Bardeni ‘meat bar’ near la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is a carnivore’s dream: top-quality tapas in informal surroundings.
Review: Bardeni ‘El Meatbar’, Eixample, Barcelona
Bardeni ‘el meatbar’ impressed me when I visited in 2014 (see here). I’m also a fan of its sister restaurant Caldeni, located next door. Knowing that Bardeni had been fully renovated, and keen to see what had changed, I dropped in with some friends. Lunch was magnificent but I didn’t take any notes. So I went back again.
Outside, some bright red paint has given the facade an old-British-phone-box look; inside, the new Bardeni is unrecognizable from the original. The bar has been moved to the back, creating more room for tables. Menus are written in marker pen on white-tiled walls. Tables and chairs are solid, functional and comfortable. It’s an attractive, welcoming space.
In the room that connects Bardeni and Caldeni, visitors can feast their eyes on a fridge from heaven. Just look at this:
The wall menus make it easier for Bardeni’s owner Dani Lechuga, former Catalan Chef of the Year, to change things around. There are a lot of regular customers, which drives demand for new dishes. Next door in Caldeni, Dani indulges his creativity with fine-dining tasting menus and á la carte specials; here, he keeps it simpler with tapas based mainly around meat. I suspect he has more fun here.
Bardeni is usually busy, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for tapas on a budget, look elsewhere. But the quality here is unquestionable and I think Bardeni offers great value in that respect. You can snack for a few euros although a sit-down meal will cost you around €40 per person. Full disclosure: during my second visit here, Dani chose the dishes and paid the bill. I paid myself the first time and I’ll happily do so again. Some of the portions in the photos are smaller than usual as we were covering as much of the menu as possible.
Eggs with octopus and potato foam (€8) is one of the meat free choices, and one of the best dishes here. A velvety and elegant version of Galician-style octopus’s flavour combinations, meltingly tender.
Simple steak tartar (€10) of outstanding quality, as mustard-hot as you want it to be.
Carpaccio of beef tongue with onion and foie, a new dish, with a pine nut vinaigrette. The tongue is subtly flavoured and not heavily seasoned but the overall dish is robust and well balanced.
A taco of filet mignon, not yet on the menu, offers great-quality meat but not much Mexican character. Some mole or similar source of spiciness is needed to pep up the picante levels.
A refined dish from next door in Caldeni, offered as a daily special here: fresh peas in season (early March) and hake cheeks (€12). Sensational. Peas, when they’re this good, are a revelation. (Don’t miss those served in iberico pork fat in Ca l’Isidre in early spring, fellow pea fans. They’ll blow your mind.)
Fricando, a Catalan beef-and-mushroom stew (€10), served as finger food on a light and gravy-soaked bread base. I love this sort of thing.
Then Bardeni’s most popular dish, and for good reason: a hand chopped burger of steak (€7.50) that’s as good as you can get in Barcelona. It comes by itself, wrapped in paper. And that, my dear readers, is all you’ll see of it because I devoured mine before taking a second photo. It’s good. Absurdly good. It came with salsa café de Paris, probably my favourite steak sauce, which they make incredibly well in Caldeni. Here, soaked into the small but perfect bun, it is unimprovable. Unwrap your own and see for yourself.
I was still thinking about it as I ate the onglet (hanger steak) – €10. But nor for long. The onglet was superb: deep, rich, tender and perfectly seasoned. Carnal. Michael Bublé was on the stereo but I didn’t care, I was still having a great time. Now that’s good meat.
The high-protein marathon came to an end with home-made sorbets for my wife (€3) and a crema catalana (€3) for me. I expected the crema to be heavy, but no: it retained all the creamy vanilla flavour of the classic dish but was light and ethereal. Exactly what was needed after a fairly dense meal.
I liked Bardeni the first time I ever went and it has risen in my estimations with each successive visit. The bar is only a block from la Sagrada Familia but it seems to be a blind spot for tourists who walk straight past. My advice is to make the most of it while it lasts: one day, Bardeni will to too full to enjoy. But for now, it’s a joy. It’s not especially cheap, and there are no gut-busting portions, but the premium protein on offer here is impeccably sourced and prepared. The dishes are satisfying, flavoursome and fun. It’s the kind of place where conversation comes before reverential discussion of the food, but those conversations frequently grind to a halt as the people involved pause to savour what they’re eating and have to talk about it. It’s the kind of place where you can tell that a talented chef is enjoying himself instead of cooking what the market demands. It’s my kind of place.
Bardeni: Carrer Valencia 452, 08013, Eixample, Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 232 58 11; Metro Sagrada Familia; Closed Sundays and Mondays. No reservations.