them yourself.
The atmosphere alone is worth soaking up for a few hours but with such delicious food and the divine Xampanyet this is a must-visit.