Caramba, as they say here. It’s a great word, but sadly not one I can use for the style of The Mirror, which conjures up all manner of horrors ranging from food reflecting off your plate to bad hair days staring you in the face. But this month I’m all about checking out the rise of hotel restaurants and the fact is, despite the all-white-with-mirrored-panels décor that makes you feel like you’re about to go into surgery (ask for the table in the right hand corner by the water feature, where you get some reprise from it all), the food at The Mirror is very, very good.
José Carlos Capel, the food critic for El País, declared theirs the best croquettes in Spain not so long ago. I’m afraid I don’t agree with José—they are good, but not as good as the squid ink ones at Lolita’s—but what I will say is that it’s rare to come across a tasting menu where each of the dishes is so flawless and the wine pairing actually works, but doesn’t dominate. So it is that one blustery Saturday afternoon I pitch up with a friend in search of sustenance and the €45 executive menu, because there are times in this life when you need a treat.
The Mirror is managed by chef Paco Pérez, who owns Miramar, the two Michelin starred fish restaurant in Llançà (up on the border of France near Cadaqués), and he’s focused on contemporary seafood here too with lots of surprising little details that make for serious eating that is also fun. The problem with much of the ‘modernist cuisine’ movement is that it takes itself so damned seriously that all the joy is taken out of it somewhat. Not Pérez, who coaxes unlikely combinations into partnership—artichokes and prawns, say—and makes them sing.
Our lunch began with a splendid little mussel on a black, enamelled shell. No mucking around, just a splash of lemon and oil, a couple of salted capers, a sliver of red onion—just enough to make the ozoney mussel meat flavour pop without stultifying the thing. Croquettes were gooey and unctuous, just how I like them, and the bread was crusty and chewy with a fine array of accoutrements like herbed butter, tomato jam and posh olive oil to go with it. It was rounded off with a shot of fish caldo topped with a quail’s egg and the sexual organs of an erizo (sea urchin), which should have been salty, creamy and soothing all at once, but was strangely bland. Still, that was the only dud and we hadn’t even started the five-course menu yet.
One: a deeply flavoured onion consommé with chipirones (baby squid), egg yolk and Parmesan cheese was a thing of beauty, cleverly balanced with textures first taut then squashy, creamy then crystal, mixed with a taste bud dazzling umami-ness that was swoon-worthy. Two: a bowl of tiny, tender artichoke hearts in Iberian ham jus, topped with plump, pink prawns and dotted with crumbled pinenuts and black truffle. I don’t think I’ve known artichokes to work quite so well in anything. It was a lovely dish, one that you dream of recreating at home to then bask in the inevitable glory. Not an easy wine pairing for these dishes either, but sommelier Roberto from Madrid choose an Austrian Alzinger Mühlpoint Grüner Veltliner to go with them, which worked like a dream. I’d proclaim it my new favourite white if only my local bodega would stock it.
Three: arroz meloso—wet as opposed to soupy rice—studded with baby vegetables. Cute little nuggets of broccoli, a teeny carrot and some baby mushrooms sprouting from the grains, a lone spear of perfect spring asparagus arranged just so on the back of a hunk of langoustine. Three dabs of aioli and the dish was a triumph.
Four: croaker suquet—croaker by the way is a type of bass. Meaty chunks of snowy white fish with crunchy skin surrounded by potato towers crowned with dollops of salsa verde. I wonder if Paco watches Game of Thrones, I mused, while sipping an artfully chosen musky glass of Espelt Vailet (Garnacha Blanca and Macabeu).
Five: cream caramel ice cream and foam, gravelly chocolate and almond dust, oh my. It went down extraordinarily smoothly with a snifter of toffee sweet Castillo Perelada, Garnatxa de l’Empordà.
I shall happily return to The Mirror, but next time I might wear shades.
Còrsega 255, Eixample. Tel. 93 202 8685. www.themirrorbarcelona.com. Open Tues-Thurs, 1.30-3.30pm and 8.30-10pm; Fri and Sat, 1.30-4pm and 8.30-11pm; Sunday, 1.30-4pm. Mondays closed. The executive menu including wine for €45 is a good deal. If you go à la carte, expect to spend upwards of €60 for three courses with wine.