I am surprised that I have not heard of Denassus before stepping into it for lunch with my fellow Rack & Return WSET classmates. They all seem to know it. They know that it used to be restaurant Malamén.
“Wasn’t this opened by those guys from Bar del Pla?” someone volunteers.
Wait! What? How did I miss this? I am incredulous. I love this format! The type where enthusiasm carries the concept but the lot is buoyed by experience. Where the small number of tables and chairs speaks to the likelihood of more attention from the kitchen.
Denassus call themselves a temple of wine and tapas. Understandable since both Sergi & Alejo were at Bar del Pla for 10 years. With a cheeky smile, Sergi presents the table with two wine bottles, a red and a white, wrapped in tin foil so that we can’t see the label. “Let’s see how much you learned today on your wine course.” he smiles at us.
We start off with a board of cold cuts. Lean cecina and marbled Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (16€) folded in on themselves. A long plate of roast chicken croquetas (1.65€ each) followed by spherical duck bombas (2.50€ each) sitting in a small puddle of house-made hoisin sauce with a few tendrils of curled green onion on top.
A solitary leek, dressed with micro leaves, marigold petals and toasted slivered almonds next, displaying a green-fingered aptitude in the kitchen (6.50€). Nico, the chef here has over 30 years of experience around the world and brings a smidgen of fusion to the menu. Thankfully not the heavy-handed, knee jerk habit that relies on sweet chilli sauce and cheap soy sauce for excitement.
The Denassus take on patatas bravas (4€) are so good, drowned in a red and avocado green sauce that we devour it hungrily before I’ve had a chance to take a picture.
An excellent ceviche comes next (10.70€). I award Nico extra mental points for not relying on the usual splodge of sweet potato puree and instead using a melon baller to scoop out specimens of perfectly steamed sweet potato. As is my habit, I tip the remaining leche de Tigre from the plate directly into my mouth. The best part and at Denassus that salty lemon balance is spot on.
It’s the penultimate plate that has me hook line and sinker. First off, it’s gorgeous, the plate selection at Denassus is at once comforting with a favouring for deep speckled bowls and elegant. Beans and Catalunya are happy bedfellows going way back. Paired with botifarra as they often are, I can appreciate the attraction of an affordable and filling dish. Would I dream about it? No. Would I dream about this dish? Yes. Soft white beans in an unctuous broth, made more so by the decadent draping of a thin sheet of pork fat, succulent morsels of baby squid and a tangy drizzle of vinegar, that you chase after (14.50€)
Having said that. I am close to that crazy about the Ibérico pork cheeks with chestnut celeriac puree (11.50€).
And the chocolate dessert is paired with apple sauce (5.50€). I am surprised that the pairing works. But then it turns out that Denassus is a surprising kind of place.