Enoteca Paco Pérez – Barcelona Restaurant Review
You can’t pass up the privilege of being cooked for by a veteran Michelin-starred Masterchef and being served by a waitress whose father is China’s top international football goal scorer, scoring 41 times in 107 games. And coming on once as a substitute for Sheffield United in the FA Cup match against Colchester United. It is a unique and wonderful gourmet experience.
Top restaurants like the Michelin two-starred Enoteca (“Wine cellar”) in the five-star, luxury 44-story seafront Arts Hotel Barcelona have begun presenting their menus in black envelopes. Your first touch is bliss because you sense bliss inside.
Passing the envelope is one of the most pleasant things you can do in Spain. But the most pleasurable is digesting the contents of that envelope. It takes you to a different world.
Your heart races, your mouth waters and your ganglia tingle as you slit the envelope open. You become conscious of your capacity for mastication.
As your finger slides across the top of the envelope, you begin to tremble and swoon simultaneously as you see the white card inside. Your forehead may begin to bead and your tongue shows signs of lolling. You may have trouble keeping the hairs on the back of your neck from elevating.
Slowly, respectfully, and almost gravely, salivating uncontrollably but not antisocially, you withdraw the 198 Euro tasting menu degustation. One sybaritic course at a time.
Starting with Bloody Mary Bouqueron on a citrus merengue, followed by lobster “salpicon” rocoto, almond, black garlic and anchovy. Three words make your eyes bulge and Adam’s apple bungee-jump – “sustainable chilli crab”.
No food has appeared yet on your table. Only visions of. You gobble up the words. You eat with your eyes through the lobster, corals, tomato salad and Polenta 22. You digest all that is in store.
No amount of pre-dinner cocktails in the famous hotel’s Coctelarium, expertly prepared and served by Oscar Plaza, Diego Blaud and Cory Dijkhuizen, are enough to calm your excitement and mellow the heart rate.
Ignoring your partner, over and over again you keep reading about the crab and cannot get the word lobster out of your mind. The anticipation is extreme. You taste the privilege. You roll it around your mouth. With the mineral water.
And then the ever-smiling sommelier is there beside you to spoil your palate even more. In the most sensual and memorable of ways. With his vinous recommendations for each course. A 700-strong wine list is so hard to select from. You need the assistance of a connoisseur.
The select Spanish-heavy accompaniments chosen for you include a Do Jerez Vermut Lustau for the anchovies, a volcanic Lanzarote Malvasia, an AOC Pouilly Fumé, a DO Rias Baixas Alabarino, a Trotamundos 2018 DO Rioja Garnacha Blanca, Maturana Blanca and a dessert-complementing Asturian cidre.
Your meal starts with waitress Ricki Hao and her South American colleague appearing out of the beach chic all-white ambience to evoke the awaiting delights and deconstruct feted “contemporary Mediterranean cuisine “ course by course, intimately describing the Koji cured red mullet and make your eyes roll by talking you through chef Perez’s sea cucumber Fricando and stewed tendons.
Ten minutes later, your table cleared by unseen hands, they return to recite an overture to his dressed sea prawn and prepare you for your John Dory fish meunière. They linger over the words “shrimp dumpling”, seeing the visual effect the dish beneath has on you. The waiting staff’s briefings are a pleasure in themselves. Music to your lucky ears. Even if you do suffer from premature peristalsis.
And it intensifies when the daughter of China’s most famous footballer, Hao Haidong, in a few well-chosen lyrical words prepares your tastebuds and digestive tract for the upcoming Wagyu in its own juice, carrots and plum umeboshi. Her Latin American colleague hovers to rave about the bacon waffle. And reinforce the message of quality over quantity.
These two can even make music out of the words “petit fours”. And these are as good as foretold. Once-in-a-lifetime petit fours because they conclude a once-in-a-lifetime meal in one of the best cities to eat in the world.
Catalan chef Paco Perez holds five prestigious Michelin stars, including two Miramar restaurants in his hometown of Llanca, and one for Cinco at Berlin’s Das Stue hotel. He took over at Enoteca in 2008, winning his first star two years later and it’s second in 2013. The Barcelona FC fan helped open central Manchester’s Tast Cuina Catalana restaurant, co-owned by Manchester City manager,Pep Guardiola.
In his younger years, he trained under legendary chef, Ferran Adria and father of nouvelle cuisine, Michel Guèrard.
“What I learned from nouvelle cuisine was the respect for the product. The organisation and the discipline behind each dish when you produce a culinary experience like nouvelle cuisine. Cooking is a very passionate world.”
Adds the Huelva-born masterchef: “Catalan cuisine is based on territory. So there is a combination of ingredients from the sea and the mountains together in one dish.
“I love my job and I try to share this feeling with my team and my guests. It’s important that the team loves what they do too, and that the customers are happy to enjoy the food, open to a wonderfully memorable experience.”
Book a table and order your own celebrity waitress in advance to interpret the delights for you. And, metaphorically, hold your hand through the luxuries and essence of the Mar d’Amunt as you fall under the baton of Signor Perez.
Mis Hao is also at hand to make sure that, at the start of it all, you don’t choke on your napkin and mistake the small white ball in the finger bowl as a mint or amuse-bouche. If you do try and eat it before boiling water arrives to turn it instantly into mouth wipe, there is no reason to panic.
The “oshibori” ritual is practised in many top-class restaurants. As is the Heimlich Manoeuvre.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Carrer de la Marina, 19-21, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 211000https://www.hotelartsbarcelona.com/en/
+34 93 4838108https://enotecapacoperez.com/en/