Lunch today is at Fonda Pepa. A Catalan restaurant in Gràcia. The awning is a punchy orange with Fonda Pepa in a bubbly retro font, the combined effect bistro-like. Inside, there’s been an attempt to upcycle the previous bar. A long row of 4 tops leading to a terrace at the end. This is where we opt to sit.
The courtyard walls are dotted with small plants, green fronds trailing out. The unmistakable smell of joint cooking smells emanates from the apartments above. Humid and cabbagey.
Fonda Pepa is named after the two owners: Pedro and Paco. Pedro is our server that day, but looking at his fingers, nails cut short and dyed black in a way that happens when you spend a morning prepping artichokes leads me to ask:
“You cook, don’t you?”
Pedro glances at his hands and raises one, and turns it over to examine the telltale signs. “Yes, I come in the morning and do the preparation, and then I come out and wait for tables. It’s small. We are new.” he concludes by way of explanation.
“No menu del dia?” I probe.
“If we offered a menu del dia for lunch with no dinner service at night, we wouldn’t even be able to keep the lights on.” He says.
And once again, I wonder how restaurants are managing to keep the lights on?
Fonda Pepa is a Catalan restaurant. Proudly so. Since it’s spring, artichokes feature in the specials, served on an artichoke cream modified to be entirely vegetarian for my friend with a generous grating of local Perol truffles on top. We order the Canyuts from the Delta de l’Ebre without knowing what kind of shellfish it is. It turns out they are like razor clams but smaller, sweeter and more tender. They come with local judias or white beans.
Since this is a Catalan restaurant, I order a Cap I Pota, head and leg stew. Part of me is horrified when faced with this dish. The cubes of animal are cut to identical proportions, but the texture is a veritable roulette. Will it be familiar and steak-like or squidgy? It’s the bouncy ones that I find the most unnerving. The Cap i Pota at Fonda Pepa comes with two small Canadian scallops on top, creamy white in a sea of brown. I surprise myself by enjoying the dish. Normally I order it because I agree. I am convinced of its merit from an intellectual perspective: eating the entire animal is a commitment every carnivore should undertake.
Special mention has to go to the croquetta. And there are instructions to go along with it. Interrupt conversation. Admire the loud crack as the fork breaks through. It’s a thing of beauty. Particularly the jumbo format.
It’s been an epic week. I feel like a dishrag. Hence we order two desserts. We split the goats cheese cheesecake and the flan. Through, his mask, I understood that Pedro said the flan came with frutas but when it shows up I realize he said trufas. The combination is spectacular. Even so, we can’t decide which was better – so we alternate mouthfuls.
After 2 hours, Pedro comes and asks us if we mind moving to another table inside because this one has another reservation. I am glad that they are managing to turn a few tables over twice. It means there is a high chance this place will stick around.
Carrer de Tordera, 58