This is a cocktail bar specialized in gin-tonics that we met one day in the heart of the Gràcia neighborhood, and that stands out for its cozy and elegant atmosphere, for the variety of products but, above all, for a warm and personalized service that makes you come back again and again.
It was during Mariela’s first birthday in Barcelona. We were visited by Ariel, a friend who lives in Argentina, and we went out to celebrate in the streets of Gràcia, our neighborhood in those days.
Towards the end of the night, we were looking forward to one more toast and Elephantaappeared in front of us: a small place, with dim lighting, comfy chairs, low tables and a relaxed atmosphere with good background music to continue talking with whoever is with you.
Special paragraph for the bar: situated at the end of the room, full of different colored jars and bottles that called us to get closer and order a gin-tonic. So we went in, tried it and it didn’t disappoint.
Because not only is the place attractive, but the people who serve you are super friendly and the cocktails are great.
So we came back. And we presented the place to more friends. And it even became a “tradition” with some of them: every year, when our dear friends Tony Sersale (amazing music and singer, listen to Tritón for example) and Lucre visit us, there is always a night at Elephanta, with those glasses that we like so much.
One of those nights…
On one of those nights, we sat at the bar. We had arrived at a critical time and the place was packed, with groups of friends and couples, like us, looking for a drink after dinner.
And those stools at the bar that we were able to sit on allowed us to meet Pau, one of Elephanta’s bartenders. We have already said this before, but in case you are just getting to know us, I tell you that we are talkative people. Especially if there is atmosphere and a few drinks to accompany.
So, we started talking to Pau, obviously about gins.
Varieties, aromas, different distillations, rarities, pairings… He showed us a world that we barely knew, and made us feel so comfortable and welcome, that we fell in love.
And it’s not that we were lucky that day, and Pau was just in a good mood.
Nope. It’s always like that.
Because those who work at Elephanta are passionate about what they do, friendly and professional people, who want you to not only have a good drink, they want you to also have a unique experience.
And then of course you come back. Needless to say, it worked with us.
The “birth of the elephant”
It was in 2008 that Elephanta opened its doors as a cocktail bar.
Its owner, Nuria, was coming back from a trip to Latin America and had decided to change course in her working life. In that new search, she opened this cocktail bar, inheriting the name of the tearoom that used to be right there. And while Elephanta initially served the typical variety of alcoholic beverages, it was Nuria who thought of prioritizing gins, long before they became fashionable everywhere.
When the gin-tonic fever was getting higher, Elephanta already had its little place in the nights of Barcelona, and it finished establishing itself as a benchmark in the world of gin.
In 2014, the renovation of the premises arrived, to finish giving its identity: a small, warm, intimate, elegant space. And people never stopped coming in since.
If you are a knowledgeable and a great gin-tonic taster, this is your bar. And just so you don’t get bored, they offer you the opportunity to try something new, renewing their menu often. They also offer a new gin every month, so do not hesitate to ask for it because it is usually out of the menu and always worth it.
And if you don’t know anything about gin-tonics, you have hardly tried them and you have no idea where to start, this is also your bar. You will always have the best recommendations, they will know how to guide you, taking into account your tastes and we recommend you trust the staff of Elephanta, because they know what they are talking about.
Even if you can’t decide on any of the drinks, they have an alternative: a tasting of 3 different gins. No worries, that is not 3 measures of gin: it is 1 measure, divided into 3 different proposals. And, as Pau has told us, it is the best way to take risks and try something new.
If you are one of those who like to discover new places, cozy, beautiful, with a good proposal and a great vibe, Elephanta is your next bar. Who knows, maybe we meet there sometime. Because as I already told you, we always come back.
When you visit Elephanta, and you have already enjoyed both its hospitality and its delicious cocktails, do not missPlaça de la Virreina, it is close and you will like it.
Here is the information for you to find the place when you are in the Gràcia Quarter:
A few meters from the Barcelona City Council offices, behind wooden doors filled with Street art, is “El Cuiner de Damasc” (Carrer dels Templers 2), recognized throughout Barcelona as the place where the best kebabs are served. Fresh products, homemade preparation and the best vibe of its people, will have you come back more than once.
Our friend Facundo, an Argentine who came to Barcelona more than 16 years ago, had told us: “The best kebab in Barcelona is in the Placa Sant Miquel”. And if someone affirms something so emphatically, especially if it is food, we are going to check it out.
The truth is that Barcelona is full of places like this. A kebab for a good price is the ideal proposal when you are hungry and not on a big budget.
Or in a hurry and looking for a two-course lunch and dessert (same goes for dinner).
We confess we have tried several kebabs, that’s why we were intrigued by this place, so centric and so recommended. And I say “so recommended”, because later we discovered that not only was Facundo a regular and a fan of these kebabs, but there were many more who talked about him. So, we went there one night to see if this place deserved so much praise.
Arriving at “El Cuiner de Damasc”
So we reached the doors of “El Cuiner de Damasc”, at the corner of Carrer dels Templers and Carrer del Palau, in the Gothic Quarter. A few meters away is the Placa de Sant Miquel, with its famous sculpture paying tribute to the castellers and the Barcelona City Council.
There cannot be something more central in the city.
As soon as we entered we were greeted by a queue of people waiting to make their order.
Yes, there is a queue.
And yes, it can be long. The queue and the wait.
But it does not matter. Here at the Cuiner de Damasc you wait for how long is necessary. Because it’s worth it.
As much as to eat the best kebab in Barcelona.
Those who arrive already know that this is the possible scenario, especially if one goes in after 9pm.
The Cuiner closes at 11pm; so around 10:30 pm no one else can enter.
The lucky ones who have stayed inside will receive their prize, which is buying and enjoying the best kebab in town. Those who arrive later will have to return another day, but earlier.
There are some places that achieve that fame and can afford to close, even knowing that there are people left out. Or even not having a large sign with your name on the facade for them to find.
The thing is that El Cuiner de Damasc does not need that. Their fame precedes them.
And their clients accept it. Because in return, this place offers you the warmth of its service, the freshest products and flavors that make you want to visit again.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we are looking for in a good food place? It could be said that they know how to apply this infallible formula and it shows.
Their team and products
Salem is the owner,who arrived from Syria years ago, and who welcomes his customers. Sympathetic and sociable, he can be seen among the tables chatting with people.
Carlos and Carles are behind the counter, preparing and cooking the kebabs one by one. There is a phrase that Carlos told us when we met him, that sums it up: “I don’t have clients, I have friends.”
And it’s true. He makes you feel like a long-time friend, while putting all the dedication to that next kebab that will be yours in a few minutes.
The other key is this word: “homemade”.
They make everything, from the pita bread to the döner kebab that spins around against the fire, ready be cooked.
They prepare the combination of turkey and lamb meats themselves, which gets roasted. And it is Carlos who is responsible for ensuring that they are well done, juicy and pushed against the fire. Work and dedication.
And then came the flavor. Incredible.
Thanks to the perfect combination of bread, meat, vegetables and the sauce they prepare. At this point I am just speechless, and I do ask you to go and try it.
As our friend Facundo once told us: “Go and try it.”
We tell you the same, go and try it, do it and you will know what we are talking about.
If you are enjoying the kebab from El Cuiner de Damasc, walk a few steps and reach thePlaça Sant Miqueland then continue your tour of the Gothic Quarter, which you will love.
Here’s how to find the place if you are walking around the Gothic Quarter:
The Cuiner de Damasc, as we have already said, has an unbeatable location if you are visiting the Old Town of Barcelona, and its heart: the Gothic Quarter. Although they have tables inside the premises, many also choose to take their kebab and eat it outside; and steps away, is the Placa de Sant Miquel, a large space to enjoy the sun and make yourself comfortable.
This square was not always like this
In fact, its configuration is quite modern, if we think that this place has been part of Barcelona for more than 2000 years.
So let’s review the changes a bit: in Roman times, some hot springs were located in this same square. But after the empire ended and with the consolidation of Christianity, the same space was occupied by a Romanesque church that was built on the structure of the Roman building.
The name of the current square comes from the name of this church, which was the Sant Miquel church.
The construction stood until its demolition in 1868, dated back in 1147, being one of the oldest churches in Barcelona. It is worth clarifying that before this, there had been another Romanesque church, which also was destroyed in 1145.
As the temple had been built on the bases of the Roman baths, the nave had the mosaics of this ancient construction on its floor, with motifs of fishes and monsters in black. Today, they are in the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia, for those who want to see them personally.
The 1147 Romanesque church underwent several renovations throughout the centuries. In the 16th century, a Gothic-Renaissance door was added on one side, which had the image of Sant Miquel on the tympanum.
In 1868 the demolition of the church was decided in order to expand the City Council offices, which ended a year later.
The church was “dismembered” and some of its elements can still be seen in Barcelona. For example, the Gothic-Renaissance façade is today part of the Church of la Mercè, in Carrer Ample. If you look closely, you can see on the stones the numbers that were used to identify the order of the stones, used in the transfer process.
The square today
Today, in the middle of the square, we see a sculpture that is very significant for the Catalan culture, but which generates some confusion at first glance.
More than one thinks they see a fence or the wire mesh that covers the champagne or champagne bottles. And if you are one of the latter, in reality, you are not so disoriented.
According to the sculptor, Antoni Llena i Font, the idea for this work came to him one day when he was buying wine and he saw it. He thought that “it was a very nice abstraction to make the castle, because it contains the idea of cohesion, fragility, transparency.”
Now, you may be wondering: what “castell”? Well there we go. One of the Catalan traditions that we like the most, and that is repeated every time there is a party in the cities and towns, is that of the Castellers: human towers, human castles, built on the basis of trust, cooperation, solidarity and a lot of effort.
And they represent what we can achieve together as a society, if we collaborate and put the best of each other for that common good.
The sculpture by Antoni Llena i Font is called Homenatge als Castellers, and although it was an idea in development since 2004, it gained momentum and materialized with its inauguration in 2011. And this materialization occurred because a year before the castellers were recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The work consists of 12, 10cms diameter stainless steel tubes, which intertwine until reaching 26.5 meters in height. At the same time, it represents the fragility and strength of a castle.
If you are far from Catalonia, we invite you to watch a video of one of the castellers performances on YouTube (you will find hundreds of videos). But if you are lucky enough to see them live, in these lands, do not miss the opportunity. It is a more than exciting show and always takes place around celebrations and parties.
And if you are truly willing to know this world of the castellers, we promise we will make a video about them, so you can know them more thoroughly. A promise is a debt.
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