Photo by Patricia Esteve
A friend of mine kept ringing up to ask my opinion of a place called Bohèmic. Oh yes, I’d say, I used to go there years ago. Loved it. It used to be called La Boheme on Paral.lel, right? No. Guess again, everyone’s talking about it. Give up. A week later he’d call again and we’d have the same conversation. Eventually, tired of the cat-and-mouse game, we agreed to book a table and go together.
We arrive at 10.30pm because there was no room for us at the first sitting. This doesn’t go down terribly well as I’m not a big fan of double sittings. If you arrive early you feel hassled out of there. If you arrive late your appetite is waning and you’ve probably had a cocktail too many to enjoy it anyway.
When we arrive there are two empty tables, and ours is wedged up so close to the bar it’s practically under it. But still, the place had a convivial air that made me want to like it. There were chocolate-coloured velvet banquettes along the back wall, nicely laid tables, a bustle and a buzz that told you this was somewhere really rather good. And the smells were tantalising. The menu at Bohèmic is all about inventive, slightly-bigger-than-tapas-sized dishes, cunningly designed to make you want them all.
Just as I was contemplating this conundrum though, a water menu arrived, which made me want to spit with rage. Don’t they know that bottled water is the biggest con since Ocean’s Eleven robbed the vault at Belaggio? The equivalent of an environmental elephant in the room, this particular list featured water from all over the world paraded about like it is vintage champagne. It’s not. It’s water.
Someone please tell me, who in their right minds pays six euros for a bottle of Fiji, when for two euros more you could knock yourself out on the house red? And more to the point, why are we paying the logistical cost of designer water when there are towns up the road brimming with perfectly good water sources of their own? I’m not going to claim that Barcelona tap is particularly tasty, but honestly I had to be restrained from nipping out to Spar for a bottle of Veri.
Next, a huge song and dance was made about the Maldon salt. Oh please. Bring on Es Trenc, or Ibiza, or even something from the Carmargue, but Maldon is from the British Midlands for goodness’ sake and seemed plain wrong in a place that prides itself on its Catalan roots. I’ll say it again, shall I: we’ve got loads of good stuff right here on our doorsteps.
Eventually a portion of fresh grilled duck foie arrived at the table, and to say it made an entrance would be a bit like calling Paris Hilton subtle. Out came a side table, a brazier for heating and then a huge cast-iron pot. The lid was ceremoniously removed and out bellowed a thick fog. And from this emerged a piece of foie that had it been put on our plates five minutes ago would have been rare, succulent and marvellous, but instead was a bit tough and incredibly salty after our over-zealous hostess insisted on sprinkling a generous handful of the said Maldon over the top of it.
In fairness, this shaky start was redeemed by a delicious casserole of espardenyes (sea cucumbers) and baby chickpeas bobbing in a richly flavoured prawn head reduction. An organic botifarra with teeny-tiny monget beans that overflowed with creaminess was award-worthy, and an extravagant hare cannelloni made it all seem worthwhile. But in the end it was just a little bit overblown for what it was.
The owners of Bohèmic are clearly living their dream, their son seems to be an accomplished cook and their products are great. But all this jiggery-pokery along the way is spoiling it. Or perhaps it was just an off-night. Reviews elsewhere are glowing. Either way one can’t help but feel that something, or someone, in this equation needs to come back down to earth.