“For horchata, you must try Sirvent.” people told me. I confidently assumed that the huge Sirvent on Ronda Santa Pau (This location is now CLOSED) was the shop they all referred to. How else to explain the luxury and size of it, all to sell horchata in the summer and turron in the winter? Then I turned the corner onto Carrer Parlament to see another Sirvent, small and poky, with a patina of age – also serving horchata in the summer and turron in the winter. (Further down Ronda Santa Pau, towards the port, there is another, Sirvent 26 easily distinguishable because of its burgundy livery and shop window filled with traditional pasteleria.)
It turns out it’s like this. Orxateria Sirvent on Parlament 56 is genuinely old. It’s been there since the 1940’s. They serve horchata from April onwards and focus on Turron in the colder months – those two things are their reason for existing.
Sirvent, Ronda de Sant Pau 67 is new, opened in 2015 by descendants of the original Sirvents but on a different family branch. The offering is complex. It’s a Gastrobar serving tapas and full meals. It is a juice bar. There is a breakfast menu which appears to be popular. The horchata and turron are a small part of the whole, the proverbial cherry on the cake.
The awkwardness of having two separate businesses practically next to each other with the same name is not lost on the guy pouring me my horchata at the Parlament shop. “It’s a family name.” he bristles. “Not a random brand name.”
A family with horchata and turron in the blood. A heritage neither is willing to walk away from.
Sirvent Santa Pau is a sumptuous space, designed by the famous interior designer Lázaro Rosa to great effect. The white beehive tiles with SIRVENT painted on large will snag any passer-by’s attention.
Inside, a large U-shaped bar bisects the space, creating narrow passageways on either side and then giving way to a large space, bookended by a workshop with opaque glass windows so that you have to kneel on the leather banquette and peer over the ledge to see what they are making inside. Well, I do.
I’ve never been for lunch or dinner but I think it’s ideally suited as a place to get a coffee after a visit to the newly refurbished Sant Antoni market. A special blend made for them specifically by the Barcelona’s original master roaster, Salvador Sans of Magnifico coffee.
Or a glass of gritty at the bottom horchata with a pale buttery trinkini (like a bikini but with an extra slice of bread).
The Sirvent on Parlament is an entirely different creature. There is an agreeable brusqueness to the service, that of someone who has been doing their job for a long time and can be expeditious in the face of crowds. And there are crowds.
Which one is better though? Well – they are different. It’s something I like to tell my children, it’s all a matter of your perspective and what you want. I like the Gastro restaurant for working breakfasts because it’s large, looks good and has a fun playlist. I like the smaller Sirvent because it feels authentic and I like to people watch. There is a place for both. Even around the corner from one another.
What do you think? Have you tried both?
Sirvent (Original has 2 branches)
Parlament Street, 56
08015 Sant Antoni
Balmes Street, 130
This location is now CLOSED – Sirvent Gastrorestaurant (Take 2, same family different branch)
Ronda Sant Pau, 67
08015 Sant Antoni
Ronda de Sant Pau 3-5
08015 Sant Antoni