Hi off to Barcelona in October and was planning my trip. One off the places I want to go to is Cal Pep. I have read many reviews of it on Chowhound and from various other sources on the web. When you go how easy is it to order if you don't really know any Spanish or Catalan?
After reading other peoples reviews there are a numer of dishes I would like to try
Pimento de padron
Tartare de Atun
crispy fried baby fish
pan fried fish
sausage (morcilla?) and garbanzos.
Can anyone tell me the last three in Spanish/ Catalan? I am happy to try and order but worry they will see me coming a mile off and tell me to eat what is given to me! Not really a problem esp after all the great things I have heard..
Most of the staff at Cal Pep speak some English, there is no problem telling them what you would like to eat. There is a "menu" posted outside but I've never seen it offer to anyone or if the items are even available. They may want to steer you to what seafood is fresh for that day. Take some of their advice because they know what is good and how much food to order. Clams with chorizo, shrimp a la plancha, egg with shellfish and squid with rice cooked in it's ink are all very popular offerings. And some good fried vegetables. I believe it opens at 7pm for dinner and a line starts to form before that. No reservation. If you don't show up before that time, prepare for a long wait because the first seating will not leave for at least 1 1/2 hour. If you are more than a twosome, the wait can be longer. Don't let them steer you to the back dining room since for most people, eating at the counter and interacting with Pep is half of what this place is all about.
PBSF thanks for getting back to me. Do you know if they are open for lunch? Was also planning on going to Passedis de Pep. One photo blog showed huge portions and advised you to get one pate between two as you can end up with 7 starter courses before you even get to your mains. Do you know if they will have anyone that will speak English or how I can explain that in Spanish/Catalan?
Cal Pep is open for lunch but I don't know the hours. As stated on my earlier post, most of the staff speak some English so you will have no problem ordering. Also much of the food is displayed and cooked behind the counter so one can see what is cooking and what other people are eating. The staff can guide you on how much to order. My experiences as a solo diner: usually pa amb tomaquet, 3 small plates then a main plate. Couple years ago, the bill with water and two glasses of wine: about 55E. Athough the atmosphere of Cal Pep and Passedis de Pep are very different, I find the food similar. I have not been to Passedis in quite a few years so it might be have changed. Since there are so many wonderful and exciting restaurant in Barcelona, I would not eat at both on the same trip.
Barcelona has some terrific restaurants but I don't think any that is a "can't miss". For modern Catalan cooking, I think the best are Abac and Drolma. I've heard terrific reports on Lasarte but I have not eaten there. For seafood, definitely Rias de Galicia. One won't find much better seafood anywhere in Spain but don't expect a lot of complex preparations.
There are many excellent tapas/pinxtos places: Paca Meralgo, Quimet y Quimet, Bar Pinotxo and Bar Universal in the Boqueria, Tactica Berri, Inopia, TapaC24, Euska Etxea.
The can’t missed restaurants are outside of Barcelona: Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona and Hispania in Arenys de Mar. All can be reach easily by train.
I remember loving the deep fried baby artichokes and the giant scampi and (I believe) razor clams, but that could just be because I love razor clams & you get a lot of them in this area...
That's kind of how it worked for us as well. They just brought the noise. The only thing that didn't turn me on was the fried calamari. Just very, very average at best.
The garbanzos and baby squid were great.
The tartar, as you mentioned. The tortilla is orders of magnitude better than other places. I actually told him I didn't want one because I didn't want to waste the precious stomach space on some eggs and he gave me a look like, "You have no idea what you are talking about" and gave us one anyway. He was right.
The fried green pimentos, the tiny, tiny clams... Those also stand out.
If you're up for a bit more evolved, higher end experience, walk up the street to his brother's place Passadis del Pep. It might not be a bad idea if you don't get to Cal P exactly when they open and are forced to wait in the 20 deep line for the 20 bar stools (translation: about an our or so). Set menu of 8 course of immaculately prepared shellfish and a bottle of very nice cava. It was $130 E for the two of us just a few weeks ago. A lovely, lovely meal to say the least. There's an optional fillet fish course as well if you want it.
Highlights there: Besides the usual suspect of buttery, garlicky presentations of shrimp, clams, snails, etc. (all great mind you) The baby squids cooked with rice and ink and the crayfish cooked with onions were trascendant.
Here's the deal. It is literally impossible to find. There's no sign on the street. Walking from Cal Pep back past the Irish Pub and the place with Asian waiters that try to tackle you into coming to their place, look for a hallway with a fancy brown door with frosted glass at the end of it. If they're open, there might be a guy on the street holding business cards.
Of course, Cal Pep has business cards with a map that shows both places on the back. That said, in typical Spanish style, neither P de Pep or C Pep are actually shown in the right places on the map!
I ate at Cal Pep last week, and it was wonderful.
We sat in the back dining room (only 5 or so tables) with a Catalan friend who knows Pep. He ordered for us, and we dined on the following -- amazing fried artichokes, jamon with tomato bread, tuna tartare, friend baby fish (i think they are anchovies, but i'm not sure) three kinds of clasm/cockles, in three seperate courses, a crawfish/shrimp type shellfish, that was divine and reminded me of baby lobster, and finally, giant prawns, head on. You cut off the head, and crush it, using the juices as the sauce for the meat.
It was an outstanding meal. Highights, for me, included all three clams, the giant prawns, the tuna tartare, and the baby fried fish. We paired the meal with a white wine made by cervoles that was divine with the meal.
The staff was warm, friendly, and accomidating. I believe they will try to help you, even if you can't order in catalan or spanish. I really wouldn't worry about it at all.
If you want other suggestions, we were also exceedingly impressed by Cinq Sentits (do not miss the fois), Ca L'Isidre (the goat, chocolate souffle, and porcini mushrooms were divine), Bar Pinoxo, and el xampanyet (their anchovies and jamon are a MUST). We were also fortunate enough to go to Girona to El Celler de Can Roca -- it was one of the finest and most refined meals I've ever had.
Have a wonderful vacation.