Eating in Spain is a big deal, and Barcelona is no exception to that rule. I always say that for the majority of foreigners visiting the city that everything starts and finishes a lot later here - that goes for opening times for shops, nightlife and of course, eating out.
Lunch is a far cry from a sandwich on the run or a quick Tupperware full of salad in 30 minutes or an hour. No, no, the Spanish like a good 2 hours for lunchtime, and a real sit down meal. Not surprising, as the working day goes on until 8 or maybe 9pm, and you need to keep your energy levels up! This can often be a real challenge for tourists on a mission to squeeze in all the Barcelona Sights as possible, because if you're not used to having such a big meal at lunchtime (often accompanied by a decent bottle of house wine) then you can be left feeling very sleepy, and chalking off that hike up to Park Güell for a laze on a terrace instead - Spain is the land of siestas, right?!
However, a Spanish lunch is also a great way to save money, as all restaurants by law are obliged to offer a Mid-day Menu at a cut price, known as a Menú del Dia. This almost always consists of a choice of 2 or 3 starters, 2 or 4 main courses, dessert, bread and a drink, which can be anything you like. Coffee or Tea is not usually included in a menu, but occasionally can be. VAT at 7% is sometimes included but more often than not it's charged on top of the displayed price, although restaurants have an obligation to print this, too.
Menus del Dia can range from as little as 6 Euros and up to around 15 Euros, depending on the place you go. Often the Menus have seasonal ingredients, and other dishes which are also featured on the normal menu (called "La Carta" in Spanish). As I say, if you're not used to eating a lot at lunchtime, and have a busy day planned for sightseeing, maybe this isn't a good option for you, and the city is also full of healthy alternatives like bagel shops, sandwich shops and take away salads and the link in places like Carrefour and El Corte Inglés for example. However, if you're here simply to relax and visit the city, you can do no better at lunchtime than find a decent menu and sit down and enjoy some delightful Catalan cuisine.
I'd love to hear your comments guys, as always, and I'll be doing another post this week about food too, so sign up for posts via RSS on the top right.
Also, if you're looking for apartments for rent in Barcelona, you can also save money by making your own breakfast on a morning, and making some tapas or a snack for your evening meal after your menu del dia!