Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cal Pep - No Menu? No Problem!

By Javier Castillo - March/13/2013
If you ever come to Barcelona as a tourist and have any travel book with you with restaurant recommendations, chances are Restaurant Cal Pep will be mentioned somewhere. After all, why wouldn’t it, it’s withstood the test of time – opened in 1977, it has repeatedly pleased many culinary patrons and foodies throughout its years of existense. And it hasn´t changed much, and really doesn’t need to either. Cal Pep is the sort of place you go to upon meeting a colleague or friend in the street and you want something quick, informal and delicious. It’s a very tapas-style environment where fresh Mediterranean seafood dishes flood the counter, drinks are always being poured and the international chatter of tourists bounces off the walls. The surprising thing – and something that I've yet to witness in any other establishment in Barcelona - is, there are NO menus in sight. You simply look at the people next to you, to see what they are eating, or the knowledgeable and multi-lingual waiter will fill you in on the day’s recommendations (which makes sense since all their food is fresh and comes daily from the Fish Market not far away).

 “Pep”, the owner. My paparazzi moment.
I recommend eating at the counter because the backroom, although quaint, can get stuffy and cluster phobic.  Plus, sitting at the counter gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the work that goes into preparing your dishes as instructions and orders are shouted, the cooks and waiters interact and feed off each other, ingredients and product are passed around and things move at an intense but entertaining speed. Think Iron Chef, but a little more toned down.  And “Pep” Manubens (the owner), is charming, warm and eager to please. Here is an interview (in Spanish) he gave about how he founded the place:
Go ahead, be adventurous and try things you have never tried before, you won’t be disappointed. My personal favorites are the baby squid with chickpeas cooked in a skillet, or the clams with ham, both dishes are sensational. And for those who don’t like seafood, there are a lot of other varied dishes. Try the always delicious Catalan Pork Sausage (a.k.a Butifarra) with duck foie gras and white beans with a Porto wine reduction. Take a look here at their gallery of dishes to get your mouth watering:

Catalan Pork Sausage (a.k.a Butifarra) with duck foie gras and white beans with a Porto wine reduction.

More information:
Restaurant Cal Pep
Pla├ža de les Olles, 8  08003 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 10 79 61
Lunch: CLOSED 
Dinner:  19:30h - 23:30h
From Tuesday to Friday:
Lunch: 13:00h - 15:45h
Dinner: 19:30h - 23:30h
Lunch: 13:00h - 15:45h
Dinner: CLOSED
Closed on Saturday night, every Sunday, Monday noon, festive days and the last three weeks of August.