croquettesBarcelona remains a very cool place to dine. From the humble tapas bar with a small selection of cured meats and padron peppers to the more avant garde Michelin-starred restaurants, the spectrum of Spanish food is well covered. Don't expect the tapas bars or the small local restaurants to be cheap. If they are serving up a quality experience using good quality ingredients, you will pay for it.

Don't automatically write off hotel dining room experiences either. We had a very good meal in one of these called Nhube (an NH hotel), where the menu was created by Ferran Adria. For 29 we had a 3 course meal of well executed and slightly funky food - but without foams or spheres. In fact although dining at the higher rated restaurants involved techniques that French and Italian chefs might not countenance, there wasn't a gaudy display of molecular gastronomy. There were however little clever touches that we at home would find difficult to master, which added to the experience rather than dominating it. This is far more to our taste.

Seafood fans love Barcelona. Of the major European cities, Barcelona restaurants would probably serve the best array of anything that began life in the ocean. The choice is wide and the seafood fresh. Monkfish featured on several of the dinners we had and as it is a favourite of ours, it caused us no hardship. It was always perfectly cooked too. In the tapas bars, the razor and other clams are good choices - alongside plenty of choice of every part of a pig.

We have already written of our Cal Pep experience. I have read reviews of it being a tourist-only spot, but that didn't explain the Spanish gentlemen perched next to us who dined there weekly.

tapas 24Tapas 24 is another of those more well known tapas bars which carry the same label. Certainly there were a number of tourists (including an Englishman wearing shorts and sandals and socks, who only needed to utter one word to confirm his provenance) but there were a number of locals as well. If your timing is unfortunate, you will need to queue and finally be ushered to some cramped quarters where the food will fly out to your table. Worth the wait? For a one time experience, yes, but there is a lot of fat carrying the flavour in the food and you wouldn't want to go straight to bed after eating. Obviously there are any number of tapas bars - even chains like the quite good Taller de Tapas - where the menus are very much the same and the difference between enjoyable and not so, will be of the moment - service, surroundings or company.

Pastries and bread rival the the best of the French. Our breakfast most mornings consisted of a bocadilla with ham, chorizo or tortilla and a coffee which will set you back the equivalent of less than NZ$4.00. And this in the middle of the city where you can only imagine that rents aren't cheap.

boqueriaLa Boqueria is always a must for food-inclined visitors to the city. A truly amazing array of fruit, vegetables, seafood, sweet treats and every part of an animal - and I mean every part of the animal.

There are other markets as well of course but none that match the array and diversity of La Boqueria.

Don't, of course, expect to dine early. We rocked up to a little local fish restaurant called Cheriff (average food) at midday to make a lunch booking. Lunch began at 1.30pm, so we booked wondering why they looked slightly querulous when we did so. Indeed we had the restaurant to ourselves for the first half hour. Something in the translation got lost when we told them we were from New Zealand and they told us that their chef was from there as well and dragged him out to meet us. Turned out he was Irish and not that pleased to be dragged from the kitchen.

We always try and fit some Michelin dining experiences into our visit - 1 star where the experience is not too stuffy and the chef is still usually on the upward path of his career.

The highlight this time would have to be Comerc 24, but earlier visits have seen us enjoy Alkimia and Manairo.

meatballsTo sum up the Barcelona food experience - you would be very unlucky to have a truly bad eating experience in the city. Sometimes you will be really wowed - either because it is of the moment but more likely because fantastic produce has been given a slight twist from its normal preparation and you must congratulate the chef for his innovation and daring.

Paris food report to follow!