Espardenyes are sea slugs, sometimes referred to as sea cucumbers, found only on the Catalan coast. Similar creatures can also be found in the sea around the Balearics and off the coast of Cádiz. They are highly prized (and highly priced) delicacies.
You may see them when visiting fish stalls in the Boqueria market, though I only know of one stall which sells them. They’ll cost between 120€ and 150€ per kilo.
Finding them in restaurants and bars is a bit trickier.
As you’ll likely know espardenyes are also a Catalan and Balearic version of the footwear commonly known in the U.K. as espadrilles. And, interestingly, the French call these seafloor dwelling creatures sandales de mar – sandals of the sea.
Forget any association with snails – these creatures have a unique taste and texture – somewhere between crab, razor clam and scallop. When you’re ready to try them expect to pay 20€ plus for a plate of six or seven of these juicy, little critters.
There are certainly more, but I only know of three restaurants in Barcelona which serve espardenyes:
- Paco Meralgo, in L’Antiga Esquerra Eixample. Website: HERE
- Cheriff in Barceloneta at Carrer de Ginebra, 15.
- Aiueno at Carrer de Rosselló, 296. Very disappointed when I tried them here — overcooked and rubbery.
I have no problems recommending Paco Meralgo — where they serve espardenyes two different ways — a la plancha (as shown in the photo above) and andalus style. Here is my write-up, and my Spotted by Locals write-up HERE.
However, I have only visited Cherriff once, many years ago, and did not try their espardenyes — so I cannot currently recommend them. Aiueno, a spin-off from the excellent Can Kenji, somehow surprisingly manages to screw up preparing these delicate beasts.