Some things should never change, and Ca l’Estevet (C/ Valldonzella 46, +34 93 302 4186) in the Raval is one of them. Unmoved by the tides of gastronomic fashion, it has been turning out old-school Catalan cuisine to devoted regulars since long before I first ate there over 15 years ago.
It may be just around the corner from the MACBA contemporary art museum but Ca l’Estevet sticks firmly to the classics in terms of style, service and substance. White -tux-wearing head waiter Juliá welcomes guests with grace and professionalism, guiding them past black-and-white photos of celebrity customers from the restaurant’s glory days. Most diners are regulars, most are locals, and you’re advised to book ahead if you want to join them because Ca l’Estevet gets packed.
Prices are very reasonable and the €18 lunchtime menu del día is a belly-filling bargain, always featuring seasonal classics. Expect grilled butifarra sausages, cannelloni, roasted kid, salt cod stew, cap i pota (beef cheek and trotters), fresh salads, wild mushrooms and more. If there’s a traditional dish you want to try without breaking the bank, Ca l’Estevet is your place. For those bold enough to face the ultimate Catalan belt-stretcher, Escudella i Carn d’Olla is served every Wednesday from October until March. Skip breakfast and hunker down for a mighty trencherman’s portion of every meat in the market served with a mountain of chick peas and cabbage. Wash it down with a glass (or a bottle) of house red then cancel your plans for the afternoon.
Barcelona used to be full of restaurants like this. The foodie revolution of the last decade has thrown up some amazing new eating experiences but for sheer satisfaction it’s hard to beat a long lunch at an establishment that’s been doing the same things well since 1940 (and, under a different name, for another 50 years even before that). Long may it continue.