So back to Barcelona and what could be a better welcome than being invited to a free dinner at Inopia the minute you return? And as if that wasn’t good enough, there was also the stipulation that my friend and I HAD to spend a certain amount per head, a target which wasn’t going to be achieved easily. Any pangs of homesickness and leaving my family and friends were quickly going to be eaten away.
I was instantly struck by the fact that something had changed. I didn’t instantly put my finger on it, but the polaroids and comments that had adorned the tiled walls were gone and something just felt a bit different. Then everything came into focus, we were no longer in Inopia, we were now in Lolita Tapería.
I’ve since checked the former Inopia website which has this message:
‘The 30th July was the last day of service for Inopia. After 5 years of exploring the world of classic tapas, Albert Adrià is handing over the bar to his partner Joan Martinez, the bar is set on a new course with a change of concept and under the new name ‘Lolita’, the girl who enjoys tapas and mini-sandwiches. We are grateful for all the affection we have received from our customers over during these years and we hope you will be filled with the same excitement for our new concept on the 1st September. As always we hope to provide you with small portions of happiness. Forever, Inopia.’ See the message on their site here.
As it happens, this week’s copy of Barcelona ‘Time Out‘ has an interview with Joan Martinez, whose comments I will shamelessly (Disclaimer: maybe not 100% accurately) translate and post here, especially as the magazine is only published in Catalan. The article states that Inopia has “died of success” and Joan says that “with Albert we sought to create a neighbourhood bar but it turned into a monster. It wasn’t normal that a bar with a capacity for 40 people should mean having to queue for two hours. We had to kill it and start again”. “I want to make it more canalla (I think this means lively), at midnight we will change the lighting, serve drinks and we intend to make some cocktails”. Inopia used to close at around 11pm. He ends the article by saying “Now everything is easier, the pressure with Inopia was excessive”.
I suppose anywhere associated with the Adrià name was always going to attract more than just a neighbourhood crowd, it certainly pulled me there not long after arriving here and those polaroids and messages showed that people were visiting from all corners of the globe. Was it possibly naive to think that a bar with the Adrià connection could just be a local haunt and not suffer from food tourism? However, it seems from the Time Out article that Albert has still had some slight involvement with the new venture, giving a hand designing the menu for the new bar and as we found some of the items from Inopia’s menu are still here.
So how is the new bar? Apart from the cosmetic changes, mainly the signage, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different. Which is a good thing. The bull’s head still looms over the bar area, the staff’s faces were familiar and the food was equally as good as last time.
What I love about this place is the light, airy feel, the white tiles and smoke free environment lift it into a different realm from the thousands of dark, slightly grubby looking tapas bars around the city.
So, what did we eat? Well, more than I have pictures for seeing as soon as each plate arrived we couldn’t wait to taste it and then realised that, erm, I was supposed to be trying to photograph it first. However, it would be a shame to ruin every eating out adventure with constant snapping so here’s some of the delights.
We started with some of the pan amb tomaquet, a staple for every tapas session, this was light and crisp with lovely ripe tomatoes and drizzled with lots of fruity olive oil and some thin slices of cured Wagyu beef, which reminded me slightly in texture of South African biltong which is slightly chewy and was a welcome change from the usualy sliced chorizo, salchichon or fuet.
Next came cubes of aubergine, lightly crisped on the outside, soft in the middle and drizzled with a sauce of honey and molasses, which worked really well together and was gone before the flash could go on the camera. Then in no particular order, the Pintxo charrua above, a fatty, melt in the mouth ham lightly sprinkled with crystals of salt and La Plantxada, slices of chorizo cooked on the grill and drizzled with a herby (sorry to not be more specific, I need to start making notes instead of relying on my memory) dressing.
One of my favourite dishes, which has been carried over from the Inopia menu is la Bomba d’Eixample, a sphere of ultra-smooth mashed potato surrounding minced beef and a buttery centre and sitting on their divine spicy sauce with a dollop of mayonnaise on top. I spotted a huge tub of Hellman’s sitting on one of the fridges in the kitchen, I was very surprised to see they don’t make their own, but then again they’re probably concentrating more time on getting that bomba into an exact sphere, how do they do that?
My photo of the calamare doesn’t do them justice, the batter was much crunchier, tastier and sweet squid tasting than my pale, insipid picture would have you believe and I really liked the cute paper cone presentation .
Then probably the highlight of the savoury dishes was the burrata Lolita, a ball of that Italian cheese which is made from mozzarella and cream, when you break into it a creamy liquid oozes out of the centre, paired with the rocket, really ripe tomatoes, olive tapenade and drizzled with more of that fruity olive oil it was fantastic and the creamiest, milky cheese I’ve ever eaten.
The Gos d’Atura, hot dog to you and me, was yet another example of how Lolita and Inopia before it are doing tapas that you would find in thousands of other tapas bars around the city, but with good ingredients or slight twists, again here the bread surrounding the salchitxa was light and crispy and spread with the ubiquitous ripe tomato that comes on every sandwich you eat here.
In all honesty I didn’t really have space for dessert, but I’d been thinking about that amazing sorbet de mandarin I’d had last time all day and was pretty gutted to not see it on the menu. However, as always it pays to ask and they had some in the chiller, whether this is something they are continuing off menu or a remnant of the Inopia days I don’t know, but I snapped up the chance to have one of those little tubs. This sorbet is silky smooth, like it’s almost never had any water in it, not an ice crystal in sight and the tangy yet sweet mandarin flavour is perfect to end the meal.
But, the figs were also looking very appealing so we made space to have those as well. Sweet, ripe, white figs with a dollop of creamy yogurt, sprinkled with grated orange zest and cinnamon, heavenly.
With coffees on order we were persuaded to have a txupito (shot) each of Lolita’s patxaran, a drink that is typically from the Navarre region of Spain but also drunk in the Basque country and other areas, it is usually made from sloe berries and contains aniseed, coffee and vanilla. This one, called Sang de Drac (dragon’s blood) was made from strawberries, peach and anisette. It was delicious and curious to drink, first you taste the strawberries, then the peach, followed by the anisette and finally all the flavours together. Magic.
Lolita Tapería, C/Tamarit 104 (corner of C/Tamarit with C/Rocafort), Eixample – non smoking