It may not actually be in the city itself, and it may have closed for the next two years, but the influence of world-leading restaurant El Bulli is still very much at the forefront of Barcelona’s burgeoning gastro scene. This is a city for foodies, with thousands of restaurants and numerous Michelin stars, the majority of which have been awarded to chefs who have trained with, or under, Ferran Adrià at some point in their career.
A couple of weeks ago Carniverous Boyfriend and I spent two wonderful weeks in Barcelona, soaking up the sights of the city, the sounds of Sonar Festival and lots of sunshine. We also ate extremely well – I’d done a fair bit of research through guidebooks and the blogosphere, resulting in some fabulous meals at Tapas 24, Can Majó and Tickets, amongst others. However, one of our most interesting and exciting – if slightly bizarre – meals took place in a tiny orange dining room tucked away in the quiet back streets of Dreta de Eixample.
Walking into Gelonch is a little like stepping onto the set of Pulp’s video for Disco 2000, with a touch of A Clockwork Orange thrown in for good measure. The tiny downstairs dining room holds just four tables, with a similar-sized mezzanine above, and has a dated, distinctly uncool 70s retro vibe about it. Throwback furniture and shades of orange accent the room which leads down to a tiny dark wood-panelled hatch, behind which hides the kitchen. It’s quiet, dated and slightly surreal, but look beyond the dodgy decor and there are some rather wonderful things going on.
Chef Robert Gelonch worked with Adrià at El Bulli, and the menu is a creative, theatrical journey through modernist cuisine, showcasing his love for new techniques and technology. Certain dishes are accented with playful moments of madness which he calls his pequeñas locuras; ‘noodles’ made from cuttlefish with a de-constructed pesto were deliciously fresh, while a ‘dessert’ inspired by a traditional plate of Balearic bread, ham and cheese was out of this world.
This savoury-sweet concoction comprised bizcocho de sobrasada ibérica, a beautifully light cake made from spicy sausage, helado de ensaimada, an ice cream of pastry made with pork fat, a cream of aromatic Mahón cheese and a drizzle of mandarin reduction. Salt-sweet crumbs with smooth, rich ice cream, the sharp tang of cheese and a rounded, slightly porky aftertaste, this dish managed to combine flavours to confound the senses whilst still tasting like an delicious dessert.
These were just two dishes from the nine course tasting menu. Other highlights included smoked wagyu beef complete with a glass lid filled with vapour, foam of gazpacho with strawberry, a perfectly grilled scallop accompanied by sous vide pork and pastry-encrusted langoustine, and salt cod cooked in a meaty sauce of murgulas. Each plate of food is surprising, fun, and mostly very delicious, presented with care and explained in great detail by the enthusiastic waiter who was clearly as passionate about the cooking as the chef himself.
And the price of this fantastical feast? Fifty two euros. With a bottle of wine from a reasonable list and service, we’re talking just over fifty pounds per person for some pretty serious cooking. Gelonch may be a little strange on first appearances, and it doesn’t (yet) have a Michelin star (I’m thinking the bizarre decor and back street location could be major contributing factors), but it’s quirky, delicious and great value for money. Next time you’re in Barcelona, look it up. You could be in for a real treat.