If you’re a visitor interested in a memorable dining experience, you may wish to stop at the legendary restaurant Els Quatre Gats for lunch or dinner. Located amid the gothic maze of Barrio Gotico’s narrow, twisting streets, the restaurant serves traditional Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine. And, while it is highly-regarded for the preparation and presentation of its dishes, it is also well-known for its remarkable history.
In fact, Els Quatre Gats origins date back to the late 19th century. At that time, a local businessman, Pere Romeu, became impressed with the charm and ambience of a Parisian café-restaurant with cabaret named Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat) and decided to replicate it in Barcelona.
And that is exactly what he did. Pere Romeu’s new restaurant, located on Montsio Street, opened its doors to the public for the first time on July 12, 1897 and became an almost immediate success. The restaurant became a popular destination for Barcelona’s most prominent and best-known avant-garde artists of the early twentieth century.
Pablo Picasso dined there frequently and even held the first two exhibitions of his early work in its main dining room in 1900.
Many other famous people of the day dined at Els Quatre Gats regularly, as well. These included famous musicians like Albanez, Barcelona’s most-revered architect Antoni Gaudi and many other famous and not-so-famous bohemian artists from that period.
Visitors to the restaurant today can still sense the creative spirit and bohemian flair instilled in it by the famous diners of so long ago. Moreover, many remnants of that remarkable period are clearly evident on the walls of Els Quatre Gats now, in 2009 – in the works of Picasso, Russinol, Casas and Monell.
Amid all the glory … a dark period. While the restaurant enjoyed great success in the first few years after it opened, it fell on hard times by 1903. That is when Pere Romeu, as a result of mismanagement, became buried under a mountain of debt and closed the famous and beloved restaurant. Remarkably, it remained closed for many years.
In the 1970s, new owners restored the restaurant and re-opened it to the public – at the very same location where it once stood … Montsio Street.
Today, Els Quatre Gats is representative of the district where it is located – Barrio Gotico – and of Barcelona’s grand Modernist period, as well. It is also very popular at lunch and dinner with both locals and visitors alike.
A visit to this restaurant begins on the outside at its impressive arched wood-and-stone entrance. A complete menu, with prices, is also clearly visible to people before they enter through the front door.
Els Quatre Gats is equally impressive inside. These is a handsome and stylish bar set aside for diners interested in enjoying only a simple snack or a cup of hot coffee. The bar is noteworthy for its antique marble tables, dark, polished wooden furniture, ornate and decorative carvings, original drawings and photographs.
The main dining room is, of course, magnificent. It seats up to 120 people and features marble columns, traditional ceramic floors and large crystal chandeliers.
There is also a unique “upper level”, a narrow floor that runs along the perimeter of the dining room all along the walls. Ideally-suited for couples interested in enjoying a romantic dinner, this special area includes “tables for two” set comfortably apart from one another.
Diners are also treated each evening to charming, relaxing and soothing live music provided by a piano player and a violinist. The combination of the two helps to create a very pleasant dining experience.
Prices are surprisingly affordable. Lunch is served daily from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. and is reasonably priced. Els Quatre Gats offers a prix fixe luncheon at only 12.97 Euros plus a modest 7% IVA that includes all of the following: first and second courses (4 optional selections for each), choice of dessert, bread, water and wine.
Dinner is available a la carte and is generally somewhat more expensive (about 30 Euros per person). While more costly than lunch, the price is still considered reasonable and the meal portions are considerably larger than those served at lunch.
The menu choices are excellent and all are very well prepared. Diners can order such entrees as Trout a la Meuniere, Iberian Loin of Pork with Mustard, Botifarra I Mongetes (grilled black sausage with white beans), Esqueixada (salt cod salad with onions and peppers) or delicious Salmon Lasagna.
Many of the dishes, like those mentioned, are classic Catalan cuisine. The restaurant also serves typical Spanish fare, as well.
The restaurant is open daily from 8:00 A.M. to 2:00 A.M. It is located at Calle Montsio 3 bis.
Telephone: (34) 93 302 41 40
How to get there:
Els Quatre Gats is easily accessible by Metro – Plaza Cataluna Green Line (L3); Red Line (L1).
The opportunity to enjoy lunch or dinner at a table where Pablo Picasso may once have sat is unique and special. Take advantage of it. Add a visit to Els Quatre Gats to your itinerary during your stay in Barcelona.
Barcelona is a world-class city, home to a vast array of restaurants, cafes, bars and skilled and talented chefs who excel in the preparation of local and international cuisine. For those who live here, and for those who visit, the city is truly a food-lover’s paradise.
The fact is that dining out in Barcelona is always a highly-anticipated event – a real pleasure. According to recently-released statistics, there are more than 11,000 restaurants, snack bars, tapas bars, cafes and open-air terraces scattered throughout the city. Catalan cuisine dominates the culinary landscape, but it is by no means the only choice available to diners. Restaurants also serve the cuisine popular in other parts of Spain as well as cuisine from other parts of the world, most notably Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Mexican.
As you might expect, prices vary greatly - from expensive and fashionable “in” restaurants to less-formal moderately-priced establishments to inexpensive “quick bite” fast-food places. In truth, there are restaurants, bars and cafes to suit every taste and meet every budget.
The first meal of the day (called desayuno or esmorzar in Catalan) begins for Barcelona’s early-risers at around 8 A.M. and lasts until about 10 A.M. It’s a hearty meal, by any standards, and generally includes bocadillos (sandwiches made with French bread or rolls) filled with a variety of tasty ingredients – everything from fresh tuna fish to delicious omelets to bacon and tomato to cheese and much, much more.
Some early morning diners prefer tortillas (omelets) also available with a variety of tempting ingredients, croissants, sweet buns or Spain’s famous churros – tasty strips of deep-fried dough. Breakfast in most restaurants also includes a choice of freshly-squeezed orange juice or coffee.
A full breakfast is surprisingly affordable and generally costs between 5-10 Euros, depending on what has been ordered.
Lunch … a mid-afternoon break from work.
The midday meal (comida del mediodia o dinar in Catalan) starts late in Barcelona, usually right around 1 P.M. and lasts even later – until about 4 P.M. Most restaurants include a daily menu del dia, a prix fixe offering that includes a starter of soup or salad, a hearty main course, bread or rolls, desert and a drink which can be either water, Coca Cola, beer or wine.
Many Chinese and Japanese restaurants in the city offer lunchtime diners a buffet libre. This is an old-fashioned “all you can eat” buffet that includes a vast array of food – from soup to salad to main course to desert – all without limit. The cost for this “endless feast” is generally between 8-15 Euros.
However, keep this thought in mind: some restaurants do not include any drink – soda, water, beer, wine or coffee — in their menu del dia or buffet libre menu. In these establishments, there is an additional charge for these drinks that often tends to be overpriced. For example, a 0.5 liter bottle of water that generally costs no more than 50-75 Eurocents in a supermarket can cost as much as 2 Euros in a restaurant that chooses to charge for it.
It’s important to note that many restaurants add a 7% VAT to the bill making the cost of the meal somewhat more expensive. Additionally, menu del dia meals are generally available only from Monday through Friday and not on weekends.
Dinner … everybody’s favorite meal.
Spain has always been a country where dinner is eaten late in the evening. That is still true in Barcelona. It’s a custom to which visitors need to adjust.
Although many restaurants open at 8 P.M., Cena (sopar in Catalan) begins after 9 P.M. and continues – happily for diners – until midnight, sometimes even later. For Catalans, Cena is more than an evening meal it’s a celebration, especially on weekends. It’s a time to be enjoyed with family and friends.
It is also the meal in which prices are their highest … and restaurants are most crowded. In fact, it is a good idea to call in advance and reserve a table. Those who forget to do so are likely to find themselves waiting for fifteen minutes, or more, until a table becomes available.
The rule of thumb for reservations is this: if your group is four people or more and your restaurant of choice is in the mid-to-upper-price-range – call in advance and book a reservation.
Couples interested in enjoying a romantic dinner should call in advance, as well, in order to assure being seated at a table that is not near the restaurant entrance … its noisy kitchen … or the restrooms.
Spain’s anti-tobacco law became effective on January 1, 2006. Considered one of the toughest laws in all of Europe, it has not resulted in a smoking ban in most Spanish restaurants. In fact, more than 85% of Barcelona’s restaurants currently permit smoking. For those who find tobacco smoke annoying, most restaurants make a no-smoking section available.
Restaurant personnel are generally very friendly and helpful. As such, it is customary for diners to leave a modest tip equal to about 5% of the bill. It is not required, but it is a good idea to do it and show how much the good service is appreciated.
There’s no doubt about it. Dining out in Barcelona is like being part of an all-day fiesta – every day. From breakfast to lunch to late night dinner – there are wonderful meals to experience and enjoy at prices that are right for every budget. From standard Catalan fare to exotic cuisines from around the world, Barcelona is now, and always has been, a food lover’s dream. Enjoy it.