Right on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most famous streets of Barcelona, there’s el Nacional: a busy restaurant with a lot of Iberic specialties, as well as Catalan fresh products and mixes.
In fact, there are 4 different restaurants, here, each with its own specific: meat, fish, tapas & rice, and fast deli, and 4 different bars: beer, wine, cava and cocktails, respectively.
El Nacional is a 2600 square meters open space restaurant. It opened in October 2014 in a building that witnessed Barcelona’s industrial revolution, built in 1889 as café-theater, later transformed into a fabric dye factory, into a car dealer’s shop, before the Civil War, and ending just as a cheap garage, before el Nacional.
Brief Introduction to Some of the Tastes
If in Barcelona for the first time, el Nacional might be the place to start discovering Iberic tastes and mixes, as there are quite a lot of specialties, here. The 4 menus of the 4 restaurants, la Braseria, la Llotja, la Paradeta and la Taperia, focus upon: meat – cooked on charcoal grill, in wood-fired oven or griddle (el Nacional recommends the Ox Burger or the Hand-minced Steak Tartar, and the steaks, of course); fish (la Llotja means loggia, in Catalan, and right near the dining area there’s a display of fresh fish and sea food, on ice; among the specialties from the menu, there are anchovies from L’Escala or Sea Bream Baked in Formentera Sea Salt); tapas & rice, auctioned Málaga-style by the waiters; or fast deli (la Paradeta, translating stall, in English, is the place for sandwiches, sweet and savory pastries, cheese, vegetables, smoked and cured products, a variety of salads, sliced fruit, natural juices, milkshakes, pastries, artisan ice cream…).
Coca de recapte (la Paradeta menu) is a typical Catalan pastry, to be found in the areas of Gerona, Barcelona, Tarragona and Lérida, and consists of a dough mixed with escalivada (oven-baked peppers and eggplants) to which any ingredient can be added. The traditional ones are sardines, herrings or butifarra, even though today you might find them with tuna, onion, olives, or tomatoes. Due to its similarity to pizza, it is supposed that the origins of this plate date back to the Roman domination of the Iberic peninsula (el National offers Pastry with acorn-fed Iberian shoulder ham and rocket, Oil pastry with cheese, cooked ham and spinach, and Catalan crunchy bread with roasted vegetables and goat cheese, each for 8,5 euros).
In Portugal and Spain, Goose barnacles are a widely consumed and expensive delicacy known as percebes (la Llotja menu). Percebes are harvested commercially in the Iberian northern coast, mainly in Galicia and Asturias, but also in the Southwestern Portuguese coast (Alentejo). In Spain, percebes are lightly boiled in brine and served whole and hot under a napkin.
The restaurants are on the lateral sides and the bars – in the middle. The atmosphere is the work of interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán who aimed to recreate the Barcelona of the thirties and forties with a cosmopolitan and relaxed touch.
Below the vaulted ceiling with nice roof windows in the center of the vault, there’s a rich mix of ceramics, wood, metal, glass and lots, lots of plants. The patterns differ from one bar to another; from floor to wall; from central space to side space; from main entrance to rear entrance…
the Taste of Chocolate with Salt and Olive Oil, on Bread
We end with a sweet treat from la Taperia menu, pan con chocolate, aceite y sal (pa amb xocolata, oli i sal) – bread with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and chocolate (4 euros). While salt and chocolate make popular companions, olive oil is not the most obvious addition, but it really works, especially with this in house, soft, sweet, creamy chocolate.
Is a sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen (DO) status from Catalunya, also produced in other regions of Spain. It may be white (blanc) or rosé (rosat). The most popular and traditional grape varieties for producing cava are macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo. Only wines produced in the traditional champenoise method may be labelled cava, those produced by other processes may only be called sparkling wines (vinos espumosos). About 95% of all cava is produced in the Penedès area in Catalunya, with the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia being home to many of Spain’s largest production houses. The two major producers are Codorníu and Freixenet.