Tickets Bar, an attempt to bring people to taste the magic of molecular gastronomy by Albert Adria the brother of famous chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame. If none of these words mean anything to you, brace yourself, you’re in for one hell of a gastronomic journey. While planning our visit to Barcelona, we hunted for something that would come close to El Buli, considering the once-in-a-lifetime experience had shut down to be re-opened as the El Bulli Fondacion in 2015 (which is currently seeing a lot of opposition since it is to be on land that is classified as a national park).
to Tickets, we’d heard was absolutely impossible, with reservations getting full up for the next 3 months within minutes of it opening online. Charles timed it beautifully, and we soon found ourselves on D day, rushing to the inconspicuous location in Poble Sec (as a phone call had requested us to come in a bit earlier) to get there in time for a 7 pm dinner. We wondered whether we’d be able to do justice to the menu with such an early dinner (seeing as us Indians eat as late as 11 pm usually).
we were seated at what seemed like a bar counter. Looking around while the comically dressed staff served our cava (Spanish Champagne) we tried to understand the amusement park/ circus theme that surrounded us. As the night wore on, we did get into the spirit of the place, finally understanding that this was where anything was possible.
seemed like an incredibly intimidating book with a quirky but misleadingly fun cover. Then we realised it was printed in multiple languages and that was half the reason it seemed so difficult to understand. But then we realised, there was no way of telling what we’d like and what we wouldn’t considering the whole point of the food was to be unpredictable. So we did something unpredictable, we chose the surprise us option, where the staff would just keep bringing us courses till we said stop. Sounded simple enough.
Watermelon infused with sangria, cinnamon, lemon zest and mint. I’ve never “eaten” sangria before, and we were pleasantly surprised when each morsel (which we had to pick up with tongs) melted almost as soon as we closed our mouths. Fresh, zingy and a beautiful start to the evening.
Courses 2 and 3
What tapas evening in Barcelona is complete without Jamon Iberico and Pan con tomate? But just when you think you’ve tried them all, there comes a platter with tissue thin slices and a bread toasted to perfection.
The one we’d been waiting for. The famous El Buli olive spheres marinated in olive oil, garlic, thyme and orange zest that we’d been drooling over on our computer screens for a while now. They surpassed our expectations. Olive puree delicately held together by a thin membrane that burst into my mouth the second it hit my tongue. A delicate balance of flavours, and while olive was definitely the hero, it was nowhere as bitter as biting into a whole olive soaked in olive oil.
Mini airbags stuffed with manchego foam, Iberian bacon and hazelnut caviar. We’d eaten loads of manchego, the airbags resembled what we in Mumbai call pani puris, so we didn’t expect much from it. Until we realised how thin the airbag puffs were and how the essence of the manchego just filled our mouth. The hazelnut oil, of course was awe inducing, as I tried to pick one up and look closer.
Nordic Trip. Definitely the best course of the evening for me to eat and to look at. Slices of rye, on black slate, loaded with finely diced beef tartare, onion, creme fraiche and a generous dusting of delicious… vinegar powder! Charles give me a rather disapproving look as I tried to discreetly swipe off as much as I could using my finger, although I’m sure he secretly wanted to do the same.
We’re not really fans of soup or gazpacho, so our eyes didn’t light up when the staff said Tomato salad with Gazpacho jelly. We appreciate the interesting assembly (or deconstruction) of the dish, but it was only after the first mouthful that we realised this was the first bowl of soup we were going to wipe clean.
Tuna belly with avocado and mint. After taking us to the far corners of Europe, this meal had now begun leaning towards the Oriental. To be fair, this was delicious, and we would have appreciated it had we had it elsewhere, but at Tickets, it was eclipsed by the other courses.
Quail eggs in a nest. I love quail eggs, and I loved the delicate strands of the crunchy nest. But it did not blow me away. At this point, it seemed like the menu was plateauing in a way.
Salad taco with sea bass ceviche. It seemed odd to be having seafood after the veal, but in the strange world of Tickets, it all made sense. Again, this course was just nice.
Razor clams in escabeche, saffron pearls and soy sauce shards. When given an option between Oysters and Clams, we chose clams considering I’d hated oysters the first time I tried them in Paris. They looked stunning, like nothing I’d ever seen before, and I was dying to slurp one into my mouth. Wasn’t disgusting like the oysters, but definitely a bit too salty for my liking. Charles’ tastes it seems, are better acquired.
Smoked market fish with mini shiitakes. We’d already begun licking our lips in anticipation as we saw this dish being assembled at the open station right next to our table. The sauce was rich and deep, the fish fresh, and it all came together beautifully. The punch was back!
These croquettes weren’t on the menu, and I’d prefer it remain that way. By far the most underwhelming course that night. Unlucky 13 maybe?
At this point, the staff kept asking us if we were done and would we like to begin with dessert? Charles and I exchanged a quick look knowing exactly what the other was thinking, “We’re stuffed, but this is so delicious, let’s keep going!” And we know exactly what the staff thought of us, “Keep it coming? Seriously? What gluttons!” Guilty as charged. Again the pancetta burger he brought out wasn’t on the menu either. But it was quite nice, nothing like a burger, but a lovely grilled muffin sandwich.
We finally proceeded to dessert. First up was a strange piece of rock. We looked closer, and realised there were parts of it that were a slightly different colour. Picked those bits out and tasted them with trepidation. And heard a million violins. The White Chocolate Lava Rock was crunchy, sweet, slightly salty and once again like nothing we knew. Amazing.
The hot and cold chocolate fritters sounded very intriguing. But what we ended up with were soft and squishy fritters instead of the crispy crunch we were expecting. It did taste great to be fair.
I dug right into the carrot cupcake as soon as it arrived, and had already demolished a bit of it by the time Charles whipped out the camera. Unfortunately I had to listed to the waiter explain that even the wrapped was edible. I looked up at him, slightly red in the face as I licked a bit of mascarpone cream off my fingers.
was surprisingly low for the kind of experience we’d just had. If I recollect correctly, it was somewhere around about INR 23,000/- for 2.
Charles and I could barely walk, but did manage one mandatory tourist pic outside this wonderland. Not wanting the experience to end, we milled about the windows, trying to understand all the Catalan signs while sighing over loads of memorabilia. We may not have had the chance to experience El Bulli while it was around, but we came close to a little piece of it, and it’s something we’ll hold close to our hearts (and stomachs) for a long time.Tickets Bar, Avinguda del Paral·lel, 164, 08015 Barcelona, Spain es.bcn50.org