What do you do while waiting for your seat at the ‘best bar in the world’ (50 Best Bars 2022)? Because you will have to wait. Even before there’s human interaction, there’s a QR code and a countdown timer in the browser on your phone. The answer, for one couple on a recent Wednesday, was to explore the pintxo bars of the Gothic Quarter. Summoned by a text message 84 minutes later, you could sense the anticipation as they took a space at the bar between first-daters and American tourists. Because you don’t fight your way to the top of The List to avoid those. The welcome was exuberant, the playlist was loud – sing-a-long nineties and noughties classics – and the menu told less than half the story. Because this is a bar about stories. About the evolution of man; about the discovery of penicillin, the Americas and distillation; and about the chance to set things on fire or turn them into a cloud. On Fire! – shared between two – starts with a laser, a match and some potassium chlorate smoked aromatic wine. The ingredients – bourbon, Calvados, tahini, sweet potato and smoked milk wait patiently to be smoked, in an attention-grabbing display of bar-top theatrics of the sort not seen in London for some years. Elsewhere, a cloud of coffee is extended, collapsed, released and caught again to garnish The Cloud (mezcal, hibiscus, amaro, vermouth and birch). On a similar theme, The Great Gatsby (Macallan 12, white truffle honey, and amaro) sits under a glass cloche being smoked with vanilla and chocolate tobacco before it is ready for human consumption. This is a bar that could be accused of trying too hard, of taking itself too seriously, but then American Boy comes on the playlist and bartender Valentino joins in with a solid Kanye West impression, and you think, just maybe, they’re on to something here. (Carrer de Rera Palau, 4, 08003 Barcelona, @paradiso_barcelona).
5 June 2023 / Bar Reviews