Textures. That is what I am struck by initially at Little Fern cafe and not, surprisingly, in the food.
I haven’t ordered the food yet. I’m still taking in the space. The wood paneling above the glass panes on the outside, punctured with oblique lines. The rough irregular stone wall painted white on the inside, the matt rectangle of wood above that, the large pendant light more holes than solids and of course the soft ferns and little succulents. If I could fit it in my hand, I would worry it like an irregular komboloi – moving my thumb from rough to smooth to soft.
I’m here because Little Fern chose to chronicle their journey from space to shop on Instagram. I’ve seen promising snippets. Enough for me to come to Poble Nou for no other reason than to try it out.
It-looked-so-good-I-had-to-come-see is not unusual for out-of-the-way Poble Nou. I meet my girlfriend, who cycles everywhere, in Eixample where she locks up her bike and jumps in the car with me. If you want someone to go that extra mile for your spot, you have to offer something distinctive. Like the brunches at Can Dendê or the succulents and coffee at Espai Joliu.
The couple behind Little Fern are Jay from New Zealand and Judit from Hungary who have spent a good chunk of time working on yachts (and incidentally are friends with Paul and Layla of Yellow bakery who did the same thing). Their concept? An all-day menu. Perfect coffee in gorgeous Acme cups. Even the chai: Prana Chai – “like sticky tobacco” Jay tells me before opening the pot for me to see, is something else.
We try the buttermilk fried chicken (12). A thigh that is first cooked in a water bath before being deep-fried and served. We have a tower of corn fritters (10), interspersed with guacamole and topped with creme fraiche and raw beetroot slaw – a scattering of tomato salsa radiating from it. Plenty of other brunch like fare to choose from including bowls sweet (8) and savoury (12), open faced sandwiches (5-10) and then things like Kimchi pancakes (9).
In the evening, its beer and dumplings. The beer Jay insists we try smells like elderflower and lychee.
“What do you think?” Anna OFlynn, their consultant, asks me at the end of our meal.
“It will work. Definitely. It will join the ranks of the other destination spots in Poble Nou.”*
*When I asked for the bill, Jan said that we were his guests.