Charmaine of the blog Pescatarian Pleasures took some friends and I to El Casal. A restaurant that her plus 1, Simon, co-owns with his brother Julian. Although the place has gotten some press, most notably by Sam Zucker (here) it remains largely unknown. In part because its location on the quiet square of Plaça de Victor Balaguer is not one you are likely to stumble onto. Even me, with my bloodhound’s appetite for hidden corners, has managed to miss it.
Simon is the chef here, pinging around the minuscule kitchen behind the bar and sending out a 3 course menu at a possible-only-in-barcelona price of €11.25. The menu changes every day and surprises me with the vividness of the ingredients.
The cod, grilled until the skin has turned amber, is served on bright mushy peas with a thick topping of diced tomatoes. Traffic light colours on one plate. And so unusual to see a main course not relying on filler of pasta or rice. There are some beautiful slices of bread that accompany our starter.
The salad I start with is riddled with pebble sized pieces of blood sausage. For afters, we have the choice between a pudding or a coffee. I have seen a minimalist glass of Greek yogurt with apple compote and a sandy crumble being served to adjacent tables and that is what I choose. I am a big fan of simple change in direction to mark the end of satisfying lunch and this pudding doesn’t disappoint.
“Thank you for introducing this to us Charmaine – I loved it.” I enthuse at the end of the meal.
She smiles and tilts her head “I’m glad you enjoyed it and really, Monday isn’t usually his strongest day.”
I look at the menus on Facebook later (El Casal updates the menu there every day at 10:30am) and see what she means. Although Simon hails from Normandy, he has spent some time in Asia and cooking in a Thai restaurant so there is a lot of plating and some flavours that reflects that. Not crazy wacky stuff, just a little lacquer to make it that much more special. Like the thin apricot glaze that goes on a strawberry tarts that no one notices unless it hasn’t been applied.
A fantastic lunch option if you are in the area. And now opened for dinner on some evenings. (Check their Facebook page for exact details)