Visitors often ask me where they can get the ‘elBulli experience’ in Barcelona, and the answer is nowhere, but there is certainly a similar kind of alchemy going on at Alkimia, which comes a good second. Its deconstructed, theatrical takes on Catalan standards certainly show Ferran Adrià’s influence, and the opening salvo of deconstructed pa amb tomàquet (the traditional bread rubbed with tomato) in a shot glass is just the beginning. Jordi Vilà is a serious chef, with a Michelin star to show it, and his restaurant is not what you’d describe as convivial. The restaurant has recently moved across town to the Fábrica Moritz, and now has a separate dining room with a simpler, more accessible menu.
It can be hell to get a table at Tickets, but if you never made it to elBulli and you want a taste of the Adrià magic (in this case Ferran’s brother Albert), then it’s worth a shot. The place is a homage to what Avda Paral·lel used to be – a kind of 1950s Broadway – and the theatrical allusions are everywhere. The food is tapas with a difference – a classic such as bread rubbed with tomato and topped with ham, for example, is turned on its head to become an impossibly light stick of bread with the ham coating the outside. Do not plan a trip around a meal at Tickets unless you’ve secured a table – and even two months in advance it can be tricky to do so and you typically do not get the date you seek.
Once a former medieval stables and now lively tapas bar. Despite occasional attempts to bring it into the 21st century, El Portalón remains wonderfully old-fashioned. Expect wine from terracotta jugs and nothing too fancy in the way of décor or creative cuisine. Order big slabs of pa amb tomàquet (bread rubbed with tomato, Catalan-style), and the charcuterie and cheeses to go with it. It’s quite popular with tourists early on in the evening – arrive a little later (around 10pm) if you’d rather eat with the locals.