I’m a sucker for photographs charting a city’s history and I hardly need to mention that the face of Barcelona has changed, in some places almost unrecognisably, during the last 20+ years. One area that leaves no trace of its former life is the Somorrostro beach and before I share my experience at the restaurant which now bears its name, I’m going to disgress a little and share some of this barrio‘s past.
A plaque is now all that indicates what once stood here and today the beach is a man made golden playground for tourists and residents that looks out to the ocean. However, in the not too distant past this was an area of shanty housing for up to 18,000 residents of the city and their precarious lives and threat of flooding from the sea was a world away from the holiday destination it is today.
Cleared in 1966 for a visit by Franco, housing like this was dotted around the city and those in Guinardó neighbourhood lasted until the late 1980s when they were finally laid to rest ready for the spruce up for the coming 1992 Olympics games.
Now in Barceloneta the restaurant Somorrostro reminds us how much the city has changed. We were here to take advantage of the Sunday lunch menu and I was immediately pleased to see an open kitchen, I just love being able to watch chefs at work and see the proof that not all kitchens need to be the domain of shouty, sweary behaviour. I was also impressed by the short fourteen dish menu, six starters and then four each of mains and desserts. Why don’t more places do this instead of overwhelming us (and no doubt the kitchen) with vast choice? I went for the Barceloneta cigalas or sea crayfish in their English translation. These came with a surcharge of 5€ on top of the 28€ menu but we’ll talk more about pricing later. These were naked as the day they were spawned except for a splash of pungent olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. These fiddly critters were delicious yet it was a shame there was an air of marine car crash in their presentation and one or two bodyless heads had made it onto the plate. Disappointing especially when you’re paying a supplement. For main I chose the cannellone stuffed with oxtail and foie gras served with an assortment of sauteed mushrooms and vegetable crisps. Although these varieties of mushrooms are in season there was a hint of autumn to this dish but it was savoury and satisfying and probably wise for there to be only one roll of stuffed pasta.
I had to gobble the frozen praline parfait quickly as it was already descending into liquid when it arrived on the table. I was surprised by this dish, initially doubting whether praline, oranges and tart berries would work together, but they were a very compatible bunch. The biscuit crunch added the missing textural element.
Having the wine selection on show with pricing is a helpful and informative touch. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the menu value. On their website the Sunday lunch menu is advertised at a reasonable 19.50€ a head, which was in fact 28€ euros when we arrived. Given the rave reviews I’d heard for this place I didn’t really give it a second thought. The flavours and service generally didn’t disappoint. Yet the 28€ just kept rising and although this was a decent meal it was a little underwhelming and in my opinion not deserving of our final bill. With the two cigala surcharges and drinks not included (two soft drinks and three glasses of wine between three) we paid nearly 40€ a head. Now, it may be the Yorkshire genes in me, but when I pay this for a meal I expect attention to detail and a hopefully memorable meal, bodyless crayfish, unwiped plates and melting desserts do not feature in that expectation. Somorrostro, I’ll come back to your history time and time again and maybe your restaurant, price permitting.
Somorrostro, C/ de Sant Carles, 11, Barceloneta