These days the lifestyle press is full of buzzwords like ‘hidden’ and ‘secret’ and ‘local’, which is the stuff of nonsense in Barcelona given how well-trodden most of its streets and plazas are. To find anything truly secret you’d need to get out to somewhere really obscure like Sant Andreu or Zona Franca, but there are still plenty of tucked-away little places downtown that seem, if not 100 percent Catalan, at least very Barcelona.
The Plaça Sortidor, in Poble Sec, has several places to choose from, including the handsome El Sortidor restaurant. Its history dates back to 1908 when it supplied the ice for the rest of the neighbourhood. By the Forties, the Janiu family were serving vermut and anchovies, and as looks go, she’s still a cracker. The fridges are still there, right behind the bar, along with pretty stained glass windows, original Modernista wooden doors and marble tables lit by softly glowing lanterns. It’s a great place to take a date, but equally good for a menú, especially as this unseasonably warm October continues and you can sit out in the shade of the plane trees for lunch or dinner.
After a bit of a revamp and a rethink in 2008, the menu is Spanish-Catalan-Italian, now serving simple, honest food with a liberal sprinkling of amor. Things like Montserrat tomatoes with ventresca tuna, courgette flowers stuffed with brandada de bacalao, spaghettini with clams, parpadelle with confit rabbit and panzerotti—a savoury pastry stuffed with wild mushrooms and white truffle oil—and classics like steak with Café de Paris sauce, appear à la carte. But if you go for lunch, the €10.50 menu is great value, usually featuring a good salad or a crema of whatever’s in season, a baked fish or pasta dish, and a crowd-pleasing dessert like lemon tart or chocolate mousse.
Now I come to think about it, it is everything that one looks for in a neighbourhood bistro. And that, in this town, can be an elusive thing indeed.
Plaça del Sortidor 5, Poble Sec. Tel. 93 518 8544/671 520 482. Open: Mon-Thurs, noon-5pm, 8pm-1am; Fri, Sat & Sun, noon-1am. www.sortidor.com