My punishment for wanting to freshen up back at the hotel after a day of pounding the busy streets of Barcelona in search of Modernisme delights was that my colleagues wouldn’t tell me the location of the restaurant we were due to dine in.
It could have been that they were being mischievous, on the other hand their reluctance to share the address was more likely down to the fact the restaurant and its location was a secret known only to a privileged few. To just hand me the information could have put my life at risk. Okay, it really couldn’t. But once you start down the secrets and codes road, it tends to fire up the imagination.
Instead, I was handed a leaflet for Gaudí’s La Pedrera with a word and a number scrawled on it and the instructions: “We eat there at 9pm. If you’re not there, you don’t eat.”
Brilliant. I love dining with a difference.
Thirty minutes later, shaved and showered and with a map of Barcelona spread across the bed I was scouring the streets around La Pedrera (on the assumption the leaflet was a clue) without much success when the chambermaid arrived to turn down the bed. A brainwave pinged in my head and I asked her if she had heard about ‘a secret’ restaurant nearby.
“Ah, the laundry,” she smiled and pointed to a street nowhere near where I’d been searching.
With time running out, I grabbed my jacket and took off in the direction she’d indicated.
When I arrived at the street, there was no restaurant called ‘The Laundry’. In fact there were no restaurants full stop.
But there was a tiny tintoreria (dry cleaners) where I could see jackets hanging on rails. There was about enough room for two customers and the assistant behind the counter. I figured that if there was a laundry here, the restaurant must have been nearby.
As it turned out I wasn’t completely wrong. The tintoreria WAS the restaurant.
A door leading from the unassuming dry cleaners’ frontage revealed a stylish and surprisingly large dining room where ‘those in the know’ occupied tables illuminated by appropriately discreet mauve and warm gold hues.
In a way it reminded me of a shebeen I was taken to in Manchester where the basement of an ordinary inner-city terrace house turned out to be a sizeable illicit drinking club.
There the similarities ended. This was sophisticated and legal, the shebeen was in Levenshulme – enough said.
I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that it was actually a secret restaurant – they didn’t want to advertise their presence, they didn’t want the word spread about where they were located and apparently you can’t make a reservation. If you get hold of the restaurant’s number, you leave your contact details on an answer-phone and they get back to you… or not.
It was so bizarre I couldn’t, and can’t, make up my mind whether they really didn’t want the location given away or whether it was all just a smart gimmick. Whatever the truth, I love the concept.
In some ways the whole secret restaurant theme overpowers the food and, if I’m being totally honest, I was so busy being bamboozled by dining in a restaurant inside a dry cleaners that I didn’t fully register how good the Mediterranean styled cuisine was.
The silky avocado starter, savoury goats’ cheese salad and moist sea bass in a pot all looked as attractive as the décor and I’m sure all tasted as good as they looked, I simply can’t remember. I’ll never forget the Barcelona duck dish though. Everyone around our table will remember the Barcelona duck. But that’s another story that involves mistaken identity and how the mind believes what it’s told even though the tastebuds might be saying something different.
The important thing was that, although the concept may have distracted from the food, the overall result was different, original and immensely enjoyable in a theatrical sort of way. It was a dining experience that kidnapped the imagination as well as created the ethical dilemma of whether to dine and tell or not.
The urge is to broadcast so others can experience the same… but then it might no longer be secret.
There is one solution that may just possibly keep my conscience clean.
I can share the clue I was given.
That’s it, that’s all you’re getting. Good luck with the mission.
Buzz Trips was blindfolded, gagged and taken to this secret restaurant by the Catalunya Tourist Board and then brainwashed into writing this piece (actually I wasn’t… but then again if I was brainwashed I wouldn’t know).
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites plus lots of other things. Follow Jack on Google+