I’ve found the hunt for fun places to eat in Barcelona tends to be a deliciously inconclusive one. Just when you’ve decided on your favourites, up pops another to jostle the rankings. Mont Bar – a chic, shoebox-sized place in the Eixample district – has recently elbowed its way up my hotlist.
The clue to the spirit of Mont Bar lies in the name: it’s not a restaurant, it’s resolutely a bar, complete with marble counter, polished brass rail and a row of stools from which you can eye up some gorgeous cheeses and admire a vintage set of Berkel scales (for weighing up juicy portions of cheese or the jamón suspended from the rafters).
It’s a place for perching, rather than hunkering down for a lengthy, white-tablecloth meal, with a pick-and-mix sharing menu rather than a meal of recognisable structure. The fun part is getting lots of different things to try; the hard part is deciding which to order. We let the waiter advise us on which dishes would divide up well and how much we were likely to be able to eat (lots, it turned out).
I love – and share – their enthusiasm for beets, which come in the guise of a bite-sized purplish macaron redolent with truffles (€3.80) that somehow manages to melt and explode in the mouth simultaneously, or spiralised into spaghetti-shaped strands (€12.90) and topped with lozenge-shaped pieces of smoked sardine and a piquant horseradish dressing.
Croquetas of Ibérico ham (€2.10 apiece) are a triumph of simple, rich deliciousness: a smooth Béchamel flecked with jamón in a fragile, flash-fried breadcrumb shell. Coca de vidre (€3.90) is a diaphanous sheet of spun sugar sandwiching two pillars of foie gras, scattered with pine nuts. Ventresca of tuna (€19.90), cut from the fattest, most succulent part of the fish’s underside, is served en tartare and emerges from under a glass cloche with a waft of smoke.
It’s invidious to single out a favourite dish, but if pressed, I’d go for the small slab of suckling pig (billed as a terrine, €21.50), served warm beneath a crust worthy of the best crema catalana and accompanied by an ice cream flavoured with Thai green curry – warm, cool, rich and spicy all in a couple of mouthfuls.
To finish I enjoyed a fine little pudding of torrija (eggy bread, €6.50), studded with cherries and topped with a sphere of apricot. A light tap with a teaspoon and the sphere shatters, spilling its cool, fruity contents out over the warm eggy bread.
Wines from Catalunya are well represented and include many by the glass. Have a word with the waiter and see if you can persuade him to pluck a bottle of Vinyes Domènech’s newest creation, Vinyes Velles de Samsó, down from one of the shelves that line the walls of the bar. Only about 500 bottles of this fine wine are made each year, from 60-year-old Carinyena vines grown in the hauntingly beautiful valley behind Capçanes in Montsant. One could be yours.