Photo by Pieter Vandermeer
José Pérez Ocaña
On March 26th, one of the most talked-about projects in town—for which, in the interests of transparency, I should say I am the gastronomic consultant—finally opened its doors on the Plaça Reial, with any luck injecting new life into the old place. It is, after all, one of the city’s most handsome squares, and when it was finished in the 1860s was the height of fashion for Barcelona’s glitterati. Since then, of course, it has been beleaguered by a seedier side of life but hopefully Ocaña will go a long way to starting a new chapter in its history.
The space—which will eventually incorporate a café, restaurant, cocktail bar and club—takes its name from the artist, actor and bon vivant, José Pérez Ocaña (pictured), who lived on the square in the Seventies and early Eighties and was a leading figure in Barcelona’s ‘la Movida’, the famously hedonistic cultural movement that spread across Spain after Franco died.
Housed in an old rubber stamp press and arranged around two central atriums, it is split over three levels with many original features such as the gilded columns and hardwood floors meticulously restored. The Apotheke cocktail bar meanwhile is lined with richly decorated wood panels salvaged from a pharmacy in Vigo. Until everything opens, the café for now is the heart of the place offering specialist teas and coffees, fresh juices, and contemporary aperitifs such as their signature Bloody Mary Infusion (made with bacon vodka). Food-wise think modern Catalan bistro with a big focus on fresh, light and healthy ingredients and a sprinkling of influences from elsewhere. While there are a couple of rib-stickers like a hearty Catalan breakfast of botifarra and beans with a fried egg, there is also artisan yogurt with an orange, cinnamon and mint salad and a handful of new dishes like ‘shakshuka’—a riff on the Tel Aviv breakfast classic of eggs poached on spiced tomato sauce. The lunch and dinner menu is a mix of quality crowd-pleasers such as a 21-day aged filet steak served with an entire Trocadero lettuce dressed with mustard vinaigrette and a lighter, brighter take on traditional Catalan recipes such as a ‘suquet’ of grilled corvina on a stew of fresh spring peas. The restaurant, which is due to open later in the spring, will be an extension on this theme.
Ocaña, Plaça Reial 13-15. www.ocana.cat