Tragaluz’s stunning glass roof, stylish interior and high-quality but play-it-safe cooking make it an ideal choice for entertaining business guests or taking a break from designer shopping sprees on Passeig de Gràcia.
It was raining hard and the sky above Barcelona was black when I set out for Tragaluz (Passatge de la Concepció 5, Tel. +34 934 870 621). Autumnal storms aren’t the weather you hope for when visiting a restaurant whose name translates as ‘skylight’ so I was delighted to find that the clouds had broken when I stepped out of Diagonal Metro station.
By the time I’d walked a few metres to the side alley between Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya and climbed the stairs to Tragaluz, there was nothing but blue heaven and sunshine to be seen overhead and the restaurant was bathed in natural light.
Tragaluz’s been around for a long time and is well known on the Barcelona dining scene. It’s undergone a few facelifts but the unchanging highlight of its design is a glass and steel ceiling that can be opened in good weather. It gives the dining area, reached by walking through the open kitchen, a unique character.
Upstairs, under the ridge of the roof, is a smaller area with extra tables that can be used during busy periods or for customers who just want a coffee. There’s also a unisex toilet which I saw completely flummox an elderly couple.
Groups of well-heeled Catalan ladies-who-lunch (and who own shares in hairspray manufacturers, if they’ve any sense) laughed and chatted with the relaxed ease of regulars; steel-haired businesspeople entertained clients and partners, while smart but informal staff buzzed around. The restaurant was completely packed on a wet, midweek lunchtime. Crisis? What crisis?
Tragaluz has a €25 fixed menu del día that doesn’t skimp on the good stuff: steak tartare and foie gras were included on the day I visited. À la carte main courses are in the €18-€27 range. I was given the chance to try a selection of the dishes on the menu, so please note that serving sizes are usually larger than those in the photos here.
The aforementioned tartare and foie was first, served with a simple plate of seasonal wild mushrooms. The tartare and foie were pleasant but a little disappointing: quality ingredients but they were underseasoned and the tartare lacked character. If I’m going to risk my health with raw meat (which, as regular readers will know, I love) then I want my tartare to be worth it.
The mushrooms were excellent, seasoned with black salt.
A salad of organic tomato, figs, rocket (arugula, to my American readers), and smoked mozzarella was fresh and uncomplicated. The rocket pesto perhaps lacked pep – a few pine nuts might have helped – but it was still a good dish.
‘Chatka’ crabmeat under a salad of watercress, mushrooms and apple was excellent. The dressing was balanced and the combination of textures worked well. I’d certainly order this again.
The next plate was outstanding: top-quality 000-grade Escala anchovies, capers, parmesan and roasted red pepper on slender strips of toast. A great, salty whack of fantastic flavours.
Scallops with leek and pine nuts (aha!) came next. The menu mentioned a confit of cherries which was nowhere to be found on my plate but sounded like just the thing the dish needed to lift it up from good to excellent.
Rare tuna with Japanese ponzu and miso and a vegetable couscous had great textures, with plenty of crunch in the couscous and just the right balance of sweet and sour.
Sticky and super-tender beef with caramelized shallots and creamed potatoes was as rich as it sounds. The slow-cooked beef (oxtail, I suspect) smelled fractionally burnt but wasn’t: the brakes had been put on the browning at just the right time and the smell came from the smoky shavings on top. The baby veg were crisp and the reduced jus delicious. A very good dish which matched well with the plummy Vinyes Domenech Furvus 2010 Montsant I was drinking and which I can certainly recommend.
Dessert was a rib-sticking bread pudding with cinnamon ice-cream. I expected something a little more refined but I’m pleased I didn’t get it: this was very good indeed.
The Tragaluz team can obviously cook but they understandably play it safe with most of the dishes on the menu. It’s traditional food, presented in a modern style, with nothing that will scare off the average customer. This isn’t a restaurant for visiting gastronomes and hard-core foodies to tick off a list but it is a beautiful place for the rest of the human race to enjoy an excellent meal. Full disclosure: I didn’t pay for my meal but I’d return to Tragaluz with visitors without hesitation, in complete confidence that they’d eat well and love the dining room, looking up at the sun or the stars – or even the rain.