Anywhere that describes itself as a ‘meat bar’ is already halfway to a place in my heart. Low-carb lunches are often a bleak prospect but Bardeni (c/ Valencia 454, no reservations, closed Mondays) promised to put a high-protein smile on my face with a meat feast of tapas.
I hoped it would distract me from my diet and live up to the standard of its parent restaurant next door, Caldeni. The occasion was an auspicious one as I’d arranged to meet Suzy, of the excellent Foodie in Barcelona blog, to join me on my carnivorous quest.
Bardeni is, as the name suggests, dominated by a bar. There’s no booking; you just turn up, pull up a high stool and order from the tapas menu or blackboard specials.
The never-ending increase of visitors to la Sagrada Familia, just a block away, has clearly finally persuaded chef/owner Dani Lechuga of the value of the tourist euro, as the English menu translations have improved since my last visit to Caldeni and I heard the barman/waiter, Jorge, fluently describing the specials to some non- local diners.
Instead of the set lunch menus and full à la carte choices of Caldeni, Bardeni sticks to a small choice of tapas, burgers and small dishes. These range from €4 for a salad to €12 for a filet steak while wines by the glass are €3 to €4 each; it’s all very reasonable, especially bearing in mind the high standard.
Suzy ordered the sardines, which came as fillets, presented in a ‘can’. They were delicious; fresh and perfectly marinated.
I can never resist a steak tartar and Bardeni’s Nebraskan Angus version passed the mustard muster.
I was asked how picante (hot) I wanted it, a simple but underutilized question that solves at a stroke the problem of serving heat-averse Catalans and asbestos-mouthed foreigners the same dish. It was great: good meat, well prepared and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but…
Bardeni has fallen victim to the same fashion that I’ve seen recently in a lot of butchers’ stalls, supermarkets and restaurants: exotic, imported beef. I know that it’s not always easy to get first-class, grass-fed, mature beef in Spain but that’s no reason to freeze it and fly it halfway around the world. There is pasture in Spain, and with some detective work then suitable local beef could surely be sourced, especially if chefs and consumers started demanding it. But even if that proved impossible, the carbon footprint of importing from the UK or Ireland instead of the USA would surely be much smaller. This isn’t a criticism of Nebraska beef, which is superb; I just don’t see the point of dead cows accumulating air miles when equally good European beef is available. End of rant!
I sneaked a taste of Suzy’s fantastic patatas bravas which featured some really smoky paprika. They’re up there among the best I’ve had in Barcelona, highly recommended. She also ordered some incredibly rich oxtail cannelloni with dried fruit béchamel.
Matching it in the richness stakes was a hearty cap i tripa – beef cheek, plus tripe substituting the trotter of a classic cap i pota. It’s topped with a poached egg, just in case anyone has any namby-pamby doubts about the dish lacking cholesterol. It’s just my sort of thing and I tucked straight into the lip-smacking, sticky, unctuous gloop with enthusiasm. You can’t make this sort of thing look good on a plate, but it tasted absolutely wonderful.
My last dish was a filet of Charolais beef, cooked very rare and served simply with some sea salt, potato and some mustard. It was as good as it looked: excellent meat, perfectly prepared.
The whole bill, including coffees and a few glasses of Montsant red, came to under €60 for 2 people which puts it in the same price range as Caldeni’s set menu del día. You don’t have to eat as much as we did, of course; we were stuffed, but happy. It was great to meet Suzy, whose blog I highly recommend to you all, and great to find that Bardeni is as good as I’d hoped it would be. If you’re near la Sagrada Familia for any reason then I can’t think of a better place in the area for a relaxed lunch.
Unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian…