Bar Velódromo (C/Muntaner 213, +34 934 30 60 22) crops up in every tourist guide book and newspaper supplement about Barcelona which is one of the reasons it’s usually so crushingly busy. Since reopening in 2009, after a huge remodelling exercise to restore its original Art Deco charms, it’s become a fashionable place to queue outside at peak periods. If, however, you drop in for breakfast or, as we did, a very early supper at 8.30pm before the hordes arrive, you can actually get seated quite easily.
It’s owned by Moritz which is fine by me: their standard beer is much better than the ubiquitous Estrella Damn and their stronger ‘Epidor’ is very good indeed. The remodelled building’s interior is gorgeous, with beautiful carved wood and period details in an open, two-level space. The food is overseen by superstar chef Carles Abellán, of Comerç24 and Tapas24 and other 24-themed ventures fame. One suspects that he’s not rubbing the tomatoes onto the bread himself all day, given that the place is open from 6am to 3am which makes it a very popular breakfast destination for smashed clubbers and hardened drinkers on their way home after all-nighters. I suppose some people get up early and go there for breakfast too but that sort of behaviour is not really considered normal in Barcelona…
If you do go for breakfast, by all accounts the thing to order is one of the dishes made with organic eggs. I know from previous visits that the sandwiches — particularly the burgers — also look good.
My wife and I, though, were there for some tapas. First out was fried bread and tomato — the essential pa amb tomaquet that all Catalan meals must include. At €3 it was, like most of what was to follow, pricey without being eye-wateringly so. The other compulsory tapas purchase is of course patatas bravas.
Velódromo’s (€2.90) were excellent though as a spice fiend I always want my bravas a little more picante than I usually get them.
My wife had ordered ‘Bombes Tito B.Diagonal’ which — as described in the menu as including foie, truffle and a mayonnaise of toasted almonds and smoked oil — sounded delicious. As indeed they were, but sadly they were also microscopic: two tiny balls that looked like eyes boggling in embarrassment at their own €8.75 price tag.
Photo above very much not life-size. Scrutiny of the menu revealed that part of the cost of the bombes went to pay for the education of the son of the recently-deceased TV and radio personality Jordi Estadella. Fair enough, I suppose, but order these only if you’re not hungry or not on a budget.
Also falling into the extremely good but rather undersized camp was the beef with chimichurri sauce.
Cooked rare, it was tender and positively mouthwatering. I could easily have ordered a second plate but at €6 a time I decided against it.
My wife ordered the peppers stuffed with cheese and capers. When they arrived we were, again, struck by the small size of the €3.50 portion. I know this is tapas, and it’s a fashionable place in Barcelona not a bar in Seville, but this was starting to leave me underwhelmed and underfed. The peppers were the size of cherry tomatoes and made the steak look like tremendous value for money.
Don’t misunderstand me: with the exception of the peppers, which were nothing special, the food was all extremely good. We were enjoying ourselves but it’s important to be aware that if you just stick to the tapas at Velódromo you’ll need to empty your wallet to fill your stomach.
Fortunately there’s no need to stick to tapas. I’ve been here several times and would go back so you can easily deduce that there is obviously more satisfying fare to be found. Today it was the tripe with chickpeas. Callos amb cigrons, callos madrileños, call them what you want but — when done right — there are few more fulfilling dishes. Velódromo does them right. Meaty, rich, sticky, unctuous and pretty much perfect, they’re worth every cent of the €7.50 they cost.
If you come here, order the tripe. No, really. Even if you’re not keen on offal, this will convert you.
I was tempted by the bread with chocolate, oil and salt on the dessert menu but my heavily pregnant wife was craving ice cream and what she says, goes. In this case what she wanted was to go; to Cremeria Toscana just down the road at Muntaner 161 (they have a shop in the Borne too, at C/Canvis Vells 2).
Cremeria Toscana is a strong contender for the title of best ice cream parlour in Barcelona. Everything they make is good but the class leader is the mascarpone variety, a truly wonderful thing. If you go and you don’t see it, ask: they may be making some more in the small room at the back. There’s very little space inside the shop but there are a few small stools at the front in the form of sawn logs that you can sit on and enjoy your gelat.
It’s open until late — in summer until midnight through the week and 1am at weekends — and seeing the display lit up on a warm, dark night is a hugely appealing sight.
There are lots of good places to eat in this part of town — Velódromo being one of them — but my recommendation is to skip dessert and get an ice cream from Cremeria Toscana instead. It’s the perfect finish to any meal.