My reviews of Tickets and Gelonch
This is a fun, busy, bustling restaurant with a great atmosphere that just happens to serve some brilliant dishes. As I was waiting for my table to free up I sat and watched with amusement a grown man (who was somewhat reluctantly dressed like a circus master) turning away group after group trying to get a walk-in table. On one occasion two young men confidently strolled in and said ‘two people’, to which the man said ‘we’re fully booked’. The boys then replied ‘that’s ok, we’ll wait by the bar’, to which the man said ‘you’ll be waiting for 3 months’. I suppose a 3 month waiting list is a bit silly when you think about it.
We sat on stools watching the dishes being prepared, which was entertaining, and selected a number of tapas from an extensive menu. There was an element of molecular gastronomy to only a couple of dishes, to my relief. These worked well with both the olive and the cheese bubbles being deeply flavoursome. One dish in particular stood out as one of the best I have ever eaten: thin sliced tuna belly ‘painted’ with iberico ham dripping, olive oil, black pepper and pine nuts. Simple, fresh and stunningly good.
Desserts were also exceptional with an intensely creamy ‘cheesecake’ in the shape of a Satsuma and a warm, oozing almond fondant. Both were definite smile-inducers.
There were a few dishes that disappointed, surprisingly being the more traditional tapas towards the end of the meal: the roasted red peppers, the confit tuna and the chickpea stew were all somewhat let down by rather poor sauces (overly reduced, too salty, with a slightly gelatinous texture). These were not bad or unpleasant, they just did not live up to the other inventive and flawless dishes I tried. This was a great meal, very enjoyable, although you are clearly paying a premium for the names behind the restaurant.
[olive bubbles marinated in olive oil, star anise and cloves; grilled bread with tomato, olive oil and sea salt; bread puffs with manchego cheese, salmon roe, hazelnut powder and manchego mousse; manchego cheese bubble with ginger and lemon and bread tuile; pulled pork neck with melted mozzarella, mustard and toasted brioche; jamon iberico de ballota gran reserva ham and bread; raw thin sliced tuna belly painted with iberico ham dripping, olive oil, black pepper and pine nuts; crab wrapped in slithers of avocado with dill gel and crème fraiche; streamed prawns with seaweed and seaweed mayonnaise; roasted and skinned red peppers in sweet pepper sauce; confit tuna belly in reduced tuna stock; confit potatoes wrapped in iberian boiled ham, olive oil, paprika and smokey pork rib sauce; chickpea stew with diced octopus and ham; almond fondant with crumble and raspberry ice cream; satsuma ‘cheesecake’ with hazelnut cookie, diced pear and lemongrass ice cream]
This is a small restaurant that appears to be rather unfortunately located in one of the quieter parts of Barcelona, and consequently does not appear to have reached its potential in terms of popularity. There were only a few tables taken on the night I visited, which is a great shame as I thought this was an outstanding restaurant, particularly given the reasonable prices. I elected not to take the standard tasting menu, which I felt looked rather gimmicky with various molecular elements included that did not appeal to me. Instead I created my own tasting menu from the tapas section hidden at the back of the menu.
It is worth saying from the beginning that this was pretty much a flawless meal, with all dishes working very well. I would say however that there were no outstanding dishes. Rather, all the dishes were very enjoyable, which is unusual when so many are served up. The cuttlefish in particular was fantastic. The meat had been thinly sliced to resemble a plate of taglierini pasta accompanied by a flavoursome basil pesto. The wagyu beef tartare was simply stunning. To my surprise, a garnish of wasabi ice-cream took this dish to a higher level. Better than any beef tartare I have eaten in France.
Desserts kept up the high standard, with some unusual flavours (e.g. avocado ice-cream) working very well. I could go on describing each dish, but so as not to become repetitive, I’ll just say that each was innovative, tasty and highly enjoyable in its own way.
It is worth mentioning that the one waiter who was dealing with the whole restaurant that night was the best waiter I have ever had. He was rather insulted at first when I asked if I could keep a copy of the menu by my side (I do this, particularly in restaurants that give detailed descriptions of the ingredients in each dish, to ensure that all ingredients actually appear on my plate). He correctly protested that it was his job to explain to me what I was eating. The rapport rapidly improved though and he passionately explained each dish to us, explaining how it was cooked, why the flavours were being combined, the logic behind it and so on. I highly recommend giving this restaurant a try if you are in Barcelona.
[toasted bread with tomato and olive oil; veal tongue salad with diced confit potatoes, grilled artichokes and wholegrain mustard vinaigrette; cuttlefish taglierini with basil pesto and olive oil; grilled prawns with purple and green cabbage and reduced pisco sauce; wagyu beef tartare with wasabi ice cream, thin bread cracker, thinly sliced mango and iberica ham fat; 24 hours sous-vide iberica pancetta, grilled octopus, baked garlic sauce, honey and beech smoke; veal sweetbreads with beetroot gnocchi, codfish tripe, carrot cream and passion fruit drops; 36 hour sous-vide ‘secreto iberico’ with porcini mushrooms, mushroom powder, yucca cream sauce, Jerusalem artichoke sauce and ham reduction; avocado and pistachio ice cream, coriander crumble, sweet tomato slithers and lemon meringue cream; caramelised Catalan cream, diced cooked apple, crumble, apple sorbet and toffee sauce]
It is perhaps worth mentioning here that I did go to Cal Pep too. I waited in a queue inside the restaurant for around 15 mins and found the atmosphere unbearable, so I left. It was eerily quiet, with diners looking noticeably awkward, having both the chefs and the people waiting in the queue staring at them as they ate their food. I was surpised no drinks were offered to those waiting in the queue to lighten the mood, and distract their attention from the diners who were trying to enjoy their meal. I can't comment on the food, but seeing what was being produced didn't make me want to stick around for very long. We went and ate in a random tapas bar instead, which was enjoyable and relaxing, rather than tense and rushed, as I suspect it would have been at Cal Pep.
Thank you for your factual, pared-down report always offering a clear, non-abstract description. I was once quite turned off by a recommendation on GELONCH that involved multiple exclamation marks, multiple use of the word "must", plus all caps. Just reading that post made me feel i was being yelled at. Your post is all the opposite.
As I already said on the France board, your fine observation and your sober description are exactly what a review should be. You are now my most trusted restaurant guide.
Thank you for your kind words on both boards Parigi. Several months of Chowhound 'lurking' have led me to believe that you are the outstanding contributer to the boards, keeping them alive at times. If I remember correctly, it was your La Bartavelle recommendation that convinced me to go there. What a wonderful experience it was. Thank you.
Mikey, both restaurants were a 7/10 on my scale, although I avoided grading them on the Spain/Portugal board to avoid controversy!
I have many, many unpublished London/UK restaurant reviews and am now debating whether to post them to the UK/Ireland board after the positive response so far. We shall see...