The pandemic claimed an important victim in Barcelona on the Spanish gastronomic board, with resounding and painful closures that were felt as their own losses throughout the country. The final curtain of emblematic spaces such as Tickets and the domino fall of the rest of the premises under the baton of Albert Adrià –the elBarri group– marked the beginning of a new, sadder era, for a city that has always vibrated in gastronomy.
The health crisis – and the criticized political management of its consequences through restrictions on the hotel industry – led Barcelona to enter an uncomfortable position of lethargy, in the face of the apparently unstoppable advance of Madrid. With inertia, at a rate of openings that is difficult to achieve, Barcelona seems still far from the Madrid beat.
However, its protagonists already speak of a "revolution" that they have begun to sell in the capital as the "reference destination in gastronomic excellence".
Despite everything, the great Catalan city has maintained and revalidated in this time two restaurants with three Michelin stars, Lasarte and ABaC –in Madrid there is only one three-starred, DiverXO–; six bi-starred –five in the capital–; and another eleven with a star –compared to 14–. Although it is not about figures, but about the sensations that have left these months behind one and another city.
“In Barcelona we have stopped activity, that is true, and for a long time. In my case, for example, Dos Palillos was completely closed for 15 months, ”explains its chef Albert Raurich to ABC after starring together with Rafa Peña, a four-handed encounter in Madrid. «We had healthy envy of Madrid and its measures. I said this in some Catalan media at the time and I was criticized, "explained the latter at the aforementioned meeting. Relaunching Barcelona as a gastronomic destination is a necessity for a sector that is again registering openings and important projects. Not in vain, and according to the data managed by the Barcelona Tourism Observatory, gastronomy is the first activity experienced by visitors when they travel to the city –92.4%, in 2021–.
The return of the local public and internal tourism, but above all the return of foreign travellers, has marked the starting point to get out of that lethargy –with issues that are still worrying such as the scourge of insecurity that reigns in some areas–. Thus, the last few months have accelerated the pace of news, some of them with the same protagonists who lived through their debacle.
The most important and recent –along with the announcement by Carme Ruscalleda and her son Raül Balam to open Cuina Sant Pau, in San Pol de Mar, on July 1– has been the reopening of Enigma, this same month, hand in hand by Albert Adria. The chef has returned to Barcelona one of the city's iconic spaces, with a more flexible formula, without a tasting menu, the elBulli cocktail bar and an uninterrupted proposal that changes as the day progresses.
It's not the only one. The Iglesias brothers, former partners with Adrià, have raised the curtain on Theater in the same place that was occupied by the extinct Tickets. Alapar, by Jaume Marambio and Victoria Maccarone, has opened where Pakta, another former elBarri location, used to be. In the old one in Hoja Santa, the Mexican Come, by Paco Méndez, is underway. And others of a new stamp such as Ikoya Izakaya – embers and sake – with Hideki Matsuhisa and Iñaki López de Viñaspre at the helm. The dramatic situation experienced by the Barcelona hotel industry has led some like Raurich to create new concepts such as Tamae Bar, open kitchen, bar and delivery by Eugeni de Diego.
The luxury hotels also dominate the gastronomic scene with Rafa Zafra and Amar at the Palace; the summer return of Gastón Acurio with Terrat, the terrace of the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona; or Alain Guiard with Contraban, at the Wittmore Hotel. Others like chef Rafa de Bedoya consolidate Aleia at Casa Fuster, and Víctor Torres takes charge of Quirat, at the new Hotel InterContinental Barcelona.