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Barcelona certainly holds a special place in my heart. I have been coming here for many years now and I never tire of the vibe that the city exudes, its culture and of course the fabulous weather. The evening that I visited Arola, Hotels Arts’ restaurant, Frank Gehry’s fish sculpture was glistening over the Barcelona beaches as it so famously has been since 1992. With the two towers standing tall behind it, Hotels Arts certainly knows how to make a statement. First stop, after a stroll from the port along the beachfront was Frank’s bar where we were treated to a signature cocktail menu. The list featured signature city themed cocktails where Frank Gehry had designed signature buildings, a fun way to sort a menu. I couldn’t turn down the chance of a Barcelona cocktail of course that was then enjoyed in a perfect spot, relaxing amongst the low level lighting, cool modern décor and hotel guests whilst talking about the day in the sun.
It was tempting in fact to stay for another, and I’m sure the waiters would not have minded if we were somewhat off time. It is the Spanish way that life is taken a little slower and a little more carefree. A refreshing change from life in London. So we finished and made our way up to the restaurant for dinner. We had heard much about head chef Sergi Arola’s cooking skills and that we were in for a treat. Arola’s signature style is a reinterpretation of tapas and Mediterranean cuisine.
“Driven by his imagination and his desire to offer diners a fun and surprising experience around good food, Sergi Arola’s cuisine opens a bridge between the original recipes of Spanish and Catalan cooking and the delicate presence of haute cuisine”
Of course first things first, we ordered another cocktail – and wow were we surprised when they arrived. Presentation to the max. The cocktails were sat in a miniature birdcage, and another on a tiny chair in a egg shaped vessel. Cocktails have become in danger elsewhere of becoming a bit bland and without excitement, but these were certainly putting the fun back in to ordering a cocktail. They were talking points and photography targets before we’d even taken a sip. Of course, once we tasted them they did not disappoint either. Fresh mint and citrus flavours providing delight to the taste buds. We settled down after selecting a wine and the first course was Beef Tartar, with the beef hand chopped and marinated in a chimichurri and chipotle mayonnaise. A sweet peppery flavor to the cold meat ran through that complimented the texture and brought out the flavour. This course was followed up by three Spanish croquettes each with a unique twist on the typical potato snack. A Spanish omelette croquette was my favourite, and again the presentation on the plate was a piece of art in itself. You almost cannot bring yourself to eat each piece that’s presented to you.
Taking a breather from the courses its good to sit back and take in one’s surroundings. The restaurant features a fantastic clear wine wall, that’s not so much a wall as it is a narrow room where the waiters walk amongst the glass to select those delicious wines for your meal. Through the rear patio doors in the restaurant, the terrace and Frank Gehry’s sculpture is also visible, and beyond that the glorious blue Mediterranean. This certainly seems a restaurant where you can relax throughout the day as well as on a warm summer’s evening. The décor itself, designed by Donna Stain, is a light palette where the core elements are whites and muted tones and this in punctuated with splashes of colour from cushions, to vegetation and the food, to of course the azur sky and sea of Barcelona. Arola certainly reinforces the sense that you are away on holiday and this where you come to relax and enjoy yourself.
Courses arrived at our table, each with a sense of occasion and clearly the waiters were very proud to deliver them to us. Their enthusiasm for the ingredients only heightened our intrigue. Throughout the entire dinner, we were thoroughly impressed by the creations on our plates. The sea bass I must say needed additional flavour to bring out what is typically a delicious piece of fish, although this was certainly the only minor downside to our evening. Our final main course had now arrived, presented in front of us was a Wagyu beef served with radish, tomato and rocket. The beef, was wonderfully tender and cooked to perfection. The characteristics of Wagyu beef were certainly shining through. The Japanese meat has a high level of fat marbling that gives it its intense flavour and due to its lower than ordinary melting point, it is steak that literally melts in your mouth.
After some truly delicious courses, we were on to our final, the dessert (although of course there were 2 courses to this section of the menu). Firstly a small plate with beautiful drops of colour were placed on the table. Three small petit four gave a conundrum, which to try first. Would it be the pineapple in a white chocolate crispy coating, or the Ouzo gelatin sandwiched between a crisp caramel sugar wafer, or perhaps a delicious piece of melon. Truth be told , they were all utterly delicious, for me though the pineapple in a chocolate crisp coating. I could have eaten those over and over again. It was magnificent.
Arola also on ceratin evenings turn up the party atmosphere and open the terrace to the Mediterranean night sky with a DJ entertaining the guests. Live music and those spectacular cocktails sounds like a recipe for a great night to us!
“the “Abuelo mojito” with rum, mint, lime and a touch of honey, to more adventurous and spirituous recipes like the “Holy Smokes” with Mezcal, pink peppercorn honey, and hellfire bitters, the creations of Diego Baud – recognized as Spain’s best bartender”
Arola certainly entertained us and kept us very happy, with course after course delivered with excellent presentation and flavour. Some might say that presentation with food can sometimes go too far. With Arola I feel they got the mix just right. With a simple steak piece, they let the look of the meat do the talking. With dishes that require ingredients to work together, they ensured that your eye carefully identifies each ingredient in its setting prior to tasting. Finishing off the mammoth meal with a chamomile tea was a fitting end to an evening that had been lavish with moments of the spectacular and if Barcelona is my favourite city in the world, I suspect that I’ll be visiting again soon in the not too distant future.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Website (Hotel Arts)
Website (Arola Restaurant)
Monday, Thursday, Friday:
Lunch: 1.30 to 3.30pm
Dinner: 8.00 to 11.00pm
Saturday: Lunch: 2.00 to 4.00pm
Dinner: 8.00 to 11.00pm
Sunday: Sunday, Vermouth & Tapas: 1.30 to 4.00pm
Dinner: 8.00 to 11.00pm