Photo by Tracy Gilbert
Loidi - Idiazábal soup
Hotel restaurants have come a long way since the rather grisly days of stuffy dining rooms staffed by ancient waiters serving school-canteen-style food.
These days they are designed by hot-shot young architects, staffed by models and generally overseen by a Michelin-starred über chef. It is odd then that I had felt such reluctance to go to Loidi.
Located in the Hotel Condes de Barcelona and overseen by the great Basque chef Martín Berasategui who boasts three stars for his self-named restaurant just outside of San Sebastian, you would think that Loidi would promise pretty special stuff. Yet since opening a couple of years back, reports have been largely uninspiring.
From the outside it looks like a smartish hotel restaurant. Inside it has the feel of corporate-breakfast-room-in-a-smart-hotel-with-the-lights-dimmed, which is exactly what it is. That said, when I tried to book for a Thursday night it was full, and I had to call a couple of days ahead to get in on a Saturday night, so something is definitely working.
The menu is typical of the bistronomía genre: robust and reasonable, offering Berasategui’s six-course taster option for €47 (€62 with wines) and Loidi’s four-courser for €39. They consist of more or less the same things, so we went for Loidi’s and managed to cover most of the options by choosing different dishes and sharing. We drank a bottle of Predicador from La Rioja, a jubilant red with the nifty ‘top hat’ label made by the enigmatic Benjamín Romeo, which was a treat at €36 but worth it.
I very much enjoyed milhojas de patata with Perol sausage and a poached egg, but who wouldn’t? The gooey layers of potato providing a sticky-crisp-edged raft for the earthy sausage, the runny yolk a naturally silky lubricant for what could otherwise have been quite claggy. I also liked the Idiazábal soup—a beech- or cherry-smoked cheese from the País Vasco—dotted with pimentón oil and a slab of hearty pancetta. Both were solid, satisfying dishes and I appreciated the fact the cheese soup provided something you don’t often see on Barcelona menus.
Baby squid stuffed with itself and cooked in thick black ink was merely dull. The tuna belly on artichoke purée with a braised endive salad a shade more exciting, though not quite the fireworks I would have expected from Berasategui. It didn’t help that one waitress kept wanting to remove our dishes before we were finished and once she’d ambled away another would appear wanting to do the same thing, which spoiled the flow somewhat.
The last of the savoury courses consisted of an extremely rare solomillo of Iberian pork with a tangy fennel and apple marmalade and musky spears of salsify giving a hint of the kind of inspired, new-bistro combinations this place should be generating. Unfortunately, a bowl of beef fricandó looked like processed baby food: lukewarm and grey.
We weren’t wildly excited by the sound of the puddings either, though this was no fault of the cooking, merely menu planning. After all this rib-sticking nourishment you need something light and frivolous to finish, but the choices were for a chocolate brownie on an Earl Grey infusion, cuajada of yogurt with passionfruit sorbet and a bizcocho borracho (cake drenched in booze) with orange marmalade and cocoa ice-cream. Nothing wrong with any of them, they just didn’t speak to us. When the maître d’ asked us if we’d not enjoyed our desserts I thought he might cry, so we said we were full.
Loidi then, it’s not a bad deal but it lacks something. Nothing was really warm enough, or thrilling enough to inspire a return, yet nothing was really truly bad either. I suppose it just does what it says on the tin.
LOIDI—Mallorca 259; tel. 93 492 9292
Open: Mon to Sun, 1-3.30pm, 8-11pm. Closed Sunday evening
Tasting menus: €39-€47, not including wine
Tara’s rating: ***