CateyLou and I, along with my sister, went to Cal Pep for dinner during our trip to Barcelona in February of 2013. Although the restaurant is unassuming from the exterior, it came highly recommended from several trusted sources who raved about their simple but expertly prepared tapas. We were not disappointed and would definitely recommend Cal Pep to eaters looking for authentic tapas in a no-frills atmosphere.
Seating at Cal Pep is very limited and they do not take reservations. We arrived promptly when the restaurant opened at 7:30 and were able to grab three counter seats. Yes, I know eating at 7:30 in Barcelona is akin to eating at 5:00 in America, but we were still jet-lagged from our flight and eating on the early side gave us the opportunity to try several of Barcelona’s hottest restaurants without much of a wait. And anyway, all seats were filled within minutes of opening and by the time we left a line of 15-20 people had formed along the back wall of the restaurant.
One of the unique things about Cal Pep is they do not have a menu. Sure, this initially threw us off because we don’t speak Spanish (let alone Catalan) and had no idea how expensive the meal would end up being, but we figured that whatever happened it would be worth the experience. At the beginning of the meal we had a brief talk with our waiter about allergies/likes/dislikes and from that point tapas dishes started flying at us in quick succession: jamon iberico with pan con tomato, seared peppers, artichokes, croquettes, lightly battered and fried shrimp, a spinach and chickpea dish, and then finally steak with potatoes. I saw numerous seafood/shellfish dishes go to other diners but because CateyLou and my sister are not huge fish fans (they’re both fake foodies), we did not receive them.
As far as the quality of the tapas, I found all the food to be very good. While there was not one standout dish that left me wanting more (well, except the ham, but that’s ubiquitous in Barcelona), all the food was extremely fresh and I enjoyed watching the chefs prepare it right in front of us. The wait staff was friendly and about what I would expect given the frenetic counter-service nature of the restaurant. Also, don’t expect to enjoy a long, leisurely dinner at Cal Pap. The courses come out fast and furious and there’s a long line of people waiting for your spot.
Tapas for three, along with a bottle of house wine and several bottled waters totaled roughly 100e. We thought this was fair and we were definitely expecting worse (considering the lack of prices and how much food we received). Although the food was not necessarily better than either of the two other authentic tapas spots we ate at during our visit (El Quim in the Boqueria and Cerveceria El Vaso de Oro in Barceloneta; where the food was similarly very good), we had a great meal and a fun time at Cal Pep.
CateyLouSays: TheBetterHalf was trying to throw me under the bus as being a fake foodie, and I admittedly am at times, but he could have easily ordered any of the seafood dishes that we saw going out to other diners. That is the beauty of this restaurant – you just point to what looks good and then a bit later it magically appears. They will keep bringing you as much food as you want until you say, “Basta!” And I’d like to point out that this “fake foodie” ate whole shrimp heads, eyes and all! And they were delicious.