Barcelona and Madrid may be in the same country but they don’t share much. Not fashion, Barcelona being decidedly bohemian and Madrid more conservative. Not politically (lets not even go there). And while the food is obviously very similar, a successful restaurant in Madrid is more likely to open another restaurant in Madrid, perhaps with a different skew, than it is to open the same restaurant in Barcelona.
Fismuler is an exception. Opened by Nino Redruello and Patxi Zumárraga (two El Bulli alumni) in Madrid in 2016 it recently opened in Barcelona in Hotel Rec, a new hotel next close to the Arc de Triomf. It’s a large space, 300 square meters or so, more Scandinavian in its minimalist style than what’s typical for these parts. And then there are the shelves of preserves by the entrance, the only thing they preserve in Barcelona are olives and spicy guindilla peppers to lace onto a Gilda.
The menu changes daily and favours, as most places of a certain pedigree, do local, seasonal, organic ingredients. I’m here with my friend Marwa who runs Wanderbeak tours and knows everyone in hospitality in El Born – so they start us off with some house-cured beef and a couple of shrimp tartar canapes on the house. Both are beautiful, to behold and to eat.
The prices on the menu are more Madrid than Barcelona (more expensive) – starters are ranging from 10€ – 19€ for the calamari dish. Happily, we are in the land of media ración (half portion) and I want to try as many dishes as possible. We share a half portion of cured sea bream (9.6€) with slivers of grapes and hazelnuts shaved into identical 1-millimeter slices. The tortilla is more like a French omelet, oozing foamy egg when cut and full of big chunks of salt cod (9.6€ half portion). There is a plate of green beans in its own juice, so vivid, it looks like oil paint (7.8€). We order our last dish because it sounds so odd: chicken wings, egg yolk, sweet potato, and truffle (10.23€ half portion). We haven’t ordered any mains but find ourselves well stuffed by the rich food. With drinks and two servings of bread – we’ve spent around 30€ each.
I wouldn’t want all my lunches to cost that much but I don’t mind these prices when the dishes are this well executed (is the chef in charge of the grape slices using a ruler?) and conceived. There is a lot of room for this level of cooking and of a general shaking off of the usual suspects, one finds on menus, in an interior where the designer is not shouting at you to look at his design prowess.
I manage to leave Fismuler without ordering the much Instagrammed cheesecake, made to look like a slice of ripe camembert. I guess I will have to go back. Not a bad thing.