For more than ten years, Edu Gonzalez has curated the world of Barcelona bravas, the omnipresent potatoes offered by practically every bar, restaurant, and café in the city. What started as a hobby that took him to miserable bars where he photographed his plate with a simple Nokia camera has turned into a full-time passion with 74,000 people on Instagram following his adventures (and opinions). His never-ending search for the perfect bravas has led him to sample, on a near daily basis, the good, the bad, and the downright frozen-ugly at over 1,000 places in town. The Girona native is a chemist by occupation, which serves him well in identifying frozen from fresh potatoes, and handmade from industrial aioli. Edu recently sat down with The Barcelona Edit to talk all things bravas.
TBE: Before we get into anything else, why bravas? Why not, say, carrot cake?
Edu: My mother is from Barcelona, but my father is from Madrid and in Madrid bravas are so different. In Madrid, they have a really different sauce, like a roux, with caldo de ave, flour, pimenton, and little bit of garlic and pepper. Bravas were invented around the 1960s, post-guerra, and it was a dish for poorer people. It’s spicy, so it helps satisfy hunger. And for bars it was better because the spiciness helped people drink more. That’s the main reason it became popular in Madrid. Also, I grew up in Girona where bravas have another style. When I got to Barcelona, the sauce had aioli, so I wanted to investigate. That was where my obsession started.
TBE: How can you tell the difference between handmade and industrial aioli?
Edu: Experience! But sometimes there are such good commercial ones that it’s hard to tell the difference. I’m a chemist and specialist in fats and oils, so I’m used to tasting fatty acids. The most normal additive is citric acid, salt and glutamate to enhance flavor. When you get the citric flavor, you know.
TBE: And how about the difference between frozen and fresh bravas?
Edu: That’s easy because the inside part of a frozen potato is grainy. A handmade potato is creamy.
TBE: What drink pairs well with bravas?
Edu: I love cava with bravas. The acidity of the cava helps counterbalance the grease and fat in the bravas. Plus it rhymes. I have a list of pairings at #cavasybravas.
TBE: Let’s say I’m out with friends having drinks and I order bravas, but I don’t want to share them. Is this acceptable?
Edu: Bravas must be shared. I see tourists around Barceloneta, three or four of them at one table, and they have one plate of bravas per person. Tapas are meant to be shared.
TBE: What is the strangest interpretation that you’ve seen?
Edu: I’ve seen a lot of different kinds: churros bravos, waffle bravos. Many of them. In 2018 and 2019, I did a tour with ten different restaurants that make freaky bravas and freaky burgers. It was called the Bravurguer Tour. If you search #bravasfrikis [on Instagram] you’ll see them.
TBE: What do you eat when you’re not eating bravas?
Edu: Healthy stuff! Just lettuce, no oil! I love Spanish cuisine, French cuisine, cheese, wine. I’m a standard Mediterranean guy. I’m not a friend of strong food; I like simple things, like gambas a la plancha. The producto – if it’s good, you don’t need anything more.
TBE: What is your favorite memory of bravas?
Edu: The first time I tasted bravas was at Bar Tomas. It was something…I would like to go back in time. It was so different from what I tasted before and I understood why it’s considered the cathedral of bravas. They have this special place — top zero — on my list because they started everything. They are so imitated that you can find dishes similar to theirs even in Madrid – “Tomas style.”
The Best Bravas in Barcelona
according to Edu Gonzalez
- Sagrada Familia: Casa Angela
- Les Corts: El Tap
- Gotico: Bodega La Palma
- Gracia: Tapeo Born
- El Born: Bar Del Pla
- Barceloneta: Segons Mercat
- Sant Antoni: Sant Antoni Glorios
- Sant Gervasi: Bar Omar
- Eixample: Senyor Vermut