We haven’t heard much from French food in the past few years. Is it since Adria changed the rules of the game? Since awards like 50 Best Restaurants (which launched in 2002) have usurped stoic pictureless guides such as the Michelin Guide? I can’t pinpoint it, but as it stands I would be hard pressed to name 5 French restaurants in Barcelona.
Enter Ginette named after the grandmother of one of the owners and the childhood nanny of the other. They opened in July. A French take on local tapas. A la carte in the evening, a weekday menu del dia (€14.90) and brunch on the weekend. An intelligent way to capture a varied cross-section of customers.
Hervé, the chef is from Lille as is our watier Auban. When Auban serves our food, I glimpse the tattoo on his forearm : Liberté, égalité, fraternité. He has the mannerisms I remember so well from my 4 years in Paris.
Ginette is located where El Born gives way to St Pere on C/ del Rec Comtal. Appropriately, if you continue down that street, you will find yourself in front of the Arc de Triomf. The restaurant has been styled to look good at night and during the day. Highly patterned slate wallpaper, mirrors alternating fat and thin gilded frames. The plates are many shades of turquoise, blue and green – setting off the food which often has a brightly coloured element: sliced radishes, pickled red onion or ruby beef.
Marwa and I ask after the most emblematic dishes. We end up with duck croquettas (€4), golf ball sized with a thick crust. I am tempted to order Mimosa Eggs (€7) just because it’s so retro but we end up with calamari with confit pimento peppers (€10) and Bravas Ginette style (€6.5). They nail both dishes. Bravas riffs can often go horribly wrong with the chef trying too hard to make an original version of what is essentially: potatoes, red sauce and aioli. Ginette’s take uses a tiny French potato variety called Grenailles and gives them the hasselback treatment.
Marwa and I have been greedily smearing our bread with Échiré butter when our warm duck rillettes arrive. Fatty, savoury, with a sharp hit of mustard somewhere in there. We pronounce Ginette’s takes on Spanish tapas a success.
For our main, we try the duck breast with a garnish of yellow carrots and a pan jus (€17). Marwa has the beef with a red wine reduction (€20). I prefer Marwa’s beef and where as I think the main courses are fine, I think the starters we’ve had are fantastic.
We can only manage a pudding between us so we have Brioche Perdue (€7) – a fancier French toast with a quenelle of lemon curd & crumbled meringue scattered around.
A fair few French people come in while we are there. I identify the men by their haircuts (close-cropped) and the dark denim trousers – crisp shirt combination. “Vous êtes fançais?” Auban asks before switching to his native language.
I think Ginette will have a loyal following from the French expat community (who seem to be concentrated around this barrio). Being a few shop fronts down from Elsa y Fred helps. Brunch is magic to a restaurant’s bottom line and this city is nowhere close to reaching brunch saturation. Add to that their Thursday after work initiative. An oysters and Cava €9 (or gin €12) promotion. Ginette is sure to be a success, particularly among expats who are less price sensitive than the locals.
*Marwa and I were guests of Ginette.