Via Veneto restaurant in Barcelona presents a ‘greatest hits’ menu and wine pairing to mark its 50th anniversary.
Review: Via Veneto restaurant, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, Barcelona – 50th Anniversary Menu
Via Veneto is my most successful restaurant recommendation in terms of receiving positive feedback. People who go there on my advice tend to send glowing praise and words of thanks afterwards – in greater numbers than with any other restaurant. That is in large part due to the restaurant’s service, which sets the standard in Barcelona. It is a Rolls-Royce experience that puts people at ease on special occasions. It smoothly transports them to their desired mental destination: a memorable evening. And it’s been doing it for half a century.
When Via Veneto opened in 1967, it employed a young assistant waiter called Josep Monje. He’s still there, and now owns the restaurant. His son, Pere, is the manager. But Pere is also a former head waiter, and a certified sommelier. Professional service is in the DNA of this place. To mark five decades in business, they asked current chef Sergio Humeda to go back in time and reinterpret some of the restaurant’s past dishes for today’s palates.
The result is a spectacular €165 anniversary menu, matched with wine pairings (€75) from Via Veneto’s famous cellar – which you should ask to visit when you’re there. Sommelier José Martínez is uncorking some very special bottles, beginning with the welcome drink: a Juvé & Camps Milésimé Reserva Brut – a Chardonnay varietal Cava that is only made in exceptional years.
Amuse-bouches span the decades, from a 1960s anchovy puff pastry to a 2016 ‘fish & chips’ with potato airbags. Among them is a noughties-but-extremely nice 2009 dim sum of Palamos prawn with a shot of dashi. To wash it all down: Fino Tradición sherry, specially bottled in magnums for Via Veneto’s anniversary.
A tartare of Barcelona prawn, with salted prawns, lime, carrot and squash (2015) is stunning: huge hits of savoury seafood wrapped in fresh, sharp flavours. Matching it is a crisp albariño, D.O. Rías Baixas “El Palomar 2015” from Bodegas Zárate.
Salvador Dalí was a regular at Via Veneto. His favourite dish, a rich sea urchin soup, is served in the urchin’s shells on the original 1970s plates. Dalí had good taste; this is wonderful. Wine is a D.O. Empordà “Singular Garnacha Roja 2014” from Mas Llunes.
Chantilly cream with Tahiti vanilla gets a 2015 upgrade via the addition of Parmesan. It forms a blobby fence around grilled Navarre white asparagus and seems delightfully old-fashioned, despite its recent spot on the menu.
Of more authentic 1960s vintage is lobster cardinal. It’s a retro revelation, a splat of sweet tails in an uncompromisingly rich sauce. This is not a dish made for Instagram but it tastes divine, as does the Brisat 1997 Garnatxa Blanca with which it’s served.
Much about the 1980s deserves to be forgotten, especially the photos of me wearing a white leather tie. A lip-sticking, sensual, potato mille-feuille with pork sausage (botifarra de perol), from 1986, does not. Wine is a 2008 D.O. Montsant, “Les Tallades de Cal Nicolau” from Bodegas Orto Vins. This is the first Picapoll Negre varietal I’ve tried but it won’t be the last. Lots of cherry and freshness to lighten the richness of the dish.
The next wine is even better. If you are weary of Riojas and their ubiquity, try this; it’ll remind you why you started drinking wine in the first place. A 1989 Rioja “Gran Reserva 904” from Bodegas La Rioja Alta comes with a blast from the 1960s: Charolais steak au poivre, cooked table-side to absolute perfection by maître Javier Oliveira.
A sweet D.O. Lanzarote “El Canari” from Bodegas El Grifo is poured for the yogurt ice-cream and various textures of apple that is the refreshing first dessert.
To finish, a 60s “omelette sourprise” – meringue flambeed at the table, with a coffee-caramel ice-cream centre. It’s served, of course, with a Sauternes, and probably the best one I’ve ever tasted: a 2001 Château Rieussec. Petits fours come as an encore.
The anniversary menu shows why Via Veneto is still here after 50 years and is likely to be around for many decades to come. It respects the past but doesn’t revere it; this isn’t a trip into nostalgia, it’s a reminder of the roots of the restaurant and a display of its current, blooming strengths. It’s great fun to rediscover these classic dishes, which are presented to a very high standard, just as it is to encounter chef Sergio’s new creations, which have earned a Michelin star. And the wine – oh, the wine. Oenophiles will weep tears of joy. The 50th anniversary is a special occasion for the restaurant and the price of the menu means it’s probably going to be a special occasion meal for most customers. But it is food – and a restaurant – worthy of a special occasion. Go and try it – and don’t forget to thank me afterwards.
Via Veneto: Carrer Ganduxer 10, 08021, Barcelona | Tel. (+ 34) 93 200 72 44 | www.viaveneto.es | Metro/FGC La Bonanova | Closed Sat. lunch and Sundays.