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Enoteca

Carrer Marina, 19, Barcelona, Spain

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On the ground floor of the Hotel des Arts is Enoteca. The chef is Paco Perez, who trained with Michel Guerard and at El Bulli before taking over Miramar in Llance near Girona, which was awarded a Michelin star in 2006. This, his second restaurant, was given a Michelin star in the 2010 guide and a second in the 2013 guide.    

The tasting menu was priced at €145, and there was an extensive wine list, with 700 different options listed. Pares Balta Calcari 2010 was priced at €35 for a wine that you can find in the shops for around €10, Torres Mas la Plana 2009 was €145 for a wine that retails at €50, and 2002 Guigal Chateau d'Ampuis was a hefty €310 for a wine that will set you back €126 on the high street.

The meal began with a series of nibbles. Pumpkin soup with orange air involved a sphere of pumpkin served in a glass, that you cut into in order to free the soup. All very technical, but the soup inside was rather watery and lacked enough punch (barely 14/20). Crispy corn with coriander was on the side, but there is a limit to how exciting this can be (14/20). The best nibble was ham in assorted styles: a ham leaf, ham jelly, cream of ham fat and, the best part, unadulterated Joselito Gran Reserva Jamon (16/20). Potato soufflé was somehow coerced into being a crisp coating containing a sauce of tomato and paprika, served in a bed of olive sand. This was very enjoyable, with the technical cooking in this case complementary to the flavour (17/20).

Razor clam with Thai sauce had tender razor clams with a sauce that had ginger, coconut and nori, which was not obviously very Thai as an influence and had too much nori flavour relative to the other elements (14/20). A pair of white chocolate and foie gras doughnuts were topped with powder: one with raspberry powder, one with whipped cream powder, and these worked well, the duck liver nicely balanced by the powder (17/20).

Spinach dim sum Catalan style suffered from having a dumpling with a rather odd, stringy texture, though the spinach was fine, accompanied by a blob of spicy tomato sauce (13/20). Crab stew with tiny carrots had good quality crab, but the crab tempura was soggy (15/20). Mushroom foam with Catalan soup involving paprika and ham included lovely mushrooms, but the cold foam with the warm soup was rather jarring (16/20).

Ceps with shrimp tartare flavoured with olives featured lovely ceps, though again I was unconvinced by the mix of hot and cold elements on the plate (16/20). The best dish of the meal was creamy rice with pigeon. The pigeon, from a Madrid supplier, was excellent, the rice having lovely texture, made with a rich stock (18/20). Sole with fennel meunière and winter vegetables was correctly cooked, but did not compare well in flavour to the best sole I have had e.g. that at Ibai. Moreover it was extremely, almost absurdly, peppery (15/20). Wagyu beef from a Madrid supplier was braised and served with sweet potato and chestnut. It was fine, but the beef did not compare in flavour to Japanese beef (15/20).

Lemon tart with violet ice cream did not use pastry but instead had a casing of hazelnut crisp, which worked quite well, the filling having lovely balance (17/20). Cherries with yoghurt and chocolate finished the meal, an enjoyable dessert with a classic flavour combination (17/20).

Service was superb, my Portuguese waiter friendly and knowledgable. The bill came to €233 (£199) for one person, with a bottle of pleasant Marques de Riscal wine. If you went for the cheapest wine pairing the bill would have been a touch less, but not much.  Overall, while there was clearly plenty of technical skill on display here, the meal seemed a little erratic in standard. The risotto of pigeon was lovely, but there were some missteps as well. At this price, given a wine list that was heavily marked up by the usually generous standards of Spain, I would have hoped for a slightly more consistent experience.  

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