Rice done right: L’Arrosseria Xàtiva in Les Corts and Gracia is one of Barcelona’s best bets for paella
Like having your wallet stolen on the Metro, bad paella is more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’ for unwary visitors. In every part Barcelona you’ll find tourists wearing expressions of profound disappointment on their sunburnt faces as they push overpriced, microwaved, artificially-coloured piles of rice around their plates and struggle to peel mushy prawns of unknown origin.
Paella is not, of course, a Barcelona dish but a Valencian one. Catalans make plenty of paellas at home but (historically at least) they tend to prefer their rice a little on the wetter side, as arròs a la cassola or the beautiful squid-ink-black arròs negre.
Reasonable versions of the above all crop up on menús del día (especially on Thursdays) at no-frills restaurants around the city but it’s still something of a lottery and almost always far from the real deal. Even the big-name Barceloneta seafood specialists are hit-and-miss when it comes to rice and standards have, generally, plummeted in recent years.
L’ Arrosería Xàtiva (in Les Corts: C/ Bordeus 35; and Gracia: Torrent d’en Vidalet 26, Tel. +34 933 22 65 31) makes life simple by offering a full range of rice dishes – wet, dry and inbetween – at reasonable prices. Paella ideally needs to be cooked on a wood-fire and eaten outdoors; l’Arrosseria Xàtiva can’t manage this but otherwise it’s rice done right: organic vegetables, Delta d’Ebro rice and respect for traditional recipes.
As well as the obligatory paella Valenciana (with chicken, rabbit and snails), seafood paella and the half-and-half mar i muntanya version, you’ll find arroces caldoses (rice broths) and even a few original variations on the theme. There are other things on offer but the selling point of these family-owned restaurants is obviously rice, so why go against the grain?
Executive chef Óscar Galindo trained and worked alongside some of Barcelona’s best-known seafood chefs and knows the standard to aim for. His paellas are served in (and eaten from) the paellas (the name of the pan) themselves, and are ideal for sharing. Unlike almost everywhere else, though, l’Arrosseria Xàtiva offers individual portions that are also hob-cooked in smaller pans. This is a bit of a logistical nightmare in the kitchen and occupies an awful lot of burner-space but it raises the restaurants above others who use exclusively ovens — and microwaves.
Neither restaurant is exactly on the tourist trail but the Les Corts original is a good choice for a pre-or post-match meal if you’re visiting the Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona. The Gracia spin-off is a solid option for filling up before a night on the town in that neighbourhood’s many excellent bars. There’s a sub-€15 menú del día through the week and a lot of different menus for those who struggle to choose. Both locations are very child-friendly and attract local families, especially on Sundays.
Arrosseria Xàtiva doesn’t make the best paella I’ve ever had (the dish remains, fundamentally, best-suited to a campfire or wood-fired grill, not a restaurant) but it is one of the best in Barcelona and a reliable choice for those in search of a rice fix.