We stayed in a hotel called Medinaceli, which I found on Hotels.com as recommended by a colleague whose recommendations I respect. Another colleague suggesting trying hotels in the back street of the Barri Gotic but conceded that as I was - originally - going on my own and intending to be wandering around at Silly O'Clock, this was not necessarily advisable.
I would have no hesitation in recommending it. It was exactly as we expected, and no complaints whatsoever. The shower was particularly good, having different jets at different heights to massage the body. It was just off the Passeig de Colom and easy walking distance of Las Ramblas and the Port Vell, walking distance of Barceloneta. It wasn't cheap but at the time of booking it seemed to be more affordable than other hotels in its class.
On arrival we were quite desperate to get some refreshment - Jimmy had refused to eat or drink on the plane, because they charged foreverything (a bit of a surprise because we thought Iberia would have at least given out soft drinks as complimentary). We hadn't banked on it taking so long in the taxi, unfortunately there was an accident en route which caused gridlock and made the journey take an hour and a half. Just one of those things, I suppose. The taxi driver tried to undercharge us a result but we insisted on overpaying (he was just as frustrated as us, but we all kept calm). And we had an excellent and detailed view of the cemetery at Montjuic.
There was no shortage of small bars and cafes in the immediate environs of the hotel. For once we got sensible. We wanted water and coffee so just went in the first place we saw, even though it was no smoking and the food menu was not enticing. Then we moved on and ended up at the top of Las Ramblas. We sat down outside the first bar we saw but soon realised that common sense should prevail over immediacy, and as there were only two serving staff and two enormous and loud stag/hen parties from England, we moved on.
Ravenous we came to Casa Joan on Rambla Santa Mónica and had a good and filling meal. I had a fish stew and Jimmy had oxtail. I wouldn't rave about it being the 'best' but it was satisfactory, good value and good service.
Jimmy found an ice cream parlour more or less opposite the Liceu and returned several times.
After an early evening siesta we headed across the Litoral and down the Rambla del Mar for drinks and tapas. It was very plastic and commercial there; our Tapas came to as much as our meal earlier. We then wandered back to the main drag, a bit surprised to see so many places closed at 11, but eventually found a bar where we drank mojitos for a couple of hours.
We didn't get up early on Saturday, and it wasn't long until brunch. This was where we struck lucky. We wandered through the Placa Reial and randomly chose one of the many restaurants there. My 'random' being "it's got linen tablecloths, let's look at the menu". This turned out to be Les quinze nits; a quick google finds it well reviewed. We chose a seat outside, even though the maitre d' warned us that if it rained (possible) we couldn't move to another table. We got there at one and left just after three, and paid €60 for three courses each, a bottle of wine, water, 2 Irish coffees for him and 2 cappuccinos for me. We were amazed to see it fill up quickly and then for a massive queue to develop, snaking back far into the square. Every time we passed it subsequently, the queue was massive.
I started with a goats cheese and walnut salad, followed by a fish stew and finished with a cheesecake with mango chutney. Really excellent food.
On the Sunday we walked out to Barceloneta. Alongside the Maritime Museum and the Passeig de Joan de Borbo, you really are spoilt for choice for places to eat. We did in fact sit down at one place in PdJdB, because rain was threatening, but the most appealing dish was egg and chips, which, I am sure, if I had been in an egg-and-chip mood, it would have been fine. We quickly decided to stick to our original plan. Lonely Planet had recommended several places in a side road off - Carrer de l'Almirall Aixada. We don't stick religiously to guide book recommendations; in this case we spotted a place which turned out to be recommended - Can Ros, where once again we were given excellent food and excellent service. I started with an excellent goats cheese and roasted vegetables, with a bouillabaisse for main, and finished with a fine Crema Catalunya.
From there you can see a pattern emerging. And that in a nutshell is my problem. I think all the meals we had were of high quality; particularly noticeable was the freshness of the ingredients. And when visiting Spain for a long weekend, I have no problem with eating exclusively Spanish (or Catalan) food. Barcelona was not so much a problem as Madrid, where I did get to the point of thinking - oh god, not another restaurant serving the same old same old unvaried. I also recognise that when you visit a place you operate differently than in your own hometown. But I did think that if I was there for a whole week, I would just get bored. Ignorant people knock food in Britain, but when I am going out in London, or even in the local suburbs, (or New York, or Calangute, or even Na'ama Bay, maybe) I first think 'what sort of food do I want'. I did think there is more variety on pokey little Floral Street than on the entire Las Ramblas. Obviously, if you know a city, you know the hidden secrets, the restaurants that appear to be nothing special but have a certain je ne sais quoi. I accept that I limit myself by not eating meat, but I do eat fish, so it's not like I'm a macrobiotic vegan or whatever.
We had an interesting encounter in a bar near the hotel. We had only gone there because the maid was making our room up. Nice quiet backstreet bar, with a customers in twos or threes, quiet without being moribund. Then we were invaded by a group of 14 men from Liverpool. They were loud, but what really pissed me off was their attitude. They had that colonialist attitude of contempt and superiority that they were better than the 'foreigners' behind the bar,because the 'foreigners' were, well,'foreign'. They failed to understand what the barstaff were saying, in English that was better than their own. Everything was done with an underlying aggression. I understand it's a product of their innate lack of confidence, but I have found the world over that my poor verbal language skills are compensated for by smiling and adopting an attitude of mild humility.
The blokes ordered their beers and the staff began to serve them with tapas. One bloke turned to Jimmy, saying 'I'm not eating this rubbish, I'm not paying for it, who do they think they are?' Jimmy explained wearily that it's local custom and culture, why should they be wanting to rip you off. This bloke had engaged Jimmy in conversation by asking where he was from*. Jimmy said London, and because he was wearing a deep blue shirt (not a football shirt, a proper one with collar and buttons) this Scouser went 'Chelsea?'. No, said Jimmy, Crystal Palace, which he has found on numerous occasions to be a great conversation-stopper/aggro-avoider (and true, too). The bloke then went onto say that they had been out on Las Ramblas the night before and had gone with a prostitute who had dipped his pocket, was Jimmy going to be out on Las Ramblas tonight, be careful with those tarts. Jimmy pointed out that 'the wife' was sat next to him.
Like most of the rest of the pre-existing customers, we got out of the bar pronto.
* I have a probbaly irrational dislike of Brits abroad starting a conversation with 'Where are you from'? It strikes me, no doubt unreasonably, as a primitive tribalist marking of territory, a bit like a dog pissing up a tree.