I would go to this restaurant even if the food was bad. I would order a bag of chips splash some Espinaler on them and sip Vichy Catalan with a slice of lemon. El Ninot Cuina is such a handsome restaurant, the anchor restaurant of a newly refurbished and equally attractive market, El Ninot, that I would find a way to spend time in it.
As it happens, I don’t need to make any compromises. The restaurant is the 7th restaurant in the portfolio of the Lobos restaurant group. The man at the helm is Tomas Tarruella*, the co-founder of the Tragaluz group. I don’t know that when I eat there, I only find out later when I am researching the restaurant for this post. It makes perfect sense. There are a lot of restaurants opening monthly in Barcelona, who have big budgets and hire a troop of people from interior designers to plant architects but when I draw a line under them, the numbers just don’t add up. Either the concept is thin, or there is too much staff or the prices aren’t right. It amounts to the person moving the pawns not having enough knowledge accumulated in the business. If you know where to look, it shows up easily.
It makes me happy when I find something well thought out and executed. The staff smile often and are efficient. At some point, every single seat in the restaurant is taken and I see the front of house staff move a bit faster, they don’t drop the smiles but their cheeks colour with exertion. When my bill is brought to me I ask if this is the number of staff they usually have for lunch.
“Actually – we are one man down. She called in sick last-minute. Can you tell, was the service bad?”
Exactly, the service was not bad but the staff number didn’t make sense in a place where everything else does.
The menu del dia is a huge success. For 14 Euros you can dine in a room where on looks alone you would expect to pay 40 a head. The baby spinach salad I have has been dressed in a bowl first before being plated with shaved apple, toasted walnuts and freeze-dried raspberries. Such an essential step and one that is routinely missed in a city that doesn’t value ‘salad’ beyond some antiquated notion that it is what you eat when on a diet.
Great value on the menu but equally enticing options on the a la carte, from what I see around me. That’s the way I will go next time.
El Ninot Cuina
Carrer de Casanova, 133