Jordi Carbó: “In El Mercat we sell tapas by quilo, as in Bilbao”
Before the trompe l’oeil, the spherifications and the foods in deconstruction became the kings of the new kitchen, the most valued food used to be that of our grandmothers. No frills, no technology, no additives. With that traditional and traditional spirit, Jordi Carbó and Eduardo Sardà opened on April 11, 2017 El Mercat (Calle Bruc 31, Barcelona). Located at the foot of the Midtown Apartments, the restaurant is distinguished by its food made at the time, with fresh and seasonal products: vegetables, seafood, fish … And everything from an “open” kitchen, in which the public can see what is is cooking and how it is done.
And for the more daring, El Mercat offers a novel format in the city that will delight those who eat with their eyes: tapas for quilos.
Eduardo, how was El Mercat born?
[E.S] Both Jordi and I, we wanted to take care of the product and respect it, making the usual kitchen, the one we like to eat, and with tapas at a reasonable price. From this affection for the product and the market cuisine, the concept that gives name to the restaurant is born: El Mercat
When you enter, it looks like a small delicatessen for the presentation of hams and sausages hanging, how did that idea come about?
[J.C.] The objective was to simulate a small market stop. If we are El Mercat, we had to have that market air. We want customers to see that when they ask for a cheese or sausage table, we cut it at once. In the medium term we would like to have the stop as a point of sale for our products: sausages, cheeses, oil, etcetera.
I understand that it is not your first experience between fires.
[E.S] Not at all. Both have very different trajectories, but linked to the world of hospitality. Jordi as chef at the Cal Saldoni restaurant, making a very traditional, slow food and local cuisine, which has a lot of renown in the Penedès. I, on the other hand, came from the textile world. In 2008 I went to Menorca motivated by cooking and gastronomy and set up a restaurant. When we returned, we met and our conversations gave rise to the idea of opening a store where I could combine my Menorcan experience with Cal Saldoni’s food.
What are your first feelings after opening?
[J.C.] Very good. We are very happy. In just 15 days our expectations have been exceeded, without marketing campaigns or social networks. Many tourists come, but also local people. In the first fifteen days we already had a couple of clients who had repeated experience. People are not used to it and are surprised, especially since everything is done at the moment. Even the desserts. That is our great difference. Here everything is cooked at the moment: the tortilla, the potatoes, the croquettes … We do not serve anything that is not freshly made.
What do you think has been the main success factor?
[J.C.] That we wanted to go little by little to shoot the team, which is new. In the kitchen, the product and the concept are very clear, but the staff has to be formed little by little. We started with three waiters, then we increased to five …
What struck you about the place?
[E.S] The facade, which with 40 meters allows total visibility of the restaurant from the outside. Only the entrance door has four meters. We fell in love from the beginning. We saw it and said: it’s our place!
How did you determine the space for the design and decoration of the restaurant?
[E.S] Quite, the truth. When we arrived we found a practically open space. The distribution was a bit complicated for what we wanted to do, because the place has the form of Trivial cheese. We wanted, among other things, an open kitchen, so that people could see how we cooked. And for us it was very important that the bar was in the middle of the room: it is the axis, the heart of the restaurant and it helps us to give importance and notoriety to the product. It cost us a lot to design it in a semicircular shape without taking space from the diner. It was a challenge but it was worth it. And thanks to this curved shape, the flow of waiters goes behind the bar to the plates and thus save entering the kitchen. In addition, being always present in the room there is more dynamism.
Reservations are not allowed nor is there a daily menu. Is not it going against the other restaurants in the area?
[E.S] In some restaurants they already work like this. It is a bet that gives us a certain degree of differentiation. We want to offer a very dynamic service, very fast, with a high turnover rate. Let customers know that they will have to spend a few minutes at the bar, where they can have a drink while they wait for us to give them a table. And although there is no menu, we do have a part of suggestions in which we will be constantly renewing the dishes, so that whoever comes every day will find new dishes, variety and a very reasonable price, practically the same as that of a menu.
What is the star dish of the suggestions? And which one would you recommend?
[E.S.] Our bravas are excellent, or the entrecote tacos with peppers. But we especially recommend the stews since it is the offer that differentiates us from any tapas bar. We have good dishes like the pate of the campaign, the partridge in pickle, the tripe with chickpeas, the meatballs with cuttlefish … All these traditional stews are exquisite.
[J.C.] We also offer the concept of tapas by quilo, as in Bilbao. For example, the prawns. If more than five people come and request it, they are served at the table a large lid, to share. And the same with the suckling pig or with the lamb. It is a different way of eating in a group. It’s a fun and spectacular proposal that has fit very well.
Time will tell whether this formula is successful or not, but at a time when it is committed to a more ecological, sustainable and proximity food is reassuring to know that in the center of Barcelona we can find a restaurant that offers us a freshly made tortilla. It will be a matter of leaving the super and return to the market, sorry, to El Mercat.
Source: Nuñez and Navarro