Sant Antoni kicked off the pedestrian transformation years ago before the city became perpetually choked in dust and noise. In Sant Antoni, it culminated in traffic-free squares in dappled sunshine with yellow geometric shapes painted on the pavement. A saturated yellow hue that reminds me of those ‘danger wet floor’ signs. (I can’t help picturing the black stick figure, limbs akimbo, drawn mid-fall.) In the absence of traffic, murmurs of conversation are carried along the quiet streets. Large wooden rectangles are strewn haphazardly through the neighbourhood and leggy plants dangle.
Sucursal Aceitera, like a lot of the Sant Antoni spots, is a double-height restaurant. There are large windows giving way to the seating on the pavement outside, big enough to let through a large truck. Should a truck want to stop by for a tennis ball-sized bomba, sizzling from the fryer, mayonnaise cap sliding off its hot surface.
The bar inside has a balcony of wine glasses, hanging in orderly rows sparkly clean and catching the light, like a Dionysian chandelier. Above, a neat crowd of bottles of Vermuth. The combination of a corner position and often open large windows at Sucursal Aceitera gives it lazy Sunday vibes, even if it is a weekday lunch menu.
The backbone of the menu isn’t that different from what most bars serve. Croquetas, bombas, bravas, artichokes in season. But the artichokes are delicately quartered, pale green, with thinly shaved trendils of pickled onions. The Bravas have been hassle backed, red oil seeping through the cuts, and copious amounts of mayonnaise. (Hellmans does a good trade in these parts) The Ensalada del huerto is KM0 AND comes from their own huerto! Oh, and I am sure I spotted a mustard sorbet accompanying something. Only the calamares come as I expect, battered, crisp, with a wedge of lemon.
That you can find most of what is listed on Sucursal Aceitera’s menu in any bar in Barcelona is not the point. All a bar needs in Barcelona for the classics is a deep-fat fryer and a 10-litre tub of mayo and they can turn out edible food that will be enhanced by Barcelona, the sunshine, and the collective smugness that we are living in the choicest, best part of Europe. The metaphorical equivalent of the nose* of a wheel of Brie cheese (*the best part). The point is, Sucursal Aceitera has whizzed past the inherent qualities that any bar in Barcelona is generously endowed with (see the nose of the Brie) to deliver the whole package. Interior to drool over, double height space, the windows, the service, the typical Catalan fare with the extras (own huerto, KM 0, a peeled beef heart tomato that is the size of a bull’s heart.)
It’s no wonder then that when I optimistically walk up on a weekday expecting an outside table. I end up with a (very good) inside table by the window that I have to give back in an hour and a half. I’m not the only one who wants to while away an afternoon. Lesson learned.