Cal Pep, still worth it?
Last time I was in Barcelona was 7 years ago, and I remember having a great meal at Cal Pep. I'm back in town for 4 days but sadly haven't been able to do much planning/research this time. Is Cal Pep still all it's cracked up to be? What should we order? We love all seafood and want to try lots of local favorites. (Or is there another tapas place that folks prefer these days?)
Unfortunately I think that Cal Pep, like many other places in a city that is now constantly overrun by tourists, has really come to depend nearly exclusively on the tourist trade. The upside, for visitors, is probably better English spoken, menus traslated, etc.
The downside, though, is that they have no need to rely on repeat visitors and thus can pretty much do whatever they want.
When you have a local trade, word gets around if you repeatedly burn regulars. When you don't and your visitors are from Buffalo and Buenos Aires not Barcelona, you can pretty much do as you please, especially if you have been included for a decade or so in every list of must-eat at-places in Barcelona.
I actually attempted to go there recently, at about 11pm, noting that they closed at 11:30. The bar was nearly full, the kitchen was hopping, and there was a seat open. We're closed, the guy behind the bar belted out when I walked in. When do you close, I asked. 11:30. It's 11 I said. All of this was in Spanish, not that that should make any difference. We close when we want to, he said.
Hopefully some tourists will get wise to this kind of thing and stop frequenting this place, but if that happens, it will take a long time.
In the mean time, I hope he gets treated the same way when he tries to eat out here or abroad. I personally hate this kind of place.
It's sad because Cal Pep was actually pretty good in the time period you are talking about.
I think some places use the guarantee of foreign/tourist patronage to up their game, refine their craft, expand their reach. Sadly Cal Pep is not one of those places.
I ate at Cal Pep last year after a hiatus of about ten years...wrote a report on my experience, and my dinner at PacoMerAlgo here on CH. While there were many more tourists last time, I still would recommend with the caveat that you choose your own dishes and not allow them to bring you a parade of their own selections. They have a good hand with the various clam preparations, depending on the offerings of the day, and I always order their butifarra with a reduction of either Port or balsamic..cannot remember which.