On the second night of our eating tour of Barcelona, CateyLou, my sister, and I went to Tickets. Tickets is an upscale tapas restaurant started by famed El Bulli founder Ferran Adria. It was probably our best meal in Barcelona and even though not every course was a home run it was a fun and memorable meal.
First things first – Tickets is one of the hardest reservations to get in Barcelona* because of the El Bulli affiliation. Tickets is a theme restaurant in the midst of hundreds of similar looking tapas bars. It actually reminded me a little bit of a Stephen Starr restaurant (in a good way). The theme of Tickets is that they are putting on a show, and it is evident from the maitre’d (who is dressed like a ticket-taker at a carnival) to the theatrical nature of the dishes. Although reservations are difficult to come by, we were able to grab a walk in table right when the restaurant opened at 7:00pm. When we were seated the hostess told us that we’d have to leave our table by 9:00 so that they could accommodate their reservations, but we stayed at our table well past 9:30 and were never asked to leave.
*Quick rant: What kind of an evil person names their restaurant Tickets? Do you know how many different Google results “Tickets Barcelona” yields? The Abbot and Costello routine that follows after asking a Spanish-speaking concierge to get you reservations to Tickets (what kind of tickets? tickets for what? tickets for Tickets?) In light of this, my new life goal is to open an American restaurant called Reservations. Naturally, it will be walk-in only.
With that out of the way, let’s move onto the restaurant. The decor is fun and whimsical (I hate that word, but it’s apt here) and throughout the restaurant there are several different food stations where different genres of food are prepared (meats in one area, desserts in another, etc). Our server informed us that there are two ways to order at Tickets; a la carte or chef’s choice. After some deliberation we chose to do the chef’s choice. CateyLou is notoriously picky and is not generally a fan of tasting/chef’s menus, but our waiter agreed to only bring her portions of dishes she liked and to supplement her tasting with some a la carte items.
Our tasting consisted of the El Bulli olives, cod crisps, anchovies on a baguette, manchego air bags, jamon ibrico airbaguettes, croquettes, Portuguese muffins filled with truffle something or other, beef tartar flatbread, tuna tartar cones, artichoke topped with duck egg, marinated fried fish with mojo rojo sauce, orange and olive salad, pan con tomato, lamb skewer, a ham and potato dish, a sausage and squid “surf and turf” style dish, and another Portuguese style muffin filled with pork and cheese. We also received three desserts. (Wow – didn’t realize how gluttonous that meal was until right now. YOLO.) The dishes range from bite sized (the olives, airbags) to appetizer-sized portions (fish, the filled muffins). The servers did a great job of spacing the courses out and while I never felt stuffed at any point I definitely left full.
We thought the standouts were the olives (a famous El Bulli dish that is a molecular gastronomy play on actual olives), the marinated fried fish, the pork and cheese filled muffin, the sausage and squid dish (which had a delicious bean paste) and the airbaguettes. But even the dishes that were just “good” were interesting and cleverly presented. All in all it was a really fun dining experience with top-notch service (despite the language barrier) and unique and delicious food.