Albert Adrià must have a very happy bank manager. Most of his venues are in the Sant Antoni district where the majority of the shops are shuttered with once-hopeful (now weathered) ‘for rent’ signs. Right across from Bodega 1900 is the popular Tickets bar and 41º. Which is convenient as, during my meal there, chefs arrive ferrying gastronorms of marinated tuna from the bigger kitchens across the street.
It’s a charming little space. And by little, I mean tiny. A front room and a back room. The front room is an uneven split in favour of Bodega 1900- between Bodega1900 staff and customers. To wit: Bodega is allocated a cold station running the length of one wall underneath swinging Joselito hams and salamis, an ordering station where waiters congregate to tap in orders (they don’t have individual hand-held units) and there is a man with a clipboard (really?) waiting to greet at the front door. Customers get a scattering of petite round tables, pushed into corners and up against poles or some bar stools against a sliver of a bar. In the bustling back room, customers have slightly more space which they share with a bar and a warm kitchen.
The idea at Bodega 1900, is to have a little something to go with your Vermouth, beer or cava (little because after your Vermouth and snack, you would be expected to continue on to lunch as is tradition). The somethings turn out to be extremely simple. A tomato salad for €5.90 where I am served a skinned tomato, that comes in deceptive rough and ready chunks. I say deceptive because the care that goes into the slicing and individually salting and peppering each wedge borders on the absurd. The identical slices of smoked mackerel receive a similar treatment, being laid out in parallel lines, a flake of salt bestowed upon each tender slice with a final flourish of a few drops of oil (possibly Oro Bailen) dispensed from a pipette.
I order one dish from the day’s menu, sweet peas with mushrooms and morcilla. The peas are so immature and succulent they reminded me of the vacuum packed suckling pigs that lined the chiller cabinets all through the Christmas period.
The chocolate tart I have for dessert is the only point at which I think the booking has been worth it. A rich chocolate in a pastry shell so thin they must have painted the pastry onto the tin. Outstanding.
It’s unfussy food fussed over by a large number of staff for a small number of customers. And you need to have a reservation, which somehow takes all the fun out of going out for a Vermouth and some chips, even if the chips are very very good chips conceived of by Albert Adria.
Would one go to the trouble of reserving a table if it wasn’t for Albert Adrià involvement? I am not sure. Especially with so many alternatives in Barcelona. If you want a glimpse into the world of the Adria brothers, I think your money is better spent at Tickets.