I used to feel unbelievably awkward in fancy restaurants. I guess it’s only natural for someone who used to bus tables. It took years of fine dining to finally feel comfortable at a Michelin-star table, to learn to sit up straight and slough off the paranoia that I was offending the sensibilities of those around me by using the incorrect utensil. While those days are over, I haven’t completely exorcised my dining anxiety demons; instead they have been transferred to a different genre: the trendy table.

In June, I visited one such spot with Mamma Parla. We were in Barcelona and decided to hit up the hottest place in town. Of course we couldn’t get a table (the tapas bar Tickets books up 3 months in advance), but we managed to get a reservation at 41°, the adjacent and also Adrià-owned cocktail bar.

We arrived at the appointed time and were greeted by two things I loathe: a red rope and an indifferent doorman with an earpiece. So far so obnoxious. We gave our name and waited a minute or two until a server greeted us coldly and ushered us into a sort of elevated corral just beside the door. The slight platform looked over Tickets, where diners with foresight indulged between the open kitchen stations distributed throughout the restaurant.

The heavy-handed self-aware spectacle motif did have its benefits and we spent the next twenty minutes watching various fantastic concoctions being made and delivered to the more privileged diners. But that hardly made up for the horrible feeling of being stuck in a corner while all the cool kids ate at Tickets, with no sense of when we would be set free. Was this all an altruistic gesture to let those who couldn’t get into Tickets at least have a peak (I could have done that from outside, thank you very much) or was it part of some sadistic conspiracy to get you to buy pricey cocktails until you approach a reasonable sense of comfort? I’d like to think it’s the former, but I’m honestly not so sure.

Once released from purgatory, we were finally led through Tickets to 41°, where we were seated at the bar, home to the least comfortable stools in existence. By now I was sufficiently annoyed and confused. Didn’t anyone take the stools for a spin before purchasing a dozen of them? At long last, we were saved from our mounting discomfort by an absolutely lovely bartender who served us food and drinks. After studying the long snack menu–one packed with items from El Bulli at that–I asked for some recommendations and ordered more than half the dishes. 41° may be nauseatingly trendy, but it is also relatively moderately priced. Many snacks on the menu can be had for a fiver.

I calmed down further while sipping a snazzy adult beverage, which may not have made my tall bar perch any more comfortable, but did get me in the mood for the feast that followed. We started with oysters and an assortment of ‘nigiri’, including scallops, salmon and seared foie gras laid on pillowy marshmallows. We also had the famous El Bulli olives and savory parmesan ice cream sandwich. Next was a cheese and truffle brioche, a brilliant plate inspired by New Nordic Cuisine, and finally a dessert dubbed “The Forrest Floor”.

Of all the dishes it was probably the least original–I had had an edible garden, dirt and all at Azurmendi earlier in the week–but there was something so basically satisfying about chocolate, berries and crumbled cookies arranged like a brush filled forrest scene. Plus, Mamma Parla was full by then so I had the whole thing to myself. So in the end we ate and drank well, but those are just the main components of the dining experience. What about the other factors? Forsaken in favor of spectacle and pretense. I guess that’s the price of staying trendy.

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Barcelona · Food & Wine · Restaurants · Wine & Spirits

8 Comments:


  • this is one of the reasons (i have many others) why i dont go to these sort of places. snobbery and elitism seems to have infiltrated the food and dining world, too. why cant we be treated with the same respect as the frequent diners? x shayma

  • Katie

    dunno what the deal is. at a place like tickets/41grados, i get the food is supposed to take “center stage” pardon the spectacle pun. but the other factors of the dining experience are quite unpleasant.


  • walked in and straiglthough in and out of Adrià’s other place in Barcelona.Because of a stroke I eat my food with my hand and really don’t care what people thinkall good 1,2,3 or no star eateries will have the customers best interests in mind.


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  • I agree for the waiting line and doorman… but not for the rest!
    In july I had wonderful gintonic and very nice snacks at 41°…

  • Katie

    @Bryan you mean the Lolita Taperia per chance? Went there with my mom the previous night and the whole red rope thing there kills me. I dont think Albert is involved there any longer…I had an AMAZING meal today at Noma in Copenhagen. For some courses they didnt even bring silverware because we are supposed to eat with our hands. it is a beautiful thing. you are right the customer’s wellbeing is paramount. not everyplace thinks so, obviously

    @elisia I have 0 complaints about the food! it was excellent. the drinks were, too. they are the only thing that saved me from a full-on panic attack. But that’s not enough for me and im not alone.


  • Katie I haven’t tried either but will get round to it.
    Chris in this Glasgow restaurant recently did a month at Noma
    http://www.cailbruich.co.uk/


  • Everything about Barcelona looks so perfect! I will be traveling to Barcelona next week with Lufthansa and i am super excited. I know that this airline is the best option to start my trip because they serve amazing food. I am hoping to have a lot of fun next week :)

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