Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Bar Gresca, Barcelona

Fried Gamba
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

A few years ago I was taken to a very swanky restaurant in Barcelona.  As someone who tends to follow their nose when it comes to food, I was puzzled by the lack of cooking smells.  The plating was precise.  Tweezers had most certainly been employed.  The food was cool, very cool, and not in a good way.  The service was positively frosty.  It was the most sterile restaurant I have ever encountered.  I had to see the kitchen.  Taking a slow walk to the back of the room, ostensibly seeking the loo, the scene through the small glass panel in the kitchen door - there for the benefit of staff, not diners - was revealing.  Lengths of stainless steel tables, drawers, cupboards and fridges, some open anonymous containers, a few white-aproned chefs plating-up delicate morsels of food with forensic intensity.  This was more like a laboratory than a kitchen, a place where food was stripped of personality and presented as something denatured.  I like a well-plated dish and these were undeniably pretty but, to me, the whole experience was unappealing.

Fresh Anchovies marinated with sesame and lemon
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

The next day, after sniffing-out possibilites, we walked into Gresca.  Owner/Chef Rafa Peña 
worked at Ferran Adrià's El Bulli and Martin Berasategui's Lasarte so the modern techniques were there, but so too were great Catalan ingredients being sympathetically handled.  Gresca made a much more positive impression on me.  I wrote about it here.  It was, and still is, a modern restaurant with a great love for Catalan ingredients.  It's a great place to go for a Catalan tasting menu.

Being in Barcelona last week we intended to return to Gresca but were lured into the place right next door, because what was there was Bar Gresca.  The original Gresca restaurant was slim and constrained.  Taking a lease on the premises next door has allowed for a loosening of corsets.  The two premises, now joined into a U shape has allowed for one large, well equipped kitchen to serve both restaurant and bar.  And, joy of joys, some of the bar seating is almost in the kitchen.  We went twice.  The first time, seated close enough to the kitchen to see every dish come out.  On the second visit we could almost shake a pan for them.  My kind of eating.  We'd also been told they kept good natural Catalan wines.  My kind of drinking.

Bikini of Lomo Iberia & Comte Cheese
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

So, what was coming out of said kitchen?  Sea snails with mustard; Grilled beef liver with kimchi; Lacquered aubergine with herbs; Pork sandwich, creme fraiche and pickled vegetables; Cuttlefish with tomato; Lacquered mackerel; Pizza of burrata and black truffle; Veal cheeks with wine; Grilled Veal Nose; and a dish of Green peas with black truffle.  Desserts were on the classic side with Pear tarte tatin and Pavlova with figs.  This is small-plates dining and prices range from Euros 4 for a plate of Pan con Tomate to Euros 18 for Baby Cuttlefish with tomato.  For seasonal specials, like truffle dishes, expect to pay Euros 20-27 for a plate.

Berberechos with vegetable vinaigrette
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

I'll spare you the full list but we ate Berberechos with vegetable vinaigrette - the freshest of cockles served in their half-shell on a bed of salt were sweet, citrusy morsels bathed in their liquor; plump fresh anchovies had been marinated in sesame oil and lemon;  Leeks in 'Salpicon' came as sliced roundels blanched, topped with spoonfuls of herby lactic cheese and strewn with sharp, piquant, pickled Guindilla peppers; Bikini of lomo iberico and Comte cheese - the thinnest slices of fried bread enclosing the filling to make the most addictive of sandwiches; Fried gamba were so sweet and crunchy that they begged to be eaten whole in their delicate shells; Surf-n-turf is rarely my thing but a dish of Meatballs with cuttlefish was outstandingly good - and refreshingly the least instagrammable plate of brown food I've seen for some time.  For me, Desserts weren't the best thing here, but of the four on offer last week, I'd very happily order again the French toast served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Meatballs with cuttlefish
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

We drank very good, modestly-priced natural Spanish wines by the glass recommended by Sommelier Sergi, and were very happy to find a bottle of Lluerna from Pinedes' Els Vinyerons, a label we recently discovered in London via importer Aubert & Mascoli.

French toast
at Bar Gresca, Barcelona

Bar Gresca is top of my list for the next visit to Barcelona.  The Gresca website is undergoing change - it's clearly not a priority for them - but here's a link to a recent review which echoes pretty well how we felt about Bar Gresca Bar Gresca visit by Food Barcelona, though I can't share Food Barcelona's longing for craft beer to join the drinks list!

My one criticism would be that the lighting was a challenge to my limited photographic skills but Gresca has lighting for cooking, not for styling.  And if you don't sit within a pan-shake of the kitchen, take a walk-by.  This is what a proper kitchen looks, and smells, like.

Gresca & Bar Gresca  
Calle Provença, 230
08036 (Eixample) Barcelona
Metro: Diagonal (Exit: Provenca)
Tel: (+34) 93 451 6193