Déu n’hi do! Lavender’s Blue is a release of pure joy. Visiting a metropolis to explore just one neighbourhood concentrates our minds. A new tourism. We’re on it like a Jane Austen bonnet. Especially when the met is Barcelona; the hood is Eixample; and the local is Lasarte. “Work, strive, feel, listen, talk, taste, observe, thrill, improve, excite, think, imagine, inspire, decorate, reflect, research, work, pamper.” So declares Chef de Cuisine Paolo Casagrande.
In an Ecclesiastical moment, away from lives crowded with incident, taking an initial step toward the Examen later, we’ll go for pamper. Three Michelin star pampering, if you will. Putting the gas in gastronomy we’ve enjoyed Everglades Hotel’s colcannon gnocchi (City of Londonderry) and the Capital Club’s Guildhall power breakfasts (City of London dairy) not forgetting the East India Club’s potted shrimps in seaweed butter plus we’re not averse to Hakkasan Mayfair’s finger lickin’ stir fry black pepper veggie chicken, but when in Rome the Continental foodie capital…
Lasarte is managed by the renowned Basque chef Martin Berasategui. His restaurant in San Sebastián is also called Lasarte. Guess what? It’s got the Red Book’s top accreditation too. The Barcelona outpost is on the ground floor of the luscious five star Monument Hotel, once the home of industrialist Enric Battló. Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas was the original 1890s architect. Lasarte is reached through the open plan bar, beyond the Michelin starred Oria restaurant, secreted behind enigmatic herringbone oak doors. Architects Carles Bassó and Tote Moreno, architect interior designer Oscar Tusquets and interior designer Mercè Borrell and have delivered a modern monastic aesthetic. An inner sanctum of sorts. Its cocooned in herringbone oak floors and panelling.
Martin’s signature looms large over the restaurant. Literally. It’s scrawled across clerestory height mirrors above the panelling. Paolo combines Martin’s fiery signature dishes with his own fearsome foray into Catalan cuisine, from ginger to jalapeño. He’s got range. Don’t you just love folded linen napkin trays? Synchronised pouring? Cork presenting? A wooden wheelbarrow piled high with special artisanal reminiscential original regional bread? Lasarte is the embodiment of brilliance. The Lasarte Menu is €215 a head. Time to raid the Lazard family vault again. Fotem un café?
- Quail’s egg, black garlic mousse, cauliflower essence foam appetiser
- Jalapeño butter, sorbet of liquorice, dice of cucumber appetiser
- Langoustine and ginger, Arabica Brazilian coffee infusion with roasted sheep’s milk
- Smoked squid risotto and lemon seafood
- Red prawn on a seabed, fennel and coral emulsion
- Roasted virrey fish with clams pil pil, velvet crab and Champagne with a fine hazelnut cream
- Red mullet in Suquet with Vinum Acre pearls, smoked sardine and celeriac
- Ginger and passion fruit sorbet with coconut and carrot
- Almond and salt praline, apricot and rum ice cream
- Petit fours
Catalan fished stew? Suquet. Petit fours balanced on a candelabra? Candy-labra. Mim cava. Mmm cava. Ah cava. Colm Tóibín records in Homage to Barcelona, “In Barcelona the poets and the professors, the designers and the rest of the generation of 1992 have taken Champagne to their hearts. In Barcelona they call it ‘cava’, and they take it as seriously as they take most things. Codorniu and Freixenet are local brews, for everyday use like wine from a barrel… Drinking cava is an integral part of being a Catalan.”
We’re not leaving this block. Period. Homage to Eixample. Micro travel is all about discovering what’s next door. Imagine our surprise, and dedication to the cause, to discover – in a city that brims with power shopping strips – that Passeig de Gràcia, the strip that easily outstrips all others, is at the foot of the hotel’s marble steps. Colm says it has “a glamour to be found nowhere else in Barcelona, in the faces, the clothes, the hairstyles.” This is no cursory peep behind the faded Iron Curtain. These days we’re all about intense western festoons. After such sweet, salt and umami sensory satisfaction, now’s the time to join the style savvy and go spend the next two generations’ inheritance. Eixample: it’s an extension to our very existence. Salut i força al Canuti!