UPDATE: Unfortunately the excellent Manolete is no more. It is now the Aperol Spritz Bar. A nice bar, with a covered terrace, in a good location, that thankfully serves more than Aperol.
Located slap-bang next to Port Vell underneath the beautiful arches that line parts of Passeig d’Isabel II, Manolete is a charming little restaurant serving some equally charming tapas.
Now I want to be up front here. I don’t normally do restaurant posts. I’m not normally invited to restaurants. To review them I mean – I have friends. But Manolete kindly invited me and for once with these sort of things they were kind enough to invite my wife too. So it was brownie points all round.
We arrived on a warm August evening. You can see Manolete from across the street thanks to the string of bright bulbs out front that remind me of a stage actresses dressing room mirror. They have a small terrace outside with cute red and white polka-dot tablecloths. Inside is similarly charming. It has some nice touches. Distressed-look cupboards filled with glasses and wine, modern black and white photography perched on a shelf half way up the back wall, and pretty embroidered cushions along the wooden but perfectly comfortable benches. Even as I write this it sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does. The lighting was just right too. And the music playing in the background was loud enough to notice but quiet enough not to be intrusive. I have to admit, I sat down, arranged my cushions behind me, looked around, listened, and then smiled. Even though the restaurant was pretty empty at this point it was an extremely pleasant atmosphere.
Manolete serve modern tapas. Classics with their own twist. And some combinations that you probably won’t have tried before. We were given:
- Foie and cep croquettes – I thought they were delicious, but my wife refuses to eat foie. She’d have liked them if she didn’t know what she was eating.
- Idiazabal croquettes – that lovely nutty cheese from the Basque country was put to fine use in these perfectly coated croquettes.
- Octopus done on the grill, served on a circle of wonderfully textured humus, with a red pepper oil dressing and fresh shoots. I’m a huge pulpo fan and this was divine.
- The chef’s speciality: Cordovan (which I assume, like the leather, means it originated in Córdoba) salmorejo, sprinkled with hard-boiled egg, Iberian ham and laminated almonds. Salmorejo is similar to gazpacho but much thicker due to the bread content.
- Cazón en Adobo – cubes of marinated, floured and then fried dogfish, the vinegar in the marinade is what makes this dish special.
- Chocos – squid from Cádiz cut into strips with the lightest of batter. Good squid really is a revelation.
And for dessert: two quenelles of chocolate ganache sprinkled with hazelnuts, dried raspberry and a touch of sea salt, drizzled with olive oil. I don’t need to tell you how good this was. Unfortunately none of my photos do the food justice. I blame the light.
This was all washed down with a perfectly agreeable young red from Costers del Segre, a Catalan wine region out near Lleida.
The service was impeccable, it would have been tragic if it wasn’t considering they’d invited me, and I always warm to a place that has a kitchen you can see.
What I’d like to try on the menu: their steak tartare with mustard ice cream; their squid sandwich; and the divine sounding meaty oxtail with crispy bread and parmesan. Do check the menu though as I have a feeling it changes from time to time.
They also have a happy hour offer: pop in there early evening and for an hour between 6.30 and 7.30 you can get a tapas and a beer for €3.50. Or a tapas and cocktail for €7. Not bad!
All in all this is a thoroughly welcoming restaurant. The food is way above average but this isn’t reflected in the prices. As the name suggests this is refined but relaxed tapas. So relaxed they forgot the ‘d’ as my wife noted (in relajado – it’s an Andalusian thing apparently).
Manolete promo video
They’ve certainly done themselves no harm by producing this jovial little promo video. I feel like I want to go back already!
But don’t take my word for it
Yes, yes, I ate here for free, so I’m hardly likely to say anything bad right? Wrong. But if you don’t believe me make sure you check out the reviews on TripAdvisor along with another review by friend of the blog, Ben Holbrook.
Manolete Tapeo Relajao
Address: Passeig d’Isabel II, 2, 08003 Barcelona
Phone: +34 933 15 80 74
Take a look around Manolete
You can even take a look around the restaurant thanks to Google Business View.