EDIT: you can also read about my most recent visit to Blavis.
If you accidentally stumble across Blavis (C/Saragossa 85, 08006, www.restaurantblavis.com) as a tourist, you’re almost certainly lost. It sits between Gracia and Sant Gervasi on a narrow, nondescript street in a resolutely locals-and-office-workers-only area, far from the more picturesque charms those districts have to offer.
Passing trade may not have been mentioned in the business plan but Blavis is well situated in other ways. Over the last couple of years it has earned a solid reputation amongst local foodies for serving quality, modern, market cuisine. Because of this, it’s advisable to get your map out and set off early to avoid finding it fully booked. Even better, make a reservation: Blavis is tiny and fills up very quickly indeed.
It’s small but well designed. I sat, with Dan as usual, at a table alongside the bar and as it was a warm day we chose a bottle of €14 Organic Mas Comptal Rosé to accompany the menú del día.
Blavit does its set lunch in a slightly unusual way. You can choose any two of the three starters on offer plus one of two main courses. Your dessert options are limited to having one or not. Don’t come here if you’re a picky eater — the choice is extremely limited — but the portions are generous and at €12.60 the value of the set lunch is outstanding.
I’m not going to post a photo of the Ajo Blanco (a cold soup made with almonds and garlic) because it’s just a plain white liquid. It did, however, taste great and just as it should: a refreshing little shot of Andalucia in a glass.
Slightly more visually interesting was the salad of prawns, pineapple, avocado and salsa rosa.
Yes, you’re thinking what we were thinking: it’s a prawn cocktail. Welcome to the 1970s. Was black forest gateau to be the dessert? Whether this was a snub to food fashion, a retro reclamation of a childhood favourite or simply a bit of fun, it worked well enough. The prawns were fresh and the lettuce especially good.
Also as a starter was the octopus and legume salad. Chick peas and beans added wonderful texture to the sensational octopus: a well-dressed triumph of simplicity.
The main courses continued the theme of uncomplicated dishes executed extremely well. The salt cod au gratin with pear, potato and black olives was very good indeed: the fish flaky and firm and the potatoes waxy and cooked to perfection.
Equally as good was the steak. Rare — as we’d ordered — and in a mustard sauce which is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The accompanying potatoes, just as with the bacallà, were delicious. A smoky, roasted red pepper finished the dish perfectly.
The single dessert on offer was a glass of lemon cream, topped with (presumably tinned) peaches.
It was perfectly acceptable but didn’t quite live up to the high standard of the rest of the meal. The idea was fine but the cream was slightly split die to the acid of the lemon and it was also slightly on the thin side. The fruit floating around on the top did nothing for it either except to dilute the already underweight crema. Served a bit thicker, in a pot instead of a glass, and with some more thought put into the topping and it would be greatly improved. It tasted fine and we enjoyed it, but it was the only dish of our visit that disappointed in any way.
Blavis is a local gem. I wish I lived nearer to it or that there were more places like this near me! Unpretentious, robust, accomplished cooking plus friendly service at competitive prices is a recipe for success regardless of the state of the global economy. I’m pleased Blavis seems to be doing well: they deserve it, and it’s nice to see that not all restaurants need to rely on tourist trade to survive and prosper.