There’s a tremendous lack of Spanish fare in Vancouver. Café Barcelona, which serves up tapas and pintxos on Granville Street downtown, fills that void somewhat, and thus it’s easy to gloss over its many deficiencies: you take what you can get.
The place is not without its charm, and recalls the casual breeziness of many neighbourhood tapas bars in Spain. Here, then, are your obligatory selections of olives, seafood and jamon in a variety of shapes and forms, supported by a limited assortment of Spanish wines and beer (along with your local choices). It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of alcohol in any tapas outing, and with the view looking out towards the Granville Street nightclubs, it’s hard to forget its importance at Café Barcelona too.
We ordered a few staples. The croquettes had a pleasantly thin crust surrounding a sea of béchamel that drowned not-quite-enough ham. The txistorra, a Basque sausage, was what one would expect but no more. The pulpo a la gallega, octopus served with potatoes and drenched with olive oil, took on a bit too much of a metallic taste of the can from which it came (Spanish fare being one of very few that value canned foods as much as fresh). The tortilla de patatas, a Spanish frittata of sorts, turned out to be a highlight, simple and well executed. All were good, not great: if Café Barcelona reminds one of an average Spanish tapas bar, the emphasis is on “average.”
From there it went downhill. We ordered a crème Catalana, a Spanish riff on crème brulee, which had a chewy, sugary mess on top, covering an overly liquid crème that was warm in some patches and cold in others. This provided a good summation of the bipolar service, with one server pleasant enough, the other dour, forgetful and just plain absent. Taken together with the average fare, Café Barcelona isn’t a place to rush back to. If it wasn’t for the city’s slim pickings for traditional Spanish fare, it probably isn’t a place to rush to in the first place.
1049 Granville Street
604 909 2223