You need to book two months in advance to even get a table at Tickets. Can it possibly be worth the trouble?
Tickets consistently ranks highly in the World’s Best Restaurant list among a number of serious fine-dining establishments, but it isn’t stuffy like too many of those. The entrance is like arriving at a theatre, the wait staff are in ringmaster uniform, and the food (mostly sharing plates) is unlike anything you’re going to get elsewhere.
While our first visit knocked our socks off, the second one felt much less impressive. Perhaps the surprise and delight of the first visit had mitigated the surprise element (though none of the dishes were the same on our second visit), or perhaps there was just less imagination from the kitchen the second time around. I can’t say.
That’s not to say don’t go: a meal at Tickets really is an event. And it is so pleasant to enjoy a Michelin star restaurant that isn’t stuffy. Can anything ruin a meal more effectively than a bunch of silent foodies reverently appraising every morsel? Tickets is not that place.
Maybe we need another visit next year, just to be sure…
Short version: Cosy, and out-of-the-way, Palo Cortao does everything well.
Long version: You’d think in the wilds of Poble Sec that you’d be a bit away from the tourist hoardes, but you’d be wrong.
But at least this tiny restaurant and bar – I’d reckon it has seating for about 30 max – is never going to be on the group tour schedule. It won’t be on yours either, unless you book ahead.
Do so – this place is a gem, if a discovered one. With excellent service and a kitchen that can turn a pig’s ear into a…delicious dish. Yes, they do pig’s ears, and they’re good.
The menu is not extensive, but I find myself wanting to try everything on it – helpfully, a lot of the dishes are available in full and half-serve sizes, so you can try more.
I like this place a lot, and have dined here a number of times before. On the last visit we started with sliced artichoke hearts deep fried in a light batter, and drizzled with a sweet sherry reduction. They’re done to perfection – the artichoke was nicely soft, and the crispy batter both light and not oily. The sweet reduction was lovely, though I could have used just a little more.
The pulled pork croquettas do what they promise, and are served with just a little pickled vegetable and a sauce on top. Again, the kitchen shows it knows its stuff – no sign of oiliness here either, and a lovely crispy finish. Even our dining companion from Madrid was impressed.
The grilled octopus leg with Santa Pau white bean hummus is something I’ve had before, and we ordered a large plate – it really is good. It has a lovely char-grilled finish, and is, again, perfectly cooked.
A special of ‘lazy omellette’ (which is only cooked on one side) cooked with cod, calamari and black sausage was absolutely delicious too.
Our only disappointment was a black rice special with calamari and red prawns. It looked pretty enough, but the prawns didn’t have that intense Mediterranean red prawn flavor that I’ve come to expect, and the rice was a little mushy – hardly inedible, but not quite up to the standard of the other dishes we had on the night.
The small wine list has something for everyone – I ordered a Priorat from a village called Porrera, mainly because I’ve been there (there’s a blog coming on that in the future), and know its reputation. Unsurprisingly, the Vi de Vila Porrera was one of the more expensive wines on the list, but at €29, I’m not complaining – the carignan/grenache blend is a full-bodied wine with nice soft tannins, though at 15%, fairly alcoholic.
And because of the restaurant’s name, we decided to finish with some sherry and a cheese plate. Palo Cortado is a rare sherry, and the restaurant has a number of sherries available, including three Palo Cortados up to 30 years old. As neophytes, we let our Madrileño friend and the helpful sommelier select three different sherries for us to try. I can’t say I’m a convert, but it is nice to try without too much expense.
Speaking of which, this large meal, ending after midnight cost around €45 per person. Good food, good service, and good value. What’s not to like?
In a street full of pinchos joints, La Tasqueta de Blai is always busy – surely a good sign. Fortunately the crowds ebb and flow, so even if there are no seats when you arrive the wait is usually not long, and worth it too. Select as few or as many pinchos from the bar as you fancy, save the toothpicks holding them together (at the moment they’re €1 for the short sticks and €1.80 for the fancy versions), and settle-up when you’re done. We can’t resist this place, and are inevitably back every week or two.
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