I have always compared the famous Spanish Tapas with American fast-food, noting that I would rather be having French fries at In-N-Out Burgen in L.A., than to eat “patatas bravas”, all drowning in oil and wrapped in mayonnaise, as served at most street restaurants in Barcelona. As I am not a fan of seafood, I have never been really fascinated of the Spanish cuisine, and following many visits in this country, my only memorable culinary experiences were in venues which offer international cuisine.
The dining experience at “Arola”, restaurant of the renowned Chef Sergi Arola in Arts Hotel Barcelona was meant to change everything. Disciple of Ferran Adria and of Pierre Gagnaire, in his turn awarded with two Michelin stars for his restaurant in Madrid, Sergi Arola lives up to all expectations and reinterprets the traditional tapas in a modern, delicate, precious and delicious manner.
The menu includes over 20 dishes of tapas, structured as small, medium and large portions, and the mix and match game you can play is very interesting. 5 or 6 tapas dishes are enough for two, and the sharing philosophy makes the dining experience really special. I had dinner on a minimalist terrace, with white table and chairs, while admiring the sea and the herbal hotel’s garden, from where the mixologists select the basil, mint, sage or rosemary for the cocktails. I ordered an Abuelo Mojito, very refreshing and with very little sugar, served in a coconut placed on tiny wicker chair. Very Cuban style.
Meanwhile, a live band was getting ready to perform the evening show, and while Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” was being played in the background, I tasted watermelon wrapped in caviar (a combination of colors which reminded me of Stendhal’s “Red and Black”) and I had the best “patatas bravas” so far. The potatoes served in the form of tiny rings and garnished with just a touch of mayonnaise constitute an “haute cuisine” reinterpretation of the famous Spanish dish.
Dinner continued with Eggplant, flame roasted, Arbequina olives and Pine Nuts, as well as with a plate of Iberian Ham served with bread with tomatoes. The waiter told us that the ham is bought daily from the Boqueria market in Barcelona, so the following day I found myself in their famous market in search of delicious local dishes.
The Beef of Galician Cow was served with baked potatoes, veggies and Padron green pepper in tempura, but the Rissotto with fresh basil from the hotel’s garden deserves “a big shout-out”, as it was absolutely delicious. The mix of flavors reminded me of the gastronomic revelation I experienced at Gurgaon restaurant, at The Oberoi New Delhi, when my heart fell in love with Indian food for ever.
From the dessert menu, I chose the Cheese Cake and Carrot Cake, the latter served in a totally spectacular manner, in a small pot with a real carrot in it. At a superficial glance, it seemed like a genuine flowerpot, but with a little courage I stuck the spoon into the ground, which was actually a delicious chocolate and I revealed fine layers of sponge cake, bound together by a delicate carrot cream.
Dining at Arola is an experience for the senses that will make you fall in love with the famous Spanish tapas, reinvented and showcased as only one of the world’s most famous chefs knows how. The evening I spent there already has a special place on my list of memorable culinary experiences, together with the dinner I had at Aman Canal Grande in Venice, the famous High Tea in Rambagh Palace in Jaipur or the dinner to die for at Jamie’s Italian on Quantum of the Seas.