Photo by Patricia Esteve
Restaurant Petite Comité
Few new restaurants receive as much hype and press as Fermí Puig’s latest venture, Petit Comité, which is always a dangerous place to be: nothing more likely to let you down than expectation.
So first, let me say how much I like the design. It could easily seem overblown or overdone, yet somehow it manages to stay warm and comfortable, the top spot being a place at the bar. What is rather overblown is the value placed on some of the ingredients, which, frankly, has gotten rather out of hand, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Like Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier (Paris, and now London too) the menu is comprised of small raciones, with no starters or main courses as such. The idea being that you order, say, three each and share. It is also full of product and location specific references that you could only possibly understand as a dedicated foodie who’s lived and eaten in Catalunya for the last 20 years. But there is something rewarding in feeling that you’re tucking deep into the culinary heart of a nation.
Escudella barrejada, for example, is a rib-sticking Catalan stew pot of mixed meats and vegetables, rice and fideus. Bread and thyme soup, is another hearty winter-warmer from a remote village. El catxoflino paid homage to the Xicra Restaurant on the Costa Brava, though I can’t for the life of me remember what it is; perhaps because by then I’d been all consumed by the idea of an Olot potato costing m13.
The ‘patatas de Olot’, it turns out, are two wafer-thin slices of waxy potato sandwiched together by a thin scraping of minced pork spiked with pimentón. Next they are dipped in batter not dissimilar to the kind of thing you get in Chinese takeaways, and fried. As a snack they’re not bad, but at more than €2 each (we have six) they seem downright criminal.
It takes a while to get over this, and an age to decide what to have on a menu that, to its credit, reads especially well: there is Penedès cock with prunes and pine nuts, pickled rabbit with oregano and rosemary, salt cod with tripe and chickpeas, even ‘sausage and mash’, described rather memorably on the English menu as ‘trusty sausages in hash’.
But we go for suquet, which boasts two glossy hunks of hake and three miniscule mussels bobbing about on a sauce richly layered with garlic and saffron flavours. There’s excellent bread from Christian Escribà—best known for his ‘Candy Glam Rings’—to mop it up too, but again, at €26, it’s just a little bit hard to swallow, nicely done though it is.
Four patties of peus de porc (trotters) yield a buttery, piggy-flavoured middle, sealed in by a nice crisp crust. With a side of bright green, wilted spinach, plump raisins and pine nuts, this is a highlight for me, though my dining buddy is less keen.
Tender pork mandonguilles (meatballs) in a stew of sugar-sweet, local peas is delicious by any standard, and we finish up with an excellent plateful of roast duck with salsify, although I feel that to really succeed the duck either needs a crisp skin, or the kind of tender, stringy flesh that you get from confit.
For dessert, from a choice of mel i mato, crema catalana, pears in red wine and chocolate fritters, we choose the crema, thick and creamy at the bottom, with fluffy foamy cloud in the middle and a crackly, caramely top.
And so, although this has all been perfectly enjoyable, I feel that something isn’t quite right. The vibe, casual service (note there’s no sommelier) and dishes themselves fall into laid-back bistro territory. And yet, the flagrantly outlandish price for a vegetable with a hometown made me wonder if I hadn’t landed in, heaven help me, the strange sub-culture of food porn?
Petit Comité; Passatge de la Concepció 13; Tel. 93 550 0620. Open daily 1pm-1am. Approximately €50 per person for three plates, plus wine.