Surprisingly good rice and great views on Barcelona’s Sant Sebastià beach.
There are a strip of restaurants styled after chiringuitos, beach bars, on the sand-side base of Barcelona’s towering W Hotel (known locally as the Vela). Barcelona’s chiringuitos are great places to get a snack or a drink but they don’t always have the best reputation when it comes to their cooking. Fortunately, Pez Vela (Paseo del Mare Nostrum 19/21, Tel. +34 93 221 63 17; Metro Barceloneta) proves to be the exception.
‘The sailfish’ specializes in salads and rice dishes. The mention of beach-side rice normally chills the blood of Barcelona locals, most of whom have choked down at least one plate of criminally badly cooked paella at some point. Pez Vela, they will be happy to hear, serves very good rice. It doesn’t aspire to perfection in the eyes of the paella police who argue constantly amongst themselves about what exactly a paella may or may not include. I can’t blame them; we all have to draw the line somewhere (mine is at putting chorizo in. It doesn’t go in EVERY Spanish dish. Please take note, UK celebrity chefs) but it’s quality rice, cooked with care.
But I’ll get to that later. First, the view (actually taken early in morning, not lunchtime).
Have some more.
The photo above taken from the pavement outside the restaurant. It was sunny but breezy and I didn’t fancy sand in my food so I got an indoor table beside the window. Not quite as nice, but it was still a good spot from which to watch the carb-starved beautiful people passing by as I filled my mouth with lunch.
The restaurant is spacious and stripped-down, in keeping with its beach-hut image. There is, reassuringly, an open kitchen where you can see everything being made in front of you.
On a less positive note, I was squirming on what was possibly the most uncomfortable chair I’ve encountered so far in 2015. I made a note to remind you all to insist on a proper chair at a proper table (they have these too) when you visit. The low-level, laid-back lounge chairs are fine for drinks but not for dining.
As I performed my unplanned core workout, the restaurant filled up with families, couples, business lunches and groups of friends. It was a really mixed crowd but it was a crowd, and people were being turned away at the door: booking is essential.
Starters average €10 and main courses range from €16 to €24. There’s also a €35 set menu that includes salad, rice, bread, wine, ice cream and coffee. Wine by the glass is around €3 and bottles range from €14-€25.
An amuse bouche of roasted red pepper was followed by €16 clams with chili and basil sauce. At first I thought they would be the same as those of Bestial (also owned by the Tragaluz group) but these were better, with just the right amount of kick. Excellent. The bread to mop it up was good too.
Galician-style octopus (€16) was also excellent. Buttery potato beneath, tender octopus… top marks.
The rice though, as I mentioned earlier, was the star. I was only cautiously optimistic, depite good reviews elsewhere, but this was deeply flavoured, cooked just to the right point, well seasoned and not strewn with unneeded ingredients. If I had to pick fault I’d say that the prawns were on the small side and, as a result, soon overcooked on the plate.
Lemon pie was a calorie bomb but delicious.
I almost couldn’t fault Pez Vela. The location was great, the staff friendly, the price (expect to pay about €40 per person) not unreasonable, and the food was genuinely excellent. I’ve had a lot worse at a much higher price in Barceloneta, on many occasions. If it weren’t for the damn chairs, I’d have had an exceptional lunch. If you pick the right table, Pez Vela is highly recommended.