“A sumptuous meal in the most elegant and historic surroundings imaginable…..”
It’s our last night in Barcelona, it’s a Sunday, The Flame and I are desperate for a decent parting memory after a glorious few days. We had tramped round Gaudi’s fair city for a good forty miles in three days. Something close to our headquarters was called for. After consultation with our trusty ‘Lonely Planet’ guide a tucked away hideout “Els Quatre Gats” was earmarked.
Honest Catalan cuisine in a lovely back room was promised. We set forth. We weaved our way through a maze of dark alleyways (close to the famous ‘La Rambla’) to be confronted with the grand, subtly lit archway. A few souls hung outside debating the menu, I simply brushed in and asked for a back room seat for two. A dusky young maid agreed this was possible provided we were having dinner. If you wanted tapas you stayed in the rather more modest, but no less authentic, front room.
We sat at our beautifully set table. White linen and silver cutlery beckoned. We gaped in awe around us. There can’t be a room anywhere so clearly designed as an area to dine with a loved one. Elegance radiates from every angle. A huge column of white roses dominates, whilst a dark wooden veranda encircles the space from above. We were downstairs in the centre but one can only imagine the further delight of dining upstairs. Pictures hang around the room depicting the ancestral lineage of this historic room.
Salvatore the current encumbent announces his arrival. With his boyish, ‘Rockstar’ looks he exudes front of house charm. He guides us expertly through the card and applauded The Flames’ choice of his Grandmothers cod recipe. Romeo, the grumpy ‘penguined’ waiter wafted around us reading Salvatore’s instructions before throwing our bread down. We glance in amusement as he ‘harumphs’ his way round the room. We decide later that this is all part of the charm. Turns out Romeo is high up the chain, a nod and wink later we realise he loves us really. Especially when he saw how completely I had demolished the suckling pig. A gushing ‘gracias’ greeted my empty plate.
For starts The Flame won, again! A mixed salad of goats cheese, with walnuts and tomatoes (€12) arrived. The cheese, warmed and encased in a gossamer of scorched filo. The flame crushed though the side to reveal the warm gooey goodness which was mixed with candied fruits. She proclaimed that she could have had this three times over for a main and dessert! It was her sort of dish. By slight contrast I had a warm mushroom soup with black pudding (€12). Watching some of the other dishes coming out I realised I had made a small error here. The lobster risotto should have been my choice. That said the soup with the black pudding lollipop and egg yolk was a delight, very ‘mushroomy’ as you would expect. It had a very thick consistency, never more apparent than when Romeo poured it quickly over the egg and pudding!
As mentioned for mains The Flame picked the cod (€21) which came with a gorgeous aioli on top with a crumb, quince jelly and a smear of salty roe. All set on creamy spinach. My morsel was sublime. The flame once again raptured. Not to be outdone though my suckling pig with sweet potato, candied pears and orange sauce (€26) was a triumph. My, albeit, sharp knife sliced through the crusty skin into the sweet, sticky flesh with ease. Mopped up with sauce and a flash of pear and spud it was a taste sensation. All that was left was a pile of stripped sinewy bone. Romeo was impressed.
For dessert I had the cheesecake with coffee pastry and nuts (€9) whilst The Flame opted for the apricot cake, a ginger jam, topped with a coconut cream and lemon (€8). Both were works of art and gastronomy. Presented on a slate with swirls and swishes of sauce they could have come straight out a Parisienne patisserie. Both sublime.
We enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and some fine coffee. The bill came to (€109) which is about seventy quid. Pretty much English ‘gastropub’ money. We both concluded this was one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had. Made no doubt as much by the surroundings as the food. We whiled away a tad more time with the wonderful live singer, strumming Joan Armatrading tunes. A gleeful Salvatore thanked us for coming. We ambled into the night truly satiated. A fine end to a wonderful holiday. Picasso knew what he was doing when he came here, I urge you all to get the next flight out…..enjoy!
Carrer de Montsió, 3,