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Lasarte Restaurant + Monument Hotel Barcelona

Nonsense and Sensibility

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?

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!

Architecture Art People Restaurants

Bistró Bilbao Guggenheim + Vitra Design Museum Curator Amelie Klein

Design Heart

River Nervión Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The view is distracting – locals basking in the sun along the River Nervión. Where are we? Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. The food is even more distracting – Michelin star quality Basque gastronomic delights. Round the coast, San Sebastián boasts more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere outside the 94 departments. But Amelie Klein in full throttle is a major distraction. Design. Boom. Her favourite subject. Well it should be. She’s curator of the Vitra Design Museum. A buslady’s holiday it is, then. On sensory overtime, we’re all ears. But first the lunch at the Guggenheim:

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Restaurant View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • Cocktail aperitif (Coctel aperitivo)
  • Vegetables, sautéed potatoes and greenbeam cream (Verduras, patatitas salteadas y crema de vainas)
  • Baby squid on crunchy noodles, red onion and green pepper (Chipirón, sobre fideuá crujiente, cebolla roja y pimiento verde)
  • Raspberry ice cream, citrus fruit yoghurt and crispy stones (Helado de frambuesa, yogur de cítricos y peidras crocantes)
  • Homemade bread, coffee and petit fours (Pan artesano café y petit fours)
  • Red wine (Tres Ducacdos DO Rioja)
  • White wine (Viña 65 DO Rueda)
  • Mineral water (Agua mineral)

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Talking of distractions, Parisian songstress Taali M bursts into song. “I’m gonna stand on the shoulders of giants.” Where were we? Ah yes, the food. All sublime – except perhaps we’ll skip on the vinegar tinged nougat canapés next time. “We have to rethink what design is,” Amelie informs us. “It’s important for design to take responsibility for society, for people, and not for the market. Is it art? Is it design? I don’t care! Design and art should be making bold statements about the future. Where do I come from? Where am I going? Who am I? If artists don’t make bold statements, if not them, who? Otherwise we will be stuck where we are. Period.” Taali M: “Stand tall and rise above it all.”

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Restaurant Squid © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Amelie keeps going, “Design is more than chairs! It’s analogue and dialogue. We must speak about communication, systems, complexity – design is more than just objects. Critical design enhances change as it could or should be in the 21st century.” We agree modernism has gone. What awaits? Existential concerns aside, it’s 25 degrees outside. Hot, distractingly so, even in Spain, for late autumn. Where will we go? “Stand tall so tall I’ll be tall,” ends statuesque six foot beauty Taali M to applause.

Parisian Singer Taali M © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley