For a straightforward, fresh, top-value lunch in Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic, close to Plaça Sant Jaume, it’s hard to beat Café d’L’Academia (C/ Lledó 1, (+34) 93 319 8253, reservations required). This old favourite has seen dining trends come and go and ignored them all, staying packed every day with tourists and loyal locals in search of some traditional Catalan favourites. And I mean packed: unless you’re alone and eating at an unusual hour, you’d better have booked ahead (and maybe have rung again to remind them).
Outside there’s a busy terrace in a Gothic church square where you can watch people bustle by; inside you’ll find relaxing music, stone walls, exposed wood beams and wicker chairs around a long bar where you can enjoy an excellent menú del día set lunch for just €10,50 (€14,50 if you sit at a table). In the evenings (or à la carte at other times) expect to pay about €40.
When I last visited in April (after one of my semi-regular pilgrimages to Katherine McLaughlin’s peerless cheese shop, Formatgeria la Seu which is just yards away on C/D’Agueria 16) I had a typical Academia set lunch: a hearty goats’ cheese, bacon and mixed leaves salad:
Then some very tasty roast chicken in orange sauce with mashed potato, all served with some quality bread and a glass of decent house Rioja red.
All simple, all excellent, all fresh and all made with seasonal, local ingredients from the market. Dessert, like in most of Spain, probably won’t blow your mind but the lemon mousse cake I had was perfectly OK.
It’s smart, classy, no-nonsense and cheap: a classic, of the kind they don’t make any more, and the perfect spot to pause and enjoy life in the old town.