Image courtesy of Nonono restaurant
Salad with cor de bou tomatoes and cherries
If you have ever sat down to eat a whole osso bucco, you will know that it’s a monstrous thing—a bit like eating the femur of a slowly cooked dinosaur—that is also, if I might say, absolutely delicious. I can’t understand why we don’t eat beef this way more often: slowly roasted in a low oven with a sweet, sticky glaze of beefy juices clinging to its skin while the meat falls from the bone as though it were moulting.
Osso bucco is Italian for ‘bone with a hole’ and is often cooked the Milanese way as cutlets braised in white wine, stock and finely diced vegetables. It is completely delicious too, no doubt, but I imagine not quite so sensational when placed in the middle of the table as this glorious beast was.
I was at Nonono—a hip little bistro on the Passatge Lluís Pellicer—which I think they should rename Yesyesyes. I ate there twice in a week and believe me, this is something I rarely have the time or inclination to do. But there is something very appealing about Nonono—its retro tables and chairs, the newspaper-covered walls and friendly, well-trained staff who seem to know and care about the food and are happy to share this knowledge with you.
My first visit was over lunch with Ana Manresa of anandpitu.com, who provides gastronomic consultancy for restaurants and had suggested I should check this one out. Aside from a few odd combinations—I found the cucumber shot overly salty, and couldn’t get conserved herring paired with cantaloupe melon to work in my head, never mind my mouth—the menus were interesting: a granita-style beetroot and watermelon gazpacho inspired by a Negroni cocktail made a nice little precursor to a sweet tomato salad mixed with pimientos padrón, while my pork loin with roasted peaches and onions was impeccable: soft as butter, deeply flavoured and a perfect pairing with the peach.
Owner Marcos Acosta told me that he believes people should walk out of his restaurant with a “clear head and light legs.” Given his philosophy, it’s no surprise he favours simple food or that his chefs have been tasked with creating dishes that are healthy and balanced as well as imaginative. It has the neighbourhood joint appeal of a proper bistro, yet it feels fresh and modern, without walking the path of the ‘bistronomia’ movement. There are no aspirations to be new wave here: it’s just solid cooking based on top-flight ingredients and you can’t go far wrong with that.
It is also currently the only restaurant in Catalunya that is 100 percent organic. A fact Acosta could have used to hike up the prices, but because much of the produce comes direct from farms and gardens scattered around the region he hasn’t needed to. Indeed, this could prove a useful blueprint for a more sustainable and self-sufficient restaurant of the future. It’s got to be a no-brainer, hasn’t it? Local, organic food that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Accordingly, the compact wine list that goes with it is also organic and we’re promised a growing number of product-centric treats to sharpen the appetite as and when they are sourced, like the deliciously sharp sheep’s cheese we got to nibble with our wine when we went back for dinner.
This is all very commendable, but what really caught my eye over lunch were the giant slabs of meat being set down for entire tables to share: racks of lamb and beef ribs, pork loin and osso bucco, guineafowl and duck, all roasted, grilled and stewed. It was this that lured me back a couple of nights later for supper with friends. They were not as busy as they deserved to be—I hasten to add it was the last Friday in July when half of the city had already left for the summer—but it was great.
We had a glass of freshly-made ajo blanco (a chilled soup of almonds and garlic from Andalucia), a salad of kumato beef tomatoes and juicy yellow pear varieties with no dressing, just the bright, fresh flavours of the fruit, and then this hunk of meltingly tender beef, which at first we carved gracefully and then tore at with our hands, revelling in this deep, primal connection to the food.
As summer turns to autumn, we all agreed, Nonono will make a very happy alternative to the English country pub meals we miss from home.