Have you ever been to a place that felt tailor-made for you? Gresca located at Carrer Provença 230, Barcelona, 08036, Spain is an open secret amongst people who dine. This tiny gem box of a restaurant, serves the freshest most thoughtful food I have seen in many years. I saw an open kitchen to the back, not just open, but a part of the restaurant surrounded by a small counter filled with guests; rapt at the smooth actions of a young, vibrant, and well-trained staff. Otis Redding played over the speakers to welcome me to my new addiction.
A hostess/manager greeted me at the door first in Spanish then in perfectly accented English. Europeans make learning other languages a priority in school, with five or six different languages being spoken in the neighboring countries. To put that into perspective It’s like if all the South East United States all spoke different languages, you’d be inclined to learn to communicate. It’s easy to swoon when Spaniards speak to you with that accent!
Sitting at the tiny bar counter just inside, I was given a small milled piece of wood that held the QR code with the menu which I scanned to find in four languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, and French. Eric, my wine steward from Costa Rico, asked me what kind of wine I liked. "I'm sure what you have is great," pointing to the bottle in his hand. "We just met. Tell me what you like." Reader, I swooned.
What to order, what to order? An English speaking server arrived to help me. “Gimme the good stuff,” exclaimed I. She recommended a big fat single French oyster the size and thickness of a Milano cookie. This luscious, briny bivalve warmed and finished with local Spanish olive oil was a moment to itself. fI stupidly only ordered a half order of shrimp toast, the best dish on the menu. A half-moon of butter grilled brioche arrived topped with shrimp marinated with the macerated shrimp heads simply called Croqueta de gamba roja, The first course was stunning. She next directed me to a miso-glazed Japanese eggplant with tiny almost popped kernels of corn, the delicious treats normally found at the bottom of the bowl, then she asked me how I felt about offal. They have a delectable sweetbreads followed by pig brains with a Demi-glacé reduction served with just in season chanterelle mushrooms. They are old school, the phone rings off the hook to make reservations written in a thick 365-day planner like it’s still the 80s.
Eric paired each course with the confidence of a person who knows each wine intimately. He explained the origins of each wine, how old they are, and the grape. He pulled out a 50-year-old Madeira pairing for my custard French toast. I wasn’t ready to leave so I moved outside to the patio where Eric served me a Pierre de Segonzac Cognac XO Grande Champagne. He even left the bottle on the table. I don’t even know what to do with that kind of trust.
If you go, try for lunch as it is the biggest meal of the day in Spain. The service is kind and not fast. The point here is to enjoy the meal and your company. They will not check on you incessantly. They will only bring the bill if you flag them down to ask for it. Mealtimes are a respite from your day to be enjoyed, not 15-30 minutes to shovel down a sad desk salad as we do in America.
Call and make a reservation as the space is tiny. They do stay open an hour later than the norm, until 5 pm, reopening at 8 pm for the evening meal. Actually, don’t go. I can’t have this place too full when I go back.