Bar del Pla behind Santa Caterina market has been such a success that the people behind it have opened a second location in Eixample. Similar in quality of food and drink to the former but with a look and personality of its very own.
Located in a former bookshop, the team decided to retain a lot of the shop’s elements. The exposed brick walls are lined with shelves of interspersed books and bottles. In the dim space, the light fittings emit bright focused beams of light – perfect for reading a small lettered textbook.
Solitary book reading is the antithesis of what you will be doing here. You will start with a drink. Possibly a vermouth if you have arrived before lunchtime. You’ll probably order some chips and olives to go with it because no one here ever drinks without a plate of something to pick at. Then encouraged by how good the hand cut, house fried chips are, you’ll ask to see the menu. If you see marinated mackerel with celery and tomatoes (11.50€) order it. Ditto for the duck magret (6.50€), sliced wafer thin. Oh and the mussels with charred lemon, I hope you are there with someone you know well enough to swat their hand away when both of you are staring down at that last uneaten mussel.
Once you are three dishes deep, you will start to question which is supporting which? Is the food there to give you something to pick at while you drink? Or are the drinks there to amplify these fantastic dishes?
One thing is certain, while it might look like a laid-back bar with some snacks, everyone working here is fiercely into their craft. It starts with Belen, who with her Cleopatra fringe and an avocado tattoo on her forearm is easy to spot. Most drink-related questions, she can answer. There are stories behind the vermouths, the wines (some of which are natural and unsulfured – an acquired taste) and let’s not forget the Cava.
Go deeper into the restaurant and you will arrive at some more seating. My favourite is the high table bifurcating one of the kitchen counters. You can peer over the ledge and see what the chef is doing. Parallel to that, the hot kitchen, separated only by a transparent red blind.
The small open kitchen reminds me so much of London, where many places use this format. It gives customers the chance to see the cheffing happening live, which if you are a cook (or even just a curious person – me!) is an extra perk.
C/ Aribau 41
*I was invited to Pepa Pla with a group of bloggers and journalists to try some of the menu. The review provided is my honest opinion.