Bold flavours, good service and a fun, boisterous atmosphere make Llamber a solid choice for creative tapas in El Born.
I reviewed Llamber in 2013 and was impressed with its lunchtime menu, interior design and service. Returning for an evening visit revealed a different side to the restaurant, as it went into fully booked, full-swing mode on an early-autumn evening. Since my last visit, Llamber has been able to open a lovely terrace in front of the Mercat del Born cultural centre but the evening was a little too chilly for outdoor dining. Instead, I sat inside and watched the staff, ably led by Donald, cater comfortably to tables packed with Spanish, Catalan, French and English guests. I was eating alone, which doesn’t fit Llamber’s pica-pica ‘plates to share’ concept (a step up from individual tapas) but the kitchen agreed to make smaller versions to allow me to sample a wider variety of what was on offer. For a more typical meal in the evenings, expect to pay around €30-€35 per person. There is an excellent selection of wines available by the glass.
As I’ve already reviewed Llamber, I’ll stick to some pics then cut straight to the chase.
Rockfish terrine with a deconstructed tartar sauce. Needed more pickles but the terrine and homemade cracker were good. A fun dish.
Smoked anchovies, muscat vinaigrette, Asturian Los Caserinos cheese and a shot glass of cold ajoblanco that slipped down perfectly after the smoky, salty treat of the fish.
Black Angus beef carpaccio, green beans, unpasteurized AsturianRey Silo cheese and wholegrain mustard ice cream. Punchy and flavoursome. Recommended.
Parmesan fondue with green asparagus and prawns was competently made but didn’t do much for me.
I wasn’t fully convinced by the garlicky braised octopus with smoked cheese either. The octupus was tender and perfectly cooked but smothered by the other strong flavours. It’s a popular dish and other tables around me loved it but I felt it lacked balance. It was enjoyable but improvable.
Much better was the Morcilla de Burgos (black pudding/blood sausage) with squid. This magnificent mar y muntaña (surft and turf) combo showed off the best of the ingredients, drawing them together with squid ink and a drizzle of parsley oil.
Also good was an off-menu 14-hr-cooked pork secreto with a thick, very garlicky reduction and mushrooms. Not perfect – the bold flavours were right on the edge of being bullying when it came to the garlic, and the pork was almost over-tender to the point of being textureless – but overall very enjoyable and I’d order it again.
White chocolate and yoghurt mousse with orange and mint was fine. Exactly as you’d expect from the description.
Casadielles (traditional Asturian pastries filled with powdered walnuts and anise) came with homemade rosemary ice cream that was over-heavy on the herbs. This buried the subtle sweetness of the dish. The casadielles themselves, however, hit the spot.
There’s a lot to like at Llamber. It’s run remarkably efficiently, and even when fully booked the service to all tables was prompt, friendly and attentive on the night I visited. The care put into the cooking is also evident: there are no errors in the execution and a lot of work goes into getting the details right. No-one in the kitchen is taking shortcuts. Subjectively, I found that powerful flavours were sometimes allowed to run amok; a little balance, a few tiny tweaks to a couple of dishes would result in great improvements. But overall it’s a lot of fun. It’s the sort of place I’d happily come to with my family or a group of friends, secure in the knowledge that the price would be reasonable, the service good, the wine list well-selected and the atmosphere lively. Not every dish will be to your taste, but that’s the joy of pica-pica and sharing: there’s always another one to try.