Good, family-friendly tapas, tucked away among the tourist traps in El Born, Barcelona
Review: El Guindilla del Born: tapas bar, takeaway and restuarant
The Born district incarnation of El Guindilla, like its sister restaurant of the same name in Barceloneta, belongs to the same family that owns and runs the various Asador de Aranda restaurants. I regularly recommend the Asadores to friends and visitors so I was curious to try their version of tapas.
El Guindilla has all the trappings of, well, a tourist trap. It’s a big restaurant, on a street with lots of passing traffic, with staff outside touting for business. There’s also an ample terrace. It’s open from 10 am until after midnight, 7-days-a-week, and sells branded t-shirts etc.
Inside, brash red paneling and seats – and bright, bright lights – contrast with elegant glass, ironwork and exposed brick arches.
Please excuse the inadvertent selfie.
The staff are lovely. The young Vega Izán house wine is not; avoid at all costs and have a beer instead.
El Guindilla offers all kinds of food, from take-away rotisserie chicken (pollastre a l’ast, a regular dish in many Catalan households at weekends) to paellas, burgers, soups and salads. The business plan is clearly to make sure that families and groups feel welcome here, even if they have picky eaters among them. There’s also a bargain menú del día for €13.75.
Really, however, it’s all about tapas. That part of the (lengthy) menu is split between modern tapas, traditional, and hams & cheeses, and there are special set menus for groups of more than 10 people, ranging from €15.25-€20.50 per person with a drink included.
My expectations weren’t especially high, I must be honest. Places that try to do too many types of food rarely excel. A point in El Guindilla’s favour was the kitchen, which is fully visible, in which actual cooking-from-scratch was taking place. That is not always the case in large restaurants, where the microwave should really wear the chef’s hat.
We had a selection of best-selling dishes (smaller portions than usual — arranged in advance), starting with a classic Spanish omelette (€3.75). It was a perfectly acceptable tortilla, and the coca bread (for the €1.95 pa amb tomàquet, of course ) was spot-on.
Cecina de León (€7.50), cured beef, was meaty and tender and made a nice change from jamón.
Another ubiquitous Spanish bar classic, Olivier (A.K.A. Russian) salad (€4.75), was lifted by quality tuna and capers. It is, for me, a fundamentally mundane dish but I know it has its fans and El Guindilla’s version is a very good one.
I enjoyed the aubergine/eggplant hummus (€5.90) with feta cheese and pita bread, plus plenty of smoky paprika, but not as much as my wife who attacked it with zeal.
Tuna tataki with guacamole (€9.80) was an odd combination. Not my favourite, but made well and not unpleasant.
Much, much better was the seafood salad with pickles (€9.95). This is promoted as the restaurant’s signature dish and I can see why. I recommend it, too. Generous helpings of prawns and tender octopus, spicy pickles, lots of zing and freshness. This was where I abandoned the wine and ordered a beer instead, but a crisp fino would have been good here too.
The fish, incidentally, all comes fresh from Barceloneta and it shows. There’s no hint of the freezer cabinet here. That was equally evident in the steamed mussels (€7.25), which were tiny, tender and perfectly cooked. Very, very nice.
The fried squid (€9.75), however, was good but not great. Don’t misunderstand me: there was nothing wrong with it; it was just underwhelming. A fraction on the rubbery side and slightly under-seasoned.
Fried, Andalusian-style artichokes and aubergines (€7.25) were well-executed but not particularly exciting.
The final dish, however, was salty, rich and delicious. Grilled squid with Iberian ham (€11.75):
If you want truly excellent, traditional tapas in Barcelona, you really need to head out to the city’s more distant barrios, where Andalusian family restaurants excel at this sort of thing. If you want to try tapas without the round-trip, however, La Guindilla is a solid bet. Even the least-impressive dishes are competently made, and the best are very good indeed. Prices, for the area, are reasonable and the restaurant ticks a lot of other important boxes: vegetarian options, good service, family friendliness (I’d definitely come here with my kids if I were in the area), the ability to cater for groups… It was quiet when I visited on a Sunday night but it can get packed at other times, in which case you can expect queues and a lively atmosphere, with plenty of locals in the mix. It may look like a tourist trap, but La Guindilla is a reliable option for an unfussy, fun meal with family or friends.