Hetta is where the vegetarian restaurant Celeri used to be. It was run by Xavier Pellicier, who was at the time consulting for the TribuWoki group it belonged to, it attained a Michelin star. No small feat for a vegetable led restaurant in Barcelona. Fast forward to today, Pellicier has left TribuWoki and set up his own restaurant and Hetta has moved into this bright large basement space. The interior has stayed the same, high tables with stools, a large – glass-fronted kitchen that runs the length of the place.
Conceivably, all the money they’ve saved on redesigning the interior they are spending on a stealthy influencer campaign. One to which I’ve not been invited, so I brush off the slight (I do write in English after all and have never selfied) I reserve a table anyway.
I’m cautious about lunch. Coraling my expectations on the low end. On the whole, I’ve had disappointing results with vegetable led places here – Xavier Pellicier sent out beautiful dishes with one-dimensional flavours for example.
I’m here with a local Indian food expert Anjalina (Soul Spices) & Rob (Homage to BCN). We look at the menu, down the middle is a strip with pictures of ingredients: tomato, eggplant, egg, cuttlefish, duck – 9 in total. Above and below the dishes float around rather haphazardly. The waiter comes over and explains that these are the 9 ingredients of the season, each is cooked 3-4 different ways. Some served raw, some cooked – he points to the thermometer at the far left of the menu to show that the dishes are placed according to how much heat, if at all, is applied.
For me, this does not bode well. Too much blah blah blah before you get to the food. We order a selection of 6 dishes. We start with the huevo botarga (10.90) and are left speechless. It’s a pate of pure umami: thick yolk, salty caviar, shavings of bottarga all sitting on a parmesan whey cream. It’s so good – we contemplate ordering another on the spot.
The beef tartar is almost purple and plated loosely on the plate (14.50). The fried tomatoes (9.6) – yes. The eggplant is served al dente – not a good strategy for this nightshade (10.50). The cuttlefish is thick and meaty (15.80). But it’s with our last dish duck wings in Hoisin sauce (10.90) that we are again wowed. The hoisin is made of cherries and brings a welcome acidity to the duck meat, which has been deboned, it comes accompanied by a hazelnut puree.
It’s tasty food that is distinctive in the range of flavours that are captured – running up and down the spectrum but remaining cohesive. There is a an understanding of acidity, something often glossed over in Catalan food. And they’ve got umami by the collar and walk it out on more than one plate. That egg yolk dish though, is one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth this year.