06 June 2012

n.d.p. in barcelona: tapas 24

Earlier that evening, the wine director of renowned Barcelona wine fortress Monvínic, Isabelle Brunet, told me something that surprised me, although in retrospect it should have been obvious: Barcelona is a beer town. Brunet said that the average resident of Barcelona consumed just 20 litres of wine per year, but 70 litres of beer. By contrast, in Paris the average resident consumed 90 litres of wine per year. (Statistics for Paris beer consumption were not mentioned, perhaps due to present lack of any real beer culture whatsoever in that city.)

That this surprised me is perhaps very American, and very east coast at that. When one does not come from wine country, one imagines that historical wine-producing nations must exist in a kind of perpetual bacchanal, celebrating the national bounty at all hours in various states of undress. But in Barcelona you have a warm climate and a beach and an astronomically successful football club, the second richest in the world: these things, as sure as hops plus water, are a recipe for beer.

I had my own reasons for downing a few cold ones over the frantic meal R and I had afterwards at  Tapas 24 , chef-restaurateur Carlos Abellan's subterranean tapas bar. I didn't know many producers on the list, and it seemed pointless and sort of cruel to start interrogating the harried chef / servers careening about behind the bar. Also, the list was written in a format that has always irritated me, segregated by neat price bracket, as though one were choosing phone cards. But the real decider, as ever, was the cuisine. Tapas, Spain's national food group, and its most successful export since the Macarena. Every magazine article ever written on Spain, even those pertaining to unrelated subjects such as the economic crisis, will cheerfully explain the origin of the word tapas, how it means 'lid', etc. To the world at large tapas sensibly means one thing, which is hangover cuisine, whether one is recovering-from or heading-straight-for.

Whether traditional or nuevo, a good tapas dish is invariably a small plate containing as much salt and flavor as a large one, only more concentrated. Beer suits this. And by these standards everything we had at Tapas 24 was splendid. But the dishes we had were also the sort of thing I could prepare fairly well at home, had I fry oil and time. I think part of the reason is we simply chose poorly. (I need to learn Spanish.)

There's more to it, though - it's related to the style of restaurateurism. I can say that Tapas 24's most admirable aspect, in my opinion, is its towering, do-everything mentality: the menu is vast, full of headings and subheadings, and the place is open 8am - midnight, making it one of the few places I've encountered where one can enjoy eggy tapas as breakfast. No reservations are taken, but we were seated with minimal wait, and the line of tourists that formed after we sat down moved very quickly. The graphics design package is enormous, comprising placemats, various menus, napkins, flatware covers, who knows what else. It was Batali-esque, strongly reminiscent of my old workplace in LA.

In such a setting, dishes are intended to look less like hand-sculpted grandmotherly artisan creations, and more like neat products stamped out by a quality-minded factory.

The style is sort of futurist-nostalgic, and seeks to remind us of the adoreable enthusiam people once felt for things like Olivetti typewriters and efficient train service. I'm as susceptible these charms as the next guy, even as I'm aware that the format could equally constitute a regression towards mid-twentieth century bigger-is-better-ism. (For a really conundrum along these terms, see: Eataly NYC. I haven't yet been.)

Beer suits this style of restaurateurism just fine, anyway. It requires few explanations, pairs well with salt, and rarely gets sent back. R and I drank Moritz, a historical Barcelona beer brand whose current incarnation dates to a re-launch in 2004. The logo, come to think of it, looks like it may have been on the mind of Batali's art director Lisa Eaton, when she designed that of my aforementioned former workplace (designed circa 2006).

Tapas 24
Diputació, 269
08007 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 488 0977

Related Links:

N.D.P. in Barcelona: Monvínic

N.D.P. in Madrid: La Venencia
N.D.P. in Madrid: Bocaito
N.D.P. in Madrid: Taberna Tempranillo
N.D.P. in Madrid: Lamiak
N.D.P. in Madrid: Almendro 13

A 2012 foodie rave about Tapas 24 @ WineAndTheCity
A 2011 foodie rave about Tapas 24 @ GourmetTraveler
A 2010 foodie rave about Tapas 24 @ GastronomyBlog
A 2010 foodie rave about Tapas 24 @ TheHungryHedonist
A 2009 foodie rave about Tapas 24 @ TomoStyle

All of these blogs are, as far as I can tell, completely identical. Food blogs are like the Irish pubs of the internet - outwardly distinctive, but in fact they all have similar names and offer precisely the same product. 

1 comment:

  1. very entertaining! love the comment on the "design package" (not typically noted in a restaurant review) and the Mozza, Moritz logo comparison.