Gresca Bar is what happens when you take Catalan ingredients and apply classic cooking techniques. It firmly rejects anything molecular. It could be a Gastropub in London or a Bistro in Paris – the kind that has a Michelin star. The bottom line is quality, heritage, understatement.
I first got wind of Gresca via the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme on Catalonia hosted by Sheila Dillon. She discussed Catalonia’s bid for independence, foraging, and Gresca. All the restaurants in Barcelona and only this one made the cut.
In a way they are right, the Gastrobar / pub restaurant format is not something you find all that much in Barcelona. (I think it’s because of the high costs of running a restaurant versus the relatively low returns and saturated marketplace that is endemic to Barcelona.) You can count the places that do this format well on one hand.
Gresca is two restaurants separated by a private door. On the right Gresca, white tablecloths and two menus to choose from 45€ (7 courses) or 70€ (10 courses). On the left, Gresca bar, still a restaurant with half table seating and half bar or kitchen seating and an a la carte menu. The idea of eating in a restaurant with tablecloths and a solemn whispering waiter lost its appeal years ago so it’s for Gresca Bar that I make a reservation. 13:30 or 15:30 are the options my sister and I are given.
I take the 15:30 making sure to ask if we will be able to eat or if we will be rushed through. The woman assures me it will be fine. In reality, when our second plate arrives we are treated to a live show of the chefs breaking down the kitchen and hit with the pungent smell of bleach as the floors are washed down. I don’t begrudge them this, I should have known better than to take the late slot offered, I do marvel at their efficiency and briefly fantasize about them cleaning my kitchen.
Our waiter recommends 5 plates to share. We try the seasonal salad (9€), a Russian salad on a chipped antique plate with pickled guindilla peppers. Eggplant (10€). Eel toasts (7.5€). We have deep fried boquerones (8.5€). Our waiter has recommended the sweet bread which my sister doesn’t want. There are brains on the menu – met with an equal lack of enthusiasm. We end up with an odd combination of duck and meatballs (14€).”Pato con albóndigas?” I question. “Si, pato con albóndigas.” the waiter shrugs. It reminds me of the odd mar y montana combinations in the weirdness of the combination but it’s well executed, with a generous serving of glossy reduction.
We’ve kept the pastry chef standing while we’ve finished. We aren’t going to let her go without a dessert. A lemon flavored pavlova with red fruits (6€). It’s yummy and woefully small.
At this point, we are alone in the restaurant with two members of floor staff. We decide to go down the street to SandwiChez to have our espressos and let those two go home.
Despite my misjudgment on accepting the late seating, I like the restaurant. A lot. It’s casual in look and service but with a hyper-professional kitchen with enough staff to execute things properly. We might be eating in the “bar” section but the opened kitchen is serving both parts of Gresca and we in the bar are reaping the rewards of this.