Tapioles 53 Restaurant is one of those true Barcelona secrets. Those who know about it walk the city's streets with a smug air and a knowing smile. I heard whispers of market fresh produce, an intimate dining room and personal table visits from the head chef. Feeling like a foodie left out in the cold, it was time to go and see what these whispers were about and experience one of Barcelona's Best Kept Secrets for myself.
So, the concept behind Tapioles 53 is as follows: the owner, Sarah Stothart had a vision. To open an intimate restaurant where a small handful of guests could experience food bought that day from Barcelona's food markets, watch the chefs in action and interact with them, understanding the origins and ideas behind what they were eating.
In this review I have commented on the food, décor and service at Tapioles 53 Restaurant.
There are two options at Tapioles 53: a three course set menu or a five course set menu. My friend and I decided to try one of each.
We began with a rillette of duck confit, served with a marmalade of pineapple, apple and pear, a punchy wholegrain mustard and gingerbread crisps. The combination was a heady mix - the deep and earthy flavour of the duck working in perfect harmony with the spicy crisps and the tangy condiments.
For the second course I was served a house favourite - goats cheese 'gnocchi'. This is the restaurant's take on gnocchi - small balls of spinach, fresh goats cheese and parmesan, floured and dropped in boiling water. The freshness of the spinach was given a cosy warm flavour with nutmeg and a coating of sage butter and parmesan.
My friend, who had informed the chef that she did not like goats cheese was accommodated with a simple yet stunning salad of leaves, tomatoes and Italian mozzarella. The tomatoes had been chosen that day from the market for their wonderful colour and freshness and the mozzarella had been purchased from the owner's friend - a farmer in the North of Italy. Knowing all of this really added to the experience.
For main course I enjoyed a secreto of pork with ancient black rice, bok choi, porcini mustard and a 'golden dust' made from pork crackling and homemade toffee. Every aspect of the dish stood well on its own, whilst also complementing the other flavours on the plate. My friend and I both agreed that the dish's crowning glory was its magical 'golden dust' - sweet, crunchy and a luxurious addition to the meal.
My friend enjoyed Thai spiced minced pork served at room temperature in large crisp lettuce leaves with a spicy chilli sauce for her main. It was a flavoursome and creative dish that I would have preferred to see served in smaller portions as a starter.
The cheese course consisted of a soft 'Brique de Chevre' goats cheese served with a homemade cava jelly, a rose of Swiss 'Tete de Moine' cheese served with homemade Spanish 'Ollo Rosso' sherry jelly and a manchego with membrillo (quince jelly). A small platter, presented beautifully and made all the more special due to its attention to detail with the accompaniments.
For dessert my friend was speechless for her chocolate whiskey cake - moist and dense. I enjoyed a blood orange jelly served with a financier - a muffin style cake made with burnt butter and singing with the flavour of ground almonds.
The house red wine was of a high standard - deep and peppery. A bargain at such a price for the bottle.
If you are visiting the restaurant as a couple, it is a good idea to order one three course and one five course meal. It gives you the opportunity to try five courses worth of food and cover more menu options. This is what I did on my visit and my friend and I both agreed that we were definitely more than adequately satisfied, whilst having the opportunity to try a larger menu.
|The view of the Tapioles 53 kitchen|
Tapioles 53's interior was designed by Ricardo Feriche. The owner's insistence that customers be made to feel at home is apparent in all touches. The lighting is low and supplied by candles on the tables and small lamps dotted around the room.
There is one long wooden table that runs through the centre of the restaurant, created from a door in the original building that was an umbrella factory. The other tables are smaller and are joined by mismatching antique wooden chairs - adding an informal and homely feel to the room. The space has been designed to ensure that all tables provide a front row seat to the kitchen - the close relationship between the chefs and the customers is part of the experience. Everything from the photographs on the kitchen's fridge door to the homemade cake atop vintage cake stand add to the warm and familiar feel of the space.
The service at the restaurant is unique. The head chef greets each table individually and runs through the menu. His enthusiasm and pride in his product is infectious and by the end of his descriptions you will be gnawing at the table in anticipation. Any questions are answered with zeal. And if you love something that you've eaten don't be afraid to ask for the recipe - it is the restaurant's policy to be unprecious about what they serve - they like to share their knowledge with anybody who is interested.
As the menu is small, the chef is happy to cater for any of your likes and dislikes as far as possible. The size of the restaurant ensures that food is served promptly and your waitress is always close at hand to cater for any of your requests.
All too often the magicians themselves - the chefs, are forgotten in the restaurant experience. Tapioles 53 has turned this concept on its head - here the chefs become your friends - you can tell them your likes and dislikes, ask them questions about the menu and chat to them through the hatch whilst they cook. The food standard is high, with an incredible attention to detail - the seeded bread rolls are homemade, the rillette is made from duck legs roasted on the premises and the food suppliers are the owner's friends. If what you are looking for in Barcelona is a memorable experience in a personal setting, you will need to save up your pennies but Tapioles 53 will not disappoint.
Tapioles 53 is tucked away at the top of Calle Tapioles in Poble Sec. Head up a large main road - Paralel.lel. Calle Tapioles is on the left hand side of this street. Turn onto Calle Tapioles and keep walking until you see a small cosy looking restaurant on your left.
Metro: Paral.lel (Purple Line, L2) and (Green Line, L3)
Booking is definitely recommended. Not only does this help the restaurant to plan ahead, it also ensures that you will get a table in the small restaurant. When booking, tell the restaurant if you have any requirements - vegetarians, allergies or even just food you dislike.