How often do you walk into a Michelin starred restaurant and say, “Hey, I know you’ve created an incredible Tasting Menu for our group today, but do you mind creating a vegan menu especially for me?” Likely answer, “Never!”.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a judge at the III Annual DO Catalunya Wine Blogging Competition in Restaurant Llucanes, where a group of 6 decided which lucky Catalan wine blogger would receive a fat check of 3,000 euros. Clearly, this isn’t small potatoes.
Restaurant Llucanes is a Michelin starred restaurant located in the heart of the hip and trendy barrio Barceloneta; renowned for its nightlife, hip restaurants and unique location bordered by the, the Muelle de Espana of Port Vell and the El Born neighborhood. It’s an area I’ve visited a half dozen times in my life, either rollerblading through its straight and charted streets, or having dined in crowded tapas bars specializing in breaded treasures such as: croquettas and fried calamari.
On this particular day, with dark brooding skies pouring tankards of water upon the narrow, gothic city streets, my mood was rather sour. Having my trusty GPS to guide me, I found myself in the middle of the square with zero indication of the restaurant despite my phone screaming otherwise. Wet, irritable and eager to throw my iPhone across the water deluged streets, it suddenly dawned on me that technology was considerably smarter than I am – no surprise here. Restaurant Llucanes’ old website failed to mention that you must enter through the ground floor restaurant Els Fogons de la Barceloneta, in the Barceloneta Market itself. Essentially, you go to the back of one restaurant to find the secret stairs that lead you upstairs to another restaurant. Sneaky!
But the secret passageways don’t end there. Upon entering the restaurant, and requesting the location of the judging panel, I was led down a narrow corridor until the hostess literally hit a dead end, then turned and smiled deviously before pushing the entire wall open. Before me stood a long table for approximately 12 people in front of a glass lined wall offering a limited, yet attractive, view of the square. I fearfully wondered if the panel had seen me not 10 minutes earlier doing laps in that very same square debating whether I, or my GPS, was going insane.
In 2007, Chef Angel Pascual brought Restaurant Llucanes from Prats de Lluans to Barcelona, while maintaining his Michelin star. Accompanied by his wife Rosie, they have successfully set out to highlight seasonal cuisine, taking advantage of Spain’s phenomenal diversity of game, wild mushrooms, truffles, meat, fish and vegetables. The vegetable aspect is key, since I was unfortunately restricted to a vegan diet that week. Consequently, I sheepishly needed to ask the chef if he would craft an 8 course menu specifically to meet my dietary restrictions.
“You want me to do what?!”
So maybe he wasn’t really keen on the idea, but like it or not, Restaurant Llucanes threw down for me! I savored a thinly sliced truffle over a reduced balsamic and raspberry sauce and accompanied by a single sliced artichoke. They provided two delectable salads, brimming with various flowers, fresh berries and vibrant greens in a technicolor array. Another personal favorite, as well as an ode to Catalunya, was their sumptuous wild mushrooms and wild rice dish with lightly fried parsley and hints of red pepper.And to accompany these last minute innovative dishes, I nibbled upon fresh artisan bread from the Baluard bakery located just below the restaurant.
While my meal was fit for a Royal rabbit, I inwardly drooled as I watched plates of thick slices of seabass over a bed of matchstick vegetables; scallop carpaccio with fresh greens, fruit and petite pastel flowers; roast lamb with a bouquet of wild mushrooms; not to mention delightful looking Petite Fours with varied shades of chocolate. Stuffed to the gills on greens, I couldn’t help but ache for a single taste of these delectable looking dishes.
Restaurant Llucanes has 3 menus to choose from. There is the a Seasonal Menu featuring tapas, fresh bread, 4 dishes and petite fours priced at 32.40 per person. This menu is only available Tuesday-Friday lunch and Tuesday-Thursday dinner. The Tasting Menu consists of three tapas of the day, 5 dishes and 2 desserts, according to whatever is fresh at 73.49 euros per person. Finally, for 102.67 euros, you can try the Minimalist Menu highlighting of 3 tapas, 10 dishes and 3 desserts. I’m not entirely sure why they call this choice, “minimalist”, as I would error on the side of “gluttony”, but maybe I’m missing the point.
Both the service and the varied wine list were equally impressive. Unlike many restaurants in Spain, I found the waitstaff to be very attentive, the servers close at hand, and the level of professionalism to be notable. Equally true, the wine list was varied, affordable and hailed from across Spain.
Where the restaurant falters is twofold. First off, the location alone is confusing and difficult to find, deterring many people from making the effort. Secondarily, if you’re hoping for Michelin star ambiance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this particular restaurant. Though chic in an urban and modern way, I still felt as if I was over a market and behind dirty windows. Not the end of the world, but worthwhile to note if you’re vying for a romantic getaway.
All said and done, I would happily suggest this restaurant to anyone interested in exploring the ample ingredients of Catalunya in a funky and unique setting.
If you’ve had a chance to dine at Restaurant Llucanes, let us know your thoughts!
Address: Pl. de la Font, s/n – Mercat de la Barceloneta
Telephone: +93 224 25 25
Average price per person: 85?
Closed: Sunday night and all day Monday