Hidden Gems


A culinary Adventure in Barcelona

The main problem when exploring new cities is where to find the best restaurants.  We are not talking Trip Advisor Best restaurants, we are talking hidden gems; where the foodies go, where the chefs eat.  At Sumas, one of our “high five” moments is not when we finish the busiest Saturday lunch, it’s when the local chef enjoys his birthday dinner with us.  It’s a sign you’re good!

I worked for years in the food focused city of Toronto and on Sundays my close group of friends, consisting of waiters and chefs, often overtook the cities best food joints.  We knew all the chefs and waiters, perks were fruitful and we took full advantage.

It was on a chilly Sunday in January in Barcelona where I got to re-live this and it all happened by chance.  Having carefully selected a restaurant from hours of research, we headed out, stopping for a beer midway through our journey. Here we received vague directions from a barman.  We turned down a street just off La Rambla which started out bright and lively but quickly turned dim and seedy.  The hustle and bustle of tourists dwindled and it was suddenly evident that we had taken a wrong turn – so we thought.

Desperately wanting to turn back, we looked up to see a dimly lit glass fronted bar, full.  Bar 68.  We dipped in, hoping for directions and a safe place to pull out our iPhones.  

Exposed brick, vintage tiled bar, odd chairs and a bearded bun wearing bartender all completed the feel we were somewhere cool.  We were greeted by a young man wearing a bow tie who quickly ushered us upstairs to the mezzanine level as there was a gin tasting going on downstairs.

We were handed a serious cocktail menu.  Two martinis later and we caught the eye of the manager (or perhaps bouncer would have been more apt) – a large  Argentine who we had witnessed ejecting all the colourful individuals. 

After hearing we were from Jersey and about our love of oysters, he quickly produced a taster platter.  Oysters done three ways, all simple clean and fresh – we were sold.  The pre-organised restaurant was a distant memory, the champagne arrived and we settled into what was our best meal in a long time.

The chef, Kaya Jacobs, had spent seven years in San Francisco, one year in Japan and the last six in Barcelona, two of which were spent at Albert Adrià’s famed 41 Degrees.  The menu was inventive, yet simple.  Not traditional tapas, not fusion, just food derived from a drinks menu that has evolved into a substantial offering.   One of my favourites was dyed, smoked devilled eggs, bright purple from beetroot; a food reminiscent of my childhood. 

The meal was indulgently long, the alcohol abundant and, true to industry Sunday, the local chefs arrived – late.  Everyone was welcomed with a hug.
Feeling that we had made friends, we left armed with a list of other restaurants to try. S
ometimes a wrong turn can be the right direction.