September 05 2009
“During the El Bulli season – this year from June 16 to December 20 – we’re open seven days a week, so when the restaurant is closed I really treasure my weekends. This is when I’m in Barcelona working on new dishes in our kitchen/laboratory. And Barcelona is the only place for me to be at weekends. I’m a huge fan of Barça and the big thing for me is seeing them play. The timing of the match pretty much shapes my whole weekend.
On Saturday, I’ll usually look in first on the Boqueria market for a mid-morning breakfast at Pinotxo. I like to sit at the bar and check what’s the special that day – tripe is a favourite of mine here. Afterwards, if the weather’s good, I’ll take a wander down to the sea – it’s one of the great things about Barcelona; you’re in a big city, but you’re right on the ocean. Sometimes people recognise me, but that’s OK – they don’t bother me, they’re very cariñoso [kind]. And if it’s not a day for wandering, I’ll head up to Montjuïc to the Fundació Joan Miró – such a great collection, his paintings are a real inspiration, full of colour and movement.
Then, around 2.30pm, I’ll go to Inopia, the tapas bar owned by my brother Albert – when El Bulli is open he’s the pastry chef, but the rest of the year he’s here doing tapas. He definitely has the best anchovies in town – sometimes they’re from L’Escala on the Costa Brava, not too far from El Bulli, sometimes from the Cantabrian coast. And I love the real classics like fritura de pescados [tiny fried fish], ensalada rusa [Russian salad] and patatas bravas [spicy potatoes].
I try not to take a nap in the afternoon, otherwise I’d never get up again. If there’s no football game on Saturday, I might have another wander – Barcelona is a great city for the passeig, it’s easy to get around and there’s always something to see. I love L’Eixample district with its modernista houses, and La Pedrera, the gorgeous Gaudí house with its extravagant façade and crazy chimneypots. Sometimes I go to the Sagrada Familia. It’s a fabulous building, another Gaudí design, although he never saw it finished. They’ve been building it for more than a century now – soon it will be completed. No matter how often I go, it still takes my breath away.
All this wandering works up a thirst, so I’ll usually go for a pre-dinner drink at one of the city’s coctelerías – Barcelona has brilliant cocktail bars. Boadas is an old favourite at the top end of La Rambla. And I like Dry Martini on Aribau. For dinner, my favourite is Dos Palillos in the Casa Camper, one of Barcelona’s most original hotels. The owner used to work with me at El Bulli. Here he’s doing some great Asian-style cuisine, a mix of traditional and modern stuff. And after such a day’s programme, the only way to go is to bed.
Sundays I often have breakfast at the Pastelería Escribà – they do these amazing croissants. I don’t know what it is that makes them so good, but they’re unrivalled. The ensaimadas [sweet, snail-shaped rolls] are good too, but it’s the croissants that keep me going back. If there’s time before lunch I’ll go to the Museu Picasso or the Museu d’Art Modern – Barcelona has great museums, but these are two favourites.
For Sunday lunch I like to have a seafood feast. Spaniards have this incredible appetite for seafood – we’re second only to the Japanese in the amount of seafood we eat, and pretty much wherever you go in Spain you’ll always find fabulous, fresh mariscos – even if you’re miles away from the sea.
In Barcelona I have two favourites: either the Rias de Galicia, one of those old-fashioned, traditional seafood places, or Xiringuito de L’Escribà down at the port. And then it’s time for the footie match, which is the real highlight of my weekend.”