Only yesterday I read an article in Barcelona Metropolitan about a Gràcia cafe, just a stone’s throw from my flat, where the owners outlined that much of their inspiration came from Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi? Did you say Ottolenghi? Ooh I was going to wait all of, ooh, 24 hours before heading down there to see what this was all about.
For anyone not familiar with Ottolenghi, although if you know me or read this blog regularly you are sure to have heard me evangelising and generally being a bore about their food, Israeli Yotam Ottolenghi and Palestinian business partner Sami Tamimi own a series of vibrant, enticing cafes in London and Yotam has become something of a print and TV celebrity over the past year too. Their food is characteristic of their Middle Eastern upbringing and is notable for its bold yet complimentary ingredients, strong colours and in my opinion outstanding flavours. I could literally gush all day.
Let’s be clear Les Tres a la Cuina is not trying to emulate Ottolenghi. You won’t find the lavish window displays or lively counter of rainbow salads and baked goods. However, what you will find here is excellent, both in flavour combinations and ingredients that hint to their inspiration and in terms of quality, friendliness and incredible value for money.
Not knowing what to expect we came for a coffee or plate or two and unintentionally ended up having brunch. It was too good to turn down. Three dishes, yes you read that right, three dishes, and a huge café con leche for, wait for it, 9 euros! Lunch time menus and single plates are available during the week too.
To start we had home made granola with Greek yogurt sitting on a layer of either raspberry jam, also made in house, or honey. The yogurt was wonderfully creamy, the jam and granola not too sweet. Fabulous and filling.
Next came a single slice of toasted sourdough from the Reykjavik bakery, rubbed with tomato, topped generously with sweet jamon York (or Yorkshire ham where I come from), a thin layer of cheese, slices of ripe avocado, a pile of rocket, a runny fried egg and a splatter of rocket pesto. For vegetarians there was an option with mushrooms instead. It was so good it was gone far too quickly. They say (good) things come in threes and this was certainly true here. We made space for an amazingly moist, almond and pistachio cake with a delicate layer of water icing and crushed pistachios and possibly a hint of orange zest. A definite hint to the Middle Eastern inspiration we discussed earlier. This was simply divine and as a cake baking aficionado I was slightly envious its simple perfection.
If I was to be slightly critical of Les Tres a la Cuina, and this feels difficult to say after such a fantastic brunch, it would be that a few cushions to make the seating more comfortable and taller tables that were more conducive to eating rather than just having a coffee, wouldn’t go amiss. I have to wonder why they don’t open Sunday for brunch and close Monday instead of the other way round at the moment although I don’t begrudge them their day of rest. I would also have been more than happy to pay 9 euros for a choice of two of the three dishes including the coffee and would certainly have left more than satisfied rather than stuffed. I for one never thought I’d ever utter those last seven words. What has come over me?
Les Tres a la Cuina, Sant Lluis 35, Gràcia