February may not be the warmest month in Barcelona, but with the annual calçots harvest and calçotada celebrations, it’s certainly one of the most delicious!
Everything you need to know about this ancient Catalan food tradition and where to eat the best calçots in Barcelona!
What are calçots?
Calçots are sweet little roasted onions similar to leeks or spring onions. They’re cooked over open flames until the outer layers become charred.
You peel off these layers (unless you forget, like me) until you get to the tender inner parts. Then you dunk them in a sauce called ‘salvitxada’, a sort of nutty, red-peppered romesco sauce.
They originate from the soils of Valls, Tarragona, an extremely beautiful and fertile region of Catalonia located about an hour south of Barcelona.
Other tempting treats associated with the calçotada include perpetually flowing bottles of local wine, mountains of grilled meats and chunky botifarra (Catalan sausages).
Dessert is also rather special, with little ceramic dishes of crema Catalana, the Catalan version (and some say original) of French crème brûlée, served with zesty oranges and plenty of bubbly cava.
Do it like the locals: Be sure to don one of the supplied neck bibs (yes, like baby bibs). I think this says a lot about the lust and ravaging delight with which the locals approach this annual foodie festival.
When to eat calçots in Barcelona (and the rest of Catalonia)
Calçots are harvested from December to March, but the main calçotadas (streets parties where locals gather around giant barbecues to devour calçots by the boxful and guzzle red wine) are generally held in February.
Best places to eat calçots in and around Barcelona
With its rural roots, the best places to enjoy this Catalan tradition is out in the countryside. Many residents of Barcelona flock to rural restaurants and public picnic spots to get their scallions sizzling.
Top foodie tip: My friends over at Devour Barcelona Food Tours will take you out to the beautiful rural village of Alella for an authentic and delectable day of eating and drinking. Find out more and book your space here.
There are some excellent places in the city too. Here’s where to eat the best calçots in Barcelona:
La Masia Can Portell is located in the Collserola natural park just outside of Barcelona, the team at Masia Can Portell have been perfecting their calçotadas for over 25 years!
Can Martí can by found in the stylish Sarrià neighbourhood and is the perfect place to enjoy calçots after a walk or cycle through Collserola.
Quinabarra hosts calçotadas 7 days a week and offers a hearty set menu for €38. Perfect for larger groups.
El Jardí de l’Àpat is located right next to Barcelona’s famous Parc Güell and provides sweeping vistas of the city. Be sure to try the snails!
L’Antic Forn is conveniently located right in the centre of Barcelona and is the perfect place to try calçots if you’re not in Barcelona for long.
Restaurant Carmen and Restaurante Cabaneros, traditional restaurants and bodegas with excellent wine offerings and good ol’ fashioned Spanish styling. These two places are literally at the end of my street and are buzzing all year-round.
Neighbourhood Calçotadas in Barcelona
As with most of the city’s major celebrations, many of Barcelona’ different neighbourhoods — or “barrios as they’re known — throw their own street parties, blocking off the streets so that they can pull out their tables and chairs, play music and get the barbecues going. These street calçotadas offer a great way to experience local life.
My neighbourhood’s “Calçotada Popular” street party is organised by the local community and held, quite literally, on my street (I’ll see you there!). Another good option is the “Sant Antoni Calçotada Popular”, and if you follow the plumes of smoke and rumble of joviality, you’re sure to find countless celebrations across the city.