Monvínic: the place to wine in Barcelona

Monvínic is the place to indulge in a broad international parade of wines in Barcelona. This wine bar cum contemporary Spanish restaurant is so popular locally that even parents do not hesitate to bring their buggies in and imbibe in some vino. So what draws these inter-generational bacchanalian symposia and why was Monvínic often included in the best wine bars in the world by many publications and wine critics, including the reputable Jancis Robinson, MW? They do things differently, and here is why it works.

When you swing through the glass door, you will be ushered into an elegant, sleek space that could dub as a bar of a boutique design hotel. Very distinct from either, the ubiquitous crowded and  tapas eateries and the intimidating or too touristy hotel lounges all over Barcelona, this is a serious, yet comfortable space for wine lovers where even families feel at ease bringing their little offsprings. The first time we wined and dined at Monvínic was on my birthday trip to Barcelona when next to us an entire Japanese family was enjoying a meal seated just next to the open kitchen set in the larger restaurant part. There is a semi-private room (sound-wise), that being sandwiched between an outdoor garden area and the main restaurant space by a see-through sliding door includes it more into the entire place. The design is above all focused on connecting and offering different options for customers coming here for varied occasions. Narrow bar seats lining the entrance hall feel chic even for the most demanding after-work meet-ups. Facing them is a private library where the staff can mingle over the accountancy of the business or a small-scale private event can be staged. The reference library is open to the Friends of Monvínic (members) and shelves an “extensive and discerning” collection of wine books, trade magazines, annual guides and recent auction catalogues. Monthly wine tastings enlighten the professionals and anyone eager to learn more about wine. Subscribe to their newsletter for updated info on these.
I like to sit high on one of the chairs lining the bar counter popping my gaze towards the fish tank resembling cooler where the opened sparkling, white and rosé bottles bathe in ice water behind the sommeliers’ work area. Now, let the muse entertain my vinous whims!
Radka Beach at Monvínic
Tablet wine list at MonvínicCheese plate

Monvínic on the global wine bar scene

Monvínic ruminates the Corkbuzz on Manhattan and Vinograf in Prague, but more design-driven, comfortable and offering a broader food menu. It can be dubbed as a subdued version of the excellent Taillevent 110 in Paris that further opened in London, the European capital of wine. There, also the Wine Workshop and Kitchen 28-50 spread its vinous legs, but the affluent city is set to change with the Brexit, so the position of the EU wine epicentre might move elsewhere. Heading East, the House of Roosevelt in Shanghai, with its wow effect would beat it, but again the food is so so. The Sohm Bar of Le Bernardin long-time head sommelier Aldo Sohm currently shakes New York wine-wise, but the food plays a minor note there. Barcelona is on to something.
Isabelle Brunet, the co-founder of the Monvínic project leads her team of sommeliers in a new adventure for wine lovers that she opened together with Sergi Ferrer-Salat in 2008. Flexibility, accent on high local cuisine next to simple tapas and snacks with wide wine scope is the core of their Barcelona .
Spanish croquettes at MonvínicBread and wine at Monvínic
The generous wine list is all digital and the half and full-glass listings change constantly making it fun almost each time you peak when sipping in. Between forty and fifty wines are opened daily. The tablet shows an image of the vineyards or winemaker(s), who made it into the current openings. You can browse by country, type of wine or region. My penchant for biodiversity pushes me to try any new grape varietal that I have not tasted yet, so each time I discover something exciting at Monvínic. Spain, like Italy and Greece has a long history of wine making and the diversity of the grape varietals grown there is mesmerising. Here, I tasted the Spanish Albillo from the Madrid region, Mencía and Godello from Galicia or Listán negro from the Canary Islands.
Spanish rice at Monvínic in Barcelon

The kitchen at Monvínic

The bar nibbles include traditional high quality tapas including the Spanish classics like croquettes, patatas bravas, salted Marcona almonds and of course sliced Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Many plates have been modified, adding a pinch of culinary adventure to the experience. The patatas bravas are served as a potato waffle with the aioli dripped in the hollow chess board pattern with tomato sauce. As fun as this looks though, the classic recipe is better. The single plated croquette was excellent though as was the top ranking acorn-fed Iberic ham served upon request with the house bread with an organic goat’s cheese baked in. Irresistible! The ingredients are sourced mainly from “local producers and harvesters who care for and respect their natural environment and are an essential part of the culture of our country”, writes  Monvínic. Even international favourites like the guac and chips served here are made from the local avocados.
Mediterranean scallops at MonvínicSpanish shrimps
The food at the restaurant is more elaborate, gastronomic style. Three tasting menus or a la carte pickings, weekly specials and large sharing plates prepared by a female chef and “gastronomic director” Ariadna Julian. In winter, sea urchin risotto was bathing in seafood juices, the scallops were cooked to tenderness and the spiced up prawn carpaccio highlighted the famous Catalonian seafood, while in spring courgettes grow into the menu. Sea urchin and the Pullet “brasa“, charcoal grilled blackened chicken are the vices of the chef. Seafood and the Pyrenées produce accompany the daily changing side dishes and vegetables. It is good food, but we prefer the simpler fare served at the bar. This is Barcelona, and great food winks at you everywhere, so I would think twice before coming back to dine here. Before or after dinner glass of wine or tapas at Monvínic is ideal.
Mencia Spanish wine
Rioja wineindigenous Spanish grape varietals
Back to wine, biased locally wherever we travel to, some of our favourite wines there were Spanish since we focused on the Iberian wines but also the Canary islands’ volcanic bottlings of Listan negro from Tenerife were great finds! Mencia from Galicia is more soft, earthy and savoury than its more gripping expression in the Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra regions. The old Bierzo vines farmed bidynamically at Villa de Corullón for top range Moncerbal by Descendientes de J Palacios, while being rather a special birthday treat is a great bet, as was the perfectly decanted 1991 vintage Viña Real Rioja Reserva by CVNE. Monvínic is the best place to enjoy wine in Barcelona. Whether the off the beaten path glass seduces you or betting on a well-known bottle from the world’s best wine regions, you will find something here that Dionysus could only dream about – an ever changing supply of artfully fermented grape juice. Each bottle is unique, so savour it mindfully with pleasure, salut!
Mon & Sat: evening only: 7-10:30pm, Tue-Fri: lunch 1:30-3:30pm; 8-10:30pm; Sun closed
 Diputació 249, Barcelona
+34 93 272 61 87

The Green Spot Barcelona: vegetarian dining designed cool in the Catalan capital

The Green Spot is shielded from the gazes of major thoroughfares in Barcelona and the kinky street vendors around Port Vell. As a peaceful sanctuary this eco-minded contemporary vegetarian restaurant does not veer at tourist crowds, but for the green lifestyle seekers the calming and warm hues of the oak meets terracotta is the best what Barcelona has got so far. As you enter through the long, oak-clad corridor split from the kitchen by a verdant inner garden, you will tune yourself into its green mood.
The Green Spot vegetarian restaurant in BarcelonaThe Green Spot chef
The Green Spot elevated the ladder of vegetarian dining in Barcelona. The Mediterranean city of seafood paellas and meat-loaded tapas lacks in a scale of quality, plant-based eateries. There are other good vegetarian, some vegan, raw, locally sourced, farm-to-table eateries around the Catalan capital, yet none does the feel good concept better than En Compañía de Lobos. The founder Tomas Tarruella creates “spaces with personality, cared for design and gastronomy, quality in the produce used in avant-garde ambiences, well priced.” The restaurant group manages eight very popular design-driven cafés and restaurants in Spain so far (the newest is coming in Mallorca soon). Bosco de Lobos in Barcelona and Ana la Santa in Madrid are its stars, but The Green Spot is more than that.
The Green Spot is the first purely vegetarian and plants-mainly focused restaurant by the intrepid group, although it does not blink at you as such. Its message is discreet attracting non-vegetarians dining next to the strict veggies. This trend opens a question box – is eco-responsible dining out with focus on health and sustainability becoming mainstream in Europe? Boosted by the cool veggie lifestyle aura of LA, San Francisco, and New York, now Berlin, LondonMilan, PragueVienna as well as Barcelona offer plenty of top quality local, grains, nuts and vegetables highlighting restaurants. In the latest Flax & Kale pioneered the flexiterian diet, juicing and other health centric eating out, yet using organic vegetarian ingredients hit its streets only recently.
Spanish earthenwareeco design by En Compañía de Lobos

The Green Spot vegetarian lifestyle designed cool

No need to dress up, like almost anywhere in Barcelona, you can wear shorts during the weekend brunch and the weekly lunch hours. For dinner, some nights are sparked up through live music sessions (Tue & Thurs) and the mood gets reportedly more jazzed up. We only came for brunch and lunch, but as the inviting character of the long, copper coated low chair bar, the tables nesting along the walls and under the arched ceilings assembled with the En Compañía de Lobos entertaining through food experience, we knew it was doing something right on the Iberian peninsula. A Brazil-based designer Isay Weinfeld masterminded my favourite hotels in South America, the Fasano in São Paulo and in Punta del Este, Uruguay. The oak, sleek curves and natural feel characteristic of his design fill any space with grace and purity. Located in a historic neoclassical building dating back to 1840 on the same compound where the Picasso family moved to in Barcelona, the space roared for respect. The Green Spot tamed it.
vegetarian pizza

Food: Global culinary ideas meet local creativity

Far from tapas size portions, sharing is the best approach at The Green Spot. The chef Marcelino Jimenez paired with a vegetarian food specialist Julia Kleist to offer a finer experience than any of the Teresa Carles local casual eateries (Flax & Kale, Teresa’s Juicery, …). Although a simple Muhammara – Red pepper dip with walnuts, pita bread, carrot and celery crudités and pizza pop to the seasonal menu, their presentation is more sophisticated, and the portions smaller than at Flax & Kale. We had to try the charcoal dough pizza. The Activated carbon black pizza with a blackish thin crust had an ash-like bite, but the generous toppings of goat’s cheese, pumpkin, caramelized onions and parsnip moistened it. A sprinkle of pistachios on top made the difference from your regular slice. Order some salad with it for the perfect main course to share. The Japanese seaweed salad with umeboshi, black and white sesame vinaigrette makes for a funky pair, but there are enough greens to temper the intensity of the black noodle-shaped hijiki algae, with red radish and edamame freshen it all up.
vegetarian mezzevegetarian Barcelona
From the starters our favourites were the Beet Tartare with Avocado, grapefruit and horseradish and the fine Carpaccio of kohlrabi, spirulina, pistachios and tamarind vinaigrette. Some plates like the Macrobiotic bowl, Pizza Margarita and the four cheese topped with the seasonal (May-June) zucchini flower and jerusalem artichoke are organic.
The rustic clay ware plates recall Hearth Ceramics of San Francisco, the trendy East London eateries, but are locally made by Aguade potters studio in Barcelona. The world meets the Mediterranean in the fusion cuisine served on them. The Green Spot may disappoint the purists but to any adventurer admiring the world’s culinary diversity, who wants to eat more responsibly in a beautiful environment this is the place to eat in Barcelona. The Greek Dolmadas are stuffed not with rice but quinoa wrapped in grape leaves. “From the World” come the Quesadillas with kimchi and avocado, some curries, Korean and Austrian inspired dishes next to the popular vegan burgers. More healthful Whole wheat spätzle with raclette cheese and caramelised onion propped from the Alps, while the fresh Pea dip with dukkah touches on the Middle Eastern tradition.
The menu colourfully highlights the allergens (sulphites inclusive), raw, vegan and gluten-free items. There are vegan soups, Green hemp pizza with vegan cashew “cheese”, gluten-free Sweet potato tagliatelle with macadamia nut sauce luxuriates on freshly shaved black truffles. Something safe for everyone, just do not crave fish or meat here.
Vegetarian food in Barcelonabrunch coktail
The desserts blend Michelin ideas with simple sweet treats. The Lemon and celery sorbet was the most disappointing creation though. No wonder, the Michelin restaurants would serve something like this as a palate cleanser/refresher and not as the staring dish. Chia and matcha lovers will ohm over a pudding blending both of these trendy “superfoods”. Vegan brownie and ice creams fill the plant-based cravings. In June the Rhubarb and strawberry crumble with vanilla sauce graced the menu and my favourite fruit, the persimmon made an appearance too. My brain needs some sugar, excuse me “clean” eaters.
cold pressed organic juice vegetable dessert
To sip on, the drinks were not overlooked. Whether you crave an organic wine, a cocktail like a bloody spiced-up kimchi mary for brunch as I had, a cup of coffee, tea or just plain Spanish water, you won’t be bored. All the wines by the glass were well chosen.
House pressed raw juices from organic ingredients are perfect alcohol-free brunch pals, but they can be taken to go since they are bottled every morning. The cold pressed Maia was perfectly balanced blend of pineapple, apple, cucumber, lemon and mint.
Restaurants like The Green Spot brighten the time we live in when the hippie lifestyle of the 60s has been luxed up into a trendy, global movement of the millennials and the generations succeeding them.
12 C. de la Reina Cristina, Barcelona
+34  938 02 55 65
Mon – Fri: 12:30PM – 12AM
Sat & Sun: 1PM – 12AM; Fri & Sat drinks till 2AM

Flax & Kale Barcelona: four decades of flexiterian lifestyle inspiring you to eat better, be happier and to live longer

Flax & Kale in Barcelona subscribes to flexiterianism, a breed of a semi-vegetarian dietary lifestyle, with the occassional inclusion of meat, fish, eggs, and a rare sight of dairy on the colourful and detailed healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
Founded in 1979 by the health-conscious Catalan chef Teresa Carles Borràs, the 80% plant-based café, restaurant and bar, Flax & Kale was the veggie trend setter in the city of meat and seafood-loaded tapas. Daily packed, the brunches are roaring with a healthy human buzz so Teresa’s grain, nut & vege-centric eateries now venture into new locations in and outside of Barcelona.
KalePomegrenates at Flax & Kale in Barcelona

The sustained joy from locally-sourced flexitarian lifestyle

Flax & Kale has a great terrace to be on sunny days, so abundant in Catalunya. There, the rooftop vegetable garden flashes leafy green shades even in December. Sipping and munching on the tasty servings enjoy the vista of the church of Parròquia de Sant Pere Nolasc Mercedaris, the dome of which is embellished in a colourful mosaic. The bells dinging as the old heralds of time. The almost sixty-years-old Teresa’s growing up on the farm land of Lleyda inspired her to growing the fruits and vegetables or purchasing from local farms for her restaurants.
Flexiterianism is the most realistic, balanced diet that is not too restrictive, while still being sustainable for the planet that is increasingly overwhelmed by the alarmingly growing human population. Unknowingly, perhaps due to my strongly aware feminine instinct, I subscribe to this lifestyle, where an occasional animal protein is consumed in additional to the predominantly vegetarian diet. Socially and more practically, for a frequent traveller disembarking in the global urban mazes of tempting gastronomic hedonism, it would be too challenging to become fully vegetarian. My semi-vegetarian eating habits were squared by my doctors, who recommended for many health reasons to keep eating little meat (once, maximum twice per week). Plant-based eating is the way to go for most of us.
Church Parròquia de Sant Pere Nolasc Mercedaris from the terrace of Flax & Kale in Barcelona

Finding the balance with Flax & Kale while in Barcelona

Preparing tasty and healthy food, while being sustainable Flax & Kale became my go to breakfast recovery after an indulgent gastronomic night at one of Barcelona’s incredible restaurants. The morning after is always hard, but walking along the beach, strolling through the narrow carreteras of Barcelonetta and getting to this healthful café near the city’s busiest vein, the Plaza de Catalunya felt the most rejuvenating during my recent trips to the Catalan metropolis.
Restaurants like Flax & Kale, suitable for all social meals during the day and night, make a balanced lifestyle easier and way more enjoyable. Next to ultra-casual eateries, the plant-centric culinary trends swished into some of the best chefs’ consciousness, so now we can all savour the diversity of the earth on any occasion. With top chefs like Alain Ducasse in France, Jean Georges Vongerichten in the US, and Balwoo Gongyang, the chef at the first Korean-style temple restaurant in the world to receive a Michelin star. You don’t need to subscribe to the Buddhist philosophy of non-harming in order to eat better, more responsibly for your own health and for the edible nature’s resources, yet if you eat healthily than you will do less harm naturally.

Superfood breakfast, wholesome lunch and sustainable dinner

Acai bowlThe food at Flax & Kale is based on “organoleptical pleasure” and a small amount of omega3 rich oily fish and eggs. The omega 3s in animal sources are the easiest to absorb by the human body and since they are of a slightly different constitution than when present in plants, their inclusion into our diet is necessary for the brain development and protection of cells from degenerative diseases. Flexiterianism is therefore more healthy and balanced than a vegan diet. We loved the satisfying brunch plate of gluten-free SAVOURY PANCAKES. The generous tower of almond and buckwheat flower based pancakes with red quinoa, corn, Chinese onion and turmeric, interlaced with a decadent peanut cream sauce, mushrooms, rucola, avocados, tomatoes, adzuki beans, pico de gallo and a poached egg. You won’t leave hungry after such a wholesome feast.vegan pancakes
The fibre-abundant flax rich in magnesium and potassium and above all the cancer growth inhibiting lignans (breast and prostate) appears in numerous pastries at Flax & Kale. There are many nutritional benefits to consuming flax seeds that were proven by rigorous science, so eating flax in a bagel or gluten-free muffin naturally sweetened with agave or coconut sugar is great. The Aussie classic breakfast, the AVOCADO TOAST is served with a drizzle of lemon, anti-inflammatory cayenne, flax and chia seeds is a great morning starter that is not too large.
Breakfast avocado toast
The most disappointing plate we tried were the HEALTHY VEGGIE EGGS BENEDICT served on a house-made english muffin. The plant-based hollandaise sauce with truffles was boring since we could not detect the fragrance of much truffles in the dish.
On warm days the frozen fruit and seed-laced PITAYA BOWL or the Brazilian export – the ACAI BOWL feel more indulgent than you might expect from a “healthy” label, and they are calories-rich and sweetened, be it naturally, so have them on active days.
Vegetarian specialities at Flax & Kale Barcelona
Now popular from California, through FloridaLondon, Prague to Milan, some raw plates have not been heated above 48°C to keep the enzymes alive in Barcelona too. For lunch I like the seasonal RAW ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS. The zucchini blossoms are stuffed with peanut and macadamia nuts cream, accompanied by a rich Andalusian salmorejo of sun-dried tomatoes with basil, a scoop of guacamole and pico de gallo, and all sprinkled with goji berries, green salad and radish sprouts, carrot and corn. A colourful and vibrant bowl. There are some fun food choices for kids like the veggie burger or tomato rice spaghettini, that can help you get more nutrients into the little ones.
Dining roomrustic design

Urban cool meets sustainable design

Most of you might appreciate a dictionary of some of the exotic “superfoods” that are used at Flax & Kale. Black garlic, chlorella, maca, mizuna, nixtamalised corn (cooking in alkalising liquid that increases its nutritional value), and the other less familiar global nutritional bombs are described inside the menus and clipped to the map inside a private dining room on the second floor.
From the large, buzzing main dining area, and a smaller room at the back, you must take an elevator to the third floor, passing the kitchen and ingredients storage on the second floor to the charming roof patio. What an expose!
Here, a terrarium meets urban casual design with large leafy plants and red bricks mixing in a bright, large-windowed space.
cold pressed juicePitaya bowl

The cold-pressed juice pioneer in Spain to go, order online or sip in

The cold-pressed juices are the founder’s creations sold under the label Teresa’s Juicery, one of the first cold-pressed juicing brands in Spain. Forever Young, an orange blend with carrot, grapes, Peruvian lucuma, turmeric, pineapple and lime juice, and the Green Love (apples, celery, ginger, spinach, pepper, lemon) are my favourite picks.
The gazpachos and soups in the bottle are practical for a lunch to go, and the prices are much lower than at most cold pressed juiceries that I have encountered in any major global city.
The nut mylks are perhaps the best in their class. Rarely I have tasted a better almond mylk, but also the Coconut meat Masala Chai blend sweetened with low-glycemic coconut sugar is heavenly. You can have the version with turmeric sweetened with honey instead. As tiger nuts make the paleo inroads on the grocery shelves, Teresa soaked them and strained a rich mylk for her twist on Mexican Horchiata with agave and chia seeds.
For an after workout, healthier energy reboot try the superfood energy protein balls and bars. The ENERGY SPICY BAR is made of almonds, walnuts, raw cacao, cayenne pepper, pistachios and antioxidant-rich goji berries, and is not that sweet.
vegan energy bar
TERESA CARLES has recently opened a new Vegetarian Restaurant nearby and Teresa’s Stairway to Health, a fast-health-food concept. Many ingredients come from Lleida, her birth region. Like these home-made marmalade fruits:


Adding only the necessary amount of brown sugar to let the cooked fruit talk, her marmalade is used in breakfast wholewheat toast (can be replaced by spelt croissant).
Some cartoonists may imagine a flexiterian as a liberal thinker relishing kale with a good shaving of parmesan, a thin, athletic and energetic individual, flexing the biceps over a vegetable patch and caressing all cattle with respect. I am very athletic, eloquent (my mouth is definitely very energetic), tall, and I do not hang on preaching the one way only, I am open to reasonable revisions. Let’s be flexible, let’s all become flexitarians, and keep our awareness focused on reducing our meat consumption. After all, there are some many delectable plants, and the cookbooks with some chefs today stretch their veggie-based imagination beyond your wildest dreams of carrots and rabbits jumping happily in the Garden of Eden. Let’s enjoy our food, responsibly and creatively!
C/Tallers 74B (Cantonada Gravina), Placa Castella, Ciutat Vella, Barcelona
+34 933 175 664

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