As a child, my family holidays were mostly spent in Spanish speaking countries. I will always thank my dad for introducing me to the beautiful island of Ibiza where we enjoyed two weeks in the sunshine every summer for years. So it is no surprise that I have always had a fondness for Spain. I am not sure how Barcelona has evaded my travel path up to now but a few weeks ago I set off with Jack and thoroughly I enjoyed my first visit.
We arrived on one of the busiest weekends – the Sunday evening played host to arguably one of the most important football matches of the season, Barcelona vs Madrid. The city was buzzing and as a result finding a hotel was a little difficult. The Mandarin Oriental was on my hit list but there was no room at the inn. But despite not being able to experience the rooms this time, we were still able to enjoy dinner on Friday evening at Blanc, the restaurant’s brasserie and gastrobar.
The entrance to the hotel is grand and impressive and after walking up a long carpeted walkway, we arrived in reception. It didn’t take us long to find Blanc, the beautiful dining room with an eye catching design visible from the reception area. Downstairs in Blanc we were greeted by the hostess and an acoustic set by a Spanish male and female duo. We were shown to our table, which sat on the boarder of the restaurant looking into the centre and were surprised to see that despite being a Friday evening, the dining room was half full and rather quiet.
I picked up the menu and didn’t know where to start. The waitress explained that the dishes were small so it would be worth ordering around four and sharing. At first the menu seemed a little confusing. Separated into ten sections, it consisted of a mish mash of styles including eggs, meats, stews and casseroles, fish, and sandwiches. There was also a section dedicated to the Oriental heritage of the Mandarin Oriental.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat a chicken curry alongside a dry aged beef burger or macaroni Napolotana so we opted for gnocchi with broccoli and lemon (8.50Euros), crushed fried eggs with Iberian ham (9Euros) and beef tenderloin with peppercorn sauce and spinach (18Euros). But before mains, we enjoyed both starters on offer – oysters from Delta del Ebre (2.80Euros per piece) and chicken-ham croquettes (2Euros per piece).
The oysters arrived on a bed of ice with slices of lemon but not the shallot vinegar dressing I love so much. Instead they were served with a pot of red onion relish, butter and thin slices of crisp toast. But despite not having the usually obligatory dressing, they were delicious – some of the biggest and juiciest oysters I have ever eaten. The exterior of the croquettes were golden with a perfect crunch, the interior creamy and smooth. I was reminded, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, of tinned chicken sandwiches that I used to look forward to at my grandmas house at the weekends when I was a child.
When the mains arrived, one of the four waiters that were serving us throughout the evening assured us that we would love the gnocchi, which is hand made with a fork on the premises. The gnocchi were smooth, encased in a creamy sauce and topped with candied lemon peel. The lack of broccoli was slightly frustrating – I only remembered that the menu stated broccoli when I picked up a small piece just as we were finishing off the dish.
The eggs and Iberico ham remained almost untouched by me. The dish arrived in a small frying pan and consisted of chips, slices of Iberico ham and fried eggs. It was too much like a posh man’s egg and chips, a dish that I have never been too fond of, so I left it to Jack who duly polished it.
The steak was small but well formed and cooked medium rare, exactly how I asked for it. The steak knife glided through the flesh to reveal a pink interior and once in the mouth, it literally melted away on the tongue.
We also ordered a tomato salad (9Euros) to cut through the rich dishes and provide a light and juicy accompaniment. The long dish consisted of baby heritage tomatoes – red, white and green, all peeled and topped with flakes of Parmesan, Arbequina olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
We were presented with a dessert menu following our main courses and neither of us could imagine eating any more but with a little gentle persuasion, we ordered the Asian fresh fruit soup (8Euros) and chocolate coulant with passion fruit ice (8Euros). The ‘fruit soup’ arrived in a clay pot and the waitress poured a citrus juice over a range of fresh cubes of Asian fruit – lychee, mango, star fruit and a green tea jelly. The big surprise of the dish was a popping candy that was poured over the fruit and reacted as the juice was poured over – a perfectly light way to end the evening.
By the time we were sipping on our last cocktail, most of the dining room had vacated and the music drew to an end. I had thoroughly enjoyed my evening but I couldn’t help wondering why the restaurant wasn’t full, especially as the city was so busy. I thought perhaps two reasons – the restaurant is very far from view of the busy city streets or the fact that times are tough and people just aren’t able to spend the money anymore. What I do know though is that the food impressed and considering the quality was very well priced. It certainly felt like we were in a high-class restaurant with a great design, excellent service and attention to detail. The menu could benefit from a tidy with a clearer focus but this is absolutely a restaurant that I would return to on my next trip to Barcelona.
Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40
Food for Think was a guest at Blanc