NaparBCN brewpub serves some of the best craft beer in Barcelona, plus globetrotting food that nudges it toward gastropub territory.
Review: NaparBCN, Eixample, Barcelona
We’re here for the beer. Let us not delude ourselves: the customers of NaparBCN brewpub have not arrived in search of gastronomic nirvana, and nor have I. The draw of the place is inside the pristine, stainless-steel vessels at the back of the premises, cradled by a metallic nest of pipes and tubes. Those tanks are a fountainhead of Barcelona’s flourishing craft-beer scene, the source of some of the finest ales, lagers and stouts in the city.
Flanking the walls in glass cabinets, a full battalion of bottled beer supports the high-calibre tank division. Behind the scenes, a special forces menu of rare and hard-to-find brews is on standby should you require the contents of your wallet terminated without prejudice by a sour Belgian. Not all of the prices are lethal, however; NaparBCN’s own brews on draught start from as little as €4 for a 50cl glass and even the most expensive guest beers top out at €6.50 for 40cl. It doesn’t encourage session drinking but as Barcelona craft beer goes, it’s a bargain. If you really hate your date and want to melt his or her credit card, go to Mikkeller instead.
There’s more good news if you’re hungry. NaparBCN has raised the bar for Barcelona beer-bar food (try saying that after a few pints) with a globetrotting menu of snacks, sharing plates, burgers and the like. So far, so standard, so what? The difference is in the execution: NaparBCN tilts at the standard found in the better UK gastropubs. It doesn’t always hit it, but it gets closer than most of the city’s other craft beer joints.
The best way to try NaparBCN’s food is the €65 tasting menu, drinks included, which pairs five beers with ten tapa-sized dishes. Among them are excellent croquettes of jamón bellota, a satisfying steak tartare, squid rings with garlic and parsley mayo, Thai-style tamarind-and-peanut chicken tacos with lettuce wraps, and rich chocolate coulant. There’s nothing that you would describe as truly memorable – there is no killer dish – but it is high quality throughout, and well considered to match the beers. Even better, there’s zinginess, heat and spice at levels that suit the palates of international customers, plus the bolder, younger locals who have developed a taste for such things. I’d like to see the chef apply his obvious talents to some harder-to-sell but more-interesting dishes but I can understand the safer, more profitable crowd-pleasing approach. If you don’t want a full feast, the cheeseburger costs €7.
NaparBCN’s interior design, like the food, scores more highly for execution than for originality. All the steampunk-style, industrial-chic details you’d expect are here: bare bricks, bare bulbs, lots of dark wood and steel. It is saved from hipster-cliché hell by the handsome dimensions of the space, the evident quality of the fittings and the eye-grabbing glory of the brewery that gleams behind its glass walls. Somehow, it all works.
The best of NaparBCN is found on its website and on the blue screen beside the bar: its ever-changing beer list. The draught beer here is first rate, matching or beating anything I’ve tried elsewhere. The staff are knowledgeable, the service is friendly. I still get a tear in my eye when I see the prices for craft beer in Barcelona but the market it is what it is, and NaparBCN at least tries to keep things reasonable. It’s as close to value for money as you’ll find. I’d go back for the beer any time but the kitchen is literally and figuratively a level below the brewery. That said, I’d happily eat there again. Everything I ate was enjoyable and the food is only a couple of changes – and perhaps a bold leap or two – away from being an attraction in its own right. Go to NaparBCN for the beer. Stay for the food. Then stay and have some more beer. Cheers!