Among the streets of the Born district is this bar with a French spirit, which makes natural wines its main star. An ideal place to enjoy a good drink in good company.
On that night we were looking for a place to have a drink. Then, Simone said: “Let’s go to L’Ànima del Vi”. We hadn’t been there before, but he knew it and knew what he was talking about. It is a beautiful corner of the Born where you can drink some good wines.
He didn’t need to say more, we were already convinced. And we crossed Via Laietana, to enter the world of narrow streets of the Born.
There it was, a few meters from Carrer de L’Argenteria, in Vigatans. A bar of those that we like: wooden door, barrel at the entrance, marble tables, a bar at the back and bottles.
Bottles of all sizes, shapes and colors, that filled the walls. On a blackboard, on the bar, the proposals for tapas and appetizers. And all over the place, a mix of old winery with French bistrot that we loved.
L’Anima del Vi was packed.
It was Friday and the night had just begun, but there were almost no empty tables. We found a free one, with a lot of luck, and we went for it.
The atmosphere was ideal. Groups of friends, couples, people at the bar, and glasses in some cases and bottles of wine to share in others, which were enjoyed at each table.
It was time to order and since we did not know what particular wine we wanted to try, they advised us according to our tastes and desire for that night.
Two full-bodied reds for the boys, a fruity white for the girl. And something to eat, we were on an empty stomach and it was good to accompany the glass with something delicious.
We chose some olives and a portion of ham from the blackboard. And it must be said: nothing we tried that night disappointed us. Quite the contrary: everything they put on our table was a pleasure for the palate.
The variety of olives was great and the ham… well, the ham was delicious. And cut so fine! The perfect accompaniment to the glasses of wine that we savor with pleasure, in that atmosphere so relaxed and cheerful at the same time. A place where we could spend hours, between talks and toasts.
From France with love
In 2006 L’Anima del Vi opened in Barcelona. It is a project born from the wishes of its owners Núria and Benoît to set up a bar (he, a student of oenology and viticulture; and she, a musician and viola teacher).
France was the place where they met and were united by the love of gastronomy and wines, they decided to give life to this project that remains firm and recognized in the old part of the city.
But L’Anima del Vi is not just another bar where you can have a glass of wine. The key difference of this proposal lies in creating a space to enjoy the so-called “natural wines”.
Each bottle that is opened in this place comes from producers, both French and Spanish, who are dedicated to making wines from the fermentation of grape juice, and nothing else
As they say on their own website, “the vast majority of our wines are made from grapes collected by hand, from voluntarily limited yields and from an agriculture that rejects any type of herbicide, phytosanitary products or synthetic chemical fertilizers”.
The result: a natural wine born from a healthy and balanced grape.
Without resorting to distributors, the owners seek direct contact with the producer and take care of such important details as transport from the winery to the premises.
Even inside L’Anima del Vi, the air conditioning is kept at a certain temperature to take care of the quality of the wines stored within its walls at all times.
And so much care, so much care and attention are appreciated.
One notices, just by entering, that this is a place where the quality of the product is valued and also, the customer experience. A space where everything does matter.
The idea of its owners is clear and they know how to transmit it to those who visit their bar.
Having a wine at L’Ànima del Vi is much more than that: it is a cozy and intimate space, where you can get closer to the experience of enjoying the authentic and alive which comes from the land and with lots of quality.
Before or after a good glass of wine at L’Anima del Vi, do not miss one of the “carassas” that are preserved in the neighborhood. If you want to know what a carasa is and its history, check out this article.
Barcelona’s beaches are the perfect escape for those who live here or visit the city, especially when hot days come. But this life of leisure, sand and sea that today is so familiar and natural to us every summer, did not begin until a little over 150 years ago.
Today we travel to the past to see what it was like to “go to the beach” in that Barceloneta.
Summer. Heat hovering around 30 degrees. Stinging sun on the skin. And one single wish: entering the sea, fresh and refreshing.
Afterwards, rest on the sand, listening to the mesmerizing murmur of the waves.
Around the world, the idea of “vacation” is always closely related to a season by the sea. “Going to the beach”, relaxing or practicing a sport in or near the water is what we look for, when we decide to go to the coast to enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Barcelona is a magnificent city that offers its visitors art, culture, history, gastronomy, nightlife… and the beach!
It has that privilege, that of allowing us to escape from the rhythm of the city to enter the world of swimsuits, umbrellas, the sun, the sand and the sea, just with a trip by subway or a few minutes of walking.
There, right in the Ciutat Vella district, next to the old town, is Barceloneta, born and raised next to the Mediterranean.
And that same Mediterranean sea is the key to Barcelona’s past, to its growth, to its openness to the world. The port was the great protagonist. And the commercial life of the city revolved around him.
But they were not those years of bathing or leisure on the beaches. That would come a long time later.
It was only during the 19th century that society discovered and turned bathing in the sea into a leisure activity. And Barceloneta would be one of its main stages.
A healthy bath
At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, a new “fashion” began: bathing in hot sea water for therapeutic use and the beach as a new place of leisure.
The more affluent classes then began to visit the coastal areas of France and Italy … and also reached the sea coast of Catalonia.
And, of course, Barcelona.
Now, when they “go to the beach” they do not enter the sea to bathe, as we do today. That was quite unusual and, if anything, only practiced by the more popular classes.
These visitors looked for bathhouses on the beaches: establishments built near the sea, where they could take baths in “picas” or small bathtubs located in cabins.
These baths could be hot or cold water, drawn directly from the Mediterranean.
There are already records in the 20s, of the 19th century, of three bathhouses in Barcelona. One of them, precisely in Barceloneta.
It was known as Can Solé, because it was located in the orchard that bore the same name. It opened its doors from June 10 to the end of October and depended on the Casa de Caridad.
It offered fresh and salt water baths, cold and warm and over the years, it would be expanded and its facilities would be improved. For example, the “picas” made of marble, a lounge and a cafe.
As it was far from the city center, and crossing Barceloneta in those days was not as “touristy” as it is now, it also included its own transport service from today’s Placa d’Antoni Maura, which was known as Sant Sebastià, to the bathhouse.
Hydrotherapy equipment, a steam engine to capture sea water, a garden with springs and even a terrace with views of the sea, were services that were added as of the middle of the 19th century.
But Can Solé will not be alone. During the decades of the 50s and 60s of the eighteen hundred other bathhouses will open their doors, such as the Shipyard o Sant Miquel.
With neoclassical architecture, these establishments had a lobby or lounge from which two wings emerged: one for men, and the other for women. A corridor separated them, along which were the cabins with marble or wooden bathtubs.
The final closure of Can Solé will arrive in 1861, when its facilities are purchased to expand those of La Maquinista Terrestre y Marítima, an important metallurgical company located in Barceloneta, and of which there are still traces in the neighborhood today: one of its streets It bears his name (La Maquinista) and the entrance arch to the factory is still standing.
The oriental baths
Around the same time that Can Solé disappeared, the first booths and barracks began to be installed on the beaches. These were assembled and disassembled every summer. The infrastructures will grow and add more services to users, such as restaurants, floating baths and gymnastics equipment.
In 1870, going to the beach had less and less to do with health and more with leisure, taking care of the body and the practice of swimming.
It is in this context that the most important baths in Barcelona would emerge: the Oriental Baths. Recognized as the best in Spain and one of the most important on the continent, they were built in 1872 following the project of the architect August Font i Carreras.
It consisted of a building with neo-Arab airs that had 50 bathtubs, duly separated between men, women and families. Luxury was visible, for example, in materials such as Carrara marble in hydrotherapy facilities.
For the year 1876, it was decided to add a wave sector that entered the water. This section was protected with a wooden structure and allowed bathers to perform gymnastic and swimming acrobatics in the water.
A year later, two 20-meter long indoor pools were inaugurated, which were illuminated by the recent electricity that arrived in Barcelona at the end of the 19th century.
And, how could it be less, they also had a tram service (first drawn by horses, and later electrified) to link the center of the city with the famous baths.
Barceloneta has changed a lot since those distant years. And the seafront much more. There are no more bathhouses and going to the beach is more democratic and popular than ever.
Manners, clothes, customs and customs have changed. But it is curious to imagine, while you are lying on the beach listening to the crashing of the waves (and the odd “cerveza-beer” vendor), those times when this hobby was born, which today is a pleasure for many.
Authentic and unique, this bar / restaurant that is already part of the life and history of the neighborhood is the perfect place to enjoy intense flavors, a legendary “bomb” and the best atmosphere, which leaves no doubt that you have come to the Barceloneta.
There is a detail of La Cova Fumada that says everything about them: on its facade, unlike all the bars and restaurants that one can go looking for, there is no sign.
No colorful and flashy letters to tell us what’s going on in there. Nothing to indicate that there, behind those old-looking doors and dark brown painted wood, is the famous Cova Fumada.
And they simply do not need it.
Those who live in the neighborhood know exactly where it is. And those who come from afar, if they know it, it is because someone sent them the information, someone took them or recommended the place to them. And that is more than enough.
Get comfortable where you can
La Cova Fumada is always full of people.
Life-long neighbors from the neighborhood who have breakfast or lunch here. Barcelonians who know that a visit to the Cova is a plan that must be repeated more than once in a lifetime. And tourists from all corners of the world, who find out that this is a gastronomic gem full of history.
Nobody wants to miss it. So if necessary (especially if you arrive after 1:00 p.m.), you line up and wait outside, until a table (or space) is available, which allows us to enter and enjoy some good tapas, accompanied by a cold beer, or a house wine.
The place is small.
Very small. A bar on the left, where there is always more than one who, instead of waiting for a table, enjoy their drink and food right there. Also on the left, but a little higher, are the wine barrels.
Then the tables, those made of marble and iron legs that are already a little journey back in time, are spread over the few square meters of the living room. That allows a few seats, so that only arriving at 11 in the morning, can one (perhaps) choose where to sit. Later, they are simply grateful that they found a place to occupy.
You can even share the table with others, if necessary. What’s more: even if you have a table all to yourself, they are so close to each other that you have the feeling of being part of a great family meal.
And finally, to the right of the premises, the place where magic happens: the kitchen and its fires.
Open to the living room, it is as small as the rest of the place. But it never stops. It is a coming and going of dishes and fills everything with the best possible aromas. It’s almost hypnotizing to watch them work at the pace they do, because once La Cova Fumada opens its doors, the orders don’t stop coming in. And their dishes don’t stop coming out.
The origin of the name
From that kitchen comes the name of this already mythical place in Barceloneta; apparently there was a time when there was not enough ventilation. That is why this old winery, affectionately called “cave”, was almost always full of smoke … that is, “smoked”.
And from that baptism, more than 75 years have passed.
Three generations of the same family have kept the history and life of La Cova alive. Very little has changed since its inception: the marble bar, the old doors and even the blackboard where you can read the menu proposals are still as present as its people.
These walls are light years away from glamour and “design”: here what counts is the true, the authentic, what counts as time passes. The essence has remained unchanged and is appreciated.
Going to La Cova is feeling part of something bigger: the history of a neighborhood, the lives of its people, always enjoying those same flavors, because they are the ones that never fail.
This family business opened its doors in 1944. La Barceloneta, with its identity of sea and fishermen was the perfect setting for this tapas bar that would make fresh fish and seafood the protagonists of its menu. But without a doubt, the big star is the “bomb.”
The (famous) Bomba
It was María, the grandmother of the current owners of the Cova, the brilliant creator of this delight that, over time, many tried to replicate in other restaurants. But it must be said: the Cova Fumada bomb is unique, because between the mashed potato, the meat filling and its two sauces (aioli and a very spicy red one) there is a secret ingredient that not even the CIA could unravel.
Legend has it that it was a man of the neighborhood, Enric, who unwittingly gave it the name. When tasting this delicacy he exclaimed: “This is the bomb!” And the rest is history.
Today, the brothers JosepMaría and MagíSolé carry on this family tradition: the first, receives customers at the door and is in charge of carrying out the waiting list. Attentive in his work, he never forgets anyone and juggles to find a place for everyone. Magí, for his part, takes his place in the kitchen with their mother, Palmira, and his son Guillem.
The rest of the staff is always the same. One has the feeling that if any of them were missing, the Cova would not be the same. All are fundamental pieces of a gear that works perfectly.
We insist: the rhythm in this place is non-stop. Amid the hustle and bustle of the tables, we don’t know how, but they manage to get each plate out, find a space for a new diner, serve you your drink and everything, at a speed that more than a fast food restaurant would envy.
What do we eat?
The question really should be: what do we NOT eat? Because everything is so good that you want to order the entire board. But you have to control yourself. Still, you can always come back.
We already talked about the bomb: so it would be a mortal sin not to ask for it.
We continue with the fish and shellfish: the cod with its tomato sauce is glorious; The marinated octopus has one of the most intense and delicious flavors we have ever tasted and the grilled squid, with garlic and parsley, always tempts us with its golden and crispy exterior and so tender at the same time.
If these do not convince you, there are also the marinaramussels, squid with onion, prawns, razor clams, cod fritters … all fresh and delicious.
Leaving aside the sea products, a salad (the Russian one or the one with tomatoes and onions) or the chickpeas with blood sausage are always worth a shot.
To drink, it is simple: beer or wine (red or white) from the house. The latter, served in a jug and somewhat cold, because of its power, always invites a good and refreshing nap.
The portions are not gigantic but they are at a good price. The idea is that you can try a little of everything. The premise is always this: popular cuisine at a popular price. In any case, the final bill will depend on your ability to control so as not to ask for everything there is.
In our life in Barcelona, Cova Fumada is that place we always want to return to. And we always do. Especially with friends.
It has that wonderful power to make us feel good, every time. In fact, with some it has become a ritual and a must-see every year they come to Barcelona. You can’t go home without having lunch at Cova Fumada. And if we can, we repeat.
Everything is joy and that incredible feeling that you are living the good things in life.
Tip: although we show you the schedules below, here is an important information. If you want to make sure you enter the Cova, the ideal time is around 12 noon. After 1:00 p.m., there is no other option than the waiting list. And make sure it’s written down: when the doors are closed at 3pm, everyone who is not on the list cannot go in.
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