Friday, 15 May 2009

Inopia, Barcelona

Seeking out this popular tapas or 'pintxo' bar was one our first priorities. As a devotee of all things Adria, I had high expectations and had prepared myself to be thrilled. His brother, Alberto, opened and runs the place. Luckily were staying in the l’Eixample area, so were just a short walk away. Seeing a queue of people outside is a good sign, as is a friendly yet ruthless doorman. Those waiting were a happy combination of gastro-tourists and Barcelona regulars. Our name was officiously added to the blackboard, so we headed thirstily to the X Bar opposite for an ice-cold Kronenburg. Half an hour later, back across the street, our names had not moved. Back to the bar…

By 11pm we were in!! Safely ensconced on stools by the bar, we got stuck in. Already well watered, we ordered a promising combination of tapa, all at around 6/7 Euros each: fried artichokes, chicken kebab, pork crackling (confusingly translated as ‘slices of pork belly’), delicate white asparagus with a soft creamy vinaigrette, and Iberico ham croquettes. All were delightful, particularly the kebab and croquettes, which hid within a delicate crust a soft and pillowy centre: food to soothe the soul. The staff were eager to please and warm with their service as well as their recommendations. A generous freebie was a shot of Pernod-laced raspberry ‘smoothie’, which we devoured alongside some perfumed and intense wild strawberries served in moscatel with orange zest. The fried artichokes were the only bites that didn't hit the right note: the flavour of the succulent heart didn't manage to hold its own, as it fought against a dense over-seasoned batter. Much better are those at London's Bocca di Lupo, although this comment will I'm sure be deemed sacrilegious.

We loved it so much we returned the next day, but at the more conservative North-European dinner time of 8pm, and promptly got a place at the bar. The place was more subdued, and the chefs exuded the air of an orchestra warming up. This did, however, give us the opportunity to order freely from the menu without the risk of any of our favourite dishes running out. After sweet gift-packaged caramels de jabugo (pastel-shaped cured sausages, wrapped in individual parcels) we indulged in far too much house rose, Gilda (anchovies wrapped around green olives on a stick with slices of hot green pepper - a powerful mouthful), more croquetas, and a Bomba de l'Eixample, which I can only describe as a hot, garlicky, meaty, deep-fried gutsy crowd-pleaser.

Many of their dishes main components come from the jars and cans of preserved goods you can see on shelves pictured above. I tried the baby squid in oil, but they didn't like me, neither I them, so we cut our losses with that one, ending our second visit instead with a beautiful, decadent and sexy Catalonian take on egg custard.

All I missed was some charcuterie and cheese, but these flavours are well catered for elsewhere in the city.

Visit, you must!

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